Tips for German Shepherd Dog Training

Updated on February 23, 2018
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James Livingood has been a dog sitter for several years. He has written numerous articles and a book about the topic because he loves dogs.

Training a German Shepherd
Training a German Shepherd

Some dog breeds are more difficult to train than others. One example of a trainable, yet sometimes challenging breed is the German Shepherd. This breed tends to bond more closely with one individual, instead of a group of individuals. In addition, the puppies seem to be more prone to play biting. This can lead to a lot of problems once the puppy grows up into a full-fledged dog. Here are some tips to help you train your German Shepherd.

Tips for Training Your German Shepherd

  1. Provide a Daily Outlet for Your Dog’s Energy: German Shepherds have a lot of energy that needs to be worked through. The biggest thing you can do to help them behave is to give them a productive outlet for their energy. This can include walks, slow bike rides, and other adventures.
  2. Follow Through on Commands: Many dog owners will issue a command to their dog, then abandon the effort when the dog doesn’t comply. That doesn’t reinforce positive behavior, it only reinforces that you should be ignored. Giving a simple command and following it through helps put gravity to each command. If you require the dog to “come here” then you need to stand there for as long as it takes. When they finally listen, you can give them praise and adoration. Be careful not to overuse commands, as you will be required to follow through on each one. That can mean a lot of time and patience when new commands are being trained.
  3. Don’t Reward Bad Behaviors: Chewing on items may be cute as a puppy, but don’t reward your dog for doing so. Bad behaviors need to be rooted out when the dog is young so they do not escalate when the dog reaches maturity. In addition, having a dog jump up may be cute, but can be a huge pain when the dog weighs a lot more. The best route is to set ground rules for the life of the dog, not just for puppy stages.
  4. Don’t Blame the Dog: Dog’s love to please humans, but they simply do not have our level of intellect. It’s up to each and every dog owner to show their canine how to operate in a human world. That means that if a dog has a bad quirk, it’s up to the owner to find a way to help them through that quirk or to re-direct that quirk to a positive experience. For example, if a dog loves to chew, getting them the proper toys to chew may go a long ways.
  5. Stop Interacting When They Misbehave: If a dog is pulling on a leash, the best way to stop them from doing that is to stop moving. That means they will have to wait patiently to move again. Simply put, if there is tension on the leash, stop moving. In addition, if they are jumping up on people, have the person turn their body away from the dog. The best way to train good behavior is sometimes to not reward bad behavior.
  6. Adapt (Because They Will!): German Shepherds are smart dogs and will adapt over time. They may learn that barking when about to be fed speeds things up. If they start doing bad things, again, the best thing to do is to not reward their bad behavior. Instead, wait until the barking stops and then you can set down the food. Figuring out your dog’s odd quirks can help you in figuring out how to better train your dog.

Developmental stages of German Shepherds
Developmental stages of German Shepherds

Developmental Stages of the Breed

Puppies grow into dogs, but it doesn't happen overnight. Here are the breed's stages of development:

  • Stage 1: Newborn/Neonatal (0-2 weeks old): German Shepherds are considered newborns for up to two weeks. During that time they are blind, deaf, and have no teeth. They require their mother to provide help. Their mother not only provides food, but also licks the newborns clean. Most of their time is spent sleeping during this phase.The average litter size is around eight newborns, but can be as many as 15!
  • Stage 2: Transition (2-4 weeks): In this stage, their eyes being to open and they grunt softly. They also stand during this time and can even play with their littermates. They are still drinking milk from their mother during this time.
  • Stage 3: Social Stage (4-8 weeks): During this third stage, puppies are weaned off their mother's milk. They begin to eat soft and mushy food. In addition, they are more playful with their littermates and start to have their teeth grow in. Puppies also being to bond with others. However, if a scary event happens during this time, they may create a fear response.
  • Stage 4: Humans! (60+ days old): It's at this point that trainers come in and help the dog become accustomed to the human world. This might mean additional socialization, puppy classes, regular walks and more. Puppies will get to meet their new human families and learn what is/isn't a toy. From this stage until being one, can be the most important in their life. An owner who is consistent and willing to work can build a fantastic bond. Once that bond is created, they will have an amazing dog for many years to come!

German Shepherd being trained by military
German Shepherd being trained by military

Interesting Facts About German Shepherds

  • In the book, “The Intelligence of Dogs,” the breed is listed as the third most intelligent dog, behind Border Collies and Poodles.
  • German Shepherds are purpose-driven dogs and need a regular outlet for energy.

  • They can become over-protective of family/bonded “pack”, which can lead to strong territorial instincts.

  • While most associate the breed with police dogs, they were also used as messenger dogs and guard dogs during World War 2.

  • German Shepherds may scare more easily than other types of dogs, but are superior when displaying defensive behavior.

  • Shows such as "Rin Tin Tin" and "Strongheart" elevated the dog breed and made them popular among households.

  • Most German Shepherds used by police are renown for their scent work and ability to detect explosives, narcotics, aid in search and rescue efforts, and much more.

German Shepherd having fun
German Shepherd having fun

Training Tips


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