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Are you the proud owner of a German Shepherd puppy? If so, you’ve just added a beautiful new member to your family!
Few other dog breeds possess the grace, intelligence, and athleticism of the German Shepherd. It’s no wonder they’ve been bred and trained for military and police operations since World War I.
Most likely, you’re not interested in training your puppy for the military. You simply want a well-behaved dog that’s obedient and loyal to you.
But how do you know where to start? What makes German Shepherds different than other large dog breeds? And with so much information out there, how can you know where to turn for the best puppy training advice?
In this all-inclusive guide, we’ll reveal everything you need to know about how to train a German Shepherd puppy.
Before you can understand how to train a German Shepherd puppy, you first need to understand the breed.
One of the things that probably drew you to the breed was its majestic beauty. And while German Shepherds are beautiful animals, their value goes far beyond their appearance.
German Shepherds rank as one of the top three most intelligent dog breeds. What does this equate to in real-world terms? It means that most German Shepherds learn a new command in fewer than five repetitions. They also obey the first command 95% of the time or better!
It’s no wonder German Shepherds are highly valued as guard dogs. They’re also the breed of choice for K9 police units and search-and-rescue operations. A trained Shepherd’s nose is at least 10,000 times more powerful than the human nose. It can even discern the difference between identical twins!
What does all this mean for you and your new puppy? Simply put, your German Shepherd is a very intelligent animal that needs regular mental stimulation. And because they’re bred to be working dogs, they thrive in an environment that allows ample exercise.
You need to ensure your Shepherd receives enough physical and mental exercise to keep him happy. If he doesn’t have a suitable outlet for his energy, he could become bored, agitated, or even aggressive.
In short, training your German Shepherd puppy will require time, energy, and patience. The results, however, will be more than worth it!
Now that you know more about the breed, let’s discuss how to train a German Shepherd puppy.
Training a Shepherd is a win-win situation. The dog wants to be busy, and training gives him something to do. The result? You get a dog that’s obedient and polite, and your dog gets the stimulation he craves.
How do you achieve this perfect balance? The key lies in establishing trust.
The first part of any training program is to show your dog that you’re a good leader. Rather than asserting your role as the “alpha,” your goal should be to win your dog’s trust and get him to look to you for guidance.
How do you establish an environment of trust? Be sure to use the following:
By establishing yourself as the benevolent “leader of the pack,” your puppy will learn to rely on you for direction.
One of the most important aspects of earning your dog’s trust is to be consistent with your training. If he’s allowed to sleep on the bed one night but not the next, he’ll quickly become confused and frustrated.
Different families establish different rules about begging, licking, and jumping on furniture. It doesn’t matter what you decide is acceptable within your own house.
The key is to be consistent in what you do and do not allow.
Many traditional training theories revolve around harsh intimidation techniques. These include shock or choke collars, aggressive dominance, and “showing the dog who’s boss.”
Of course, each owner needs to make his own decision about how to train his dog. However, we can say with confidence that this is not how to train a German Shepherd puppy.
Obedience is something you should earn, not demand. This results from consistent training and positive reinforcement, not fear tactics.
By rewarding your puppy with praise or a treat when he does something right, you’ll motivate him to repeat the action in the future. On the other hand, yelling or physical punishment will scare your dog and teach him that he can’t trust you.
Here are a few important do’s and don’ts:
The word “crate” sounds scary or even cruel to some dog owners. But think about it for a moment.
Where do wild dogs live? In dens. What do domestic dogs often do? They seek out cozy shelters for themselves, such as under a table or a bed.
Your puppy instinctively craves a location where he feels secure. A crate, when properly used, is the perfect solution. It gives your dog a small, safe environment where he can rest and sleep.
A crate is also an invaluable tool in the housebreaking process. Because a dog wants to keep his sleeping quarters clean, he’ll be reluctant to go to the bathroom inside his crate.
The crate can also give you, the owner, a break when you need it. After all, you can’t supervise your puppy 24 hours a day. So whenever you need to leave the house or attend to other things, a crate is the perfect place to secure your dog.
One important note: Never use the crate as a form of punishment. It’s your dog’s safe haven, so don’t take that away from him!
With that said, let’s outline how to train a German Shepherd puppy to use a crate.
Related: The 5 Best Crates for Large Dogs
Housebreaking goes hand in hand with crate training.
As soon as you release your puppy from his crate, you should take him to the yard or designated peeing area. Chances are he’ll do his business immediately since it’s unlikely he peed or pooped inside the crate.
You should also take your puppy to use the bathroom within 10 minutes of completing a meal or drinking water.
German Shepherds are very intelligent and will catch onto this routine in no time. Soon they’ll adopt this schedule on their own, perhaps by whining or scratching at the door to alert you that they need to go out.
Once you reach this stage, you’ve succeeded in housebreaking your puppy!
Related: Are German Shepherds Good with Kids?
There are many different dog commands you may want to teach your German Shepherd.
For now, though, let’s start with the three most basic commands.
Continue the process until your puppy follows the command without errors. Gradually replace the treat with praise only, as too many treats could lead to unwanted weight gain!
Repeat these steps until your puppy understands what’s required of him. A great way to introduce this is to place his bed in the living room and have him stay there while you watch TV.
It’s good to incorporate the arm gesture with this command, in case your dog is far away from you. Even if he’s down the street and can’t hear your command, he’ll be able to see it from a distance.
The easiest way to discourage unwanted behaviors is by ignoring them.
This may seem counterintuitive at first. But think of it this way: Most unwanted behaviors are your dog’s way of getting your attention. If you ignore the behavior, the dog doesn’t get the reward he seeks (your attention).
Let’s say your puppy jumps on you whenever you enter the house. Rather than reaching down to pet him (rewarding the behavior), turn your back on him and walk into another room. Once he has all four paws on the ground, then greet him.
You can use this process to break your puppy of almost any unwanted behaviors.
Because of their many wonderful qualities, German Shepherds are among the most popular dog breeds in the world. In fact, there are over 3.5 million of them in the U.S. alone!
As a responsible owner, you want your puppy to grow up to be a loyal, well-behaved member of your family. By following these suggestions on training a German Shepherd puppy, that’s exactly what you’ll get!
For more tips and advice, please peruse our full collection of training and behavior posts.
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