German Shepherd Puppy Training
I’ve trained, worked with and lived with German Shepherds and German Shepherd puppies for decades.
I KNOW the struggles and the joys, first hand.
And, let me assure you that if you train your German Shepherd incorrectly, or neglect training completely, you will end up with an aggressive dog or a fearful behavioral mess.
Most dog training programs, as of late, completely ignore Impulse Control, which is essential for a high drive, biting puppy that is expected to become a good canine companion.
Traditional Methods Don’t Work
German Shepherd Dogs are very emotionally sensitive dogs.
They have been bred to be emotionally and intellectually connected to their trainer so that they can be efficient dogs for police, military and other K9 training.
As such, traditional, correction based training can completely emotionally shut down, over stimulate, or create fear in this breed.
Meaning, leash corrections will make some German Shepherds afraid of training and making mistakes; and it can make other with stronger personalities lash out in aggressive behaviors trying to bite their owner for using the leash incorrectly or introducing pain.
Training Classes Don’t Work
Taking a new German Shepherd puppy or new dog to obedience classes before training them at home, is ineffective.
Puppies need to learn obedience and impulse control in a boring and distraction-free environment.
Taking puppies, who haven’t received any kind of training, to “puppy class” and expecting them to learn new concepts is like taking your 2nd grader to Chuck E. Cheese with his friends and expecting to sit him down and teach him a new math concept.
It isn’t fair!
It also isn't likely to be effective at all!
The excitement level pushes the puppy WAY over his threshold and he ends up frustrated and you end up angry.
Even if you can get some basic focus, this environment is not conducive to learning, much less fair.
Don’t get me wrong! I am ALL ABOUT dog obedience classes, but I want my dog to learn at home and be set up for success when I add that kind of stress and distraction!
No, Obedience is NOT Enough
Puppies and adult dogs who have never learned it, need Impulse Control!
I have had friends, whose dogs have won obedience titles and trophies and look AMAZING on the field, but who would steal food off the table or knee cap you going down stairs.
It was like they learned obedience “conditionally’.
They were obedient in certain circumstances and certain conditions, but had no idea how to cap their “drive” or control their basic impulses.
The majority of our German Shepherd Dogs aren’t going to be working dogs living in kennels.
Most of us want a good companion.
But, our dogs’ brains are wired differently.
They get too impulsive or too excited and have a hard time controlling themselves.
Does Your Dog Get Impulsive in These Scenarios
- Being TOO excited to see YOU
- Being TOO excited to see other DOGS (or animals)
- Being TOO excited to eat
- Being TOO excited to play
- Being TOO excited to chase
- Being TOO excited to greet guests
- Being TOO excited to let loose
So, we are going to show you a SNEAKY little game that your German Shepherd Puppy needs to learn in order to begin containing his excitement when faced with any of the situations in the above list!
What I’m talking about…
Not raising a spoiled brat that none of your family wants to be around.
- Bark all the time and fail to be quiet
- Steal food
- Jump on people
- Invade your space
The list is endless, but you get the picture.
So one of the first simple games you can teach is Door Darter Game.
Here's a little video that shows you the first steps for how to train your dog this game:
And if you haven't done so already, click here to download The Door Darter Game Cheat Sheet, so you can start transforming your dog's ability to control his Impulses today.
Or if you're the kind of person who just likes to cut to the chase, you should check out the course we offer below...
But, the thing is…
This one game, isn’t enough to raise a polite K9.
I have lived with these guys and Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherds for decades.
I KNOW the biting, first hand.
I understand that these breeds have a serious lack of impulse control genetically.
These genetics, help the German Shepherd be an amazing police K9 but make it miserable to live with a puppy that lacks bite inhibition!
These guys need to learn, from an early age that biting and snatching isn’t a part of family life!
And we have created a game to help stop your German Shepherd puppy from snatching things from your hands.
Click here to download the next step of the Stop Snatching Things From My Hand Game.
But I GOTTA WARN YOU!
Raising this kind of dog isn’t easy!
If you don’t follow some basic rules and ideals you will set yourself and your dog up for failure!
And, the good news is, that if you are consistent you will see immediate results.
Here are the top 10 BIG MISTAKES people make with their German Shepherd Puppies:
1. Lack of Socialization
Your puppy is only young once.
You have a limited amount of time to expose him to the world while he is learning to freely accept the things around him.
Skittish German Shepherds are abundant, and no one wants a 90 pound dog that lacks socialization that can lead to aggression.
Nor does anyone want a large dog that runs from everything he visually doesn’t understand (things in his environment that can scare him).
We all want a confident dog!
But, you need to take the steps to give your puppy the training to achieve that confidence.
And, remember; with socialization you have a limited amount of time before your dog is older and less able to socialize without some resistance.
Be sure not to just turn him loose at the dog park or with children you don’t know.
It is crucial to control his social experiences and make them positive.
Socialization doesn’t mean “reckless abandon” or he might have a negative experience that could carry him through life.
Check out these free articles for more information:
2. Lack of or Resistance to Crate Training
I can’t tell you how many people “try” crate training for the first 2 nights and then simply “give up”.
Or that amount of people who simply refuse to crate train!
It astounds me!
In order to have a well developed, well socialized and good canine companion, you need a dog that is happy in a crate.
Because at some point your dog will be in a crate: at the vet, the groomer, or pet sitter’s home.
He can’t avoid being in a crate for the rest of his life.
And, wouldn’t it be nice if you gave him the skills to not be bothered no matter where he is at?
I work at a veterinary clinic and occasionally take my dogs to work. My Fury is so comfortable in a crate or cage that she flips upside-down and sleeps. Not a stress in the world.
I also crate them when we go to sporting events.
I have competed in agility, obedience, dock diving, lure coursing, and protection sports and there isn’t a single venue where having your dog out of a crate all day is appropriate.
Crates also give me more options to travel. Not only will some family only allow me and my dogs to visit if they are crated when I am gone, some motel/hotels that don’t allow pets will allow your dog with a crate too.
There really isn’t any reason NOT to crate train.
Remember all puppies will throw a fit for a few nights, just like all babies have trouble transitioning from a crib to a bed or just out of their parent’s bed.
However short term fits are better than a lifetime of chewed articles and a dog that has some separation issues because he is never alone and never expected to do things he doesn’t want to do.
After all, life is full of things we think we don’t want to do, but then realize we actually like them or see the benefit to them.
Imagine if we allowed children to just decide they didn’t want to go to school, because they didn’t like being away from home or just couldn’t get along with the other kids.
Don’t allow your puppy to dictate how you will live your life, or what kind of dog they end up being.
Because if your puppy is in charge, he will eat cake for breakfast every morning ;)
Need help crate training, click here. https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/crate-training-basics/ and
3. Not Teaching Leash Manners at Home
I think people are under the impression that puppies break from the womb with an understanding of leash manners and training.
It is as if, leashing them at home and around the house isn’t even considered.
Usually, the first time they are introduced to a leash is when the person is trying to walk them outside.
Some puppies buck and resist the leash.
Most German Shepherd puppies, however, are confident and more likely to pull on the leash toward things that excite them.
Neither of these behaviors is ideal.
One of the most important skills you will need throughout the life of your dog is appropriate leash manners.
Ironically, I worked with a lady, years ago, whose 2 German Shepherds had pulled her down and broke her arm in 2 places.
It is sad that she didn’t teach and instill better understanding of the leash and training in her German Shepherd puppies so that she wouldn’t later have to endure the pain and physical therapy of a broken arm.
The best place to learn, new and important behavior is at home!
Leash manners and training is no different.
When I trained Service Dogs for people with disabilities we would tether those puppies and adult dogs to us in the home.
This tether allowed us to keep bad behavior, like stealing items or jumping on the counter, from ever really happening consistently.
It also, ironically, taught the dog to respect and not pull on the leash!
4. Creating Possession Aggression
Did you know you can actually create a dog that has possession aggression issues?
And, German Shepherd Dogs, like similarly trained protection dogs are genetically more predisposed to be possessive.
The drive to possess an item is actually something that many breeders breed for, sounds crazy right?
Until you realize that these highly trained K9s need to want to “possess” the bad guy in the bite suit.
I have seen puppies literally wrap their arms around an item and try to swallow it, which is a highly desirable trait in these protection dogs.
So, chances are, your dog is already predisposed to some of these feelings.
Now, if you do the wrong things, you will strengthen this bad behavior.
The difference is that your dog isn’t likely to chase and capture bad guys, instead he is going to threaten to bite YOU or your children!
So First off
Don’t CHASE Him!
Do Not Reprimand Him and Take Things Away
I know that sounds odd, if he steals things, shouldn’t you reprimand him and take them away?
You should put up your important things, and if he grabs something he shouldn’t have, you should exchange it for something better. Read this for a different take on this problem https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/teaching-thief-retrieve/
If you are always getting in his face and stealing the things he thinks he has worked for as he gets bigger he might just challenge you and your children.
Don’t put yourself in that predicament.
Read this to understand more about possession aggression https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/possession-aggression-dogs/
It is easier to exchange and item and avoid conflict.
5. Not Building Drive and Learning to Control it
German Shepherd Dogs typically have an incalculably high prey drive.
Remember that description of the K9 chasing the bad guy?
German Shepherd Dogs easily learn this game because they have a high prey drive.
Chasing the man, is like chasing a bunny or a cat.
It is a genetic instinct in many of these K9 chosen breeds.
Most people think that in order to control their dog’s prey drive, they should teach their dog to ignore it all together, which is practically inconceivable!
The best way to teach your dog to control his instincts is to BUILD them and then add control!
The Border Collies in Scotland, don’t chase sheep at their own whim, they also don’t kill them.
Their prey drive is built and then they are taught if they want to play with the sheep; that they must learn to control it!
I use a ball on a string to build my dog’s prey drive.
Then I can use that ball as a reward for good behavior.
Learn how to build your dog’s drive and then teach him that obedience will bring about the “chase” game that he desires.
Check out how easily this little boy controls his Belgian Malinois (much like a German Shepherd) with a toy https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/joys-positive-reinforcement-drive-training/ His obedience is simply amazing!
6. Not Rewarding Your Dog for Focus on YOU
There are very few puppies who don’t lovingly look up at their owners when they are out and about.
There are even fewer German Shepherd Dog puppies that don’t.
German Shepherd Dogs have been bred to care about their human companions.
They bond fast and hard.
The problem is that most people don’t notice or pay much attention when their dogs look up or back at them.
I reward any eye contact or focus on ME.
I want my dog checking in and paying attention to what I am doing.
I also want him ready for the next command.
If I ignore him, then he will search his environment for more exciting and stimulating things.
Let’s face it, after a while my dog is going to realize I am not THE MOST exciting thing in his world.
I mean, how can I compete with a squirrel or the neighbor kid?
Unless, I reward him and play with him and convince him early on that “I” am KING and have everything he needs to keep him happy.
He also needs to know that I am reliable.
If he does what I like or what I ask, he will be rewarded handsomely.
He may never catch a squirrel, but he can count on the fact that if he leaves that stinky squirrel, I will throw his ball and play with him!
Reward your dog for looking at you.
Reward your dog for paying attention to you.
Reward your dog for choosing to be at your side!
And, better yet, teach your puppy eye contact and focus.
7. Allowing Young Puppies or Adults to Run Free Off Leash
THE fastest way to teach your dog that you aren’t the most exciting thing on earth, is to let him run, alone off leash.
I think we can agree, that being off leash and chasing wild animals at will, eating wild animal poop and all around exploring on your own is the best thing on earth!
I mean, who doesn’t want to run around with a little reckless abandon, every now and again?
But, if you allow your German Shepherd puppy to run off leash without the obedience to back it up, you will struggle with his obedience for years to come.
Again, whether it is true or not, I want my dog to think that I am THE BEST thing on earth.
And, I simply cannot compete with wild critters and exciting smells.
That doesn’t mean that your German Shepherd will never be able to be off leash; the opposite is true.
You just need to control his environment, play with him and build his drive for toys and games, and then teach him obedience.
So, when he goes off leash, he will have the obedience background to leave whatever distraction may crop up.
I have called my dogs off baby bunnies and opossums among other exciting things.
The reason I was successful, is because my dogs know if they listen and obey they will be rewarded (mostly with a game of ball which is their favorite thing). They never learn how fun chasing bunnies can be if they don’t listen.
And, let’s face it, bunnies are more rewarding than me… I just want to be smarter than my dog ;) and never give him the opportunity to figure that out.
8. Creating Leash Reactivity and Aggression
Have you ever heard someone say, “He is only dog aggressive on leash.”
Have you ever wondered why that phenomenon even exists?
Most often it is because people inadvertently, create it.
Again, manners and especially leash manners should be taught at home.
Tether your dog to you, early on, to avoid bad behavior and teach some leash respect and manners.
Never allow your German Shepherd puppy to get in the habit of pulling you to and fro when he is on the leash.
The next thing to remember is Don’t Over-React.
A lot of times when the human is walking their dog and they see something the dog is likely to react and pull toward, the human stiffens up and pulls the dog in closer.
The human’s heart rate is likely to raise and they may yell, correct or even hit their dog.
This teaches the dog that “other dogs or people” or whatever the distraction is, brings pain and makes his human act fearful and odd.
The dog associates the “thing” with something negative and so he connects negatively and emotionally to it each time he sees it.
He begins to get defensive and even aggressive whenever this new “trigger” comes into his view.
As people, we think reeling our dogs closer and correcting them when we see other dogs or people is what we should be doing; but you are only negatively conditioning the “thing” for your dog.
In essence, you are creating reactivity, fear and even aggression.
It is a lot easier to give your dog coping mechanisms and obedience so that he can ignore anything that comes into his environment without becoming fearful or forging any king of negative emotion to things.
9. Too Much Exercise
I am a proponent of exercise!
Puppies NEED exercise!
But too much demanding and monotonous exercise can be dangerous of German Shepherd puppies.
German Shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia and other degenerative joint diseases, genetically.
And, there are two big factors in degenerative joint disease; genetics and over exercise when the puppies are developing.
You can’t help genetics, but you can search for the best genetic candidate who has been certified to have excellent hips.
You have a better chance of avoiding genetic hip dysplasia and joint disease if both parents have “excellent” OFA certified hips.
And, you can avoid demanding, monotonous exercise (regular exercise on soft surfaces will not hurt).
Years ago, when agility was taking the world by storm, people began training their puppies earlier and earlier for agility trials.
They soon found that a large number of those puppies who started out young, were developing shoulder, hip and spine problems.
The pounding of the shoulders coming off of the A-Frame and Dog Walk.
The impact of the hips that continuously caught the dog over jumps.
And, the way the spine curved around the weave poles created permanent damage and curvature.
We realized, what we did while our puppies developed into adults was important!
It was crucial to allow the body to form before adding strenuous exercise regiments.
I love teaching my dogs to pull tires and trikes; but I wait until they are adults and they have been cleared through x-rays to do so.
Don’t avoid exercise completely!
That will create a whole other problem with lack of socialization, exposure and needed exercise.
Puppies can run on soft grass, they can calmly climb stairs and they can go on long walks.
But avoid rigorous running on hard surfaces, consistent jumping or anything else that will specifically stress joints.
10. Creating Potty Training Problems
Potty training is serious business!
More dogs are dropped off for euthanasia at shelters for potty training problems than any other issue!
So, first off, take it serious!
You want to think “prevention”, rather than just dealing with the problem.
But these both set your dog up for failure!
Thankfully, most German Shepherd puppies are fairly easy to potty train, but remember it is really all about YOU!
You need to get him outside every 2 hours!
You need to get him out after he wakes from a nap and after he eats or drinks.
And, be sure to keep your puppy with you!
If he is in the same room with you all the time, you will notice if he begins to sniff or squat so you can get him outside.
When he is not with you, he should be in his crate.
Also, go outside with him to make sure that he is getting his business done!
Many times puppies get outside and get distracted with everything going on outside that they forget to go potty.
You need to know what your puppy is doing and what his potty schedule is like so that you can set yourself and him up for success!
Puppies are sooooooo exciting!
Heck I am excited for you, since I am, after all, a German Shepherd fan!
Your life is about to be enriched in a way that only a great and loyal dog can do!
And, because you have spent this time, reading and studying and doing all that you can to set your pup up for success I know that you will both be successful!
You know what to do and what not to do!
And, we will be here to support you and your new little bundle of joy every paw step of the way!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.