German Shepherd Training: Tips & How-To Advice From A Professional Dog Trainer

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We are pretty lucky today.

We wanted to bring you a comprehensive and practical article on training German Shepherd puppies, and adult German Shepherd dogs. 

So, when we had the opportunity to sit down and interview professional dog trainer Val Bonney from Bonnies, we were happy she could give us her time.

Val’s official title is Canine Specialist, International Trainer and Author, but to be honest, that sells her short.

She has almost 40 years of experience in the dog industry and has experience in (but is not limited to):

  • Lecturing
  • Dog Behavior Analysis and Specialization
  • Working with Vets and Owners
  • Running and Managing Training Schools
  • Being a Member Of Police Dog Training Associations and Various Other Clubs and Associations
  • Working with Police Dogs and their handlers in China
  • Being a Senior Obedience Judge
  • Trials Her Own Dogs In Competition
  • And of course is an Author 

Her career experience goes on and on. 

But, without further ado, let’s jump into some practical how-to advice and tips for training and obedience for dogs from Val herself. 

We’ve separated the article into both puppy and adult dog training parts, and we’ve also contributed in some topics.

 

German Shepherd Temperament & Behavior 

Before we talk about training your GSD, it’s helpful to know a bit about their temperament. 

The more you know about your dog, the more you can work with them positively to build a bond, but also achieve training results both of you are after.

What Val says about German Shepherd Temperament and Behavior: 

“Firstly you have to understand what is the difference between Temperament, and Environment.

Temperament comes with the dog and comes from its parentage.

Good solid characters in the parents makes for a temperamentally sound dog. Genetic problems in parentage can give you a badly behaved dog with huge problems.

Environmental/Behaviour is how you have worked with the dog in your environment from a puppy.

If it has been sound, wise and aimed at the dog being obedient then you will have what you need for further obedience and a great companion as it matures.

A dog can have a great temperament, but if you the owner do all the wrong things with it in the environment it is growing up in, then you may have some huge problems develop.

Behaviour may be shocking. Training is easy with a dog of both soundness in temperament and behaviour in its environment.

German Shepherds from good stock (parents) are usually a joy to own, to educate, and to teach/train. They have to learn to live with you as a part of your family, and this can only happen if their behaviour is acceptable. (This is up to you.)”

 

German Shepherd Puppy Training 

Training a puppy is different to training a full grown adult dog. There’s basic commands and obedience to teach.

There’s also potty training, crate training and house training to consider.

 

German Shepherd Puppy Basic Obedience & Commands 

What Val says about teaching your Puppy basic obedience & commands:

Firstly check the school/classes out yourself. You don’t send your child to kindergarten unless you have checked it out. Do you?

It needs socializing with as many other dogs of both sizes and breeds as is possible.

This doesn’t mean it gets thrown in with piles of other puppies, and left to its own devices. It must be a controlled situation.

It needs to be guided into walking on lead, it can be encouraged with the use of a toy or food (motivated) to do as it is asked. It needs to be taught to sit, and heel and come when called.

Puppy classes can cover lots of other things, but all must be done under a trainer’s supervision,.

REMEMBER:- What a puppy learns between 8 and 16 weeks, is the whole basis of its Adult life.

He/she never forgets what he/she has learnt during this time, but sometimes as he/she gets older he/she very conveniently slots it all to the back of its head, if it is not a part of his/her daily life.

Learning to focus is one of the main things which should be taught at puppy training level. A dog that looks at you when you call its name is a joy to own, as you can then give it other signals to do what you want.

I believe the most important command a dog can be given is to Recall (come) when called. This has to be total instance response to this particular command.

This can only be achieved if when on lead, the command ‘Come’ is given and the dog’s response is a willing, excited manner 100 out of 100 times. (Not all at once please.)

Then you can do it off lead and be sure your dog/pup will react in the manner you want it to. This response given immediately can save your dogs life in some situations, and will stand it in good stead for the rest of its life.”

 

German Shepherd Puppy Potty, Crate & House Training

What Val says about Potty, Crate & House Training:

“To me this is just so important. The crate becomes your dogs den.

Get one from the time you bring the pup home, but get one large enough to take a full grown Shepherd.

You can get them with inserts that are placed within the crate, and can be removed as the puppy grows. Use the crate at night, pop pup in, close the door and cover the crate to make it a little darker.

Dogs sleep better in the dark. If it is upset at first, it will get over it in a couple of nights. You may like to pop the pup in there during the day to feed it. Get it used to being there. Don’t put food and water in the crate at night.

Remember what goes in does have to come out.

I very rarely get up to a dog at night. You will know if that becomes necessary. My own dogs sleep crated from 8 weeks of age, until they pass on.

The crate should be kept indoors. This dog is a part of your family; please don’t make it feel ostracised by putting it outside. The dog that sleeps indoors make a much better watch dog for you anyhow as it matures.

It’s not worried about wildlife or what is happening down the street. Just if someone or something foreign should enter your home. It will then let you know.

The crate becomes your dog’s home, and it is very secure within it. Using a crate takes care of all toileting issues. Dogs very rarely soil the area in which they immediately sleep.

You can wash the crate should your dog inadvertently have a mishap.”

 

German Shepherd Adult Dog Training

As an adult, your dog should already have a good grounding in basic obedience and commands. 

But, what if you want to progress into advanced training, compete, or even enter dog sports like Schutzhund?

 

German Shepherd Advanced Tricks and Training

 What Val says about teaching your GSD advanced training and tricks:

 “Please ensure your Shepherd goes to a good Trainer – check them out before you book in.

All dogs need Obedience Training. If after you have completed your Basic Obedience you wish to go further, then you can make enquiries within you area, of who is available to do further advanced training.

Again be selective. If you want a good family pet, if you have done all suggested here, then you really don’t need to have really advanced training for your family pet.”

 

German Shepherd Dog Shows and Competing

 What Val says about getting your dog into Showing and competition:

 “If you wish to compete in Obedience Trials then you need to find a Club which does this. This type of things can be very exciting and satisfying.

There are several levels – C.C.D. C.D. C.D.X. U.D. UDX.

These are the levels in order that you can achieve. They all take time and dedication to reach.

They are all Titled events.”

 

German Shepherd Schutzhund & Other Dog Disciplines

What Val says about Schutzhund & Other Dog Disciplines:

“If you wish to do other disciplines with your dog, such as Agility, Schutzhund, Tracking, Search and Rescue, gun dog work, or even Therapy work, then you need to be extra careful in the selection of the person who teaches your dog any of these disciplines.

They are specialist’s areas.

You will have to look around, and I repeat be very selective of where you send or take this wonderful companion of yours too.

Make sure your pet doesn’t start Agility until it is at least 12 months of age.

Its bones are still setting and you could cripple your dog if you go too early. It can’t compete until it is at least 18 months of age anyhow.”

 

German Shepherd K9 Training & Police Dog Work

What Val says about how police and k9 dogs:

“Dogs that do Service work are special, and dogs like our German Shepherds make great Service dogs, although we now find many other Breeds being utilized within certain Service areas.

The G.P (General Purpose) Dog is quite often the German Shepherd.

His size, his temperament, and his training make him extremely suitable for this type of work. His soundness in his behaviour is a must.

Most of the Services (Police, Air Force, and Prisons) have their own handlers for each of their dogs. They train them in all they need to know.

The Services teach their dogs whatever areas they want their dogs to work in – Drug Detection, Bomb Detection, General purpose (will include attack work) Tracking, Search & Rescue, and any other areas in which a dog can be used.

Services now use quite a few other breeds to do the type of work they require from it.

The Airports use many Beagles to do their searching of baggage for plants and other products. They are light in stature, and the people don’t mind them going over their baggage, and sometime themselves, but they may object to a German Shepherd with its size and weight doing the same thing.

Service dogs are trained to work singularly with their handler. Male or Female officers, train their dogs daily, have their dogs basically live with them and within their family, and love their dogs to death.

The dog and handler becomes a pair. No one else handles their individual dog.

When their dogs reach around 7 or even sometimes 8 years, they are quite often retired, and the handler is given a new dog. The dog they have just retired is taken home to live out its life with the handler’s family.

These dogs live a very active and fruitful life and are cherished until the day they pass over.”

 

 

German Shepherd Dog & Puppy Training Summary 

We would like to thank Val for her time and contribution to creating this German Shepherd dog training article.

We hope you’ve got something useful out of it.

On that note, we will leave you with one final piece of advice from Val on training your dog, whether you’re a beginner or expert:

“Never lose sight of the fact your dog is a CANINE. It is not a human being. Do not treat your Shepherd like a surrogate child.

If you treat your dog like a human, it may treat you like another dog.

Discipline has to be just, quick and firm. You get about 4 seconds to make any correction. Never PUNISH your dog. Just a quick correction is all it will really ever need. Remember a 4 second window.

Your VOICE is the best training aid you can use, and remember “any piece of equipment is only as good as the person using it.

Enjoy your German Shepherd, Love it, have respect for it and it will have respect for you.

Happy Training.”

 

For more information on educating yourself to be a great companion for your German Shepherd, you may like to head over to Val’s website to have a read of her content, and check out her range of books – “Who’s the Boss? “Are you still the Boss?” and “Hey Baby – Who’s the Boss”?

 

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