How To Train A German Shepherd: 10 Expert Tips and Advice



For the most part, learning How To Train A German Shepherd Puppy is the same as any other dog. There is however a few exciting things that make training GSD (German Shepherd Dog) different to other breeds. 

We’ve compiled 10 of the best expert tips/advice from trainers, and reputable sources around the internet to bring you one compact guide. The 10 Tips are:


1) Training And Bonding Begins As A Puppy

You should start socializing, training and taking your German Shepherd to obedience classes as a puppy.

Building a bond between you and your dog should start immediately and be a consistent focus too.

A few weeks after your puppy is welcomed into your household, you should start training and socializing.

Not only does this teach your puppy how to interact with other dogs and humans in a healthy and socially acceptable way, but it teaches your GSD the basic commands and actions you both need fit into each other’s lifestyles.

Some of the dogs with serious aggression, fearful actions or other behavioral problems were either mistreated as a puppy, or simply didn’t learn basic obedience or socialization early on.


2) Understand The Line or Type of GSD You Have

Knowing the line or type of GSD you have will help you understand its strengths and weaknesses, and benefit you both in the long term. 

What makes your GSD excited? What makes anxious? How does it react to one stimulus or trigger over another?

What drives do they have – particularly working and prey drives?

For example, working line Eastern European GSDs were bred specifically for obedience and to work in highly disciplined settings like military work.

It’s possible your working line GSD could have a high appetite for obedience activities to keep it mentally stimulated.

GSDs are by nature of their breed intelligent and highly trainable, so you shouldn’t have an issue with training show line GSDs either. The style of training and type of training in the long term might just be slightly different.


3) Lead and Love Your German Shepherd Puppy Before You Train Them

Your GSD puppy will demand two things from you before you can train it most effectively:

a) Your leadership (establish yourself as the one with the final word)

b) Your love, trust and care

This all starts from your household. It’s not about being a dictator and having complete control over your puppy. It’s about letting your GSD know in a clear, but fair way, that you are at the top of the hierarchy and you lead them, not the other way around.

Care for your GSD, feed them, spend time playing and walking together, but in all areas, your word must be followed, no exceptions.


4) Positive Reinforcement Is Most Effective

Positive reinforcement training is so much more effective and healthy than forceful training (shouting and being too controlling). 

If your GSD acts out of fear of your reaction for doing the wrong thing, this is an unhealthy way to train. It makes your GSD anxious, and fearful behavior can lead to negative consequences. 

You’re already the leader in their eyes, so why not associate training and obedience to commands with positive emotions, rather than overly dominating and negative ones?

If positive reinforcement isn’t effective, your GSD may need to see a professional trainer or animal behavior specialist for other training methods, or possibly a behavior assessment.


5) Keep Training Sessions Short, and Consider Using a Release Word

When you begin training your GSD puppy, you want to focus on quality over quantity.

GSD puppies by nature want to please you and can be overly eager sometimes with their youthful exuberance until they mature a little.

Keeping your training session to 10-20 minutes can help with this.

Secondly, consider have a release word that you say with lots of excitement and positivity when you finish your training sessions. Something simple like ‘Finished’ can work well.

Don’t say it right in their face as this can shock them. But, say the word in an excited tone from a small distance (they will begin to identify the word positively over time), give them a neck or side rub, and encourage to go off and play in freedom.


6) Training Has Two Basic Elements – Attention, and Commands/Actions

Training can be very difficult, or very simple.

You must understand how each of the above two things work first in order to be a good trainer.

Firstly, you must have your GSD’s attention before it will listen to your commands. Attention is gained by establishing yourself as a clear leader. If you have trouble getting your GSD’s attention, you might be being too lenient in the household, or not firm enough in your commands.

Per, here are some points to keep in mind if you feel as though you need to be more disciplined in your leadership around the house:

  • Don’t allow the dog to go places you don’t want it to, like on the bed. Some people allow their pets access to the couch, but some pets may regard that as a form of ownership. The rule here would be to only allow your canine pet on the couch if you are already on it and invite it to join you. It would be best to keep it off the couch entirely, however.
  • Let your dog play with toys when it is a puppy. Don’t give the toys to the puppy; however, lend these to them. The toys are your toys, the pack leader’s toys, and you’re simply allowing the puppy to play with them. You don’t want a grown pack member that is overly possessive about its toys. The toys belong to the leader of the pack.
  • No matter what game you play with your dog, you as the pack leader, are the one who is supposed to win. Pack leaders always win, especially in games involving strength.
  • Give your canine buddy a daily grooming, especially around the neck and head. Many dogs don’t like to be touched on the back of the shoulders or on their paws. By doing so regularly, you are showing them that you, as the pack leader, are entitled to do so.
  • Eat before you feed your dog and when you go through a doorway, teach it to follow you. Pack leaders eat first and go through doorways first. Don’t feed your dog from the dinner table or from your own food.
  • When you begin actual training and you use treats, which is perfectly acceptable, don’t give your dog a treat to entice it to do something. A treat is a reward for the dog having done something you wanted it to do. Make your German shepherd earn the treat. You’ll both feel better about it.

Secondly, your GSD will act based on how it interprets the command. If your command is not clear enough (too many words, or elongated hand and body actions), or too similar to another command, your GSD will get confused.

If you can combine attention with clear and easy to understand commands, you will boost the effectiveness of your training.

Repetition is the key after your GSD learns the basics of a particular command.


7) Use Treats and Leashes Sparingly

Minimizing treats is required for two reasons:

a) You want your GSD to obey your leadership, not be bribed by your food

b) Too many treats = fat puppy, and the effectiveness of the treats wears off over time

When teaching more advanced obedience lesson like off leash walking and training, or even extended heeling for example, a leash might be necessary almost through to completion of the skill.

However, even with advanced training, you should look to lose the leash as quickly as possible where there is no risk to other or your GSD, so your puppy reacts out of their own free choice rather than feeling restricted or trapped.


8) Avoid Moving Too Quickly – One Skill and Step At A Time

Training can be frustrating and confusing at the best of times, even for you, and you’re the leader!

To make things simplified and easier on both you and your GSD puppy, only ever practice and master one set of training or skill at a time. Don’t move onto ‘Dropping’, and ‘Rolling’, for example, until you’ve fully mastered ‘Sitting’.

To add to that, with an advanced skill like off leash walking, you will be required to add distractions to the training session. Only ever add one distraction at a time.


9) Professional Training Is Required Sometimes

All puppies need basic obedience training and socializing when they are younger.

However, some GSDs for whatever reason may have aggression problems, or be abnormally scared. These cases require specialized and professional level training to help them through these barriers.

Specialized trainers and professionals should be able to tell you if your GSD’s behavioral issues require vet attention.

Some GSDs may not even have behavioral issues. Guard, police, rescue and service or military dogs will require specialized training regimes.


10) Find Your Nearest Dog Association Or German Shepherd Club

Dog associations and German Shepherd clubs can not only refer you to your closest breeder or rescue centre, but also refer you to reputable trainers and give you all sorts of great free advice.

Find your nearest association or club ASAP!


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