If you want to know how to train a German Shepherd to be a calm and well behaved member of your household, then this is the article for you. If you are after how to train one to attack on command, or perform a variety of tricks, then I’m afraid that isn’t the purpose of this post. It’s really important to train a German Shepherd to fit in well with your household, as (like all of the larger breeds) they are big dogs with big teeth, so difficult to handle if you get things wrong! For this reason I do find that most owners have already made some efforts to train their GSD before they call me in for further help. (It is worth noting that I am regularly asked to help smaller, less serious looking dogs, because their breed hasn’t been taken as seriously, as it would have with a bigger breed like a German Shepherd. It’s important to train any breed – small dogs can still be hard work).
German Shepherd Basics
Whatever you have heard or found to be the case with German Shepherds in the past, the most important thing to remember is that they are canines. Canines are pack animals, and live with an understanding of pack hierarchy, and the importance of the survival of the pack. Your German Shepherd will assume that the members of your household are its pack, and will want to understand its place in the hierarchy and what is being done to ensure survival.
How to work with the German Shepherd’s instincts:
Just like any other breed of dog; in order to be a happy and relaxed member of your household, your German Shepherd needs to know that it is NOT the top dog. YOU need to be the top dog. Otherwise your GSD will consider everything to be its own responsibility and will become stressed and more difficult to handle. Some of the basic, important things you need to remember are:
- Only give your GSD attention on your terms; not when they demand it.
- Feed them when you decide to feed them; not when they tell you to (ignore begging)
- Do not leave food down for them to pick and choose when they eat.
- Do not shout at your dog. If you want them to learn that something is “wrong” calmly put them in a room on their own whenever they do that particular behaviour.
- Only play when you decide to play, and avoid games that require a demonstration of strength.
- Do not let them climb up onto furniture without an invitation.
- If your dog barks, thank him/her in a positive tone, and have a look to see what they are barking at if they keep going.
- Do not let them pull you on the lead. Do practice at home and in your garden before attempting to venture out on the walk. Change directions as soon as they try to pull, and be prepared to go back home again if it’s not going very well.
- Remember that your dog is your friend, not your slave, so you do not have to be aggressive/stern with them. Just consistent in your approach, and maintain clear boundaries as described above.
For more information on how to train a German Shepherd…
Please note that the above is only the very basics and barely scratches the surface of what you need to do to train your German Shepherd dog to be a relaxed member of your family. I would recommend that you have a read of “the Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell. Jan has owned a number of GSDs over the years, and has a fantastic understanding of what’s important to them (and all other breeds). Or if you would like some one to one help and are based in Essex, or the surrounding counties, then you can request a 1-2-1 consultation with me. Simply call or email to enquire or book.