Training German Shepherds
By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014
Are German Shepherd Dogs easy to train?
Because this breed has such a stellar reputation as a smart and capable working dog, you might assume that training a German Shepherd would be very easy. But really, that might or might not be true. Individual German Shepherds can be so different from each other that predicting whether any given German Shepherd will be easy to train isn't, well, easy!
I've had the pleasure of owning and training (and loving) three German Shepherds who were very different from each other. Kelly was smart as a whip, but also dominant, meaning she wanted to be the boss, so she would use her intelligence to figure out clever ways of getting out of what I wanted her to do! Training a German Shepherd like Kelly can be challenging if you don't know what you're doing.
My sweet Luke, on the other hand, didn't have a dominant bone in his oversized easygoing body. (That's Luke in the photo, with me when I was young – those were the days!). Luke was a "good ol' boy" who always tried to please, always tried to do the right thing, even when he couldn't quite remember what the right thing was. Luke, you see, was what you might call a slow learner. Training a German Shepherd like Luke isn't difficult, but does require time and patient repetition.
My third German Shepherd, Gretchen, was moderately intelligent and moderately willing to please, but came from a working line of high-energy German Shepherds bred to be protection dogs, schutzhund dogs, and police dogs. Training a German Shepherd like Gretchen requires that you provide a LOT of daily activity (physical and mental) because these high-drive dogs have considerable energy they need to vent. Otherwise, they become too much to handle.
I've also been involved in training, oh, probably a hundred German Shepherds owned by other people. Some of these German Shepherds were virtually perfect "hero dogs" – handsome, noble, intelligent, responsive. Others were so unstable that it made me want to weep. Long-time obedience instructor and behavioral consultants (like myself) have seen far too many German Shepherds with neurotic behaviors, especially aggression, skittishness, and extreme fearfulness. Training these German Shepherds takes patience and skill, and usually the assistance of a professional trainer.
So when you ask, "How easy is it – training German Shepherd Dogs?" my answer is, "A good German Shepherd with a stable temperament is one of the most capable and trainable breeds in all of dogdom. But how "easy" it will be to train him depends on the temperament and personality of the individual dog, plus your own dog training skills."
That's where I come in. Keep reading my dog training articles (and hopefully buy my book, "Teach Your Dog 100 English Words") and I will help you train your German Shepherd to be well-mannered and well-behaved. I've been working with dogs for 35+ years, as a dog trainer, canine psychologist, breed advisor, and author of 15 books about dogs.
Dog Training – What Works, and What Doesn't
Some dog training methods are based on what makes the OWNER feel good, rather than what on actually makes sense to the dog. For example, "positive-only" dog training is a big fad right now. Now, treats can be great motivators for training German Shepherds, but if your dog will only obey for a treat, then HE is in charge of his obedience, not you. [read more]
Teach Your German Shepherd To Respect You
"Respect Training" is the sensible dog training method I use and recommend for training German Shepherds. I often get phone calls from distressed owners who are having trouble with their dog. Let's listen in on a phone conversation between myself and a typical dog owner (we'll call her Kathy Armstrong). Kathy: "Michele, my dog Jake is being difficult. I can't make him do anything. He only listens to me when he's in the mood." Me: "I see. Would you say Jake is behaving rudely?" Kathy (surprised): "What do you mean? How can a dog be rude?" [read more]
Teach The Right Words In The Right Ways To Your German Shepherd
My method of training German Shepherds includes teaching specific words in specific ways so that your dog not only learns the words but also develops the respectful attitude that makes him happy to obey you. Teach your dog words and he will understand what you say. Teach those words in the right ways and he will actually DO what you say. [read more]
Solving German Shepherd Behavior Problems
One of the most common questions dog owners ask me is: "How can I stop my dog from (doing some specific behavior problem)?" They're hoping I'll tell them where to find a secret button on the back of their dog's head that will trigger a MISBEHAVIOR-OFF switch. :-) Alas, my answer is almost always the same, no matter what the misbehavior is. Here it is (free of charge!).... [read more]
Training German Shepherd Puppies
Just got a new puppy? German Shepherd puppy training starts the moment you bring your puppy home. If you use the wrong teaching method, your puppy will begin making decisions about how he wants YOU to fit into his life, and that's a recipe for conflict and behavior problems. Whatever he does, you must react properly or he will learn the wrong things. Here's my recommended schedule (what to teach, when to teach it) for training your German Shepherd puppy. [read more]
Housebreaking Your German Shepherd
The good news is that unlike some dog breeds who are a nightmare to housebreak, German Shepherds are usually easy to housebreak. There are two keys to housebreaking. Just two, but you have to get them both right. And I mean 100% right, not 50% right. Otherwise you're going to end up with a German Shepherd who is 50% potty trained, and who wants that? So here they are – your two keys to housebreaking.... [read more]
Socializing Your German Shepherd
Socializing means training your German Shepherd to get along politely with strangers and other animals. Most German Shepherds have protective instincts toward strangers, which means they need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone really does act abnormally. Without careful socialization, German Shepherds may be suspicious of everyone, which can lead to an innocent person getting bitten, or to paranoid fearfulness. Another concern in the breed is potential animal aggression. Most German Shepherds are very good with other dogs and cats in their own family. But they can be aggressive toward dogs they don't know, especially dogs of the same sex. And some German Shepherds can be serious cat chasers. [read more]
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