German Shepherd Training
It can be very rewarding to be a German Shepherd parent, but it’s important to get this breed trained early. GSDs are one of the most exuberant, energetic dog breeds you can bring into your home.
The serious working dogs you see assisting law enforcement officers, rescue workers, and people with disabilities are the product of professional dog training. Without that training, German Shepherds can easily run amok.
Worse, German Shepherds are easily aroused and can become protective to the point of aggressiveness, which means bringing an untrained German Shepherd into contact with strangers or dogs, especially in your home, on your property (your GSD’s territory) can be dangerous.
Make sure to use positive reinforcement dog training when teaching your German Shepherd. They respond very well to gentle handling and German Shepherds look forward to working every day. There is never a need for force, choke, shock, or prong collars in dog training.
Many German Shepherds (and working dogs) would rather work and train for toys or games like bite work, search and rescue, nose work, or a game of fetch or rope tug. Toy rewards and environmental rewards will outweigh even the highest food rewards when training a German Shepherd.
However, remember that dogs don’t come “hardwired” to know what a toy is nor how to play with it. As always, parents must teach a dog to enjoy dog toys and basic dog obedience training to drop it, leave it, take it, and fetch.
Understanding German Shepherds
GSDs were initially bred as boundary working herding dogs. These are very smart dogs, and they also function as traditional herding working dogs with livestock. Understanding this helps you understand why they’re both protective, intelligent, and motivated. They’d be useless for the task they’ve been bred for if they weren’t.
Because German Shepherds are smart and large, they can be a handful and dangerous if untrained. Especially since most German Shepherds are mouthy dogs and like to chew things.
Before being trained by Fun Paw Care, many of my clients have been pulled to the ground at the site of a squirrel or other triggering stimuli. If a German Shepherd has not been trained to look to their parents for guidance and advice in new, unfamiliar, and potentially scary situations, the dog will react instead of respond, causing a potentially dangerous situation.
Once you establish a bond through gentle positive reinforcement dog training and they see you as a trustworthy source of guidance and understanding they become eager to prove themselves as outstanding partners and additions to your family.
Training isn’t just about teaching the dog standard cues. Dictating like a drill sergeant what to do and when to do it. In many cases, it’s also about teaching you how to portray yourself as a parent that understands your dog and communicates with them effectively as a teacher that your dog can trust. Dog training is also about learning for ourselves how to communicate and be clear, concise, and consistent with your dog: a confused German Shepherd will make mistakes.
Never get rough, force, or be aggressive with a German Shepherd. Training should always be fear, intimidation, and pain-free for you and the dog. Training is a way to connect, engage, and deepen a bond with a dog. The more forceful you become with a German Shepherd, the more shut-down, unpredictable, and dangerous a dog will become to you and society.
Common German Shepherd Training Behavior Problems
In addition to reactivity and aggression if trained inappropriately or not at all, German Shepherds may be prone to:
- Leash pulling
- Puppy nipping and biting
- Dog barking
- Dog anxiety
- Jumping up
- Resource Guarding
- Fear Aggression
- Resource Aggression
- Territorial Aggression
- Dog Aggression
- People Aggression
- Excess arousal
Many times an untrained German Shepherd will engage in other undesirable behaviors as well. These may also be the result of lack of stimulation, socialization, play, exercise, enrichment, training, punitive training, or boredom. GSD’s need a lot of stimulation, attention, training, and playtime to succeed at being wonderfully behaved pets.
If you were unable to get your German Shepherd trained up as a puppy, consider bringing your dog to our Los Angeles Dog Training Boot Camp. Parents bring us their German Shepherd dogs from all around the world to focus on training, behavior modification, and rehabilitating dogs who have fallen into bad habits or who are demonstrating a wide range of problematic dog behaviors.
What Products and Dog Training Equipment Should I Buy For A German Shepherd Dog?
German Shepherds are a large dog breed that needs to be trained well with gentle, positive reinforcement dog training to achieve the best (and most humane) dog training results. Regardless of the age of your German Shepherd, whether they are a puppy, adolescent, or senior GSD, all of the following will help a parent throughout the life of your German Shepherd Puppy.
Essential German Shepherd Dog and Puppy Training and Wellness Products
- Xpen/Puppy Pen – An Xpen has so many uses both indoors and outdoors. Because it is modular you can use it instead of baby gates or make a temporary blockade for irregular shaped rooms and open spaces or rooms with no traditional doors
- Baby gate – Dog baby gates have so many uses. I use it because I don’t allow dogs in the kitchen, but you can use it to block off the baby’s room or for any reason at all.
- Dog Crates – I use a dog crate for large-XL breed dogs such as the German Shepherd but buy one specifically for your size dog.
- Dog Beds – I always have many beds for dogs so they can choose the texture, height, plushness, and fabric that they prefer.
- Car Hammock – is a must for large dogs that do not fit in crates or more specifically when the crate does not fit in the car or SUV.
- Kong Black – (Black is for the toughest of dog chewers and red Kong is for lighter chewers) I recommend getting at least a dozen of these as they have so many uses and your dog will love them.
- Bowls – Maze dog bowls are wonderful for dogs to receive cognitive enrichment and to improve digestion by slowing down a dog’s eating. There are so many wonderful dog bowls to choose from. Also, make sure you get retractable dog bowls for when you are out and about with your dog.
- Dog Toys – Go wild here and get many different shapes, sizes, textures, sounds, firmness, smells, etc., but remember, just buying 100 toys won’t mean your dog will like toys. Make sure to read, how to get your dog to like their toys, before you buy dozens of dog toys.
- Dog Harness – My favorite dog harness is this one because it is tough, affordable, made very well, has front and rear attachments, easily adjustable, long-lasting, light, and has built-in reflective trim.
- Dog Collar – There are tons of dog collars to choose from. Remember, dog collars are not for attaching a leash to. Think of them as a necklace just to hold your dog’s tags and your information in case your pet gets lost.
- Dog Backpack – Expensive but worth it and likely the last and only pack you will ever buy. Also the most ergonomic to fit your dog. I use a dog back backpack to hold mine and the dog’s brush, leashes, harness, water, keys, wallet, phone, balls, ropes and other toys, poop bags, extra dog supplies, clothes, etc.
- Dog Leash 6’ – That is the leash I use for a quick pee or poop if I am in a rush or want to keep my dog close by my side for the entire walk.
- Dog Leash 15’ – what I use for most dog training walks. It is the most adjustable and the best balance between length and ease of managing. However, it still takes practice to get used to and not recommended for a reactive or untrained dog.
- Dog Leash 30’ – what I use for simulated off-leash experiences (at the beach, park, large open spaces, practicing recalls, and other “off-leash” training skills) A parent needs much more skill to use a 30’ leash safely and effectively. Start with a much smaller leash and work your way up as you build your confidence and proficiency.
- Clicker Training – Have many of these all around the house as they tend to break often and get lost (at least in my home). Each person in the family who interacts with your dog should have one or more clickers.
- Dog Training Pouch – Each person should have their own dog training pouch who is interacting with your pet.
- Dog Treats – Dog training treats are a very large category. So do your homework and try to use as healthy a treat as your dog finds attractive. Here are the dog training treats that I use regularly for training.
- Dog Food Storage – Dog food goes bad and has an expiration date. Also, the larger the bag, the more oxidation occurs and the quicker vitamins, nutrients, and minerals diminish over time. Try and keep your dog’s food as fresh and sealed as possible.
- Dog Video Camera – A dog camera, two-way audio and treat dispensing device have innumerable uses. For separation distress or Separation Anxiety Disorder, for training while not at home or while out of sight, and for soothing your anxious dog by speaking to them through the device as if you were in the room. However, the most fun and obvious uses are to simply spy on your dog while you are not home, to see and hear what they are up to!
- XL Poop Bags – Trust me on this one, don’t skimp out on small or even large bags, you will regret it! Large dogs make large deposits, get biodegradable bags and bags that don’t get shipped with or use plastic at all (looking at you, the core inner roller, or dog poop bags). Also, pro-tip, dog poop bags make a great emergency waterproof bag for your keys, phone, or electronics, and also an emergency dog water bowl. Always have double the amount of poop bags you think you will need, to offer a parent in a pinch or if your dog decides to take three poops that walk.
- Dog Brush – Being this beautiful ain’t easy! Say hello to your new best friend. GSDs need lots of brushing and grooming and this brush will be in your back pocket, or dog backpack often.
- Ear Cleaner – Dog ear cleaner is pretty self-explanatory. Dog’s get ear wax build-up just like we do so you will be cleaning their ears regularly to prevent infection and to massage their ears, which most dogs love.
- Dog Nail Clippers – Some dogs have a fear of nail clippers. If your dog has a fear of any of the items on this list or anyone or anything in life don’t forget to hire a competent Certified Fear-Free Dog Behaviorist or trainer who teaches you how to desensitize and counter-condition your dog to their fear and anxiety.
- Dog Probiotics – Just as with people, probiotics are very healthy for a dog’s gut, mental, and emotional state.
- Dog Supplements – Dog supplements work wonders for dogs with fear anxiety and stress and to help take the edge off hyper-vigilant, reactive dogs that haven’t been taught yet to relax and settle.
- Dog Towels – I don’t have to tell you why towels are great. But I will. any towels are wonderful for drying your dog off after they go to the beach, in the pool, splash in rain puddles, or after bathtime. I also use towels sometimes when an adolescent or puppy dog destroys beds or is not house trained yet. You can make a bed out of several towels and they are much cheaper than buying a new bed every other day.
- Bathing licks – Make bathtime fun not scary! Your veterinarian should also be a certified fear-free practice and use these in some way in the exam rooms.
- Berkey Water Filter – I use this for myself and all of my pets. The filters last for years, not needing to destroy the planet with replacing plastic filters often and the water tastes incredible.
German Shepherd Puppy Specific (in addition to the above)
- Enzymatic Cleaner – Let’s face it, puppies pee on the floor, carpet, or rug and are going to make mistakes. You are going to need to clean your dog’s urine and feces with an enzymatic formula that not only eliminates smells for us but destroys the proteins and smells from your puppy’s strong olfactory glands.
- Garbage – This is the one that I have, but any self-closing, tight-sealing garbage will do to keep odors at bay
- Puppy Wee Pads – For potty training your puppy pee pads are mandatory as well as some artificial turf mentioned below
- Dog Artificial Turf – Perfect for city folks, or do not have access to grass while potty training.
- Puppy Kong Toys – Puppy-specific Kong Toys come in pink or blue I recommend getting at least a dozen of these as they have so many uses and your dog will love them.
- Dyson Pet Vacuum – Expensive but not when you use it every single day for years. This is an awesome pet vacuum.
Should I Get A German Shepherd As My First Dog?
The short answer is No. German Shepherds and other high-energy, highly motivated, and intelligent dogs take more skill and understanding on the part of the pet parent.
The parent learning curve would be very steep and with such a large dog the potential danger to you, other people, dogs, cats, etc., could be much greater. German Shepherds are best suited for a person that understands the dog breed and who has had other more challenging, working dogs in the past.
Although GSDs are very easy to dog train obedience with, the cognitive-behavioral aspect beyond basic obedience training is where a person’s past dog experience will come into play and help out.
Are German Shepherds A Good Family Dog?
German Shepherds are great around kids, families, and even cats! However, the caveat is only if the family is knowledgeable about the breed, has a lot of time, energy, and resources to implement training and behavior modification protocols.
If you get your German Shepherd as a puppy and socialize, train, play, enrich, and exercise your dog appropriately, your investment will pay off tremendously down the road with a well-balanced, calm and secure dog. If however, you adopt an older German Shepherd, you still must have the resources to hire a certified dog behaviorist to help you and the dog with any behavior quirks that arise.
How Your German Shepherd Sees Training
Guess what? German Shepherds love training! They’ve been bred to be very good at following cues. Formal training programs tap into their deepest instincts and set them up for success. We’ve worked hard to make our training programs successful, engaging, and fun for both of you.
This breed’s intelligence means they should progress through the program with ease. Many German Shepherds can learn training very quickly.
Our training methodology sets you up for success, too. You learn how to work with your unique dog, their atavistic instincts, and breed. You learn how to change your environment, modulate your voice, stance, body language, and approach to work with the dog’s behavior, instead of against it.
The result? You’re a very happy pet parent, and your dog becomes confident, socialized, easy-going, secure, and a well-behaved dog.
How Much Do German Shepherds Shed?
German Shepherds shed a lot and need a lot of care and attention. Frequent grooming, vacuuming, gentling, socialization, enrichment, and play will be needed. As with all dogs, health checkups, vaccinations, and veterinarian care will be mandatory as well.
What Should I Feed My German Shepherd Puppy Dog?
All dogs need attention to their nutritional profile, however large breed puppy dogs need special attention to their calcium, energy, vitamin, mineral, and nutrient intake during their growth phase. As with all dogs health checkups, vaccinations and veterinarian care will be mandatory as well.
Nothing is a hotter topic than what to feed a dog. That’s OK because we are simply providing you with the facts, not conventional wisdom, belief, tradition, or hearsay or even my personal experiences. Just non-biased, evidence-based published research and review papers. I show you the most current and up-to-date canine nutritional evidence and you make your own decision regarding your dog’s health and what or who to feed them.
Should you feed a dog a raw diet, (also read here, here, and here) extruded dry kibble, organic, semi-raw, freeze-dried, or a homemade vegan diet? While dogs are classified in the Order Carnivora, dogs are not obligate carnivores like our other feline household pets. In fact, dogs are not carnivores and can thrive on plant-based diets.
All diets require being properly formulated, balanced, and complete regardless of what (or who) we are feeding our pets. Luckily for us (and dogs) dogs have adapted to scavenge and forage over tens of thousands of years and can digest carbohydrates.
However, since plant-based diets have by far the least impact on the environment and are sustainable, and are the most a person can do to lower the planet’s greenhouse gases we recommend plant-based diets. Plant-based diets are the best diet for the planet, all sentient beings, and are the most compassionate way to feed a dog. The only truly sustainable way to feed a dog is via an organic plant-based diet that is complete and balanced.
What to feed a German Shepherd Puppy has different implications and is very different than what to feed an adult or senior dog. Current research shows that large breed puppies need a certain formulation of dietary protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and calories (energy) to prevent the onset of skeletal diseases from rapid bone, cartilage, tissue, and joint growth. Rapid growth causes skeletal diseases such as elbow and hip dysplasia.
Feed your German Shepherd Puppy reduced calories (energy) and reduced calcium. Focus on a large breed growth puppy food that meets these requirements and parameters (300-340 kcals/cup and between 0.8-1.0% dietary calcium.) Not all do!
Keep your German Shepherd Puppy and Dog lean not plump and always look for an AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement that indicates the food is complete and balanced for a dog’s particular life stage.
We are German Shepherd dog training and behavior experts. Our GSD certified dog behaviorists and trainers have been successfully helping parents with German Shepherd training for decades! Let an expert Certified Dog Behaviorist, Trainer, and Nutritionist help you with your GSD’s training and behavior problems today.
1 Hour – $295
(In addition to the one-hour session, you receive a detailed dog training and behavior analysis plan with abundant supporting resources)