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Your 8-week-old German Shepherd puppy training begins the moment they step their furry little paw into your home.
While you might feel worried about how to train an 8-week-old German Shepherd puppy, there’s plenty of help for you right here.
By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll feel like a new puppy owner genius and…
Know exactly what to expect during training.
How to Train an 8 Week Old German Shepherd Puppy
8-week-old German Shepherd puppy training doesn’t need to be a nightmare!
When done the right way your training will stay with your puppy the rest of their lives, giving them the solid foundation they need to thrive. And, learning how to train an 8-week-old German Shepherd can be fun and rewarding.
Your young dog is ready and even willing to begin training when they arrive at your home. In fact, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA) states that the first 2 months are essential in laying the core foundations for a German Shepherd puppy.
More importantly, German Shepherd Dogs are one of the smartest breeds, so your puppy already comes to you with a natural intelligence that is just waiting for your training (source-AKC).
You just need to know the 3 Golden Rules of Puppy Training to begin.
1: Start Training Your German Shepherd Puppy Young
Young puppies are like sponges – they soak up whatever is offered to them. Meaning, when you bring your pup home they are already learning what your expectations of their behavior are. They are fresh and ready to learn what you show them and to follow the rules of your home.
Even science shows that your puppy can learn easily. A study of puppy learning using 8-week-old puppies showed that young dogs easily figured out how to open a puzzle box with a food reward, showing that puppies can be trained as young as eight weeks of age.
2: Train Consistently, Every Day
Just as important as starting your training young is staying consistent with your training.
Daily training in short sessions is best for a young dog.
Another study on training puppies consistently showed that dogs trained daily were less likely to become fearful of strangers or have disobedience problems. This type of daily, consistent training improved the obedience behavior of dogs, regardless of their age.
3: Focus on The 5 Core Areas of Puppy Training
While there are many aspects of training an 8-week-old puppy, here are the top 5 core areas that are most helpful to you right now:
There is a lot of time and attention that goes into training your German Shepherd puppy, but don’t feel overwhelmed.
German Shepherd puppy training is fun and a great time to bond with your new dog!
Now that you’ve brought your GSD puppy home, don’t waste any time teaching your puppy the right way to behave.
Follow these puppy training tips to break down your training into manageable steps that are easy to teach and train.
10 Easy German Shepherd Puppy Training Tips
German Shepherd puppies are brilliant! And as they grow, they become the most loyal canine friends.
But, it’s your job to properly train them.
They’re counting on you to help guide them and make life a little easier as they transition into your home.
Here’s how you can be a proper leader and trainer.
1. Teach Them Handling Skills
While your dog may enjoy gentle caresses and hugs from you they will also need to learn other important handling skills.
Think about the grooming your dog will need and how the vet might handle your pup in the future.
Gently touch and stroke your puppy’s paws, nails (you’ll need to clip them one day soon), tail, bridge of their nose, and legs. These are all areas where they will be touched in the future.
Handling skills involve intentional, purposeful touch that acclimates your dog to uneasy situations in the near future.
2. Know Your Dog’s Signals
Keep an eye on your dog and heed the many signals they’re giving you about their emotional state.
Do this well, and you’ll avoid potential problems later on. Ignoring fear and stress signals (such as cowering, lip their lips multiple times, turning their head away, even shaking) will only teach your dog to fear that object.
Fear can cause your dog to become aggressive or suffer from anxiety.
Instead, back off what you’re teaching them or leave the object or area that is stressing your dog. Don’t punish them for having emotions you don’t understand.
Instead, learn to understand your dog’s communication early on and react accordingly.
Never, ever try to become the alpha!
This is old-school thinking that’s been proven harmful to young dogs.
Instead, learn to become their favorite teacher and speak their language. 99% of dog training is learning to speak your dog’s unique language and building your relationship on this.
3. Use Positive, Reward-Based Training
Positive training isn’t letting your dog do whatever you want.
It’s a powerful and scientific system for breaking down barriers between dog and human communication that produces the desired behaviors you want. It also prevents undesired behaviors.
Get rid of anything you’re heard or read about using dominance, punishments, and control.
Think of positive training in terms of showing, teaching, influencing, and trusting. These terms build trust.
And that’s exactly what you and your new puppy need!
4. Focus on the Good Things
Some puppy owners all too often think about punishment and discipline as their first steps in training. But, that’s now what your daily aim should be.
What you want is to focus on catching your dog behaving well — and reward that!
If you see your puppy chewing on the right chew toy, then praise them. When you see them look at you, offer them a treat for paying attention.
When you find your dog lying down being quiet and calm, pet them gently and offer them verbal praise.
The more you focus on the good things, the less your dog concerns itself with doing bad things.
5. Never Enter Into a Shouting Match
Your puppy doesn’t follow your command any better when you shout at them.
They actually become afraid and stressed about you and simply follow your command because they’re scared of you.
That’s no way to train an 8-week-old German Shepherd puppy!
German Shepherds are actually sensitive to their owner’s feelings, and shouting and yelling at them causes them to become anxious about you and your training.
Remember, learn your dog’s language and you can build the foundation of positive communication.
6. Use Redirections, Instead of Punishments
Redirection is a behavior that is incompatible with the one they’re currently doing that you don’t like.
Your dog can’t continue to dig in the yard if you call them to you. And, your puppy can’t eat your favorite shoe if you offer them a tastier chewing bone that’s more interesting.
Don’t think of immediately punishing your puppy, as this isn’t the right tactic for training. Call them to you or offer them a better option that is what you prefer, then praise them for choosing the right thing.
Include different games throughout the day in between your training sessions to give your dog a break and have fun with them!
Focus Areas of 8 Week Old German Shepherd Puppy Training
With the 10 tips to training your 8-week-old German Shepherd, you’re now ready to move on to even more challenges.
There are 5 critical focus areas in which you must train your 8-week old German Shepherd appropriately.
Here is the most important training that you need to teach your new puppy so they enjoy a successful life with you.
Potty Training: Train Your German Shepherd Puppy Where to Eliminate and When
Potty and house training is crucial during the first few weeks your new puppy is home with you.
You can’t turn your back or leave your dog unsupervised for even a few seconds — that’s all it takes for your puppy to have an unsightly and stinky accident. Don’t blame your puppy for those accidents when you’ve been warned your puppy will do them.
It’s your responsibility to watch your puppy and show them where and when to eliminate it.
Keep in mind, your young dog is unable to hold its bladder for more than a couple of hours at 8-weeks-old. They simply lack the muscle control to hold their bladders any longer.
It’s not their fault. It’s just the way they develop.
Instead, opt to train your 8-week-old German Shepherd puppy using positive methods and watching for the natural times that your dog chooses to eliminate.
German Shepherd Puppy Potty Training Schedule
Your puppy’s natural urges to eliminate will dictate their exact potty times, but this is a helpful schedule to follow for potty training and housebreaking.
Adjust the times as necessary to avoid any accidents in your house and help keep your puppy to their unique schedule.
Early morning: Let your pup outside first thing every morning to let them relieve themselves. If you’ve chosen crate training then your dog has slept in a small area that they don’t like to soil and eliminate inside their sleeping area. So, they’ll be ready to go outside to potty even before they eat or drink.
After breakfast: After its morning breakfast meal let your dog back outside. Let them walk around and sniff to help encourage them to explore and let them stretch their legs.
Before and after lunch: Let your puppy outside before and after their lunchtime meal. Eating stimulates the bowels and your puppy needs to got outside at least every 2 hours.
Before and after dinner: Remember that eating stimulates the response for your puppy to eliminate. So, before and after every mealtime your puppy should be let outside for a walk and sniff.
Before bedtime: Your puppy needs to relieve themself before they settle down for the nighttime. This is a good time to let them have a long sniffing exploration and to really explore a safe area.
During the night: Yes, your puppy will probably need to go potty during the night. You might hear them whine and cry to get your attention. Remember, they cannot hold their bladders for more than 2 hours! They aren’t developed enough to hold it in for a long time, so set your alarm and take them outside.
After naptime: Take your puppy out for a potty break after naptime, as soon as they wake up.
After playtime: Take your puppy out for a potty break after a play session as this increases their bladder stimulation and they’ll need to go outside.
8-week old German Shepherd puppies need to relieve themselves at least every 2 hours or less. If you have a safe spot away from other dogs it’s a good idea to let your puppy have a short walk to help prevent accidents inside.
Keep repeating the same routine. Your puppy will soon catch on, but this generally takes weeks or even months. The more diligent you are about preventing accidents the quicker your puppy will learn housetraining.
You can even begin to cue your puppy to encourage them to eliminate by saying “go potty” when they are doing their business outside in the right spot. After repeating this cue over a period of weeks your puppy begins to understand that “go potty” means they should do their elimination.
Remember to reward your puppy after they’ve done their elimination so that they associate outside time with a positive reward.
Never, ever punish your puppy or rub their nose in it for punishment. This may stress them out and cause even more accidents.
Socialization: Teaching Your German Shepherd Puppy to Interact Nicely Around Other People and Dogs
Socializing your 8-week-old German Shepherd means that you must provide your dog with interesting and positive interactions where they feel safe.
During weeks 8 to 12 of their life with you, your dog learns what is and isn’t safe. It’s very important to ensure that your dog interacts, and has a positive and rewarding experience, with different people, dogs, animals, sights, sounds, objects, and experiences. This helps give your young dog confidence in its environment.
German Shepherd Dogs are extremely loyal and have a tendency of apprehensiveness with strangers.
Socialization helps ensure that your puppy not only grows a strong bond with you without developing over-protectiveness but also learns to trust that you have their best interest in mind and will keep their experiences as positive as possible.
German Shepherd puppy socialization training tips:
Without their full set of vaccinations, your puppy is vulnerable to infectious diseases. However, consider taking your young dog to early socialization classes where all other dogs have also been immunized. This reduces the risk of becoming sick and helps your German Shepherd become a confident, well-adjusted, and friendly dog.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior promotes early socialization (source), even before your dog receives its full set of vaccines, as lack of socialization is detrimental long-term.
Every new interaction or must be followed with a reward — a tasty treat! This ensures your puppy has positive associations with new experiences, people, and other dogs. You can use your puppy’s kibble as a reward or something even better, like one of these best lip-smacking treats.
Always make sure socialization is about positive interactions and never ignore your dog’s body language. If your puppy becomes scared, simply remove the scary thing or threat and let your puppy explore other things that don’t scare them.
With the proper socialization training, your puppy should become eager to explore new places and meet new people and animals.
Taking your German Shepherd puppy to new places exposes them to different people, dogs, sights, and sounds. But only choose safe areas where your dog won’t catch any sickness before all their vaccinations are in order.
As a puppy, you can help teach your German Shepherd important social skills through intentional training moments that are positive and allow your puppy to develop their confidence in social situations.
Bite Inhibition: Train Your German Shepherd Puppy to Have Control of Their Mouth
An 8-week-old German Shepherd puppy has teeth like a little shark!
They don’t know their own bite strength…yet.
This is where bite inhibition comes in useful.
Bite inhibition helps your puppy to not only control what they bite but also how hard or soft they close their jaws. It teaches your dog how to properly apply force with its mouth without hurting you or anyone else.
It’s so important to teach your puppy this skill early so they avoid accidentally hurting anyone later on.
How to Teach Your Puppy to Bite Without Hurting You
To teach your puppy not to hurt you with their nipping and biting do your best to not let them get to this energy level.
If you know your puppy tends to bite you when you play with them too long, then cut your playtime short.
If they tend to bite and nip you when they are tired, then have them go to their nap area sooner to rest.
Puppies also tend to bite you when they are cranky from not eating soon enough or when they want attention.
If your puppy still tries to bite and nip you teach them this way:
When they bite you and it hurts say “ouch” and look sad and hurt (which you probably really are already). You don’t need to yelp like one of their littermates because your dog is smart enough to know you are a person and not another puppy.
Don’t jerk your hand back quickly because this only encourages your puppy to chase your hand or bite harder. It’s going to be tough, but remain still and move very slowly away from your dog.
You can get up and leave the play area for a few moments. Return once they are calm.
Don’t roughhouse with your dog! Never use only your hands for play.
You should have a few puppy-safe chew toys around to grab quickly to offer your puppy during play. Choose one from this list of safe German Shepherd chew toys
Don’t let them play or chew on your clothes, shoes, hair, feet, or face. If your puppy nips or bites any of these areas, the game is immediately over. Get up slowly and calmly and leave. Only return when they are calm again.
Offer your puppy their chew toy when they are too excited to play softly with you. Encourage them to find their toys and bite them instead of you.
Never yell or punish your puppy for play-biting and nipping. Doing so can lead to anxiety, aggression, or your puppy fearing you.
Even though German Shepherds are one of the smartest dogs, learning and teaching bite inhibition requires a lot of repetition and consistency.
You might even walk to walk around with one of their toys in your pocket to help reinforce the right behavior (offering them the chew toy when they decide to nip your ankles or bite your legs). Praise them and play with them when they make the right decision; ignore them and leave when they don’t.
Continue with your bite-inhibition training as long as it takes for your dog to learn to use its soft mouth.
This could take months, but soon they will master the art of a soft bite.
Crate Training: Training Your German Shepherd Puppy the Importance of Their Private Space
Not all owners use a crate, and that’s perfectly fine. But, crate training your 8-week-old German Shepherd puppy can improve the speed of their house training and accustom them to times they may need to be in their crate (such as during travel or at the vets and groomers).
Crates are also a useful area for your dog to have their own private space when they want alone time or are stressed and need some quiet.
Choose a crate that gives your dog enough room to turn completely around, stand comfortably, sit upright, and lie down easily on their side with their legs stretched for rest.
Keep the crate door open the first few times your puppy enters so they don’t become anxious and scared. Offer them a treat or even their meal in their crate to help them develop positive associations with it.
Start closing the door when they are inside for just a few seconds at first. Then, open the door and let them out calmly.
Continue to increase the time your puppy stays inside the crate, working up to longer and longer times.
Don’t let your dog out immediately if they’re crying and whining in their crate. This may only encourage them to cry and whine harder and louder when they want out. Instead, wait just a couple of seconds for them to be quiet, and let them out only when they are not crying and whining.
If they appear too stressed or panicked, let them out immediately! You don’t want to create negative associations with their new crate.
Place your pup’s crate in the same place and keep it there to avoid confusing them. This also encourages your dog to seek out the crate when they want their private space and time alone, as they will know where to find their crate.
Avoid placing a blanket over the crate since puppies chew and are extremely active. Your pup could accidentally pull the blanket inside and hurt themselves by either wrapping it around their neck or choking on it.
Place the crate in an area away from drafts and out of the direct sun so they get too cold or too warm.
When you first get your puppy it’s a great idea to have their crate by your bed or in your bedroom so they are comfortable with you near them.
Leash Training: Training Your German Shepherd Puppy to Walk Calmly on a Leash
Your dog doesn’t necessarily come knowing how to walk on a leash — you need to teach it to them.
The best way to do this is to practice leash skills at home first.
After they are comfortable wearing their leash around the house, you can work on the skill in the backyard, front yard, or on the sidewalk outside. Do these steps before taking your puppy on a long walk to ensure they’re happy to walk on a leash and won’t panic.
How to Teach Your Puppy to Walk on a Leash
Introduce your German Shepherd puppy to their harness (which is a safer option for a puppy) and their leash. Do this by first allowing them to get used to wearing the new objects by placing the items near them, or even on their backs, while they’re distracted.
A good time is during their favorite meal. Only leave them on your dog for a short time to gauge their reaction. If they seem fine, place your puppy into the harness and attach the leash. Offer them praise and a reward for letting you leash them.
Now, let your puppy drag the leash around the house so they know how it feels to wear it. You can play with them a bit, or even better have them follow you around which simulates an outdoor walk (but indoors).
Remove the harness and leash if your GSD puppy becomes too upset and agitated! Don’t let them form a negative connotation about the leash and harness. Keep it upbeat and positive!
Now, introduce your puppy to a short walk outdoors in the safety of your backyard. Let your puppy wander around while you hold the leash. They may begin to pull. This is normal — don’t jerk them or pull back.
Get their attention by calling their name and showing them a treat to lure them back to you gently. Reward them every time they come to you while on the leash.
You may want to add a cue to this, such as “come”, but only when you are for sure your puppy is actually going to come to you. Should they ignore you then offer them the treat to lure them to you after giving the command.
Try kneeling or squatting down to get on their level when you give them the command. It seems to get their attention better. You can even slap your leg or clap your hands to entice them back to you.
Always ensure that your puppy is not stressed by their new harness and leash. Make sure the harness is soft and doesn’t rub or pinch their skin.
Some owners prefer to use a collar for leash training.
If this is your choice then only choose life-saving break-away collars since your puppy could get hung up and seriously injure themselves if their collar catches on something during their outside walk.
It only takes a second for your puppy to find themselves in a dangerous situation, so always have a leash on them outside when they are puppies and you aren’t in a secure area.
Don’t take any chances with your puppy!
What About the Basic German Shepherd Puppy Commands?
From week 8 you can start teaching your GSD simple commands, however, it’s best to focus on potty training, socialization, crate training, and bite-inhibition skills first.
If you have time to train basic commands and are still focusing on the core areas of raising your German Shepherd puppy, then follow these helpful articles that will put your puppy on the right track to obedience training.
It’s got everything you need to know about your growing puppy and explains what to expect as they grow. This useful book is a great resource for helping take your energetic puppy into a dedicated and well-adjusted dog that you’ll love to be around.
🐾 For an even more in-depth training course take a look at Brain Training for Dogs, the only online training course you’ll need to keep your highly intelligent breed thoroughly engaged in their training.
The course is not only easy-to-follow but includes dozens of incredibly detailed demonstration videos. Further, as a member, you have access to a unique private forum for additional support and guidance from the creator of the training program in a positive support group.
💡 It’s a must-have training program for new German Shepherd puppy owners!
Catherine Krasavin owns Shepherd Sense, a dog website aimed at German Shepherd owners and lovers. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, with Honors, and has been training dogs for over a decade. Catherine’s currently attending continuing education courses to keep up with the latest in animal science, as well as earning her diploma in dog training. She owns a plush coat German Shepherd who was awarded Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme Gold Award - the highest level of achievement.
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