Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.
Knowing the best commands to teach your German Shepherd is essential to living happily with them.
It’s more than just teaching your dog basic obedience.
Commands for German Shepherds establish a two-way street of communication.
And when you know how to talk to one of the world’s most intelligent dogs, both you and your GSD will gain confidence in training.
Below I’ve gathered the most essential German Shepherd commands to teach your dog. First, there are basic commands, and then I jump right into more advanced commands and tricks.
So let’s get started teaching you the most useful German Shepherd training commands to build a successful relationship.
German Shepherd Training Commands
After getting a German Shepherd, new owners often complain about a lack of communication with their dogs. As a result, they feel frustrated and anxious about how they’re spending their time training their German Shepherd.
Let’s tackle this problem together!
While there are unlimited commands you can teach your German Shepherd, you’ll want to know the basic commands first. This makes teaching your GSD easier since you have an essential foundation built.
You can also teach different commands for German Shepherds for fun, fitness, impulse control, and even bonding.
Basic Commands for German Shepherds
German Shepherd Dog training commands generally begin with the basics. Teaching your dog good manners and how to behave in public helps you to handle a large breed dog with confidence.
These basic commands for your GSD are useful in your daily life and are a great place to start.
1. Positive Marker
A marker word is any word or sound (such as a clicker) used to mark when your German Shepherd does something correctly. The most common marker words are yes and good.
But first, you must teach the meaning of this word to your dog so they understand. You must say the marker word (or click the clicker) followed immediately by a treat.
Repeat your word, along with giving them a treat, until your dog becomes excited about the word.
2. Name Recognition
The foundation of German Shepherd training is teaching your dog their name. When your dog knows their name they’ll look toward you to pay attention to what you say.
If you have a multi-dog home, then training their name will let your dogs know who needs to obey. It’s best to teach this as soon as your dog comes to live with you. Only use your dog’s name with respect. Your German Shepherd’s name isn’t a command — it’s a greeting and used as a courtesy to alert her you’re speaking to them.
Teaching your German Shepherd to sit is a basic command that you’ll find one of the most useful. It helps them settle down, stay still, and keeps them from jumping on guests.
Sit is a great behavior to have on cue to teach your German Shepherd to ask for something they want, prevent them from darting out open doors, and keep them in the car for you to leash them before releasing them.
The next command is down. Down teaches your German Shepherd to relax, settle for longer periods, and to rest until their next command. While in the down position, your GSD can’t pull you on their leash down the sidewalk or run into the street.
Down helps keep your dog safe by keeping them out of trouble’s way.
Having your German Shepherd in a relaxed down position provides you with better control. But, the most important command will be your following stay command.
Stay, while a basic command, is actually a more complex behavior. This is because in order for you to teach your German Shepherd to staythey need to resist distractions.
Plus, you’ll need to train them in different scenarios so you’re sure they don’t run away. This training is called proofing a behavior.
That means you’ll need to reinforce your dog’s behavior in three ways:
Duration – the time they hold the position
Distance – how far away you can go and they’ll still hold the position
Distraction – to resist what’s going on around them and keep their position
While this might sound like a lot to teach, it’ll become routine after a few sessions.
Once you give the stay command, you’ll want to follow with a release word (such as free or break).
The come command, also called the recall, is an essential life-saving skill you must teach your German Shepherd. The come command teaches your GSD to return back to you, even when they’re not wearing a leash.
Mastering this command not only gives your dog more freedom but also allows you to take your dog more places. When your dog understands the come command gives you more confidence because you know your dog will return when called.
Most owners find that teaching their German Shepherd to speak is much easier than training them to be quiet. The German Shepherd is bred as a watchful and alert companion and is a notorious barker.
Generally, when your German Shepherd barks you can add in a command, such as speak, to capture their barking. Once your dog understands they’ll earn rewards for barking you’ll need to add a stop barking cue.
As a herding breed, one of the jobs of the German Shepherd was to bark at predators or hazards. This is engrained in the breed. It’s also a sore spot for owners as the GSD is prone to develop a barking habit.
Early on, teach your German Shepherd to be quiet to help counteract their barking. This is actually a difficult command since you’re going against their DNA. They bark a lot by nature to ward off danger from their home and keep their family safe.
Don’t plan on teaching this command overnight. Going against your dog’s natural instinct takes time.
The wait is a general command that could be useful in many different situations like keeping them from bolting out the door, gobbling up their meal while you’re still preparing it, or when they’re asking for some scratches but you’re not quite ready. Like stay, wait helps you control your dog’s impulses.
Often thought of as one of the most useful German Shepherd training commands, the cue wait means to respect the boundary. It’s great to keep your dog at doorways to let her know she must remain for permission to go through. The wait is also valuable when you need to have your dog pause in certain areas or rooms of your house.
This cue doesn’t require your German Shepherd to hold a specific position (such as sit or down). It only means your dog must hesitate until you give your permission to cross over the boundary where the wait due was delivered.
10. Watch Me
Watch me (or look at me) is another great command to teach your German Shepherd. This gets your dog’s attention by having her maintain eye contact with you.
German Shepherds that learn this training are less likely to become distracted in public settings, learn patience while waiting for rewards, and develop better self-control skills. With everything else going on, watch me can get your dog in a better frame of mind. Plus, it allows you to give your dog another command to follow.
When your dog begins focusing on anything you don’t want her to, the leave it command comes in handy. While out on walks you might need your dog to ignore old food in the dirt or a neighborhood cat or dog that has her attention. Telling her to leave it keeps her away from those distracting objects for a moment.
Teaching your German Shepherd to leave it so she always stays away from what you want means you’ll have to practice the command many times, under many conditions, until she generalizes that you want her to never pay attention to whatever it is.
Has your dog ever grabbed your shoes and ran through the house with them? If so, then you must teach your German Shepherd the drop it command. Train your dog to drop it by using the reward method to make the training positive.
Basically, you’ll offer a tasty treat whenever your dog has something that you want. Instead of her losing her toy, she’ll earn a treat instead. Repeating this training with different items of value, and always keeping your reward worth more than what she has to drop, will give you better results.
Why would you ever want to teach your German Shepherd the stand command? There are so many reasons — when grooming, it’s easier to brush a dog when they’re standing, at the vet your dog needs to stand up for their exam, and there are lots of training tricks that tie into the stand.
Stand also gets your dog up from another position like down or from a trick like a rollover.
You’ll need to train your German Shepherd to settle if you want her to stop running around like crazy. Especially useful for puppies, the settle cue lets your dog know they need to behave calmly.
The purpose of the heel command is to teach your German Shepherd to walk on a loose leash beside you. Start training this to your German Shepherd by holding your dog’s leash with your right hand. Have your GSD on your left side, which is the traditional heel side.
Hold a treat in your left hand and guide your dog along the seam of your left leg while walking a few steps. Give her the treat for following along on a loose leash.
Don’t expect your German Shepherd to execute a perfect heel easily. For most herding breeds loose lead walking is a difficult behavior since dogs naturally walk faster than us. Training this command will help you to enjoy safer and more relaxed walks.
Besides the basic German Shepherd training commands, there are plenty more cues that you’ll have fun teaching. You can introduce your dog to new commands to keep up their training skills or purely for entertainment.
With the right set of commands, you can give your German Shepherd a job around the house to keep them mentally stimulated and out of trouble. Plus, who couldn’t use more help with their chores?
Here are some training commands to give you something fun to teach your German Shepherd and keep their intelligent minds engaged.
16. Let’s Go
Sometimes you’ll need a command to keep your German Shepherd moving. Maybe you want them to continue walking and pass another dog. Then use the words let’s go to tell them to keep walking.
Let’s go is especially helpful if your German Shepherd is reactive on a leash because it’s difficult to have them focus by saying watch me or sit when they’re so upset. Instead, keep them moving with you while on leash with a quick let’s go.
This cue is the equivalent of “I’m moving now, so move with me.”
Training your German Shepherd to get up on something is a great trick. Plus, if your dog learns to jump up when you ask, then they can join you on the couch for movie night, jump onto a stool for easier grooming time, or even increase their activity on walks.
German Shepherd puppies under 18 months of age shouldn’t jump higher than their elbow since they’re not done growing. And senior or arthritic GSDs should get a vet’s approval first.
After teaching the up cue, you’ll need a way to get your dog back onto the ground easily. That’s where the off command will help you.
The off command tells your dog they need to place all four paws back on the ground. This means if they have paws on you, on someone else, or on the furniture they should get all of their paws onto the floor.
Don’t just push your German Shepherd off of you. Instead, teach them the off command so you can guide them with your voice.
An easy and cute trick to teach your German Shepherd is shake, also known as give paw. It’s a cute behavior you can have your dog perform when they meet new people or your friends come over.
Teaching your dog to give you their paw even helps to desensitize your German Shepherd to having her paws touched. To spice things up with this trick, teach your dog to shake with each paw by naming them different commands.
When your dog is comfortable learning tricks then you’ll want to include a cute rollover into their routine. You’ll lure your German Shepherd with a tasty treat, moving the reward over to the side of their head as they’re lying down to start the trick.
Little by little, your dog will slowly start to lean over to reach the reward. Some German Shepherds are more reserved and will need time to go into the rollover. It’s a vulnerable position for German Shepherds because it shows off their bellies.
Training this trick will help build your dog’s confidence and increase your bond, so add this to your training checklist for your German Shepherd.
Not all German Shepherds understand how to return a toy or ball to you once thrown. So, training your German Shepherd to fetch (or bring)will help them learn how to carry their toys to you for a game.
Plus, fetch is a great way to exercise your dog to keep them fit and happy.
Did you know there’s more to playing with your German Shepherd than fetch?
If you teach your dog to wait for something, such as a treat or for a toy, then you’ll want to let them know it’s OK for them to have the item.
Use take it to give them permission to have their food, treat, or toy.
23. Go Potty
If you want to train your dog to use the bathroom on cue then a potty command is useful. Go potty is a good cue to pair when your puppy does their business outside.
After pairing the cue enough times, your German Shepherd learns that go potty is their command for using the toilet.
It’s best to have a place command for your German Shepherd. Place instructs your dog to go to a designated spot, sometimes a platform or mat, and wait for the next cue.
This is a great behavior to have in your repertoire. Imagine being able to send your German Shepherd to their place when someone knocks on your door. Instead of having them running around, they’ll know what to do and wait on their mat for your next command.
25. Play Dead
Once your German Shepherd knows rollover she’s ready to play dead. This trick takes more patience than rollover because your dog must stay very still to make the trick convincing.
Pair this trick with a few others and you have a complete show for your next party.
26. Go to Bed
Go to bed is different from your German Shepherd’s place command. When your dog goes to bed she will lay down and remain there quietly. Unlike with her place command where she waits for your next words.
You can also give your dog a treat to keep her busy and make her go to bed cue rewarding. Try a Kong toy for your German Shepherd that she chews to help relax her while in her bed.
If you’re like me then you’ll want to put your German Shepherd’s hugs on cue. In this behavior, you’ll teach your dog to place her front paws on your shoulders to hug you. Once you have bonded with your GSD you’ll find they’ll easily want to stay close to you.
But, in the beginning, you might notice your new German Shepherd is hesitant to put her paws on you. Especially if you’ve practiced the off cue excessively. Take your time, use plenty of praise, and don’t rush your German Shepherd to teach this command.
Spin is a beginner trick for German Shepherds. It’s easy to train puppies and even older dogs. Use a bit of tasty food to lure your dog into a turn. Keep repeating this action, then pair the word spin with the behavior.
For another challenge, teach your German Shepherd to spin the other way. You’ll need to name the opposite spin a different name, such as turn. Most dogs have a dominant side of their bodies, so you’ll see that your GSD tends to spin easier on one side than the other. Spin also helps your dog stay limber by stretching her neck and back muscles.
After having your dog wait, stay, sit, or down she’ll need to have a cue that lets her know she’s released. Use the word free to tell your German Shepherd that she can go about her own way.
For example, use free when releasing your dog from a wait at your back door into an enclosed yard. Before you give the free cue, always make sure the surroundings are safe and free from dangers. Free also tells your German Shepherd she’s able to go play and run.
So, don’t use the free command if you want your dog to stay close by. Instead, try the break command to teach your German Shepherd to stay near you for her next cue.
German Shepherd Dog Training Commands
Follow this checklist as your GSD learns their dog training commands. Then, move on to the next cue so your dog keeps learning and improving.
A word that tells your dog “Good job!”
Name recognition gets your dog’s attention.
A beginner command that’s easy enough for puppies.
Keeps your dog on the ground on her belly.
This means your dog remains in place until released.
An essential skill for your dog to return to you.
Most German Shepherds bark (or speak) naturally.
More difficult to teach since it goes against a GSD’s nature.
A temporary hold that’s usually given at doorways.
A way to get your German Shepherd to look at you.
To walk away from something they’re interested in.
Tells your dog to let go of an item in her mouth.
A useful command to get your dog on all four paws to groom.
Instructs your dog to relax and calm their behavior.
Keeps your dog at your side, not pulling on her leash.
A command to get your GSD to move along with you.
Generally tells your dog to jump onto a place.
Has your dog place all four paws on the floor and off an item.
Also known as “Give paw,” is a cute trick.
Difficult for shy dogs because their stomachs are exposed.
Asks your German Shepherd to return an item to you.
Gives permission to your dog that she can have an object.
Pair this when your puppy goes to the bathroom to help train a potty cue.
A spot your dog must go to until released.
This advanced trick has your dog “fall over,” as if they’ve been injured.
Go To Bed
Different from place; a relaxing spot that’s never used as punishment.
A great trick where your GSD places their paws on your shoulders.
Moves your dog in a tight circle, either left or right.
A release command that lets your dog enjoy their own time.
German Shepherd Dog Training Commands
Why should I teach commands to my German Shepherd?
Training a German Shepherd using commands helps teach them to act in harmony with your house rules. Without training, your German Shepherd will make your life chaotic.
Humans and German Shepherds are social animals and need some form of training in order to function effectively with you. If there wasn’t any training in their lives they’d eventually use their own set of rules. This leads to unwanted behaviors and an unhappy relationship with your dog.
Teaching your GSD commands will help you stay more satisfied living with them
You should have regular, positive interactions with your German Shepherd to encourage good behavior
Practice daily lessons your dog needs to know so they learn their commands quickly
It’s vital you teach your German Shepherd commands so they can understand how their pack (you and your family) function and how they must act. Plus, you must be able to control your German Shepherd around others who visit your home and when in public.
How to Teach Commands to Your German Shepherd
Teaching your German Shepherd their commands doesn’t have to be stressful. Even if you’re new to training there’s plenty of help to get you through their basic commands, as well as begin more advanced training.
Here’s how to teach your German Shepherd commands:
Have training lessons with your German Shepherd every day in several short segments. Three to five times a day for a few minutes at a time is ideal.
Don’t have long practice sessions. Your dog will become bored, lose interest, and not learn as quickly as they will in shorter lessons.
Never practice when you or your German Shepherd are tired, ill, worried, or in an otherwise negative mood. Both you and your dog must be in the right frame of mind, ready to learn. If you force your dog or yourself to practice training when either one of you isn’t up to it the performance will suffer.
End each session on a high note. Rather than having your dog fail at an exercise make sure to give her lots of praise and perform a cue you know she can do well.
Think fun, short, and above all keep the sessions POSITIVE to enjoy the training and help your German Shepherd enjoy it, too!
When teaching commands to your German Shepherd you’ll only need a few pieces of training equipment. These items will help you speed up your training.
More importantly, the right training tools help keep your dog safe while they’re learning their commands.
This safe, breakaway collar is best for both German Shepherd puppies and adults. This collar ensures if your dog is running loose and gets hung up on something they’ll be able to escape.
There are also metal rings to attach to your leash. So, the safety mechanism isn’t engaged and you can use the collar as your regular walking collar. It’s safest to always remove your dog’s collar when they’re at home to avoid unintentional injuries.
I recommend (and use) a dual-clip training harness for German Shepherds. Especially puppies that pull on their leashes. A harness is better than a collar for German Shepherds to avoid injuries to their necks. Although you might think you’re not jerking on your dog’s leash, the necks of dogs are very sensitive.
When choosing a harness, select a harness with both a front and back clip. This style of harness encourages your dog to not pull and can help you control them better than a collar and leash alone.
A 6-foot training leash is recommended, preferably made of nylon, which is easy to clean and durable. A chain lead isn’t recommended since it can break, get caught and pull apart, and cut into your hands if you need to grab the leash quickly.
And I don’t recommend using a retractable leash since it can allow your dog to go too far without stopping.
Have a bag or pocket of tasty treats on hand. The best training treats are small, and moist to motivate your German Shepherd to help them learn their new commands. You can buy healthy treats like these or even use small chopped carrots, apples, or even pieces of chicken.
Moist treats are preferred because dry treats will make your dog thirsty, take longer to eat, and might lack the scent your dog needs to encourage them to earn the reward. When selecting food rewards for training follow this guide — The Best Treats for German Shepherds 🦴
If things aren’t going as well as you want or you feel that you want more support, consider using a ready-made training plan.
There’s no lack of training programs for dogs, but you’ll want to consider a few things before enrolling:
Give you an easy way to follow along with the training, without using confusing jargon
Be able to give you adequate attention
Have a way to answer your questions or help you along
Not allow shouting at dogs or belittling owners
Never use or encourage physical punishment of dogs for any reason
If you’re looking for an online program where you can train your German Shepherd from the comfort of home, then check out the Brain Training for Dogs program. You can follow the steps to teach your German Shepherd training commands while also solving behavior issues or concerns. 💡
Top GSD German Training Commands
Another way to teach your German Shepherd their obedience commands is by using a second language. While commands in German are typical for owners who plan to participate in Schutzhund, you can also teach your dogs the same commands.
How many people do you know who train their dogs using German?
Not many. So, this gives you an advantage when in public since you can command your dog in another language.
Teaching your German Shepherd their commands in German is also a great option because the nature of the language sounds forceful with sharp consonants. This makes the sound more commanding for dogs and tends to catch their attention.
The most common German Commands for German Shepherds are found below.
German Commands for German Shepherds
Good Dog (For Praise)
German Shepherd Training Commands in German
Best Language to Train A German Shepherd
Some owners might wonder what language they should use to train their German Shepherds. The breed is so intelligent they can learn more than one language if you train them.
But, at the end of the day the best language to teach your German Shepherd their commands in is the one that you’re the most comfortable using daily. What’s more essential is the frequency and consistency you train your dog so that she’s able to build her training vocabulary.
Wrap-Up: Teaching Your German Shepherd Commands
Developing a language to share with your German Shepherd helps you bond, communicate, and enjoy working with your dog. Start with the basic commands, then work on teaching your German Shepherd fun and more advanced commands.
Remember these tips for teaching your dog:
Train in short sessions
Don’t let your dog get bored or stressed during sessions
Once they learn one command, move on to the next to keep it fun
The language you train your German Shepherd isn’t as important as staying consistent with your training. As one of the most intelligent breeds in the world, your German Shepherd is ever-ready to learn with you.
So, what should you teach your German Shepherd next?
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.
You need German Shepherd training to get the best behavior from your dog and enjoy a happy life with them. Read these posts to find out what type of German Shepherd training works the best for your breed.
Your German Shepherd’s health, as well as your dog’s specific breed history, contributes to their overall life span. These posts will help you become aware of your dog’s health problems and how to help solve or improve them.