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Don’t you just hate it when you feel like you’re in a never-ending battle because you don’t know how to control your German Shepherd?
All you want to do is take an easy stroll down the block.
But your out-of-control German Shepherd insists he needs to chase every squirrel, cat, dog, and bird in the area while pulling and lunging the entire walk?
Oh, and he still has enough energy when you get home to run to every window barking at the slightest sound or movement.
You feel you’re a lion tamer at the big top circus!
The good news is…
This doesn’t have to be you!
Why is your German Shepherd out of control?
Your German Shepherd is out of control because they’re not properly physically exercise, you’ve neglected mental stimulation, you haven’t given them the basics of obedience training, you don’t discipline them properly, and they lack consistency in their daily routine. An absence of any of these conditions can create an out-of-control German Shepherd that causes you to stress, is a safety concern outside, destroys your property, and makes life generally difficult. Finding the underlying problems your dog acts so uncontrolled can help you create a behavior program to calm your wild dog.
Reasons that your German Shepherd is out of control:
Is my German Shepherd’s uncontrollability just a phase?
I know how angry and frustrated you get at your dog when they seem out of control.
That was me, too!
It might be tempting to punish your puppy or dog when they’re acting wild, but that only makes things worse. Instead, realize your GSD might not be out-of-control, but they might just be in a new phase. Around 6 to 7 months of age sexual maturity takes place and there’s a lot of hormonal changes that cause your dog to act out, act wild, and just not behave in their normal, sweet ways.
At the same time, your GSD begins to take more interest in the great world around them and ventures into new activities…
Which winds them up in trouble as they explore.
They also develop more independence and rely on your presence less and less. At some point, you believe your puppy is possessed and feel that all the things he learned are forgotten.
👿 Your German Shepherd isn’t possessed, they’re just probably in adolescence (the unruly teenager phase)! Around 12 to 18 months old the out-of-control behavior will pass and all your hard work will start to pay off.
Things that might “go wrong” with your well-behaved puppy all of a sudden during the teenager phase:
not coming back when called
less easy to control
less willing to listen to what you want
what he wants is more important than what you want
interested in other dogs more than you
refusing to perform commands you think they know
heightened sexual activity gestures
strong-willed, assertive, pushy, selfish
If you have an older German Shepherd or a rescue dog then it’s highly possible they’ve had limited training or developed bad behavior in their previous life. Either way, puppy or adult, you need to prepare yourself.
So, it all adds up to this: you learn how to control a German Shepherd using the following behavior plan to make it through this difficult time.
Your Out of Control German Shepherd’s Fix-It-Fast Behavior Plan
There are no shortcuts when it comes to training your German Shepherd’s calmness. You must use a variety of techniques to help change your dog’s uncontrollable behavior.
Wouldn’t you rather spend a few months helping to teach your wild dog the behaviors you want, instead of letting them ruin your house and stress you out?
I’ve been there with my own German Shepherd and I can tell you that it takes lots of patience and training to help correct an unruly, disobedient puppy.
Deep down you know you want to enjoy your GSD again and realize you must follow a training plan to help your rebellious dog become the calm, well-mannered German Shepherd you know he can be.
Here’s your 5-step Fix-It-Fast Behavior Plan:
Include the right type of exercise at the right times
Keep their minds calm with mental challenges
Focus on obedience training that teaches calmness
Stay consistent in your discipline and how you respond
Find a routine that meets your individual’s dogs daily needs
It’s all right here for you to follow, step-by-step.
Let me explain how to train an out-of-control German Shepherd using a scientifically-based behavior plan.
1. Right Exercise at the Right Time
German Shepherds are most active at dawn and dusk (in scientific terms this is called crespuscular).
The best times to exercise your GSD are:
The rest of the day your dog is generally less active and sleeping.
Shepherds wake up with energy and excitement after a long sleep time. This is why your pup is so excited in the mornings and when you come home from work. It’s essential to put that energy to good use to ensure your companion stays healthy and happy!
Exercising your GSD at the right times also helps them to avoid engaging in any destructive behaviors while you’re away during the day.
And you’d be right to think that you need to set aside these times to give your GSD the right type of exercise for their breed. German Shepherds are used to walking and running miles and miles, so use an exercise tool called a long line or long leash to let your puppy enjoy running at their own pace.
Do NOT force a puppy to run with you or you can damage their bones and joints.
Remember your dog is a herding breed. They have a need to do what they were designed for, which means they:
generally enjoy chasing toys outdoors
exploring different terrain
using their noses to find things
Most of all, an exercised dog is a calmer dog!
And calm dogs are simply less likely to get unruly.
In reality, most hyper and GSDs that act wild are under-exercised and they haven’t been given an exercise routine that meets their energy needs.
2. Use Brain Games Every Day
Did you know that the German Shepherd Dog is bred with natural instinctive intelligence to solve complex problems (apa.org)?
Yet many owners have never thought to give their dog mental stimulation.
How do you mentally stimulate a German Shepherd?
Your German Shepherd’s mind is not only mentally stimulated through obedience training, but through interactive puzzle toys, solving task-related problems for a reward, scent work, and nose training. German Shepherds like both physical and mental challenges that are game-oriented. Dogs that have not had the chance to use up their energy are more likely to become difficult to handle, over-excitable, and out of control.
A simple brain game to promote mental stimulation in your German Shepherd is to use a food-filled Kong Extreme. This keeps your dog occupied and also lets them use their energy by working for their food. It’s easy to use, even for puppies.
You can easily follow this fun video-based Brain Training for Dogs Program to have the exact steps to include in your obedience training already set up for you. Combined with dog puzzles it’s a winning combination!
3. Focus on Teaching Calmness
You might say…
I train my dog every day and he still acts out of control!
And, I totally believe you!
But, have you trained calmness?
I mean, do you actually reward your puppy when he’s quietly lying down, playing with the right toys, or just being a good boy in general?
Or, do you wait until he’s wild and unmanageable and then worry about corrections and punishment?
Instead, stay proactive by teaching your pet to perform the behavior you want!e
You can reward any behavior you like and want to see more of, especially being calm and gentle. The most effective way to stop unwanted and out-of-control behavior is to ignore it.
Because giving any attention (even negative forms of attention) for unwanted behavior is seen by your puppy as a good thing because he’s still getting attention.
Here’s how to start teaching calmness to your uncontrollable German Shepherd
Redirect him. Immediately ask for another wanted behavior while ignoring what your dog has offered (think asking for a sit or down when he’s jumping or showing him the right chew toy when he has your favorite designer shoes in his grasp).
Avoid the battle! Out-of-control German Shepherds love to get you excited! Many times, their greatest pleasure is getting you wound up over some small matter. Remember, what fuels the misbehavior is often the conflict itself. Don’t try to win a battle with your GSD. Stay calm and refuse to get engaged physically or verbally. Fold your arms, look away from him, and walk out of the room if possible. Being ignored is a major consequence for most German Shepherds.
Hand-feed your dog their meals. Taking food gently from human hands is a valuable life lesson and your dog loves to practice getting food! Hand-feeding your dog is also a perfect way to raise the value of interaction with all people. This simple training builds trust in your dog while showing him that only calm behaviors (not nipping or pawing for the food) get the reward. 👍
If you have an uncontrollable German Shepherd and want to teach him to be calmer in the house, recognize and reward him when he is calm or quietly lying down — for example, when you are watching TV and your dog has become relaxed.
Quietly give him a small piece of tasty treat and a very gentle stroke on his side.
How many times do you correct your dog for a certain behavior, only to be too tired or stressed later to stop the same behavior again?
The fact of the matter is your dog has probably learned there’s no consistent discipline or expectations in their lives. You might think you taught your dog the right way to act, but his out-of-control behavior is telling you another story.
This is the point where you brush up on disciplining a German Shepherd the right way.
Before we go any further…
Let me tell you that discipline does NOT involve physical corrections or punishment. It’s a whole technique for getting the behavior you want, so be sure to catch up on some of the GSD puppy positive discipline techniques you’re probably missing.
But that’s not all.
Successful positive German Shepherd obedience training, especially for dogs lacking control, relies on the appropriate use of management tools to prevent your GSD from practicing and being reinforced for unruly behaviors.
When you are at home try the following to make sure you can keep an eye on your dog and prevent wild episodes:
Leashes are useful for the “umbilical cord” training technique of preventing your dog from being reinforced for unwanted behaviors. Some leashes are designed to be hooked to waist belts or clipped to belt-loop with a carabineer.
With your puppy near or attached to you, you can provide the constant supervision they need to prevent them from getting into trouble.
Also, with your puppy attached to your side, you’ll have many opportunities to reinforce him for appropriate behavior that you want to see more of (think lying calming by your side or chewing on his Kong toy).
Click and reward for a calm behavior you like. At first, you won’t get long stretches of calm behavior, but as your dog learns that calm actions equal treats, you’ll find your dog offering more and more controllable behaviors.
Your hyper German Shepherd can’t zoom around the house if he’s glued to your side with a tether and, consequently, is less out of control since you’re there to watch him closely and offer positive reinforcement (the click and treat).
Make no mistake about it, if you don’t follow through with the right structure and consistency in their calmness training program you will soon wonder why you ever got a German Shepherd at all.
Like anything else you must remain consistent to learn how to control a German Shepherd.
5. Emphasize Structure and Consistency
A good behavior training program emphasizes structure and consistency. Both of these conditions make your German Shepherd’s world more predictable.
And why should you care about emphasizing structure and consistency with a German Shepherd that is out of control?
Because predictability and structure equal less stress; and less stress is what you came here for in the first place.
Consistency is essential when you’re teaching your dog calmness in the house. The more consistent you are with your training and expectations, the less chance your dog will misbehave.
Let me say this straight, you need to keep up with your dog’s calm training because it’s ultimately your responsibility, especially with such a powerful and athletic breed.
The easiest way to start addressing your dog’s control issues is this quick, 3-step approach:
Identify the problem behavior you want to address and correct.
Learn the solutions to the behavior problem (I’ve provided many useful solutions in this post for you.).
Apply the solutions with patience, consistency, structure, and understanding that results don’t happen overnight — but, they do happen!
Think about this…
You can spend the time now training your out-of-control German Shepherd the right way, or you could potentially live in stress and frustration for years to come.
Which sounds like the better outcome for you and your dog?
Don’t give up! There are thousands of owners out there, just like you, who are in the same boat, too.
Training is not just a specific time set aside for your dog’s lessons for a few minutes a day. It’s part of everyday life for you and your dog.
In fact, your German Shepherd learns every moment they’re awake, including whether or not you are there, and whether or not you are intentionally training him. Give them the attention they deserve so you can both enjoy each other again.
If all the information I’ve given you isn’t enough, I’ve also designed this easy checklist of problem behaviors and solutions to help you identify some of the most common behaviors you see in your out-of-control GSD and get started solving them today.
Common Out-of-Control German Shepherd Problem Behaviors and Solutions Checklist
What Your Dog Gets Out of It
New people enter your home
Jumping on guests; barking
Touching, eye contact, yelling, pushing, and touching your dog (Even NEGATIVE attention can be rewarding to your dog, so don’t do these actions!)
Manage the situation by using either a baby gate to keep your dog away from the front door, teach him to sit for his greetings where he gets the appropriate reward – petting, eye contact, and praise.
Food on the counter
Chasing your dog, scolding them, running around the furniture and under tables (it’s a game of chase and keep-away)
Use baby gates to keep your dog out of the food area if you can’t fully supervise them. Learn to train your dog to go to their mat and give them small bits of reward when they are lying calmly.
Outside in your yard, unattended
Barking at the neighbor’s kids and family
You yell at them and go get them to bring them inside (so they get your attention still)
Only let your dog outside when you can supervise them. Anticipate your dog’s barking and call them inside before they actually bark.
Barking to go on a walk
Telling them off to be quiet, but you still leash them (so barking got them on a walk)
Leash your dog only when they’re sitting or standing quietly. Walk away from them when they bark and only return when they’re quiet and calm.
Write out a similar chart of your own and place it where everyone can see it. This helps everyone to know the steps to train your out-of-control German Shepherd.
Want more help learning how to control a German Shepherd?
Using a combination of exercise, training, management, with a sprinkling of useful tools, and dedication to consistent training, you can help your German Shepherd learn to chill out and become a calm, happy companion who is a joy to be around.
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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