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Imagine you knew how to discipline a German Shepherd puppy the right way so that your bond with your dog grew instead of fell short!
Wouldn’t your life look more peaceful, calm, and happy with the right German Shepherd training?
Learn how to communicate with your pup and get the behaviors you want using these simple and easy methods for training a German Shepherd puppy.
How to Train a German Shepherd Puppy the Right Way for Fast Results
You might think your German Shepherd puppy behavior at 8 to 12 weeks is on purpose or because they’re being bad. But in reality, a 12 week old German Shepherd still doesn’t have the maturity to fully understand their bad behavior.
While you can redirect their attention to wanted behaviors or away from their undesired actions, it’s best to not harshly discipline a pup while they’re this young.
They may become frightened of you or fear your presence, depending on how severe your discipline is. Anxiety may even develop with too much punishment or useless corrections.
Training a German Shepherd puppy at 8 to 12 weeks old? Yes, you can!
A GSD pup of 8 to 12 weeks of age or older still needs positive reinforcement for the best behavior changes. Disciplining your GSD should not involve hitting, kicking, slapping, intimidation, or yelling. But you can and SHOULD start training a German Shepherd puppy when they first arrive home with you.
Do you want your German Shepherd puppy to stop their unwanted, bad behavior and turn into the sweet angel you want them to be?
Then follow these easy disciplining and training tips that’ll keep your relationship with your dog strong, while still overcoming bad behavior. You can easily learn how to train a German Shepherd puppy if you work smarter…
1. Start early and remain consistent with your expectations.
You shouldn’t begin disciplining your puppy if you’re not sure what to do, but you SHOULD at least have a set of rules to live by and stick to it before you bring your dog home.
Shepherd pups are one of the smartest dogs on the plant and learn quickly what you expect of them. But the best way to learn how to train a German Shepherd puppy at home is to work on your own behavior first.
You should show them what behavior is unacceptable in your house. This means that you must stay consistent when responding to their behavior. If you aren’t consistent, it will confuse your puppy, which makes it harder to prevent bad behavior (source).
If your pup jumps on you and you redirect their attention to a toy to chew on instead.
But, then your pup jumps on your friend and your friend lets them and you say nothing.
Your dog will be uncertain about when they shouldn’t jump. This makes it likely that your dog will jump on whoever they feel like in the future.
Don’t give conflicting commands and expect good behavior.
Reward-based training helps your puppy recognize when something is a bad choice (source). When your pup performs what you ask, offer a tasty treat and words of praise. Your pup learns those good things happen when they are doing what’s asked.
Have your pup sit when you are by the front door getting ready to go for a walk.
Get them to perform this command before you even open the door and don’t let them start the habit of rushing out in front of you.
This teaches them that when they behave, they are more likely to get what they want. You can ask your puppy to perform a behavior or command once you’ve trained them in the basics of obedience.
A quick way to learn how to train a German Shepherd is by following this free guide:
So What REALLY is the Best Way to Train a German Shepherd Puppy?
The best way of training a German Shepherd puppy is not only by using positive reward-based techniques but also by incorporating fun games that work your breed’s super intelligence in a productive way.
3. Offer your puppy another option when they begin jumping on you for attention.
When your dog tries to get your attention by jumping on you, it’s best to either ignore them (although that’s easier said than done) or better – give them another option that you DO want.
Think about what your puppy is trying to get when engaging in jumping and bad behavior to determine when to ignore them.
When your pup jumps on you when you come home, they probably want your attention. Withholding your attention when they are acting out shows them they need to act differently to get your approval (source).
Instead, offer them pets and praise when they have all 4 paws on the floor. You can also place them behind a puppy gate until they learn not to jump in order to avoid them scratching or nipping house guests when they arrive.
After you teach them their basic obedience, ask them for a competing behavior like a sit or down when they begin to jump.
Always remember to reward the behavior you want to see again!
Ultimately, your puppy learns that good behavior earns your affection and attention more quickly. Your dog soon understands that they get nothing from you when they act badly.
Set your pup up for success and don’t give them opportunities to act bad!
5. Use time-outs appropriately when training a German Shepherd puppy.
When your dog engages in bad behavior, remove them from what is causing the unwanted behavior. Put them in a different environment that is more calming and quiet instead.
Respond immediately to the bad behavior and use the same routine every time to maintain correct discipline.
Time out should:
Not be done with force or yelling.
Not be in a closet or other dark, scary area.
Work to calm your puppy down, not frighten or stress them.
Give your puppy a break from over-excitement.
Not be a long punishment.
Timeouts are generally recommended for only 1 to 2 minutes for puppies.
Don’t put your pup outside since this provides an opportunity for them to engage in the outdoor environment, like chasing birds, digging, or running around. Also, remember that closed doors can cause anxiety in dogs, so use a reliable pet-safe baby gate so that your puppy knows that you are still nearby.
If they begin to whine and cry, don’t immediately pick them up and let them out.
Wait until there are at least 15 to 30 SECONDS of them NOT crying before removing them from time out or they might learn that crying and whining get them what they want.
Remember, when training a German Shepherd puppy:
Time out should not last over 1-2 minutes.
Watch for when your puppy is calm and quiet for a very brief period (15-30 seconds long of calm).
Then let them out quietly, without scolding them.
And don’t close a door on a young puppy inside a room!
This can cause anxiety. Remember to use a pet gateto separate them from the excitement that caused the unwanted behavior, while still allowing them to see you and not feel trapped.
Don’t allow them out of time while they are barking, whining, scratching, or otherwise acting out. This only serves to reinforce the unwanted bad behavior and doesn’t discipline them effectively.
6. Ignore the unnecessary barking.
Ignore your dog’s barking until they’re quiet for 15 to 30 seconds if they are still a puppy. This means you don’t give them any attention at all while they’re still barking.
Don’t talk to him, touch him, or even look at him. When they finally quiet down, even if only for a few seconds, reward them with a treat or praise.
To have success, wait until they are quiet and stop barking, even if only for a few seconds in the beginning (source). If you yell at them to be quiet, they may learn they still get attention for you, even if it’s negative attention. Next time they’ll bark for even longer because they’ve learned that if they bark long enough, you’ll give him attention.
If they continue barking and whining despite your inattention, figure out why they’re barking and either remove the item (if it’s an object), or place them in another area that is quieter (if it’s a sound).
If your puppy barks at joggers out the window every morning pull the blinds or curtains. If the behavior continues, place your dog in another room for a couple of minutes and repeat the previous time-out procedure every time they bark at the joggers (remember to use the pet safe baby gate and to not shut a puppy behind a solid door because it can give them anxiety).
If they are whining and crying at night, this could be a warning they need to potty. Make sure you read this post to know how to potty train a German Shepherd before you ignore all whining, barking, and crying.
If your puppy barks during play they might be too excited and you can offer them a chew toy instead or cut your playtime short to allow them to calm down.
Puppies bark for a number of reasons. One of the hardest parts of German Shepherd training is knowing what’s natural and normal and what’s a problem behavior.
But it does get easier to train your GSD over time as they learn what you expect.
7. Keeping your pup from nipping and chewing.
Puppies are energetic and must learn their limits for playing too rough (source). When your dog nips you, say “ouch” immediately and do your normal noise when something hurts.
Don’t immediately jerk your hand back or punish your puppy physically.
Puppies view you jerking your hand back quickly as part of a game and could also tear your skin. And physical punishment should never be given!
How to Stop German Shepherd Puppy Nipping and Biting
Move your hand calmly and slowly from your puppy.
Show them what they can chew, instead, such as their favorite chew toy.
Have plenty of safe chew toys to grab nearby to give your pup when they get wild and decide to bite you.
Don’t participate in rough play using your hands, as this encourages nipping and biting.
This teaches your pup you don’t like biting and nipping while offering them a positive alternative.
During play, work on the signal “easy” when your pup plays too rough. When they stop biting or nipping reward them with verbal praise and pets.
If they are still too rough, use a toy to show them what’s acceptable to bite or remove yourself from playing for a few minutes. Return later to try playing with your pup again and repeat the procedure.
8. Catch your dog being good and reward them out of the blue.
It’s easy to get caught up in scolding when your pup when they are getting into trouble, but rewarding him out of the blue for being good shows them they’re doing the right behaviors (source).
Keep small bits of treats in jars around the house out of reach of your pup (or in your pocket or a treat bag on your waist) and use any opportunity your catch your pup doing good to reward them.
Here are some ideas for opportunities to reward your dog:
If they’re lying calmly on their mat, give them a piece of a treat. But don’t make a big deal of the situation or you’ll wind them back up.
When they’re playing with the toys you want them to chew, drop a tiny bit of treat out of nowhere.
If they sit and wait at the door, instead of dashing out ahead of you, reward them!
Training your German Shepherd isn’t always about catching bad behaviors, but also about rewarding good things your dog does. Dogs like to do things that you reinforce, even if you don’t think they worked for the reward it’s still part of training.
If you only worry about punishment and corrections, then you’re missing out on the opportunities to reinforce positive behavior.
Research shows that physically punishing your dog (for example hitting, kicking, growling, or staring them down) increases aggression in your dog (study source).
Never use physical punishment to correct undesirable behavior.
Not only can this punishment injure your puppy, but it also ruins your relationship and causes anxiety.
Discipling a German Shepherd puppy or dog doesn’t mean using force, intimidating them, or hurting them.
It means setting expectations that they understand and staying consistent.
Physically hurting your German shepherd will ruin your relationship with them. They will lose their trust in you and begin to avoid you.
In the worst case, your dog could develop anxiety disorders, health issues, or even more problem behaviors. You could even accidentally injure your dog and they need vet care!
A German Shepherd that’s disciplined in this physically harsh manner could even turn on their owner and try to bite them in order to protect themselves from any more harm.
10. Use the right tone and body language to communicate.
Dogs aren’t born understanding the words “no” or “sit”. You must understand when your new puppy arrives and doesn’t understand the human language.
The different tones of
your voice and body movements are better understood by your dog. The actual
command words are of less importance to your puppy.
Use a direct tone and body language that matches what you want to say to your dog. But don’t lean over them and intimidate them or your dog will begin to fear you. And definitely don’t scream.
Some ways to try out your tone and body language:
When your GSD is tearing up your favorite shoes, stand tall, project your voice, and say “leave it” like you mean business (but don’t yell and scream). Then, offer them another toy appropriate to chew and take away the other item they’re chewing.
When training the come command, say come in a happy tone and squat down to get on your puppy’s level so you appear more friendly and inviting.
Even pointing to a missed treat on the ground is body language your dog learns to understand.
11. Training a German Shepherd doesn’t happen overnight.
Shepherd pups want to please and have order in their home. Create more consistency for them and you’ll see fewer German Shepherd puppy problem behaviors.
To do this, stick with your training. Don’t confuse your dog by having different rules for different days or times.
Begin with a plan in place and disciplining your GSD will go smoother from the start. Don’t give up when your pup doesn’t understand what you want the first few times. Persevere with your training and discipline.
Remember that your German Shepherd is highly intelligent and needs your help to get the best from them.
If you feel like giving up, take a break from training for a day or two. It’s OK and your dog will still learn by having an owner who is more relaxed and calm than one who is stressed and frustrated.
In order to avoid training frustration, remember that just like you a German Shepherd needs time to learn the rules of the house and new commands. This is true especially of puppies or rescue dogs.
If you want to take a break from training and have fun, then include a few days a week of puzzles. You can read more about the best puzzle toys for your German Shepherd and find a few you like so that you and your dog don’t get burned out on training.
German Shepherds are one of the smartest dogs in the world, so training them generally takes a short time.
12. Never discipline by pushing your dog’s nose in their accidents.
Whether your German Shepherd is potty trained or not, never push their faces into their potty accidents.
Even if you think your dog soiled in your house on purpose, punishing them for having an accident indoors won’t necessarily prevent it from happening again.
This also isn’t discipline for a German Shepherd, it’s abuse, both physically and mentally.
Your dog is counting on your leadership to show them the rules in a positive manner. Work on setting a consistent schedule with feeding and walks to avoid potty accidents indoors.
German Shepherds are easy to train given the right attention.
And they need to understand their schedule by having you teach them using consistent patterns, rather than receiving punishment or discipline.
Keep a potty schedule posted nearby so all your family can see it and help prevent your puppy from having an accident.
13. Use your bond with your puppy to your advantage during recall training.
Sometimes, you are the last thing on your puppy’s mind.
Especially when there are so many natural pleasures to see and explore outside. That’s why it’s so important to instill a bond with your puppy from the start by avoiding punishment.
When you call your German Shepherd, its obedience simply depends on whether the motivation to obey your commands outweighs what your dog is focused on at the moment.
So, what’s an owner to do to discipline a poor recall?
Puppies have a natural instinct to stay close to their leader — that’s you (or should be you). Use this to your advantage!
Tips for great German Shepherd puppy recall training:
Begin calling your puppy in as many locations inside as you can.
Give them a tasty reward or play a game with their favorite toy when they come.
Work your way up to a perfect recall by having others try to distract your puppy while indoors.
Next, move to your back or front yard (with your dog on a long leash like this so they stay safe nearby) and do the same.
If they don’t come when called they might be too distracted. You can disciple them by showing them your tasty treat and walking backward a few steps to encourage them to move toward you.
Don’t delay training the recall or you’ll miss out on a crucial learning period. Train the come command in all situations, including the home and outdoors, from the time your puppy is 6 to 8 weeks old to avoid discipline problems later on.
Need to train your German Shepherd on their recall?
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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