10 Ways to Quickly Train A Stubborn German Shepherd

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Do you have a stubborn German Shepherd that pushes your nerves?

Maybe you’re wondering how to train a stubborn German Shepherd, given they don’t listen to you and ignore your commands in the first place?

By the time you finish this post, you’ll have learned the best ways to help you train your stubborn German Shepherd…

So you don’t feel like pulling out your hair!

How to Train a Stubborn German Shepherd

how to train a stubborn german shepherd
You’ll need to know these steps to learn how to train your stubborn German Shepherd.

It’s a common problem for many German Shepherd owners to face a tough time at some point with their dogs.

German Shepherds are known to experience periods of stubbornness, but rest assured this doesn’t usually last long.

Below are a few training tips to help you train a stubborn German Shepherd.

1. Adopt Positive Reinforcement Strategies

adopt positive reinforcement strategies
Rewards, such as a tasty treat, increase your German Shepherd’s good behavior.

Training a stubborn GSD requires an approach that rewards good behaviors and ignores unwanted behaviors.

Most German Shepherds don’t react well to negative punishment and reacting harshly when your dog doesn’t listen or obey you will only hinder your training and make learning harder for them.

Instead…

Focus on teaching your German Shepherd that good behaviors get good rewards. Most owners use small bits of tasty treats for rewards, but you could also use your dog’s favorite toy if they’re not food motivated.

Keep a bit of treat in your pocket or use a small treat bag that attaches to your waistband.

When you see your dog perform a behavior you like, reward them!

You want your dog to associate you with good things so they’re more likely to listen to you.

Positive training leads to trust, confident leadership, and sets the ground for future learning.

You can even learn how to train your stubborn German Shepherd from the convenience of your home.

Treat-Based Training is Great!

If your current treat reward isn’t working then you need to upgrade it!

The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat.

Ian Dunbar, a renowned dog behaviorist, uses the Ferrari of dog treats…

Freeze dried liver.

Keep trying a variety of treats until you find one that your dog would basically sell its soul for.

You must pay your dog with this reward for their good behavior so they understand that good behavior = good rewards.

With this type of reinforcement your dog will soon follow you like a shadow, ever willing to please.

2. Make the Most of Your Daily Walks

train your stubborn german shepherd during their daily walk
Use your daily walk as an opportunity for training.

When you use your walks for training and have many short training sessions during their walk, your dog learns that every single session is in a different setting with different distractions.

Whether on a quiet street or a busy sidewalk, near schools, the local park, or open fields and trails, your German Shepherd learns to listen to your instructions and quickly and happily comply…

No matter where they are or the distractions!

Have Mini Training Sessions to Help With Stubborness

Don’t miss the opportunity to train your stubborn German Shepherd on their walks.

  • During your walk stop for a short training session about every 50 feet or so, depending on where you are walking. If you’re in a busy street you might want to choose a quieter area to practice this training.
  • Now, each time you stop at your designated distance, say, “Sit,” and when they sit immediately say, “Let’s go,” and begin walking again. Every time you stop and ask for the sit and they give the appropriate behavior, resuming the walk is the reward for sitting.
  • Keep the training sessions to around 5 seconds or less. This reinforces the quick sit — or you can use a “down” command if your dog knows this and is healthy to perform the down frequently.
  • Once your dog picks up on the routine, include short sequences of body position changes, for example, sit-down-sit, sit-down-stand, down-sit-stand, or any other number of positions your dog knows.
  • You don’t need to reward them with a treat during this exercise because continuing with the walk is the reward, but it doesn’t hurt to offer them a snack if you want to let them know you have good things for them!

Don’t expect or demand your dog to endlessly heel, especially a puppy or young German Shepherd.

Walking must include times for your dog to sniff so they won’t grow to resent walking with you or training.

3. Choose Your Training Area Carefully

choose your training area carefully
A stubborn German Shepherd might just be distracted if the area is too busy!

With some stubborn German Shepherds, it’s important to keep the training areas quiet, relaxed, and free of distractions, especially for puppies and new dogs you bring home.

Focus and attention are skills that a dog has to learn.

If your German Shepherd is stubborn when there are distractions then consider beginning their training in quieter locations and avoid jumping straight into busy environments.

Training in quieter, less interesting locations at first helps to build up to training where there are many distractions.

Too Many Distractions?

Don’t overwhelm your dog with too many distractions if you see they are stressed, anxious, afraid, or refuse to listen to you when you know they can perform the command in a quieter and familiar area.

Add in just one distraction at a time if your dog needs the confidence to follow your commands. For example, if your dog can perform commands near the park without children, but has issues listening to you when kids are playing, step away from the noise and work your way toward getting closer to it slowly.

Work up to harder situations and have them focus in different environments.

A stubborn German Shepherd usually has a very poor recall and might even ignore you when you call them. If you want a dog that is quick to return to you, then use this easy 5 step system to get a perfect recall from your GSD

every time you want!

With your now-mannerly companion, you’ll find that it is quicker to navigate new open roads and city sidewalks than with your previous German Shepherd that wouldn’t listen.

4. Take Advantage of Fun Games and Play

take advantage of fun games and play
Using games to train your dog can reduce stubbornness and improve their listening skills (and, games are fun and less stressful for both of you).

A stubborn German Shepherd doesn’t need a forceful owner or harsh reprimands.

They need games and play!

It could be that they’re not focused rather than stubborn. You need to make yourself exciting, fun, and a pleasure for your dog to be around!

The longer you use games to play and mix training in, the better you’ll be able to get your dog’s attention when you want it.

Your dog learns that games have rules and that the rules make the game fun

If you don’t teach your dog how to follow the rules of the game, they will make up their own doggy rules that you might not enjoy.

What to train during play and games?

Everything you teach is a gentle lesson, not a reprimand or correction.

For example, have your dog sit or perform a down before you throw a toy or ball and before you take it back. Progressively increase the length of sit-stay or down-stay with each repetition.

When playing tug, teach them to “release” or “drop” the toy by offering them a small bit of tasty treat, then engage them in play so they understand that tug is a cooperative game and giving up their toy just means they get a treat and more tug time with you.

You can train your stubborn German Shepherd using fun and games without them even noticing they’re learning.

If you want some ideas to play with your dog, try a few of these games for German Shepherds to get started.

5. Integrate Training into Your Everyday Lifestyle

integrate training into your everyday life for your stubborn german shepherd
Even your usual routine can include many training opportunities.

With a German Shepherd who acts stubborn and doesn’t listen, you’ll need to make training a part of your daily lifestyle.

It needs to become a part of your everyday routine, so train regularly and you’ll discover that your stubborn German Shepherd listens to you more and more.

Remember that you are responsible for knowing how to train a stubborn German Shepherd and to develop their impressionable canine brain into a smart, intelligent companion.

What to teach your stubborn German Shepherd daily?

Here’s a few ideas to get you started on integrating your training into your lifestyle.

Call your dog for a body position sequence (down-sit-stay or another combination) every time you open the fridge or send an email.

Or, while watching your favorite TV show during the commercials go over the commands your dog already knows and work on a new one.

If you ask your dog to perform a simple body-position sequence on these occasions, you will easily train your German Shepherd over fifty times a day…

All without deviating from your normal lifestyle!

With total integration of training into your daily lifestyle and routine, your dog sees they are expected to participate in your life and look forward to engaging with you to earn those tasty rewards.

6. Start a Structured Meal Routine

6. Try a Structured Meal Routine
Do you just dump your dog’s food into their bowl? Try using meals for training!

Mealtime is a great way to train your dog to listen and pay attention while giving your dog more structure.

Begin your structured meal routine by weighing out your dog’s kibble in a bowl on the counter. Put your dog’s bowl on the floor, but with only a small bit of their kibble in it.

Your dog will probably look at you with disbelief or wonder as they eat their small portion and look at you for more food.

Now, casually walk away from the bowl and busy yourself in the same area with another mundane task.

As your dog begins to watch you, slowly walk over and place another handful of food in their dish. Do this until their entire meal is served.

Use this training a few times a week and you’ll notice your dog will become calmer and their manners will improve with each structured meal routine.

Also, by feeding your German Shepherd’s dinner in many small courses and servings, you teach your dog to welcome your approaches and they learn that good things happen when they pay attention to you.

7. Increase Their Mental Stimulation

increase your german shepherd's mental stimulation to reduce boredom
Maybe your German Shepherd isn’t stubborn… but bored and under stimulated!

There are two undeniable facts about lack of mental stimulation in a German Shepherd:

  1. A bored German Shepherd finds activities to keep them busy that you won’t approve.
  2. Boredom can increase stubbornness in a smart working breed.

Instead of allowing your dog to develop bad habits due to boredom and lack of mental stimulation, increase the mental activities and mind games for your German Shepherd.

There are many DIY brain games to increase your dog’s mental stimulation, such as teaching your dog nose work or finding objects you hide around the house.

Another alternative is to play an activity game with them that’s interactive.

Try an interesting Activity Flip Board to start with (this is the same one I use for my GSD). You can purchase other games and increase the difficulty as they become quicker at earning their treats through playing.

Mental enrichment can help calm a stubborn German Shepherd and increase their engagement with you, giving you both less stress in your lives.

Your German Shepherd might not be stubborn…

They might need more enrichment and mental stimulation.

They are one of the world’s smartest breeds and you must consider their mental enrichment needs, too.

8. Train Your Recall Frequently, The Right Way

train your recall frequently
Use recall training to help your dog understand you only call them for good things.

If your German Shepherd doesn’t listen to you outdoors and refuses to come when called, then you’ll find training them on a long lead with a distinct sound helps encourage them to return to you.

A long lead (also called a long line or check cord) is a secure training line that allows your dog space to roam while keeping them safe and letting you stay in control of their recall.

Don’t just jerk your dog around when they don’t come back to you!

Instead..

Use the following techniques to get your stubborn dog to listen.

Whistle Your Way to a Perfect Recall

Most likely, you’ll need to retrain your dog by introducing a new command or a different signal, such as a whistle. A whistle is great because it sounds the same at a distance and isn’t influenced by your mood or frustration level.

Start recall training in an area with few distractions and your dog on their long leash (a 20 to a 50-foot long line is common for this type of training).

How to Retrain Your Stubborn German Shepherd’s Recall

  • Let your dog sniff in a safe area and wander around for a bit to enjoy the scents.
  • Then, use the whistle by blowing a few short peeps to get your dog’s attention.
  • As they turn to look at you call them and take some steps backward to encourage them to return to you quickly.
  • Don’t jerk on the long line, instead slap your leg or make kissing sounds to become more interesting to them to return to.
  • Always have a super tasty reward for them when they come to you to solidify the recall. Give them the treat and praise them while holding their collar or harness gently in your hands.
  • After a few seconds, release them to sniff again and repeat the sequence.

As your dog gets better and better at their recall, increase the difficulty.

Use longer distances to call them back and slowly change up the places that you practice to include more distractions. Always have them on the long line and make sure they’re safe!

Remember!

Never, ever, ever call your dog or puppy and then grab them by the collar to reprimand or punish them!

Doing this even just once will make your stubborn German Shepherd hate coming when called.

Eventually, your German Shepherd’s stubborn recalls will become no recalls. Your dog will still misbehave, but now you’ll be unable to catch them!

Always reward your dog for returning to you when called, no matter how stubborn you think they’re being because it just might save their life one day.

9. Avoid Punishing Your German Shepherd’s Stubbornness

avoid punishing your german shepherd's stubbornness
Punishment can make your dog fear you and avoid you.

Frequent or severe punishment is an indication that your training is definitely flawed!

Most likely, your dog will still misbehave and you’ll continue to frequently punish them; thus, you’re not actually training them.

At this point, it’s time to change to a better plan.

Rather than punishing your German Shepherd for mistakes they’ve made, concentrate on teaching them how he should act in the future in a positive way.

Remember, it is much more effective and efficient to reward your dog for doing it the way you consider to be right rather than punishing them for the many ways they do it wrong.

When they’re giving you the behavior you don’t want, show them a better, more appropriate behavior you would prefer.

Repeated punishment is a wedge that slowly destroys the dog-owner relationship, sometimes to irreparable conditions.

The whole point of living with a working breed is to engage with them in a harmonious relationship and to enjoy their company.

Surely you don’t want to live with a German Shepherd that doesn’t want your company!

10. Give Them a Daily Chew Session

give your dog a daily chew session to decrease unwanted behaviors
Chewing decreases unwanted behaviors.

Did you know that chewing is natural for your dog and helps them to reduce stress and pent-up energy?

Your stubborn German Shepherd needs time each day to help release some of this energy so they are better able to pay attention and listen to you at other times.

There are lots of options for a chew session for your dog, such as a crunchy pig ear chew that helps to reduce plaque and keep their teeth clean.

Or, the favorite of many dog owners, a stuffed Kong for extreme chewing.

Offering your German Shepherd a tasty stuffed Kong a day will help keep the behavior doctor away and give your dog the natural chewing session they need to help keep calm.

Try using a Kong stuffed with one of your dog’s meals a few days a week, adding in a few tasty treats or bits of cooked chicken to keep them interested.

Nothing prevents household problems, such as excessive barking, destructive chewing, and hyperactivity as effectively as stuffing your dog’s kibble into a few Kongs.

German Shepherds, especially puppies, need to chew to keep themselves occupied and their stress levels low so they’re better able to focus on your training and commands.

Why is my German Shepherd so stubborn?

why is my german shepherd so stubborn?
Eliminate poor practices from your routine to help you train a stubborn German Shepherd.

Your German Shepherd is so stubborn likely because you haven’t used the proper training, have poorly taught them obedience, you’ve lacked clear communication, not met their basic exercise needs, or have neglected their health and mental stimulation. Stubbornness may also be brought on by adolescence and sexual maturity, which is expected in a growing German Shepherd puppy and does lessen as they mature.

Considering the following ways to help your German Shepherd to be less stubborn by eliminating these poor practices from your daily routine.

Neglecting basic obedience

Not taking the time to train your German Shepherd to the basic obedience commands can increase a dog’s stubborn behavior.

You must include basic training from the moment your dog comes to live with you, no matter their age.

Lacking consistency

Your training must be consistent or else your dog will become confused. Mixed reactions, command words, and behaviors will take your dog far longer to learn than consistent commands with expected actions.

For example:

  • If you scold your dog for jumping on you, but not your guest your dog learns that jumping is still OK on some people.
  • If you allow your dog to dart out the door one day for their walk, but make them sit other times, they won’t learn to always sit before their walk.

Make sure all members of your family follow the same rules, commands, and expect the same behavior from your dog.

Get on the same page before training even begins.

Not meeting their energy needs

A tired dog is a happy and trainable dog.

Your German Shepherd needs at least two one-hour walks daily, and even this amount isn’t enough for many working dogs. If this is not done, your pet not only is exposed to health problems such as obesity and joint-related issues but also behavioral problems, including stubbornness.

It’s your job to help them get the required exercise they need to not only stay fit but to stay healthy and actively work, every single day…

Snow, rain, or blustery wind.

Try to exercise them before working on training commands so they are more calm and able to focus more on their training.

Not enough mental stimulation

German Shepherds are one of the most intelligent breeds and require mental stimulation daily to keep their minds active.

Include brain games, nose work, and giving them a job at home to make sure their minds stay occupied and challenged.

They’re in poor health, stressed, or ill

If your German Shepherd has started acting stubbornly suddenly then it might have an underlying medical issue.

They may behave differently or show disobedience when feeling stressed from illness, poor health, or other types of pain. Your first action should be a visit to your veterinarian to rule out any health issues.

Want More Help For Your Stubborn German Shepherd?

While German Shepherds are considered a highly intelligent breed they can also experience bouts of stubbornness that really tries your nerves.

Many owners complain that their dog doesn’t follow their cues, ignores their commands, and much more.

Without the proper training…

It will only get worse!

💡 Instead of stressing out over your stubborn German Shepherd, enroll them in a fun, reward-based online brain training program that teaches them to focus on you…

All while using positive techniques and fun, unique games to make learning interesting for both of you!

brain training for german shepherds

German Shepherds are VERY smart dogs and do well with a training program that stimulates their minds and can help you succeed at training your dog on your own.

A stubborn German Shepherd isn’t out to purposely annoy you…

They just want your positive attention and better training!

References and Resources

AKC: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Training Your Dog

AllPsych: Reinforcement & Reinforcement Schedules

ASPCA: Separation Anxiety Scientific Reports: Risk Factors and Behaviors Associated With Separation Anxiety in Dogs

bioRxiv: Does Training Method Matter?: Evidence for the Negative Impact of Aversive-based Methods on Companion Dog Welfare

Pennsylvania State University: How much do our dogs remember

Phys.org: Your Dog Can Remember More Than You Think