How to Train Your German Shepherd Dog to Be a Guard Dog

Hard
2-8 Weeks
Work

Introduction

Everyone else might be wary around your German shepherd, but you know he’s just cute and loveable inside. German shepherds are well known for being intelligent, loyal and at times protective. They’re also brave and alert. This all makes them the ideal guard dog. Nobody wants to try their luck with a German shepherd. So, you don’t need to train him to be violent, just a bark and a stare will usually do the trick. However, at the moment your German shepherd just wants to jump up and lick everybody. Turning him into an effective guard dog may not be so straightforward. 

Succeed and you’ll have a reliable and efficient guard dog. German shepherds are the perfect breed for this work. So, get it right and you’ll be able to sleep easy at night with him on guard downstairs. 

Defining Tasks

Training any dog to be a guard dog is challenging. However, German shepherds naturally possess a lot of the attributes you’re going to need, so hopefully, your job will be a little easier. You will need to use obedience training to ensure you have strict control. You’ll also need to find an incentive to encourage the right behaviors. You’ll also need to take steps to make the thing or things he needs to guard feel like they’re inside his territory.

Puppies should be switched on and learn fast. You could see results in just a couple of weeks. If your dog is older and not quite as receptive as he once was, then you may need a couple of months before you see consistent results. Get this training right and you’ll have a truly effective deterrent. 

Getting Started

Before training can begin you’ll need to collect a few bits. You’ll need a long leash for one of the methods. You may also want to use a body harness to increase your control and reduce the strain on his neck.

You’ll need a decent supply of treats or his favorite food broken into small pieces. You’ll also need plenty of time. If you can dedicate 10 minutes each day to training you’ll see results much quicker.

Apart from that, just bring patience and an optimistic attitude and you’re ready to get to work!

The Day One Method

ribbon-method-1
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Obedience training
You need to start training your German shepherd pup as early as possible. The younger he is, the more receptive he will be. Teach him all the basic commands, such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, etc. This will help assert your control.
Step
2
Encouragement
You need to encourage any of the behaviors you want to see. That means giving him treats when he takes an interest in a stranger. It means rewarding him if he barks at strangers he doesn’t know.
Step
3
Dog training classes
Take him to group dog training classes. This is an important part of his socialization. You need to ensure he can be friendly with other dogs and people too. Otherwise the danger is he becomes too aggressive and isolated.
Step
4
Boundaries
Don’t allow him to bark or scare people that aren’t close to the thing he is guarding. If he barks, quickly pull him away from the area and give a firm ‘NO’. You need to ensure he guards only what you want him to.
Step
5
Never punish him
You must make sure you don’t punish him. German shepherds are big and strong. If they become defensive and then violent they can be very difficult to control. So, remain calm and collected if he behaves badly.
Recommend training method?

The Environment Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Leash training
Secure him to a leash and/or body harness and walk him around the object he needs to guard. Walk him around it once in the morning and once in the evening. This will help reinforce to him that it falls within his territory. He will then naturally want to defend it.
Step
2
Tether him
After a few days, secure him to a long leash that gives him enough freedom to roam around the thing he needs to protect. He will soon develop a natural instinct to protect anything within his leash space.
Step
3
Encouragement
Have a stranger approach him slowly. Then point at the stranger and get animated. You want to encourage him to bark and take notice of him. Do everything you can to draw his attention to them.
Step
4
Reward
As soon as he barks or displays the behavior you want to see, give him a handsome reward. Make sure he gets the treat within three-seconds of the behavior, otherwise he may not associate the action with the reward.
Step
5
Practice
Every day or so, have someone else approach him. As he gets better at taking an interest and barking you can add in another requirement. Have the person shout and run away after he’s barked at them. Then give him the treat. This tells him he needs to ensure they flee for him to get his reward. Practice until he’s vigilant of all strangers that approach what he’s guarding.
Recommend training method?

The ‘Bark’ Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Monitor
Spend a couple of days monitoring him for situations that make him bark. This is likely to be when you’re preparing his food or about to take him out for a walk. You’re going to use these moments to teach to 'bark' on command.
Step
2
‘Bark’
Now place him in these situations but give a ‘bark’ command just as he’s about to bark. Then when he does indeed bark, quickly give him a treat and lots of praise. The better the treat, the more likely he’ll be to repeat the behavior.
Step
3
Practice
Practice this for a few minutes each day. Soon he’ll associate the command with the behavior. You can then start to practice in situations where he doesn’t naturally bark, to make sure he’s got the hang of it.
Step
4
Stranger approach
Instruct him to sit in front of the object he is guarding. Then have someone relatively unknown to him approach. Make sure they approach slowly. Now, when he gets too close, instruct him to bark.
Step
5
Reward
Make sure you tell the stranger to scream and run away. Then once he’s done that you can hand over a treat and give him some verbal praise. It’s important he doesn’t get the treat until after they’ve run away. Practice this every other day with a new person if possible. It will soon become habit to bark at strangers like this and then your work is complete.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Coco
German Shepherd
8 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Coco
German Shepherd
8 Weeks

Shes to friendly I want her aggressive but not to aggressive and to guard the family

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1129 Dog owners recommended

Hello BillieJo, Work on commands that build impulse control and respect for you over the next six months - that will lay a great foundation for more formal protection training later. Continue to pursue socialization with pup even though that can seem counter-intuitive, because a good protection and guard dog needs to know what's normal in the world, especially around people, so that they can tell when something is wrong correctly and not just react to everything and be unreliable. Good socialization also boosts confidence. Pup should be friendly at this age. If they aggressive or fearful at this age I wouldn't recommend using them for protection because they won't be safe enough around your family or your friends to be able to stay with you to protect. A good protection dog is only aggressive when something is suspicious and they are familiar enough with people in general to be able to tell what's suspicious and not. Getting pup around a lot of people and places is great, but also work on pup's manners and obedience in those settings so pup is learning to focus on you around those exposures - like practicing heeling past people at a park, a Down-Stay at an outdoor shopping area, sitting for being petted, ect... To help pup learn better self-control and focus, practice the following commands over the next few months. Work up to pup gradually being able to do these things around distractions and for longer periods of time. For example, work up to an hour long Place command, heeling past people at the park, holding a Down-Stay while you walk away at the park while pup is on a long training leash and harness. Those types of commands can also help with respect and trust for you - which is important for guarding work later. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method - good for the mouthing too: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Check out the article linked below for good respect building tips: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Many dogs will naturally guard if it's in their genetics and you have laid a good foundation of respect and obedience, once they mature mentally between 1-2 years of age. You will notice that around a year most Shepherds become a lot more protective and territorial. If pup doesn't, you can also teach pup to bark automatically when someone enters the property and be more watchful in general using reward based training. For anything that would involve bite work, you would need to pursue training with a professional protection trainer who knows how to utilize pup's defense drive, build confidence, utilize rewards like a bite bag and tug, and have the right staff and equipment to practice things like arms holds - this training should only be done with a professionals help and should not encourage fear or true aggression when done correctly - it's more like teaching pup a task, teaching alertness, obedience, building confidence, and encouraging a natural defense drive - opposed to poorly done training that encourages suspicion and fear to get a bite from the dog. Think about a police or military dog - they don't bite every person they see, but if someone is moving aggressively toward the officer, trying to get into the police car without the officer there, or fleeing the area and the officer tells them to pursue - they will move toward the suspicious person, bite, and hold that person there with confidence and tenacity . For the alerting, first teach pup to bark by teaching the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property or come to the door while pup watches from a window or inside somewhere. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is there, until pup barks on their own when the person tries to enter without saying speak. At that point, have the person come onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Cooper
German Shepherd
18 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Cooper
German Shepherd
18 Weeks

This pix was taken about two weeks ago. I am wondering if he is okay for his age.

Again, the guy is just too stubborn to follow commands.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1129 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kingsley, What specifically are you concerned about? His size and musculature? At 18 weeks pup isn't expected to fill out for several months. If you have any concerns with how pup is developing physically I highly recommend speaking with your vet. I am not a vet, and that would be more of a medical concern. If you are referring to pup's lowered tail and wiggling he is doing by the appearance of the photos, a healthy, well balanced dog should be act excited and potentially a bit submissive around others in this stage. This is an important stage to socialize pup, even as a guard dog, because socialization will lay the foundation for pup understanding what's normal in the world and not being fearful of people and reactive to all people - which later helps pup be confident enough to learn guard dog work and to be able to tell the difference between someone who is supposed to be around (like your family, guest, or the next door neighbor) versus someone suspicious. Socialization and obedience should be the priority the first year. More formal training often starts closer to 9 months, and most natural guarding instincts surface between 1-2 years of age when pup matures mentally and sexually (even when neutered). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Princess
German Shepherd
16 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Princess
German Shepherd
16 Weeks

I want my gsd to be a guard dog and be aggressive to strangers can u help?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1129 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kabir, Work on commands that build impulse control and respect for you at this age - that will lay a great foundation for more formal protection training later. Continue to pursue socialization with pup even though that can seem counter-intuitive, because a good protection and guard dog needs to know what's normal in the world and be confident, especially around people, so that they can tell when something is wrong correctly and not just react to everything and be unreliable. Getting pup around a lot of people and places is great, but also work on pup's manners and obedience in those settings so pup is learning to focus on you around those exposures - like practicing heeling past people at a park, a Down-Stay at an outdoor shopping area, sitting for being petted, ect... To help pup learn better self-control and focus, practice the following commands over the next few months. Work up to pup gradually being able to do these things around distractions and for longer periods of time. For example, work up to an hour long Place command, heeling past people at the park, holding a Down-Stay while you walk away at the park while pup is on a long training leash and harness. Those types of commands can also help with respect and trust for you - which is important for guarding work later. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method - good for the mouthing too: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Check out the article linked below for good respect building tips: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Many dogs will naturally guard if it's in their genetics and you have laid a good foundation of respect and obedience, once they mature mentally between 1-2 years of age. You can also teach pup to bark automatically when someone enters the property and be more watchful in general using reward based training. To teach pup to bark, first teach pup the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property or come to the door while pup watches from a window or inside somewhere. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is there, until pup barks on their own when the person tries to enter without saying speak. At that point, have the person come onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For anything that would involve bite work, you would need to pursue training with a professional protection trainer who knows how to utilize pup's defense drive, build confidence, utilize rewards like a bite bag and tug, and have the right staff and equipment to practice things like arms holds - this training should only be done with a professionals help and should not encourage fear or true aggression when done correctly - it's more like teaching pup a task, teaching alertness, obedience, building confidence, and encouraging a natural defense drive - opposed to poorly done training that encourages suspicion and fear to get a bite from the dog. The right training creates a confident dog who is under your voice control and only protects in the right situations, and not a dog who is unreliable, fearful, and uncontrolled. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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