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

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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.
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The Environment Method

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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.
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The ‘Bark’ Method

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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.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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