How to Obedience Train a German Shepherd Puppy

Easy
5-21 Days
General

Introduction

You are a believer in responsible dog ownership and keeping your dog under control. Not only that but you are soon to pick up a German shepherd puppy and are aware of how big and strong an adult dog he will grow into. With this in mind you intend to start as you mean to go on and obedience train him. 

However, it's some time since you last had a puppy and obedience training has moved on. Whereas in the past you used a choke chain and dominated the dog, you now understand this is frowned upon. This is a little bit of a puzzle as it certainly seemed to get results and pandering to a powerful dog like a German shepherd seems a bad idea to you. But you're open-minded and the ultimate aim is what's best for the dog, so you decide to find out more about these newer ways of puppy training. 

Defining Tasks

To obedience train a puppy it is crucial to understand how puppies learn, what motivates them, and what not to do. Once you master techniques that make learning fun then it becomes easy to teach a whole range of commands and tricks to an intelligent breed like the German shepherd. This is best done through reward-based training methods, which use encouragement to help the dog to learn. In addition, it builds the pup's trust in you and teaches him to look to you for guidance. 

Unfortunately, for decades or even centuries, harsh methods that involve punishment and dominance have been in vogue. Although these methods appear to get results, this is because the dog is fearful of the owner and anxious lest he is punished. 

Happily, there are better ways to motivate a puppy so that he behaves beautifully but not at the price of being fearful of his owner. We will look at how to do this in the following guide. The German shepherd dog will thrive using reward-based methods, as it builds his confidence and gives this clever canine a satisfying mental challenge. 

Getting Started

Puppies are quick learners, so do start training as soon as he has settled into his new home. Of course, don't overtax the puppy and keep the sessions short and fun. It's best to start training in a quiet room that is free from distractions. As the puppy becomes more accomplished then you can train in different places to broaden his experience. 

You will also need: 

  •  Tasty bite-sized treats
  • A bag or pouch in which to keep the treats handy at all times
  • A clicker
  • A collar and leash

The Reward-Based Method

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Step
1
Understand how to motivate the puppy
Work out what your puppy loves the most, what it is that he finds irresistible. For some pups, this will be food, while for others, it might be a fuss or a game with a toy. Recognize what it is that gives your pup the most pleasure, because you will use this to motivate him during reward-based training. For the purposes of this article, we will assume the pup is food motivated and will do pretty much anything for a small treat.
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Why praise works
When you reward the puppy immediately as he's done something right, he will want to repeat that good behavior in order to get the lovely attention. This motivates the dog to think through his actions in order to increase his chances of getting a reward.
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3
When things don't go so well
Of course, a puppy being a puppy will get up to mischief and be naughty. When this happens, if the action is minor (such as standing up when he's suppose to sit) either ignore it or say "Uh-oh" in a disappointed voice. The latter acts as a guide that he made the wrong decision. However, do not punish the dog as this will only make him fearful of you.
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Use verbal rewards
During training be sure to use a light, happy, excited voice. This engages the puppy's interest but also makes things fun for him. You can also praise him when he does something right, instead of giving a treat each time.
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Timing is everything
Know that when the puppy is learning a command, such as 'sit', it's important to reward him immediately. This helps him realize it is the 'sit' which is being rewarded. As his training progresses and he sits on command, you can give verbal praise and then delay giving the treat until he has held the sit for a certain length of time. This is the rudiments of learning to stay and also increases his self-control.
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The Basic Commands Method

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Start at the beginning
Teach the pup one command at a time so as not to confuse him. Learning certain basic commands will give you control in a variety of situations, which in turn will keep the puppy safe. These commands are 'sit', 'stay', look', and recall.
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'Sit'
Hold a small treat between your forefinger and thumb. Place this near the puppy's nose to get his attention. Slowly raise the treat above his head and over his back towards his tail, say "sit". As the puppy follows the movement of the treat his bottom should drop to the ground. Immediately when this happens give him the treat.
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3
'Stay'
Once the pup has learned to sit you can start teaching 'stay'. First you slowly increase the length of time the pup must stay in 'sit' before he gets the treat. Aim for at least one minute. When he has mastered this, take a step backwards, say "Stay", and then return to the pup's side. Reward him for staying. Gradually increase the distance you move from the puppy while expecting him to stay.
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'Look'
This command is great for diverting the puppy's attention in any situation where he might get distracted, such as running after a jogger. Hold a treat in front of his nose, then straighten up and slowly travel the treat to the bridge of your nose. The dog should watch the treat and end up appearing to stare into your eyes. Say "Look", hold the treat there for a few seconds and then reward him. Gradually build up the time the dog has to stare at you before he gets the payoff.
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'Come'
Work on the pup's recall at every opportunity. This is simply done by saying "Come" each time the pup happens to walk towards you, then slap your thighs and get excited to further motivate him. When he trots to you give him a reward. Likewise, in the yard put the puppy on a collar and lead, then step away from the pup. Instinctively young pups want to follow so as he moves to come back to your side say "Come", make a big fuss of him and reward him.
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The Clicker Training Method

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Step
1
Understand clicker training
This method uses a distinct sound, the click of the clicker, and teaches the dog to link it to getting a reward. This enables you to more precisely mark exactly which action the dog is rewarded for.
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The advantage of clicker training
The precise nature of the mark enables you to teach more complex tricks further down the line. For example, if you want to teach the dog to yawn on command, you click when the pup yawns naturally. Eventually, he learns that yawning earns a reward and will offer this behavior on command.
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Link the click to a reward... #1
To teach the link between click and reward, scatter some treats on the ground. As the puppy gobbles each one up, press the clicker.
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Link the click to a reward... #2
Toss one treat at a time onto the floor. Click as the pup eats it. Now try pressing the click before you throw the treat. If the pup's nose goes straight to the ground, you'll know he has made the connection and is anticipating there being a treat. You are now ready to progress with training.
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Clicker training in action
An example of using the clicker would be teaching a pup to walk to heel on the leash. Set off and when the pup is by your side, you click and give a reward. Repeat this as you walk slowly along. If the pup surges ahead, stop in your tracks. Wait for him to stop pulling and come back towards you, at which point click and reward him. Repeat this regularly, and he learns walking to heel gets a reward, whereas pulling gets him nowhere.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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