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Your German Shepherd has already exceeded all your expectations. He’s quite simply the cutest ball of fur you’ve ever seen. He spends his days slipping across the floors, napping, and wanting to play. Yet despite his current small stature, you know he will grow up to be big and strong. So, when that time comes, it’s important he is well-trained and that you are in control. In fact, German Shepherds, in particular, can be extremely protective. This further reinforces the need to teach him a number of commands.
But before you can get to the advanced commands, you will need to teach him the basics. He will be at his most receptive when he is a puppy. So, to a certain extent, the training you do now will shape his life in the future. Not to mention, this type of training provides a fantastic bonding opportunity for you and your canine pal.
German Shepherds have many characteristics and fortunately, intelligence is one of them. So, training basic commands into him will be relatively straightforward. In fact, the younger he is when you start training, the sooner you may see results. The hardest part of the training will be initially conveying to him what it is you want him to do. However, once he understands that, you just need to find the right incentive to reinforce training.
Because he’s a puppy, he should be eager to please. This means you could see results in just a few days. However, if he’s exceptionally uninterested in learning, then you may need a couple of weeks. Get this training right and you will have laid the perfect foundations to teach him a number of more advanced commands. You’ll also have a fantastic way to channel his energy into something productive.
Before you start work, you will need to get your hands on a few bits. The main component will be tasty treats. However, you can also break his favorite food into small pieces. In addition, you will need a toy or two, plus a clicker.
Set aside 10 minutes each day for training. Try to train when the house is relatively quiet and neither of you will be distracted.
Once you have the above, just bring patience and an optimistic attitude, then work can begin!
The ‘Sit’ Method
Take your German Shepherd into a room and stand in front of him. Hold a treat out to capture his attention. Also, try to remain relatively quiet at this point, you want him to concentrate fully.
Give a ‘sit’ command in a clear, but playful voice. German Shepherds learn best when they think they are playing a game. You can use any word or phrase you like for the command
As you give the command, rotate a treat back over his head. Do this slowly and it should naturally force him to sit down. A useful trick is to practice with him against a wall, so he can’t walk back instead of sitting.
As soon as he does indeed sit, hand over a tasty treat. You can also give him some verbal praise or play with a toy. The better the reward, the more eager he will be to repeat the behavior again.
Lose the treats
Practice this several times each day until he gets the hang of it. As he improves, stop guiding him with your hand. He should now respond to the verbal cue alone. At which point, you can also gradually cut out the treats.
The ‘Wait’ Method
The first thing you need to do is instruct him to sit. You can also hold out a treat as you do this. This should capture his attention and keep him focused. Also, make sure you are standing directly in front of him.
Give a ‘wait’ instruction in a clear voice. Again, try to keep it upbeat. Hold eye contact as you give the command too, this will keep him concentrating.
Take one step back purposefully and quickly. To start with you only want him to wait for a second or two. You can gradually increase the length of time you leave him waiting later.
When he does indeed wait there, hand over a tasty treat and give him some verbal praise. You can smile at him, pat your legs or call his name to release him from his waiting position.
Make it harder
Practice this each day. However, each time move slightly farther away before you leave him. Continue practicing until you can turn around and even leave the room. Once he even stays still when there are other distractions around, you can begin to phase out the treats.
The ‘Down’ Method
A clicker is a fantastic way for you to communicate with your German Shepherd. It will signal to him when he has performed a behavior correctly and may speed up the learning process. Simply click whenever he performs an instruction correctly, then follow up with a treat.
Take him to a quiet room and have him sit in front of you. It will be more natural to lie down if he is already in a sitting position. Don’t click when he sits, this will let him know he still has more work to do.
Now hold a toy or treat in front of his nose and slowly lead it to the ground. He should naturally follow it, guiding him into a 'down' position. If he tries to lift his bottom, use your other hand to gently push it down.
As you are guiding him, you also need to give a ‘down’ command. It can be any word or phrase you like. German Shepherds can learn hundreds of different commands. Just give it in a playful tone.
Click & reward
As soon as he does lie down, click and hand over a reward. It’s important he gets the click and reward straightaway, otherwise he may not associate the action with the reward. Practice this for several minutes each day. He will soon start to associate the command with action. At this point, you can stop guiding him with your hand. Then when he really gets the hang of it, lose the treats as well.
By James Barra
Published: 02/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021