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Imagine standing at an IPO Schutzhund trial with your beautiful, strong German Shepherd. He is all grown up now. You command "Achtung!" and he snaps to attention. You command "Sitz", then "Bleib". A man covered with padding appears on the field, and you command "Fass!". Your dog takes off and grabs the man by the arm, holding him there with a controlled bite. You command "Aus!" and your dog releases his hold on the man.
You have just told your dog to pay attention, sit, stay, and grab onto the padded person. You then told your dog to let go, and your dog obeyed wonderfully. Today was a successful IPO trial for both you and your dog.
It might be hard to picture your little bundle of fur doing all that right now. He certainly mouths you, with tiny needle-sharp teeth, but he is completely goofy when he does it and hasn't learned how to do anything on command yet. He is all wiggles, fluff, and play right now. Which is how a young puppy should be, but underneath that adorable fluff is also a pup who desires to please you, to learn, to work, and to be stimulated. Your guy can go far with your help, and he can go far in German also!
Teaching your puppy to respond to German commands is not only useful for IPO training, but it can also ensure that your puppy will respond best to you, rather than just anyone. The German language is also forceful and to the point, which are great assets when it comes to communicating clearly with your dog.
Teaching your puppy using German commands is no different than teaching Buddy using commands in any other language. The specific words that you use to train your dog are not the most important part, but using those same words consistently and clearly, so that your pup will understand, is what matters.
Pay attention to the timing of your commands, making sure to say your command when your pup is doing or about to start doing the correct behavior that you are training, and making sure to praise your pup right when he does the correct behavior. Keep the training fun and interesting, so that he will love learning.
When you praise your pup, you can praise him in German, English, or any other language. Simply make sure that you are consistent, using the same word or couple of words as praise, and keeping your tone of voice positive and encouraging when you praise him.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. If your pup is very food motivated then you can also use his own dry dog food instead. Training with his own food is not only healthier but will also teach him to work for less, so that you can save especially exciting treats for really difficult commands. If you do not already know German, you will need a resource of commonly used German commands. Many such resources are available online, especially on Schutzhund related websites. If you are using the 'Capture' method then you will need attentiveness and patience. With all of the methods, you will need good timing, a positive attitude, the ability to get your pup's attention, and gentleness.
Depending on which command you choose to train, you might also need an assistant, a certain type of location, a harness, collar, or leash, props, or another dog.
The Treat Luring Method
To begin, choose which command you would like to teach, and grab some of your puppy's favorite treats or kibble.
Using your treat, lure your puppy into the position or behavior you that you are teaching. For example, if you are teaching your puppy how to sit, then touch a treat to his nose and slowly move the treat from his nose toward the back of his head, until he sits in order to follow the treat.
As soon as your puppy begins to do the behavior that you are teaching, tell your puppy the German word for that command. For example, if you are teaching your puppy to sit, then when your puppy beings to sit down in response to following your treat lure, tell him to "Sitz".
As soon as your puppy does the behavior that you are try to train, praise him and offer him a treat. For example, if you are teaching your pup how to sit, then as soon as his bottom touches the floor, praise him and give him a treat.
Repeat luring your puppy, telling him the German word for the command when he begins to do it, and praising him and rewarding him with a treat right when he does it all the way. Do this at least twenty times, until your puppy will do the behavior that you are training before you have lured him into it, in response to your motion, the sight of the treat, or your verbal command.
Phase out lure
When Fido will do the behavior before you have lured him into it all the way, then begin to phase out your lure. To phase out the lure, give your puppy the verbal German command, and then wait seven seconds before luring him with a treat. Do this until he will do the behavior in response to the German verbal command before you lure him.
When your pup can do the behavior that you are training in response to just the German command, then continue to practice often until your puppy will do it consistently. As Fido improves, begin to practice around distractions and in new locations, so that he will obey the command everywhere you go.
The Capture Method
To begin, choose which command you would like to teach and place treats into a small Ziploc bag or treat pouch. Place the bag into your pocket or hook the treat pouch onto yourself.
Watch your puppy carefully throughout the day. As soon as your puppy begins to do the behavior that you are trying to teach, tell him the German word for that command.
When your puppy completes the behavior, then praise him and give him a treat. For example, if you are training your puppy how to lie down, then when your puppy begins to lie down tell him "Legen", then when he lies down all the way, praise him and give him a treat.
Over the next two to four weeks, watch your puppy for opportunities to catch him doing the behavior that you are training. Whenever you catch him doing the behavior tell him the German word for that command, and praise him and reward him when he completes the behavior. Do this until you have caught him doing the behavior at least twenty-five times.
When you have caught your puppy doing the behavior at least twenty-five times, call him over to you and give him the German command for that behavior. Repeat this up to five times in a row. If he does the behavior in response to the command one of the times, then praise him and offer him five treats, one at a time.
If he does not do the behavior in response to the German command, then practice catching him doing the behavior for longer. After you have caught him doing the behavior, told him the German command while he is doing it, and praised and rewarded him for it, at least ten more times, then try calling him over and giving him the German command again. Repeat this process until he will do the command when you tell him to after calling him over.
When your puppy will respond to the German command, then practice until he will do it consistently. Once your pup can do the command consistently, then begin to practice it in new locations and around lots of different types of distractions. Continue to make training fun!
The Positioning Method
Touch your puppy
To begin, get your puppy used to being touched wherever you will have to touch him in order to physically show him how to do the behavior that you will be training. To get him used to being touched, touch him in that area and give him a treat each time that you do. For example, if you are teaching him how to shake paws, then touch his paw and give him a treat. Do this until he likes having his paw touched.
Physically show your pup how to do the behavior that you are teaching while telling him the German word for that command. For example, if you are teaching your puppy how to shake hands, then have him sit, gently grab his paw and give it a shake, while telling him "Gib Fuss".
As soon as your puppy does the behavior with your help, praise him, remove your hands, and then give him a treat.
Physically show your puppy how to do the behavior at least thirty times, telling him the German word for that command, praising him, and giving him a treat, each time. Do this until your puppy begins to do the behavior when you reach for him or give him the verbal command, before you have touched him to show him what to do.
Phase out touch
When your puppy starts to do the behavior before you have shown him what to do all the way, then begin to phase out your touch. To phase out your touch, tell your puppy the German word for the command and then wait seven seconds, before showing him what to do. Do this until your puppy will do the behavior in response to just the German word, without your assistance.
When your pup can do the behavior without your help when you tell him to, then he has learned the German command! Continue to practice it often with him. Work up to doing it in new locations and in the presence of different types of distractions, until he can do the behavior reliably in all types of situations.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 03/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021