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Dexter is totally full of life. From the moment you brought him home, he's charged around the house, eager to play and lick everyone. He certainly is not short of confidence. In fact, your German Shepherd puppy would go home with anyone. Now while you love that trusting nature, you brought him home for a specific reason, because you wanted a guard dog. And German Shepherds are the perfect breed for the job, as they’re obedient, strong, and menacing just to look at.
Training your German Shepherd puppy to be a guard dog will bring you a whole host of benefits. Most importantly, you’ll have an effective way to guard those you love, your house, and other belongings. The training will also help raise a well-trained German Shepherd whom you have considerable control over. Lastly, training simply makes for a great way for you both to bond.
Training your German Shepherd puppy to be a guard dog will require persistence and will come with its challenges. You’ll need to teach a range of obedience commands and will also need to encourage the pup to take an interest in strangers and bark at them. This will be done with verbal commands and the right tasty incentive. Training will also require careful socialization as you don’t want your dog becoming overly aggressive.
Because your Shepherd is just a puppy, their brains should be like a sponge. This means you could start to see results in a month or so. But if your German Shepherd puppy is uninterested in learning and is hard to keep on task, then it may be six months before you have an effective guard dog. Get training right and you’ll have the ideal burglar deterrent. Not to mention, a fiercely loyal and highly trained canine companion that you can call on anytime.
Before you start training, make sure you have the following things: A decent stockpile of treats or the dog's favorite food broken down into small chunks. You will also need a long training leash and access to the space you want them to guard.
You will need toys too, and around 15 minutes each day for training. Try and find a friend or two that can help you as well. The less they know your German Shepherd puppy the better.
Aside from that, you just need patience and a pro-active attitude, then work can begin!
The Full Package Method
Sign your pup up for group obedience classes. This is a great place for them to learn basic obedience commands that they will need later on. It will also help socialize them with other pets and people, as you don’t want them barking at everyone they ever meet.
You need to reward your German Shepherd puppy with treats, toys, and praise whenever you see promising signs. For example, give them a treat when they take an interest in a stranger or bark.
Morning boundary walk
Secure the pup to a leash each morning and walk them around the perimeter of the space you want them to protect. If you do this every day it will reinforce that everything within this space is their territory and they will naturally want to defend it.
Evening perimeter walk
Repeat this step each evening too. Walk quietly so the dog concentrates and within a few weeks this space will feel like their own to guard and keep a watch over.
To further reinforce their boundaries, tether them to a long leash in the area you would like them to guard. Of course, make sure they have access to water and some toys to keep them entertained.
The ‘Bark’ Method
Spend a couple of days looking for situations that naturally cause your puppy to bark. You’re going to use these moments to train them to bark using a command. Just before walks and meals are likely occasions.
Now put your German Shepherd puppy into one of these situations and just before or as they start to bark, issue a ‘bark’ command. Give it just once in a clear voice. Note you can use any word or phrase you like for the instruction.
As soon as they do indeed bark, hand over a tasty reward or play with a toy for a minute or so. Now practice this for a few minutes each day in range of situations. Before you know it they will bark whenever you give the instruction.
Now have a friend approach the area you want the dog to protect. Simply issue the 'bark' command and then have the friend scream and run away after the dog barks at them. You can then give over a treat. Practice this a few times a week and it will soon become habit to bark at any stranger that approaches.
Don’t use punishment
Too many owners think using punishment is the right way to train a guard dog. However, this just leaves you with a dog with uncontrollable aggression. Instead, use positive reinforcements, this will give you a canine you can control and that will only bark at strangers.
The Start Early Method
The first thing to do is teach your German Shepherd puppy basic obedience commands, such as ‘down’ and ‘wait’. This will reinforce your control and the instructions will come in useful later.
Now secure your dog to a leash and wait by the front door. Then have a friend approach and either knock on the door or window.
Draw their attention
Point at where the friend is, whisper and do everything you can to get the pup worked up. Continue to do this until they start to bark. Don’t be put off if it takes a little while for them to start barking at the beginning.
Once they start barking, have the friend shout and flee. It’s important the dog knows to bark until they hear the threat has run away. You can then give them a generous reward and shower them in verbal praise.
Now you simply need to practice this regularly. Try and use different people each time, as you don’t want to encourage your dog to bark at people they do know. Once they get the hang of it, barking at strangers will become habit, and you can then gradually phase out the treats.
By James Barra
Published: 04/25/2018, edited: 01/08/2021