You may have heard the famous question "What's in a name?", written by William Shakespeare. What is in a name? Especially for a dog? Your dog's name is how you identify him for legal purposes, it's what you say when you want to get his attention, it might be what you say when you speak to him in a baby voice or scold him in an angry voice at times. Your puppy's name is personal and important. There is something very special and relational happening when you say your puppy's name and he responds. It's important for your dog to know his name for both practical reasons and for bonding reasons. There may be no command more foundational to dog training than a dog's name.
As a German Shepherd, your puppy is probably very focused on you. He is likely wanting and needing your communication and interaction. There will be many years of training and working together to come, and in order for your Shepherd to learn how to respond to you, he needs to know his name first. By using his name you will be able to get his attention for giving him directions, for expressing affection to him, and for offering rewards to him.
Many dogs are never directly taught their names. The dog's owner simply addresses her dog enough times, in enough different scenarios, that the dog eventually learns it over time. By intentionally teaching your dog his name, you can speed up the process quite significantly. You can also teach your dog not only that the name belongs to him, but also to like hearing it, and to respond to it.
Teaching your dog his name is fairly simple, and will typically only take between five and ten days to teach. Teaching your dog to respond to his name in the presence of distractions, rather than ignore you even though he understands the word, will take longer, however. How long it will take to teach your dog to respond while distracted depends on how focused your dog is on you in general, how consistent you are about going to him if he ignores you, and how consistent you are about only using your dog's name in a pleasant way, and not as a punishment.
When you use your dog's name, try to keep his name something pleasant that he associates with affection, treats, play, or something else good. Do this so that he will be eager to respond to you whenever you use his name to get his attention. When you need to reprimand your dog, rather than saying his name angrily, use another word like "Aha" or "No", or tell your dog what he should be doing instead. For example, if your dog picks up something that he should not have and is trying to get you to chase him, rather than yell his name and then punish him, tell him "no" and "drop it". Then when he drops it, offer him an acceptable toy instead. Use your dog's name as a way to get his attention before giving him another command, or as a way to get his attention in order to simply express affection toward him.
If you know that your dog completely understands his name after teaching this, but he is choosing to ignore it so that he can pay attention to something else, then go over to him and stand in front of him, so that you are blocking whatever is distracting him from his view. Say his name again, and when he looks up at you, praise him, and then move out of the way so that he can go back to what he was doing. By doing this you are teaching him that he must always pay attention to you, even when he does not want to, and that the quickest way to get back to what he wants to be doing is to acknowledge you first. It is extremely important that you are consistent about following through if he ignores you. Otherwise, he will learn that he does not always have to respond.
To get started you will need a calm location to practice this in while first teaching it. If you are using the 'Treat' method then you will also need lots of small, tasty treats. If your dog is very food motivated, for a healthy alternative, you can use your puppy's own dog food in place of the treats if you would like to. If you are using the 'Toy' method then you will also need at least three of your puppy's favorite toys. If your puppy has several different types of toys that he enjoys, then choose three different types, such as one ball, one tug toy, and one chew toy. If you are using the 'Praise' method then you will also need an enthusiastic voice, a little silliness for getting your dog's attention, and lots of praise and affection. With all of the methods, you will need a great attitude and a willingness to have fun and bond with your puppy. After all, a name should be a great thing!