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He may one day grow up to be strong and tough, but for now, your German Shepherd puppy is tiny and cute. He spends his days rolling around the floor and drooling all over your lap. He loves being the center of attention and he’s undoubtedly brought the family together. However, while you don’t mind that he spends his time having fun, you do want him to be well trained and capable of following instructions when he’s older. So you need to start teaching him basic commands.
Teaching him to ‘roll over’ is quick, easy and lays the foundation for other tricks later on. It’s also a fantastic way to channel his energy into something productive. Not to mention, it’s a great way for you both to bond. Lastly, this trick is guaranteed to get guests giggling when they come over.
Teaching German Shepherd puppies to do simple tricks like rolling over is a walk in the park. His brain will be like a sponge, so training will be straightforward. The hardest part will be initially conveying to him what it is you want him to do. However, once you’ve done that, you just need to reinforce training with the right incentive. Unsurprisingly, German Shepherds will be up for almost anything if it means they get to feast on a treat at the end.
If he’s eager to please, you could see results in just a couple of days. But if he’s not such a keen student and gets easily distracted, then training may take longer. It could be 10 days before you see consistent results. Succeed and you’ll have paved the way for teaching him a number of complex commands further down the line.
Before you get to work, you will need to get your hands on a few things. Stock up on tasty treats and have a toy and a clicker handy for one of the methods below.
Set aside 10 minutes each day for training. Try and practice in a large room or yard, where there is less risk of anything valuable getting broken.
Once you have the above, just bring patience and an optimistic attitude, then get to work!
The Treat Temptation Method
Take him to a quiet room where you won’t be distracted. Then instruct him to lie ‘down’. He will need to know the ‘down’ command before he can learn to roll over. You may need to hold out a treat to capture his attention and get him on board.
Kneel in front of him and then give the command in an upbeat, positive tone. German Shepherds learn best when they think they’re playing a game. You can use any word or phrase you like for the command.
Hold the treat on one side of his face and then slowly rotate it above and around his head. This should naturally lead him to roll over onto the other side. You can also use your other hand to help him along the way the first couple of times.
As soon as he does roll over, hand over a delicious treat. You can also shower him in verbal praise. The happier he feels, the more eager he will be to play again.
Lose the treats
Practice this for a few minutes each day. Keep it playful each time and then once he gets the hang of it, you can slowly phase out the treats. At this point he knows what to do and the verbal command alone will be enough.
The Click & Reward Method
A clicker is fantastic way to communicate with your German Shepherd. You simply click and provide a treat whenever he performs a trick correctly. The click become a clear signal to him that he's done something right and may speed up the learning process.
Sit before him and instruct him to lie ‘down’. You will also need some treats in your pocket and your clicker with you. You may want to hold out a treat to encourage him to drop to the ground.
Now take the treat from one side of his head slowly over so he has to roll over to follow it. He will probably naturally follow it with his mouth and roll over. If not, guide him gently with your spare hand the first few times. As you guide him, also issue a ‘roll over’ command in a high-pitched voice.
Click & reward
As soon as he has rolled over, click to let him know he has done it correctly. You can then give him the treat he’s been waiting for. Just make sure he gets it within three seconds of rolling over, otherwise he may not associate it with the command.
Practice makes perfect
Now practice this several times each day. The more you practice, the sooner you will see results. Once he’s got the hang of it, you can then cut out the treats and just use the clicker to let him know he’s done a good job.
The Toy Method
Spend a few minutes each day playing around with one particular toy. Play fetch, tug of war and leave it in his bed overnight. Also make sure you get animated whenever you play with it. You want this toy to be his world and him to jump up whenever he sees it.
Now use the toy to draw him into a quiet room. Sit in front of him and issue a ‘down’ command. Because he wants the toy, he will naturally drop to the floor in anticipation.
Now you need to issue your ‘roll over’ command. You can use any word or phrase you like. German Shepherds can learn hundreds of different commands.
Rotate the toy
Now slowly rotate the toy over his head. If you move too fast his body won’t naturally be led into rolling over. Also make sure you don’t hold it too far above his head, otherwise he may stand up to try and get to it.
To start with, you can reward him even if he doesn’t fully roll over. You want to encourage any promising signs. So spend a minute or so playing with toy and getting him worked up. Now practice this several times each day until he rolls over every time, even with distractions around.
By James Barra
Published: 03/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021