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Your German Shepherd puppy is among the top five of smartest dog breeds. He is eager to learn and highly energetic. Everything you say to him is absorbed, quickly processed, and remembered. Your German Shepherd can learn up to 200 words with time, practice, and training.
Training your German Shepherd puppy to walk on a leash will not only encourage and challenge his skills but as your dog grows older and bigger, it will also give you an opportunity to maintain control over your adult German Shepherd, who will be very strong. Training your puppy to walk on a leash will give him leash manners that will last an entire lifetime. Once your Shepherd is full grown, it will be imperative that he respects you and uses his leash manners while on walks. This will protect you, your dog, and any other critter along your path as you walk together.
Training your German Shepherd puppy leash manners will require you get him used to wearing a leash early on and then will move to training your puppy how to walk beside you, how to keep a loose leash so he's not pulling you along, and how to avoid distractions while on the leash. When you train your puppy how to walk on a leash, you will be conditioning him with repetitive training and positive behavior rewards. Leash training starts slow and increases in length of time for each session as well as the length of walks and distractions on your walks. Starting in a distraction-free area will ensure that you have your puppy’s attention, but as he becomes more used to your expectations while on the leash, increasing his distractions will give him the challenges he needs to continue learning.
In order to start training your German Shepherd how to use a leash and leash manners, you are going to need the appropriate size leash for your puppy. Consider the length of the leash as well as the strength of the leash. Remember your German Shepherd will be much larger and stronger when he's an adult dog. You may also consider a harness instead of a collar for your puppy, but this is personal preference. Be sure you carry lots of high-value treats such as dried liver, beef jerky, hot dogs, or cheese while you are walking and training. Your German Shepherd doesn't require large treats. Just cut them up into small pieces--he will work just as hard.
The Basic Heel Method
Fit your German Shepherd puppy with an appropriate collar or harness and a leash for his size. Give him a little bit of time to explore and sniff the leash. Attach it to his collar or harness and let him walk around the house getting used to the weight and how it feels.
Position your German Shepherd puppy on your left side and hold onto his leash. Do not allow much slack in the leash, try to keep the leash fairly tight so you can keep your puppy next to you. Over time, you will loosen the leash, creating slack between you and your puppy.
Begin to introduce the command to 'heel'. Take a step forward, use the word "heel", and then show your German Shepherd a treat he could earn if he moves forward with you.
As your puppy steps near you, give him his treat. Be prepared with another treat and move forward again. Say "heel", take a few more steps forward, and give your puppy another treat.
Give the command 'heel' again and walk forward several steps expecting your German Shepherd to come with you, matching your pace and keeping the leash tight without pulling. As your pup walks next to you matching your pace without pulling on the leash, give him rewards every few steps.
Continue practicing leash walking with your German Shepherd puppy by increasing the distance you're walking between the command and giving him a treat.
Challenge your puppy by going further in distance and treating less often. You can also stop walking to ensure you have his full attention, begin walking again with the 'heel' command, and treat when he joins you.
Training your German Shepherd to leash walk with you while heeling on your left side is going to take some time and practice. Be sure you are rewarding positive behavior, stopping for redirection should your puppy become distracted, and starting with the heel command again.
The Start In, Go Out Method
Go for a walk
Train Your German Shepherd puppy to recognize a command to get him excited about attaching a leash and going for a walk with you. This command can be simple such as 'let's go for a walk.' As you say the command, attach the leash to your German Shepherd puppy and get ready to go.
Before you take your puppy outside for leash walking, practice a bit inside your home. Place your pup on a leash, keep the slack between you and the dog loose, and give your command to go for a walk.
As you walk forward, your puppy should follow you. As he follows you, give him a treat. If he does not follow you right away, walk until the leash tightens, call him by name and entice him with a treat before the leash pulls on him.
Once your puppy makes the connection and begins walking toward you, start walking and allow him to catch up. Once he catches up to you and walks beside you at your pace, give him a treat.
Practice walking with your pup on the leash in the house several times before going outside. While you are in the house walking, try to keep the leash loose without pulling on your puppy or allowing him to pull you. Be sure to reward him every few steps as he walks with you.
Take your puppy outside for distraction-free walking. Use the same methods as above to practice loose leash walking. As long as your Shepherd is staying with you and walking next to you without going ahead and tugging on the leash, give him treats every few steps.
If your puppy becomes distracted, redirect him by stopping, getting his attention, and having him come back to you. When he comes back to your side, do not give him a treat but continue walking and start training over. Take several steps with your German Shepherd before he is rewarded again.
Practice loose leash walking with your puppy several times a day for short walks. Continue to reward him as he works hard to stay with you without getting distracted while you walk together.
If your German Shepherd gets ahead of you and pulls on the leash, stop in your tracks, wait for him to notice, and call him back to your side. Once he's back at your side, start over by taking a few steps and rewarding him for staying with you. If your puppy is distracted often, take your training slow and away from distractions.
The Different Direction Method
Put a leash on your puppy and give him a treat. This will get him excited for whatever is to come.
Take a few steps forward with your pup on a leash. Try to keep the leash fairly tight but do not pull or allow your German Shepherd puppy to pull. You want just enough slack in the leash so you aren't tugging or pulling on it but it's not so loose that he has a lot of freedom to get far away from you.
As your puppy takes a step or two with you, give him a treat. Stop in your tracks then turn and walk the other direction.
Your puppy should follow you rather quickly. If he does, give him a treat immediately and keep walking. If he does not follow, call him and get his attention by showing him a treat. You can stop and wait for him to come back to you then start again walking in the opposite direction.
Be sure to give your puppy a reward for recognizing that you stopped and changed directions and for following you.
Keep practicing. Take several steps, increasing your distance, and then stop and turn. Your expectation should be that your German Shepherd stops with you and changes directions when you change directions. The entire time your puppy is on the leash he should be by your side and walking with you wherever you go. Be sure you are rewarding him for good behavior as he's learning.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 03/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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