How to Train a German Shepherd to be Friendly

Medium
1-6 Months
Behavior

Introduction

Despite their formidable appearance, German Shepherds are often softer at heart than people realize. However, you have recently welcomed a new baby into the family and you already have a couple of young ones. So, you want to make sure there is nothing to worry about with your German Shepherd, as they are sometimes known to be extremely protective. 

Training him to be friendly will also come with a number of other benefits. You won’t need to worry when guests or new people come over to the house. Nor will you have to panic inside when other dogs and people walk past on the street. In addition, you won’t have to always be on alert if your kids and German Shepherd are in the same room. This type of training will also assert your position as pack leader.

Defining Tasks

Training any dog to be friendly if they have already started displaying signs of aggressive behavior can be challenging. However, with German Shepherds, you can really have your work cut out. Because they are big, strong and resilient, it can be difficult to get them to follow your instructions. Also, tackling their naturally protective nature isn’t always easy. So, you will have to take steps to socialize him as early as possible. On top of that, you will have to incentivize gentle, calm play, while deterring and stamping out any aggression.

If he’s a puppy he should be extremely receptive. This means molding him into a relaxed, friendly German Shepherd may take just a matter of weeks. If he’s older, stubborn and far less patient than he was in his youth, then you may need several months. Get this training right and you will be able to count on him to be at ease with kids, strangers, and any other pets.

Getting Started

Before training can begin, you will need to get your hands on a few items. Stock up on tasty treats or break his favorite food into small pieces. You will also need toys, food puzzles, plus other people and pets. A clicker will also be needed for one of the methods.

Try to set aside 15 minutes each day for training. The more regularly you can train, the sooner you will see results.

Once you have the above, just bring patience and a proactive attitude and get to work!

The Day One Method

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
4 Votes
Step
1
Start early
The earlier you can start training him to be friendly, the easier it will be. Ideally, start training your Shepherd when he is just a puppy. So, encourage any signs of calm and gentle play with treats and verbal praise.
Step
2
Obedience classes
Take him to obedience classes regularly. This will get him familiar with other pets and people. The earlier he can socialize, the more likely it is he will grow up to be friendly.
Step
3
Gentle introductions
Secure him to a leash and introduce him to people and pets slowly. Also, position yourself between him and the person or pet. If you’re at the front, you are pack leader. This means he will feel more relaxed as it isn’t his job to protect you.
Step
4
The more the merrier
Introduce him to as many people as you can, especially to start with. The early stages of his life will shape his future temperament. So, the more exposure to different people and pets you can give him the better. Aim for meeting a new person each day.
Step
5
Never punish him
It is important you do not punish him. German Shepherds are strong and capable of causing serious injury. You do not want to make him aggressive. Instead, remain calm and use positive reinforcement throughout training.
Recommend training method?

The Environment Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
2 Votes
Step
1
Obedience commands
Teach him a range of obedience commands, from ‘sit’ to ‘down’ and ‘stay’. All will help reinforce discipline and your position as pack leader. This will keep him a calm and controlled German Shepherd.
Step
2
Clicker
Use a clicker to signal to him when he has followed an instruction correctly. This will be an effective means of communicating with your him. You can then use the clicker whenever he plays gently or remains relaxed in new, testing situations.
Step
3
Privacy
Make sure he has his own space he can escape to at home. Young children can often pester when they are simply trying to play. It’s important he has his own bed and place to run to when he needs time alone. This will help prevent frustration developing.
Step
4
Supervise
Make sure you supervise him around children and new people to start with. You will be able to tell if he is stressed or unhappy. It will also put him at ease to have you close by. If he does look scared, have the people back away.
Step
5
Remove him
It is important you stamp out any signs of aggression. So, if he growls, barks or bites, take him by the collar and lead him out of the room. It’s important you remain calm throughout this. Scaring him may only make him more aggressive.
Recommend training method?

The Confidence Method

ribbon-method-3
Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Roughhousing
Spend a few minutes each day teasing and playing around with your German Shepherd. Play tug of war and get him worked up. It may seem like the wrong thing to do to play like this. However, it will build his confidence so he feels less threatened around new people.
Step
2
Never stop socializing
If he never meets new people, he will develop a natural unease around strangers. So, whileintroducing him to as many people as possible when he’s a puppy is important, it also helps for him to continue to meet new people as an adult.
Step
3
Have different people feed
To make him relaxed and friendly around people, it can be useful to have a different person each day feed him his meals. Have neighbors, friends and family come over a different day each day for a week to feed him. This will all help socialize him.
Step
4
Cold shoulder
It is important you deter any signs of aggression. If he barks, for example, turn your back on him and ignore him. If you pander to him then he will think barking and being aggressive is an effective way to get what he wants.
Step
5
Socializing with pets
It’s also important your German Shepherd is friendly with other pets. So, introduce him to as many as possible, from an early age as possible. Keep him on a leash and give him the occasional treat when he plays calmly. You can also talk in a high-pitched voice to make him feel at ease.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
T’Kuvma
German Shepherd
1 Year
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Question
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T’Kuvma
German Shepherd
1 Year

T’KUVMA needs training on when people enter the home. He barks and jumps on them. He is almost 180 pounds.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Is the barking and jumping aggressive in nature? If so, I don't recommend training this on your own. I would hire a professional trainer who is part of a training team, where there are multiple people there who can practice coming to your own as a "guest" to work on pup's reactions in their territory. Certain safety measures will need to be taken, like a basket muzzle introduced ahead of time using treats to help pup gradually like it and ease into wearing it, and a back tie leash connected to something secure and clipped to pup with something secure pup can't slip out of or break (the weakest point in your setup is what you need to inspect most to ensure that). This process generally involves teaching obedience like Place, Quiet, Leave It, and Say Hi. Pup is then gradually desensitized to someone arriving on property then leaving, arriving then leaving, arriving then leaving, rewarding all good responses from pup. When pup is calm about that, then the person comes to the door, is greeted, then leaves immediately, rewarding good responses (with pup secured safely). As pup progresses, the person progressively visits more, interacting with you, coming into your home, and doing things guests would normally do. Pup is rewarded for calm responses as this is repeated. Once pup is good with the initial person, a new person starts the process over again, until enough people have come and gone that pup is okay with strangers visiting in general. Some times the use of a remote training collar to interrupt pup is also needed, in addition to the obedience training and rewards for calmness to counter condition pup, but I would only use one on pup's working level with the help of a trainer very experienced with that tool, aggression and the how to properly correct as well as counter condition. Simply correcting without proper training and counter conditioning can make things worse on its own. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Guinness
German Shepherd
10 Months
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Question
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Guinness
German Shepherd
10 Months

My dog barks from his kennel when new people come over or when he see’s strangers when walking him.
Another thing, he will show his teeth if we get close while he’s eating

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ivette, I highly recommend working with a trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression in person for this issue. Look for a trainer who works with a team of trainers, so that there are multiple people to practice the training around who are "strangers" to pup and know how to interact safely with aggressive dogs. This process typically involves things like gently building pup's overall respect, trust, and listening with you. Usually this is done through a combination of obedience practice and consistency with boundaries in the home. The process also tends to involve gradually desensitizing pup to people, one at a time, with safety measures like a back tie leash or basket muzzle in place (introduced gradually ahead of time using treats so it's not just associated with the training and stressful), starting with people being further away at first, and working on pup's obedience with you around the people in the background to help pup remain calm and not get overly aroused and fixated on the other person. Pup would also be counter conditioned to people passing by their food, with safety measures like a back tie leash so pup couldn't lunge or bite and pup being rewarded from a distance whenever they stay calm as meals are feed in small portions during practice, with a treat or rope attached to the bowl used to move pup away from the bowl to refill the next portion each time. You would start far enough away from pup for pup to stay calm, tossing treats whenever you pass by a that distance, and decreasing the distance over a few weeks gradually as pup showed they are enjoying your presence closer and closer gradually due to the rewards. The reactivity with people can sometimes also involve interrupting pup's aroused state, but that should only be done under the guidance of the trainer and with proper safety measures in place, because with any aggression there is always the risk of the dog redirecting their aggression to whoever is closest when stressed. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rocky
German Shepherd
12 Weeks
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Question
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Rocky
German Shepherd
12 Weeks

I have 3 sons aged 9,7 & 3 who aren’t getting the chance to enjoy their new pet pup because he keeps biting them
They are now afraid of him & I want to know if there is anything I can do to stop him from biting in order for the kids to enjoy playing with him

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Souha, Unfortunately, it does take some time for a puppy to learn how to control their mouth. I find that if I can teach pup a couple commands or simple fetch type game, sometimes you can give kids and mouthy puppies a way to interact that leads to less biting until the biting improves. Most puppies take about two months of training to really gain a soft mouth or not bite at all anymore. Check out this youtube channel for some good tricks, commands, or even fetch you could teach pup for them to use with pup. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGbYT5zMRVk To start that training process, check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if he makes a good choice. If he disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told him not to. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also work on teaching the Out command, and then use the section from the article on How to Use Out to Deal with Pushiness, to enforce it when pup doesn't listen, especially around other animals or kids. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help him calm down and rest. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Nala
German Shepherd
12 Weeks
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Question
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Nala
German Shepherd
12 Weeks

Hi there, I get that you guys will have a lot of messages that ppl send over but I’d just like some advice on my new German Shepherd puppy. She is 12 weeks old (we got her when she was 10 weeks) she’s a lovely natured dog and is relaxed and playful in the home. This changes when we get outside on walks. She sits in the doorway and doesn’t want to come out, when she does she is hyper vigilant but still sniffs around and is literally scared of everything. It is becoming a real chore taking her out as it doesn’t seem to be easing or getting better.
We are sending her to doggy daycare next week and hopefully this will help but do you have any advice on what I can do at home? Thanks 😊

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Venessa, It sounds like pup lack socialization. I would start by carrying pup places so that she is getting used to the sights and sounds outside. Stay calm yourself and act confident instead of acting sorry for her. Whenever she acts curious, happy, or relaxed, give a treat. Once pup is doing better being carried, carry pup to various calm spots and set pup down while on a long leash. Bring a couple of pup's toys, treats, and something for you to do, like a book, and simply spend about an hour (weather permitting) outside being calm and doing fun things with pup. Do this often in various calm locations for ideally about an hour each time. When pup is comfortable being outside, make short goals for walking, such as just onto your yard, then one house over, then two houses over, ect...When you reach your goal, give pup the opportunity to return home when they are still following you and not trying to pull to get home. The pressure method may also help if pup is uncomfortable with the leash. Start using this method inside at first. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Belly
German Shepherd
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Belly
German Shepherd
5 Months

Belly is good when guest first arrive and greet nicely will go to her place and stay for as long as I place her there is is when a guest goes from one room and reemerges into the same room as her when she begins to bark at them in a aggressive tone. I'm not sure how to stop this behavior I tell her no and have her place again to calm down but them am too nervous to release her with guests still in the house.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello there. It sounds like you have your hands full. I am going to provide you with information on how to correct this behavior. You won’t be able to solve your dog’s overprotective behavior in one day. In the meantime, you don’t want to put your life on hold. You can still invite guests into your home as long as you prioritize managing your dog’s behavior. You’ll need a short-term strategy to start showing your overprotective dog what behavior is unacceptable while also keeping your guests safe. There are a few ways to do this. Leash: Keeping your dog on a leash while friends are visiting gives you control over your dog’s actions. Leash him up before the doorbell rings and keep him close as you greet your guests. During the visit, you can let the leash drag and only use it if you have to. Muzzle: If you feel his behavior warrants the use of a muzzle for the time being while you work on solving this problem, then it may be a wise choice. Separate Room: Your dog won’t get better without practice, but sometimes you have to weigh the risks versus rewards. If your overprotective dog is in the beginning stages of training, keeping him separated from guests might be best. You don’t want to put a friend’s safety at risk or needlessly stress out your dog. As long as you keep working toward stopping the behavior, separating an overprotective dog from company is a temporary management solution. Start Obedience Training Obedience training is a must for every dog, and it’s especially important for overprotective dogs. Working with your dog on things like “sit-stay,” “down-stay,” and “heel,” will help build his impulse control. He’ll start seeing you as a capable leader and will turn to you for guidance. A mistake many pup parents make is stopping obedience training once their dog masters the basics skills. Being well-trained is about more than knowing how to sit when a person holds a treat in front of their face. It’s a lifetime lesson, and even senior dogs need regular training. Commit to training your dog several times a day for short periods of time. Make Your Dog Work for Affection You can’t help but smother your dog with love every time he’s within petting distance, but that isn’t always what’s best for him. He will start to feel entitled to your attention, and that’s part of the problem. To remedy this, initiate a “work for it” program that allows you to show your dog affection as long as he earns your attention in appropriate ways. Make him sit, stay calm, and do whatever else you ask before doling out whatever it is he wants. If he’s excited for dinner, make him sit and leave it before digging in. If he wants in your lap, ask him to do a trick first. Never give your dog attention if he rudely nudges your hand or barks in your face. He needs to know polite behavior, and polite behavior only, is how he gets what he wants. You ignore everything else. Involve Other People in the Dog’s Life Most overprotective dogs choose to guard only the person they feel closest to. It’s usually the same person who fills their food bowls, takes them on walks, and handles training. They become obsessively attached, and a strong bond gradually mutates into overprotective behavior. Putting some space between you and your dog will help him learn to trust other people. Enlist the entire family’s help and take a step back in your role as primary caregiver. Have someone else feed the dog a few times a week, and encourage other people to engage her in playtime. This will help him be more comfortable with different people. Socialize Socialization is best done during the puppy stages, but even adult and senior dogs benefit from new experiences. Exposing your overprotective dog to new places, experiences, and people, will help him learn that not everyone is out to hurt you. Make sure each new experience is positive, and encourage your dog without forcing him to interact. If your dog is afraid, you don’t want to make things worse. Take socialization at the pace he’s comfortable with. If he seems overwhelmed, back up and try something a little smaller. These are some general ideas and they can be modified to fit your dynamic. These behaviors do take time, I am talking months, to correct. And sometimes the behaviors get worse before they get better. So just push through that time if that starts to happen. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in!

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