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

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.
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The Environment Method

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

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
Raj
German Shepherd Dog
2 Years
2 found helpful
Question
2 found helpful
Raj
German Shepherd Dog
2 Years

We got Raj as a rescue from our shelter, but we have gotten in touch with his old owner, as she did not want to give him up. He has a bite history, because two teenagers were harassing him. One pushed him away from his food bowl and the other sprayed him in the face with a watering hose, and he bit one of them. Raj is a very sweet dog, however I am afraid he has a dominance aggression issue. We allowed him on the bed at first, but when I laid down on my back to relax, Raj put his paws on either side of me and began a closed-mouth growl. I sat up calmly and pushed him away while saying "no." He is not allowed on the bed anymore, but he has also growled at numerous people and dogs in the vet's office and at my mother. He seems to be ok with our cat. The previous owner says she had dogs and cats, and that Raj has never met a stranger. Do you think obedience classes and a neutering could help with this behavior? As well as distracting Raj before he gets worked up?

Thanks!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
621 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ash, The article "How to Teach Your German Shepherd to Be Friendly" was written mostly for dogs that lack confidence or are still puppies and you are trying to prevent issues, so most of those methods will not help him. For Raj I would highly recommend a Private trainer who has extensive experience dealing with dominance type aggression. You are right to suspect that he has issues with it, and in his case I would not wait to address it. Obedience will be a very important part of his treatment but he needs more consistency, firmness, and leadership than a typical positive reinforcement or clicker training class will provide. He needs someone who can show you how to lead him intellectually and through consistency, boundaries, and structure. Look for a trainer who utilizes both positive reinforcement and fair corrections, who has extensive experience dealing with dominance related aggression, high drive breeds like German Shepherds, and who emphasizes gaining the dog's respect in an intellectual way and through the use of body language and consistency and boundaries and not just by doing physical things like pinning the dog down. Neutering is certainly not a bad idea in his case because it will help decrease some of the potential hormonal contributors, but it will not be enough by itself. He needs behavioral modification. He likely has some defensive drive, fear related aggression toward strangers after his incident with the teenagers, but his aggressive display toward you is even more concerning. That is not fear related and needs to be addressed immediately. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bowser
German Shepherd
1 Year
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Question
0 found helpful
Bowser
German Shepherd
1 Year

We got our German shepherd mix, Bowser, from a shelter about a month ago. The last owner couldn't take care of them anymore because she was moving into a new place that was to small and had no time for him. Recently he has started growling at guest. Even ones that come by all the time. We have a little girl and they are best friends but I'm on edge now that this has started. Is this a good training for him?? If not what would be best?? I love him to death but if I can get this to stop, I'll have to get rid of him. I'll soon be running a business out of our home and I cant have clients scared to get out of there vehicles

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
621 Dog owners recommended

Hello Miranda, As a German Shepherd he is likely naturally prone toward protective and territorial behavior. If he is growling at you and your daughter that is a very different type of aggression, but the aggression toward guests is likely related to him getting comfortable enough in your home and with your family that he views it as his own now, and is trying to control the situation. That doesn't make it any less dangerous but lets you know it could be partially genetic, increased by the fact that he has an unknown history and may not have been socialized around strangers - so people are even more suspicious than they should be. If highly suggest hiring a trainer in your case. He may always have a tendency to want to protect but with a lot of training, building his respect for you, and improving his socialization around other people, you can often help a protective dog learn to look to their owner for direction and decision making instead of them trying to handle situations on their own. This can take a lot of training and long term management to accomplish and maintain though, so the outcome will often also depend on whether you have the ability and willingness to provide that. He will likely never be a dog that you can just let him do whatever he wants without worrying. Instead he might be able to become a dog who can stay on a Place bed (because you told him to) and focus on you while you let him know that he shouldn't worry about someone entering your home (when guests are coming and going). Opposed to him being loose and unsupervised while people are coming in and out of your home. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Liberty
German Shepherd
11 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Liberty
German Shepherd
11 Months

Liberty is mainly an outside dog, how do I get her to now do her business in the yard and in the woods? I would also like to have some tips on how to help her have more social skills. When we take her on walks and she sees people she goes crazy barks, and runs in a circle. If she is in a vehicle and she sees someone she goes crazy also.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
621 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rayna, It sounds like she has become an inside dog after having been an outside dog in the past, so you are wanting to potty train her? If so, I suggest following the Crate Training method from the article I have linked below. Since she is an adult, you can adjust the times, taking her potty every 3-4 hours while home, giving up to 3 hours of freedom before crating again if she doesn't potty when you take her - until the next potty trip in 1-1.5 hours, repeated that often until she finally goes potty, and teaching the Go Potty command and rewarding her when she does go, like the method mentions. When you are away all day at work, she should be able to hold it in the crate for 6-8 hours, but take her potty more often when home. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside For the socialization, check out the article linked below and the section on people: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ If there are any signs of aggression, opposed to friendly over-excitement, I suggest hiring a professional trainer to help you, taking precautions like a basket muzzle and secure leash/training collar/harness type equipment setup that's secure. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Moose
German Shepherd
11 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Moose
German Shepherd
11 Months

We got moose from a dog breeder and I have done a lot of research on how to train him but now matter what he always jumps on people leaving giant scratches also moose isn’t very friendly with other dogs and people he barks he winnes and he’s fur will stick up. I want to let them let him and allow him to play with other dogs but I’m afraid he will get to aggressive or try to bite what do I do to get him to stop jumping up and to be more friendly?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
621 Dog owners recommended

Hello Genevieve, For the jumping, check out the article linked below and the Leash Pressure and Step Toward method. With yourself, you can do either, but I you can do the leash pressure method for guests without them having to step toward. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Know that he doesn't have to play with other dogs to be happy at this age. Some dogs don't do well with that amount of arousal; however, socialization is important. For now I would pursue types of socialization that will build his confidence and calmness around other dogs. If he is aggressive toward other dogs, I suggest joining a G.R.O.W.L. class, which is a small dog dog reactive/aggressive dogs who wear basket muzzles during class and are intensively socialized together in a structured environment under the guidance of a trainer - this route should be a lot cheaper than one-on-one aggression help. Once pup is doing better, or if he is just unsure of other dogs but not truly aggression, you can do the following also when pup is safe around other dogs. Recruit friends with calm dogs and use the Passing Approach and the Walking together methods from the article linked below. After a few practice session of this, when the dogs can calmly walk side by side finally, take pups on walks together with both in a structured, focused heel. This gives both dogs something other than each other to focus on, keeps their energy calm, and helps them associate each other with the pleasant experience of a walk. Repeat this with lots of different dogs, one or two dogs at a time - you want other dogs to be associated with calmness, pleasant experiences, and boring things - not roughhousing, wrestling, nose-to-nose interactions always, or being rushed by them. https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs When pup can handle that, structured activities around other dogs are good ways to further his socialization, give some fun and exercise, and improve even more. See if you have friends with well-mannered dogs, or find a local rescue, dog club, or safe meetup group that does group dog walks or dog hikes that are structured heeling. Join in on that activity. Classes like Canine Good Citizen or Intermediate Obedience, and some types of dog sports are also good ways to socialize. You can also create your own mini dog club by simply inviting friends with dog-social dogs over and hosting your own obedience class practice together at a local park, home, or yard. Use long training leashes for safety if not in a fenced area. While he is unsure of dogs, be picky about which dogs he greets. Avoid nose-to-nose greetings dogs who lack manners. A simple "He's in training" tends to work well. Be picky about who and how he meets other dogs. Avoid dogs that don't respect his space, pull their owners over to her, and generally are not listening well - those dogs are often friendly but they are rude and difficult for some to meet on leash. Also, avoid greeting dogs who look very tense around your dog, who stare him down, who give warning signs like a low growl or lip lift, who look very puffed up and proud - that type greeting with a dog is likely to end in a fight since your dog doesn't know how to diffuse that situation. A stiff wag is also a bad sign. A friendly wag looks relaxed and loose with relaxed body language overall. A tense dog with a very stiff wag, especially with a tail held high is a sign of arousal and not always a good thing. When he does greet another dog nose-to-nose, give slack in the leash, relax yourself, and keep the greeting to a max of 3 seconds, then happily tell him "Let's Go" or "Heel" and start walking away, giving him a treat when he follows so that she will learn to quickly respond to that command in the future. Keeping the greeting relaxed and short can diffuse tension and give the dogs enough time to say hi before competing starts. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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