How to Train a German Shepherd to Listen to You

Easy
1-3 Days
General

Introduction

Sometimes, dogs can be stubborn. Whether it’s because Fido is easily distracted or is just bored, it can be difficult to get his attention in order to teach him the behaviors you’d like for him to learn. You know he’s smart. You know he can do it. If you could only get him to pay attention to you for just a few seconds in order to teach him!

German hepherds, though generally known for being great at obedience of any kind, can sometimes develop some bad habits. With highly intelligent dogs sometimes comes the capacity to be bored or more interested in something else entirely. German shepherds can also be capable of some pretty high prey drives. Try getting your dog’s attention when a peppy little squirrel darts by. It can sometimes be impossible! But there are a few tips and tricks to get your dog to be more interested in you and what you have to say rather than whatever interesting smell might be lingering in the dirt a few feet away.

Defining Tasks

Getting your German shepherd to listen to what you have to say doesn’t have to be so difficult. Being able to communicate effectively with your dog is the number one way to practice proper obedience. Remember that dogs don’t always understand the methods of communication that humans tend to use. Using his name over and over with no response will often just teach him to tune you out. Your dog prefers to use body language to communicate or prefers to respond when there is a reward to be had. This is where positive reinforcement comes in.

Teaching your dog to listen can begin at any age, young or old. Stubborn or not, German shepherds are intelligent and willing to work with the right motivation. Grabbing his focus reliably can take as little as one day, but can take up to maybe three for a particularly disinterested pup. His rate of improvement will depend heavily on what you offer in exchange for his attention.

Getting Started

You’ll want to begin by determining what motivates your dog. Most of the time, it’s treats. But it can also be toys or other rewards. Make sure these rewards are high in value, meaning that your dog only receives them on “special occasions”. Good treats to use are bits of real chicken or other dog-safe meats, cheese, peanut butter (without xylitol), frozen beef or chicken broth, or any type of human food that is safe for your dog to eat. Be sure to double check and research that the snack is healthy for your pup!

Once you’ve gotten together some fun and tasty rewards, then you can get your dog into an area free of distractions. The less distracted he is at the beginning of your training, the more likely he’ll be able to listen to you later on when there are more things that may try to grab his attention.

The Focus Method

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Step
1
Use a treat
Pick a treat that is high in value. Feel free to rotate them out occasionally to keep the rewards fresh and new.
Step
2
Hold the treat up
Hold the treat where your German shepherd can see it. Keep close to him if necessary to let it grab his attention.
Step
3
Use your dog’s name
Say your dog’s name once and only once. A repeated use of his name will only get him to start ignoring you.
Step
4
Use a verbal command
Use a phrase like ‘look at me’ or ‘focus’ as soon as you have your dog’s attention. This command will later be used to get his attention at any time.
Step
5
Reward
Offer the treat as soon as your dog looks at you. It should be an immediate reward, not a second too late.
Step
6
Repeat
Repeat this a few times a day, but only if you have a treat in hand. Over time, you can begin to wean your dog off of the treat, but stay consistent at the beginning. He should get used to being rewarded when he offers you his attention.
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The Timing Method

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Step
1
Catch the behavior
Keep an eye on what your dog is doing. Do not acknowledge her until she turns to look at you for any reason.
Step
2
Have a reward ready
Have your reward in hand whenever you are training. This method is all about catching your German shepherd at the exact moment when her focus is on you.
Step
3
Use a command when you see the behavior
Use a verbal command to mark the behavior, which you will begin to call it later.
Step
4
Reward right away
Let her take the reward immediately after the verbal command. This will teach her to routinely look back to you whenever the words are said.
Step
5
Practice being quick
Catching when your dog is looking as you is sometimes like catching lightning in a bottle. Be quick to mark the behavior with your verbal command and reward. Do this regularly and getting her attention should become easier over time.
Recommend training method?

The Play Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Use a toy
An interesting toy is best for this method. Something that is colorful, smells interesting, or has a squeaker can all be good traits for a toy that can grab your dog’s attention.
Step
2
Be energetic
Your German shepherd is much more likely to pay attention to you if you’re energetic and all over the place. Jump up and down, make some high pitched noises, and get your dog excited.
Step
3
Run away
Dogs like to chase. Running in the opposite direction can convince yours to go after you with enthusiasm, especially if you have the toy in hand.
Step
4
Reward for response
Reward your dog with the toy when he catches up to you. Have some play time and continue the upbeat energy. The play time with the toy is the reward for wanting to be around you and focusing on where you are.
Step
5
Be consistent
Your German shepherd will only form a habit of paying attention to you if you are consistent in your rewards. Never forego the play time with the toy if your dog isn’t reliable enough to do so. This will often cause a step backwards.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Bear
Sherman sheperd
5 Months
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Question
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Bear
Sherman sheperd
5 Months

So Bear has some problems listening and when I walk him he has problems stay by my side. He does do what I say like sit and lay down. But I can never get his attention half of the time. what do I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Skylar, First, know that he is young and focus and attention is a skill that a dog or puppy has to learn - like come and sit. Just like how an off-leash come requires a lot of practice and working up to harder situations and being able to come around distractions, focus starts with practicing training in less distracting locations and practicing until pup can focus there, then moving onto a more distracting location, then a more distracting location and so forth. Enrolling in a well recommended Intermediate Obedience class (depending on how his obedience is now). First work on obedience somewhere like a fenced in yard until pup can do it reliably there. As pup improves, move somewhere like a cul-de-sac, then other parts of the neighborhood, calm parks, busier parks, outside of dog parks (not in the fence with the dogs - just where pup can see them), pet stores, outdoor shopping areas, farmers markets, ect... Practice the training at a certain difficulty level until pup can obey in that location around those distractions, then move onto the next difficulty level as they show they are ready, then the next and the next - until finally pup is reliable in all situations. This takes a lot of repetition and trips out to places. It's also important to motivate pup well and that doesn't always mean food. When you give pup a command, pay attention to your tone and body language. Are you enthusiastic when calling Come? Are you calm when saying Heel? Are you focused on them to get your timing right? Do you sound confident and sure? What are you rewarding? Are you giving a treat when pup does especially well, are you only allowing forward movement when pup is heeling, are you letting pup go sniff something if they come and focus FIRST, are you waiting until they sit before you let them outside - so they are focused and calm to begin with. Does pup know that you mean what you say? When you give a command do you enforce it? This might mean not letting pup walk away until they Sit if you command them to - even if you have to wait fifteen minutes. Practicing Come on a long leash or using a vibration or stimulation e-collar so you can enforce the command if they disobey it once you know that they understand, not letting pup eat or go outside until they are calmly waiting or sitting, ect... Heel -the turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Elsie
German Shepherd
2 Years
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Question
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Elsie
German Shepherd
2 Years

Elsie is aggressive with other dogs. Recently on holiday we were fortunate enough to be in a secure field when the owners dog came to the gate. Elsie immediately ran to the fence and became aggressive. She completely ignores my attempts to catch her and runs to try and get to the dog another way. I find this very stressful and am afraid that she might be hurt or hurt another dog. Please help!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Linda, First, check out Thomas from the Canine Educator and Jeff Gellman from SolidK9Training on YouTube. They both have YouTube channels and specialize in aggression. I would start with building a good foundation of trust and respect for you - that will help a lot in dealing with the aggression. Check out the following videos and articles for things to work on with pup to help in those areas. Teach him a Place command and work on him staying on place for up to an hour, even when you walk into the other room for a minute. Practice crate manners. Work on teaching a structured Heel. Forget about getting places during a walk for a while right now, instead go somewhere open, like your front yard, a park, or culdesac and practice a heel where his nose does not go past your leg. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Working method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Come command - The Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall You need to hire a trainer to help you with the aggression and you need someone who uses a lot of boundaries, positive reinforcement and fair discipline tactfully. Look for someone who is very experienced with aggression and different types of aggression - many trainers are only experienced with fear based aggression and you likely have some dominance- based or possessive aggression going on too, and they are treated a bit differently than fear. Also, look for someone who has access to other well behaved dogs - like a larger training group that specializes in behavior issues and aggression, so that the training can be practiced around other dogs in a controlled environment, where things like distance between the dogs can be adjusted and safety measures in place. You may need an e-collar off-leash Come as well. That has to start with using the Reel In method to teach an on-leash, long leash come, then the e-collar is added to that training once pup knows the Come command reliably around distractions on leash. There is a very specific way e-collar training has to be done to work effectively and safely, so if you do get into e-collar training seek the help of a qualified trainer for that part of training. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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