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.
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.
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.
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?
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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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!
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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Tank is very smart and listens when I have treats. But, when he is being naughty he bites me as I take him away from what he is doing. I have tried yelping/crying, pinning him to the ground until he relaxes, and a shock collar.With these efforts he is still very aggressive and has broken my skin from bites. Feeling overwhelmed.
Hello Emily, It sounds like it's time to hire professional help. A lot of what I would encourage you to do could lead to a bite if it's not done carefully - because he is biting whenever you make him do anything he doesn't want to do. He needs a strict obedience protocol, to work for everything he gets in life by having to do a command first - such as Sit before being petted, Down before being fed, Wait before being taken for a walk, ect...He needs to practice commands that build impulse control, teach boundaries, and earns his respect without hitting up against his defense drive - a defense drive simply put is something that causes certain dogs like Shepherds to fight back harder instead of submit or retreat when you apply pressure. You have to earn his respect through obedience commands, structure, and having him work in life - basically by dealing with his mind not just applying physical pressure. Have a trainer help you with the following things - again, I don't suggest doing this on your own because you will probably be bitten if not really careful. A basket muzzle may also be needed when first working with him. At this age this sounds more like a respect issue than just playful puppy mouthing. 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 and Consistency methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you E-collars are a great tool for working with aggression in dogs many times, because they allow you to modify behavior without having to physically touch a dangerous dog, BUT you cannot simply put the collar on and start correcting the dog with it whenever they do something you don't like. That can make aggression worse sometimes. You have to lay a foundation of obedience, determine what level is appropriate for the dog and use the right level. You have to choose a high quality collar - typically garmin, e-collar technologies, dogtra, or sportdog - something with at least 60 levels. You have to give verbal corrections so that the dog understands that he did something wrong, like "Ah Ah" or "No", reward for good behavior to teach the dog what to do correctly, and you have to collar condition - which means teaching the dog how he should respond to avoid the corrections. For example, when teaching a dog to Come with an e-collar, you first teach the dog to Come without the e-collar, you use a long leash the teach the dog to come even around distractions and use positive reinforcement, then you put the e-collar on the dog, find the correct level, get the dog used to the collar, and use the long leash to guide the dog to you when they feel the e-collar correction for not coming - stopping the correction as soon as the dog starts coming toward you, praising and rewarding the dog for coming really well without having to correct them. The guidance of the leash teaches the dog how to avoid the correction - by coming to you; instead of just stressing the dog out and causing them to run away faster because they are uncomfortable and don't know how to make it stop when first learning. The correction is probably also a WAY lower level than what a cheap collar gives. Look for a trainer who specializes in behavior issues, has lots of experience with aggression, has experience with Shepherds and their defense drive, uses both fair corrections and positive reinforcement, comes well recommended by their previous clients who dealt with aggression issues with their dogs, and whose training methods make sense to you are logical - good training isn't a lot of weird wolf theories, it should feel like common sense why it works when you ask for an explanation. If you are going to be working with an e-collar, the trainer should also be very experienced with that and only use high quality e-collars and know what a dog's "Working level" is - which is the lowest level that a dog indicates they feel the collar stimulation, which is the level most often used during training for that dog. Not all dogs have the same working level - it's individual for the dog so needs to be determined. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hi,I have been training my GSD to do basic commands. But recently she has been ignoring me to "sit' she will get up two seconds after I say the command along with "leave it" I was wondering if maybe I should maybe get a clicker just to see if then I would get a different responds then just rewarding her with treats because she's not allows wanting the treats when rewarded. this isn't all the time its just sometimes.
Hello Katelyn, A clicker is a wonderful tool. A clicker simply improves timing and helps the dog associate the sound of the clicker with good things. Improving our training skills is always good, so it can't hurt. I would say though it sounds like pup is more in need of proofing their skills though. Proofing is the process where pup learns that commands aren't optional and how to perform those commands around distractions. A good intermediate obedience class will work on those types of skills. Incorporating those commands into daily life more can also help, and using "life-rewards" to motivate pup. For example, tell pup to Sit Stay before opening the door to begin a walk. Wait until pup sits before you open the door. As soon as the door starts opening, if pup stands up without being told to, close the door again until pup is sitting again, when pup stands up also say "Ah Ah" so they know they did something wrong and that was why the door closed again. When pup is sitting again, start opening the door again, if pup stays this time, open it all the way, step out the door - if pup jumps up then, quickly step back inside and close it again. Practice this until you can step outside with the door open and pup won't get up until released with a word like "Okay!". This takes patience but that's what real world training is all about. Pup learns that to get what they want, they have to obey first, and listening becomes habit. This also build pup's respect for you gently - which is important especially for certain breeds, like working breeds and really intelligent breeds - such as German Shepherds. You can do this type of training with almost anything - use a long leash to practice come - pup has to come before they are allowed to go sniff something new - you either reel them in with the long leash or wait until they give in and come, then give them a release word and enough slack in the leash to sniff the new thing (if it's safe). Pup worked for that sniff and learned to come before wandering over to something new. Have pup hold a Down stay before you put their dinner down. Anytime pup gets up, food goes behind your back again, until pup will stay until released and be given the food. To get somewhere they want to get to, pup has to stay in the heel position. If pup moves ahead of you, you turn the other way and pup has to follow - pup earns forward movement toward new things by staying in heel, ect... Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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