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

Most Recommended
1 Vote
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.
Recommend training method?

The Timing Method

Effective
1 Vote
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

Least Recommended
1 Vote
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 and Success Stories

Question
blaze
german shephard
8 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
blaze
german shephard
8 Weeks

he does not listen to his name and what can i do to correct a bad habbit from him. e.g poo on the floor of the sitting room and i want him to go to use the convenience or toilet

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

Hello! Here is information on potty training, as well as crate training just in case you decide to use a crate to help with potty training. Potty training: Know Your Pup. As you spend time with your puppy, learn your puppy’s love language. Just as some people prefer gifts, touch, or time spent together, puppies can be the same way. Some puppies love praise or pets, while others prefer treats. As you get to know your puppy, consider what reward your puppy loves the most. Create a Daily Schedule. It is best to have a routine for your puppy. A schedule helps them understand when to eat, play, and “go to the bathroom.” Your puppy should go out frequently and the routine should be the same every time. When? Start the day by taking your puppy outside, and repeating based on age and ability. They should also go out after napping, chewing, playing, and within 10 to 15 minutes of eating. Although some puppies can sleep for seven hours, it is important to set an alarm and take your pup out during the night. When you do, don’t make a fuss about it. Quietly take them outside with minimal stimulation and light. Praise them if they go to the bathroom and gently return them to their bed or crate. You don’t want them to get stimulated and ready to play in the middle of the night! As you get to know your puppy, you will become aware of their individual habits. Click here to learn more about house training schedules for puppies. Where? Take your puppy to a specific area to urinate or defecate. Be consistent. You can create an area by using urine-soaked paper or bowel movements to help create an aroma to stimulate your puppy. How? Take your puppy out on a leash so they can focus on the desired activity. This will help prevent them from wandering off to play. Once your puppy is in the selected area, use your verbal cue, such as “Hurry Up,” “Poopies,” “Go tinkle,” or any phrase your puppy responds to. What? Know the signs that your puppy has to go to the bathroom. Every animal may have a different “I gotta go” gesture, which often include restlessness, sniffing around, circling, scratching at the door, barking, and, eventually, squatting. At the first sign that your pup has to go, calmly and quickly take them outside to their bathroom spot. Deal with Accidents. Accidents are a normal part of house training a puppy. What to Do If you see your puppy in the process of urinating or defecating inappropriately, calmly and quickly interrupt them in the act. Tell them to stop (either by a jarring sound or command), and immediately take them to an appropriate location for elimination. After your puppy goes to the bathroom, lavishly praise them and offer a treat. Thoroughly clean up accidents, so your puppy is not attracted to this area again. Create a consistent feeding and watering schedule. Depending on the age of your puppy, they will eat three to four times a day. A consistent feeding routine can create a regular bathroom schedule. Take away water about 2 hours before bedtime. Learn more about ideal dog schedules here. What NOT to Do Don’t punish your puppy when they have an accident. At that point, it is too late. When a puppy has an accident in the house and they walk away, within seconds they have already forgotten about what they did. Taking them to the scene of the crime and yelling and/or rubbing their nose in it does not help and, in fact, can harm your puppy! Supervise. The best thing you can do is to prevent accidents and the best way to do this is to supervise your puppy at all times. You can tether your puppy to your waist with a five or six-foot leash and carefully observe them for signs that they need to go to the bathroom. If you can’t supervise, then crate or confine your puppy. The more accidents your puppy has in the house, the more confusing it will be for them and this can delay house training. Reward, Reward, Reward. It is important to give your puppy a reward for their good behavior. This can be for commands such as sitting and coming to you, or for appropriately eliminating outside. In a puppy, a reward can be a couple kibbles of puppy food or a treat, such as a small piece of meat. The treat should be exciting for them and only available as a result of good behavior. Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.

Add a comment to blaze's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Millie
German Shepherd
7 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Millie
German Shepherd
7 Weeks

How do I get her to listen to me! She chews on all the shoes! She bites everyone in the house but me how do I get her to stop biting the family!! And she is mostly trained but she will be sassy and poop in the house but never pees in the house!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nakesia, First, know that all of these behaviors are normal at this age for a puppy. Check out the free PDF e-book, AFTER You Get Your Puppy, which can be downloaded at the link below. www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads Second, for the biting, 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 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. For the chewing, check out the article linked below. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ For the accidents, check out the Tethering and Crate Training methods from this article below: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Millie's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Cammil
german sheperd
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Cammil
german sheperd
1 Year

My dog doesn't focus to me and it's hard to get her attention.. what should I do

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, practice teaching pup to look at you when you say their name. When pup is watching, show them a piece of kibble, then hold it up to your eye and say their name. When they make eye contact (because they are watching the kibble), praise and give them the treat. Repeat this often. Once pup knows to look toward your eye, practice randomly throughout the day or evening when pup isn't expecting it with the kibble. Next, keep the kibble in your other hand behind your back, and pretend to hold a piece next to your eye with your other hand while saying pup's name. Praise and reward with the kibble from behind you back when they look at your eye/hand there. Practice in training sessions then periodically throughout the the day until pup has mastered looking then too. Next, simply point to you eye and practice the above, rewarding with a treat from behind your back when they look at your eye. Next. simply say pup's name and reward with a treat when they look at your eye when they hear you. Practice in training sessions and throughout the day randomly, pointing to your eye as a hint if they won't look you in the eye after you have waited 7 seconds. Do this until they can consistently look at you without the hint when you say their name randomly. Check out the three methods found in the article linked below for further ways to build pup's respect - which can be another reason pup won't listen. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Finally, make sure that you have proactively practiced the commands pup is ignoring, and pup has the skills to obey what you are asking - whether that means understanding what Sit means, or practicing sit around enough different types of distractions they are also able to sit around distractions (that's a more advanced skill that has to be worked up to, opposed to sitting in your living room when its calm). If you are not 100% confident pup understands and has the skills to obey, work on teaching those commands proactively some more. Youtube or www.wagwalking.com/training are great resources to learn how to teach specific commands, or join a class or hire a trainer to help with an obedience course. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Cammil's experience

Was this experience helpful?

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

Barks a lot. Loves to ride but barks at everyone and the same at home when people are walking by

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

Hello! It sounds like he has some fear based anxiety going on. Coupled with the excitement of walks, you have your hands a little full! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell his fear. First we reduce his fear around people on walks, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs or people to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs or people because of genetic reasons, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes it's just a simple case of lacking proper socialization as a puppy. Which most dogs in a typical household lack proper socialization. Dogs need to be introduced to hundreds of different settings as a puppy (by the age of 20 weeks) to be "properly" socialized. Most of us are not able to do that. So we will be playing a bit of catch up! Keep in mind before starting, that punishing him while he's in this state of emotion isn't ideal. Doing so will make his concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate strangers with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what a stranger means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As someone comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the stranger causes meat to fall from the sky. When the stranger is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram his opinions of strangers. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time someone comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees a stranger, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening person and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at his (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell the dog, "sit" or "watch me" or whatever command you want to use for this setting. After he starts automatically sitting or watching you when he sees a stranger approaching, you know you have success! Remember to go slowly! It could take up to a month or longer of consistent practice before you see an improvement with his behavior.

Add a comment to Storm's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Zeus
German Shepherd
9 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Zeus
German Shepherd
9 Weeks

Zeus seems to only want to listen at times. He knows his name and he understand sit and come but he only responds about half of the time. How would I get him to respond 100%?

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

Ah what a cute puppy! He is adorable. As far as listening 100% of the time, that won't be a realistic expectation until he is getting closer to 6 months of age. Dogs learn in stages. They will perform commands consistently for a while, then they regress, they plateau, and then seem to finally get the learned behaviors locked in. This is a normal part of their growth and development. The best thing you can do to speed this process along is to be consistent with your training, and provide lots of positive reinforcement. At this age, you can spend 10 minutes a time, 3x a day working on training commands. As he ages, you can increase the time up to about 45 minutes. You will fall into a nice routine that works best for your dynamic. These are just basic guidelines.

Add a comment to Zeus's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd