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Imagine going to an off-leash park with your pup and watching him as he races around with the other dogs. He is having a blast and you are enjoying the beautiful spring day and the company of the other dog owners. You stay for a while, and then suddenly the sky darkens and you feel a bit of rain. You yell "Hier!" amidst the chaos and noise of the other dog owners also yelling for their dogs to come. Your pup locates your voice and comes straight to you, while others are still trying to get their dogs' attention. You attach your puppy's leash and dash to the car together, getting inside right as the bottom drops out and it begins to pour. You smile at your pup and enjoy watching the rain together in the car for a bit before driving home.
There are many great reasons to teach your dog German commands. Reasons like Schutzhund competition, personal preference for the language, having a dog that responds only to your commands, and sounding more confident when you train. Whatever the reason, the German language is a wonderful, concise, confident sounding language that works well for dog training.
Teaching your puppy German commands is just as easy or as difficult as teaching him commands in any other language. The main difference is the extra effort that it takes you to learn the German words if you do not already speak the language. Because teaching Fido German commands is similar to teaching him commands in any other language, the difficulty of each command will depend on which command you are teaching, with something like a high distraction, one hour 'stay' command being much harder than a basic 'sit' command. The difficulty will also depend on your pup's own temperament and trainability, and your own consistency, timing, and communication skills. In general, you can expect most commands to take between one and six months to train though, with two to three months being the norm for basic obedience.
As your pup learns more commands his ability to learn will probably increase too. He will likely begin to generalize what he has learned and apply it to other situations better. He will also likely pick up on your communication better too. This makes training more fun, and it makes it easier to move onto harder commands. Many commands build upon one another, so it is important to start with the basics and then work your way toward more advanced commands. For example, 'down' is often taught by telling a dog to 'sit' first, and then luring the dog into the 'down' position with a treat. 'Stay' is taught after your pup already knows 'sit', 'down' or 'stand', and most tricks are combinations of simple tricks and obedience commands.
If your buddy has shown any form of aggression or is afraid of being touched, then do not use the 'Movement' method to train him. If he is afraid, work on getting him comfortable with being touched first. If he is aggressive, then work with a trainer in your area who has experience dealing with aggression, and address the issue. Aggression is best treated early.
If you are using the 'Movement' method then be gentle while you are moving your pup into the position. The goal is to gently move your pup into the position that he is learning, or to apply firm but gentle pressure to an area until he moves into the position on his own, in order to escape the sensation of the pressure. One example of this is applying pressure to the sides of the base of your pup's tailbone while you simultaneously lift up his chin, in order to encourage him to sit down.
If you would like to teach your puppy how to do something that he naturally does on his own, but will not do when you try to get him to do it most of the time, like shaking off, then the 'Catch In the Act' method will probably work best. If your pup loves treats or has a very sensitive nature, then the 'Treat' method will probably be a good fit. If your pup does not like food or will only do a behavior when he sees a treat in your hand, even after a lot of practice, then the 'Movement' method might be a great choice for him.
To get started you will need a resource of commonly used German dog training commands, lots of small, tasty treats, a calm location, and a willing puppy. Depending on which specific command you are teaching you might also want an assistant and certain tools, such as a long leash, harness, crate, or toy, or props. If you are using the 'Movement' method, then you will need gentleness, patience, and persistence. If you are using the 'Catch In the Act' method, then you will need patience, attentiveness, a treat pouch or a small zip-lock bag and pocket, and good timing. For all of the methods, you will need a positive attitude, a willingness to have fun and to learn and improve your own skills as a trainer, and a young pupil, such as your Pit Bull puppy.
The Treat Method
To begin, decide what command you would like to teach your puppy and learn the German word for that command. Grab lots of treat that your buddy likes and something to place them in, and then go to a calm location with your pup.
When you are ready, tell your pup the German command, and then entice him into doing the action with the treat.
As soon as your puppy does the behavior, praise him and give him the treat.
Do it again
Repeat enticing your pup into doing the behavior with the treat for several days or weeks, until he will do the command when you tell him the German command word, before you entice him with the treat.
Give a hint
If your buddy is struggling to do the German command without the treat lure, then tell him the German command, wait seven seconds, and then entice him into doing it with the treat. Repeat this until he will consistently do the command before you entice him.
When your buddy will do the command when you tell him to, then practice it in new locations and around distractions to improve his skills even more. Now, teach him another German command!
The Movement Method
Get set up
To begin, choose what command you would like to teach, learn the German word for that command, grab some small, tasty treats, and go to a calm location with your buddy.
Tell your pup the German command, and then gently show him how to do the command by moving him into the position or by applying a bit of physical pressure until he does the behavior on his own.
As soon as your pup does the command with your help, praise him, remove your hands, and give him a treat.
Repeat telling your pup the command, showing him what to do, and then praising and rewarding him when he does it. Do this until he will consistently move into the position on his own when you tell him the command, before you touch him.
When your buddy can do the command consistently, then practice the command in new locations and around distractions, until he has mastered doing the command there as well. Now teach him another German command.
The Catch In the Act Method
Choose the command
To get started, choose what command you would like for your pup to learn, learn the German word for that command, and grab lots of small, tasty treats and something to place them in to keep them with you, such as a treat pouch or a small zip-lock bag.
Watch your dog
Throughout the day, pay attention to your dog. Whenever he begins to do the behavior that you are teaching, tell him the German command, praise him and go over to him, and then give him a treat when he completes the behavior.
Catch him often
Repeat catching him doing the behavior until you have caught him at least thirty times.
Call him over
After you have caught him doing the behavior at least thirty times, then call him over and tell him the German command, and if he does the behavior then praise him and give him five treats, one at time.
If your pup does not do the behavior, then go back to catching him doing it on his own for longer, and then test him again after you have caught him doing it at least ten more times. Repeat practicing and occasionally testing him until he will do the behavior when you tell him the German command.
When your dog will do the behavior when you tell him the German command, then practice the command until he can do it consistently. When he can do it consistently, then take him to new locations and practice the command around different types of distractions, to improve his skills even more. Now teach him another German command, and continue to enjoy training your puppy!
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 05/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021