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Imagine bringing your ten-year-old German Shepherd with you to an outdoor festival. You adopted him just six months ago and when you got him he knew very little obedience, but the two of you have been working hard since that time and he has learned a lot. You walk with him down the paved street, past vendors and through crowds. You tell him to "Fuss", and he walks in step with you as you make your way through the crowd. You stop at one of the booths and tell him to "Platz", and he obediently lies down while you talk to the owner of the booth. You make your way over to an outdoor seating area together, and begin to unpack your lunch while you watch several other families nearby do the same thing. A young boy spots your dog and yells out "Come here doggie!" right when you accidentally drop your dog's leash while fussing with your food. Your dog does not even flinch but remains firmly in place. You sigh in relief, pick up your dog's leash, and watch as the boy's mother calls him over to herself.
It is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, so long as those tricks are something that your older dog can still safely perform. Even older dogs love to learn and can benefit from obedience training mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you have recently rescued an older dog and wish to train him in German, or have an older dog who already knows obedience commands but you desire to teach him German as well, it is not too late to train him.
There are many wonderful reasons for teaching a dog German commands. Perhaps German is your native language or you are moving to Germany. Perhaps you like the forcefulness of the German language, and you would find it easier to instruct your dog in a language that already sounds confident. Perhaps you want to be the only one who can instruct your dog. Perhaps you want to participate in a club or a dog sport that uses German commands, or perhaps you just like the German language and enjoy using German commands more than commands in any other language. Whatever the reason, teaching a dog German commands is just as easy or as difficult as teaching Fifi commands in any other language. The level of difficulty simply depends on which command you are teaching, not on which language you use. If you have trained your dog in a language other than German before, then teaching your dog in German should come easily to you.
Which method you should use to train your dog will depend on your dog's current level of training. If your dog already knows all of the basic commands that you wish to teach, in a language other than German, then the quickest way to teach him those same commands in German is to use 'The Retrain Method'". If your dog already knows hand signals for the commands that you want to teach him, with or without verbal commands in a language other than German, then you can use 'The Hand Signal Method'. If your dog has never learned the commands that you wish to train, in any language, or you wish to start over with your dog's training, then you can use 'The Start Fresh Method'.
If you use 'The Start Fresh Method' then you will need to find instructions on how to teach each command that you are wanting to train. If you do not know German or would prefer to learn how to teach the command by following instructions in a language other than German, then you will need to find instructions in a language that you can read. Wag!'s Training Resources page contains articles with instructions in English for how to teach such commands as: 'Sit', 'Down', 'Heel', 'Stay', 'Come', 'Leave It', and many more. Find an article that contains instructions for how to teach the command that you are wanting to train, and when you get to a step that says to tell your dog a command such as "Sit", then replace that command with the correct German word instead. For example, if an article says to tell your dog to "Heel" when he is right beside your leg, in the heel position, then tell your dog "Bleib", the German word for "Heel", instead.
To get started, if you do not already know German, then you will need a resource of German words commonly used for dog obedience. You will also need lots of treats or several of your dog's favorite toys, to use as a reward and possibly as a lure. If you are using 'The Hand Signal Method' then your dog will also need to know hand signals for the commands that you wish to teach in German. If you are using 'The Retrain Method' then your dog will also need to know the commands that you wish to teach him in German in another language already. If you are using 'The Start Fresh Method' then you will also need a resource with instructions for how to teach each of the commands that you wish to train, in a language that you can read or understand. This resource does not have to be in German though. Wag!'s Training Resources Page is one such resource. For 'The Start Fresh Method' you might also need props, an assistant, a particular type of location, or tools such as a leash and collar, depending on which command you train and how you teach it. For all of the methods, you will need a great attitude, patience, good timing, and consistency.
The Hand Signal Method
Choose a known hand signal
To begin, choose a command that your dog already knows a hand signal for, and learn the German word for that command. For example if your dog knows how to stay when you show him the palm of your hand, then you can teach him "Bleib", which is the German word for "Stay". After you have chosen your command grab some of your dog's favorite small treats and call him over to yourself.
Add German command
Give your dog the hand signal that he knows while saying the German word for that command at the same time. For example, if you are teaching your dog "Bleib", the German word for "Stay", then do your hand signal for 'stay' and say "Bleib" at the same time.
As soon as your pup obeys your hand signal and German command praise him and give him a treat.
Practice your hand signal with the German command that you are teaching at least thirty times over the next several days.
Space out the commands
After thirty repetitions of the command and hand signal, begin to space out the hand signal and the German command. To space out the hand signal and command, tell your dog the German command and then wait five seconds before giving him the hand signal also. Do this until he will obey the German command before you have given the hand signal.
When Fido will obey the German command before you have given the hand signal, then practice it until he can do it consistently and no longer needs the hint of the hand signal. Continue to practice your dog's new German command often to keep him from forgetting what he has learned. Now teach your dog another German command!
The Retrain Method
Choose a command
To begin, choose a command that your dog already knows in any language and learn the German word for that command. When you have learned the German word for that command then grab some treats that your dog loves and call your dog over to you.
Add German command
Tell your dog the German word for the command that you chose and then tell him the command in the language that he already knows right after. When he obeys the command then praise him and give him a treat. For example, if your dog knows 'sit' in English then tell your dog "Sitz, Sit", and then praise him and reward him when he sits down.
Practice telling your dog the German word followed by the command he already knows, and then praise him and rewarding him when he obeys. Do this at least thirty times.
Space out commands
After thirty repetitions tell your dog the German word for the command, then wait four seconds before giving the same command in the language that he already knows. Do this until Fido will consistently obey you when you give the German command, before you have given the command in the other language.
Give extra rewards
The first five times that he obeys the German word, without being told the command in the language that he already knows, give him five treats, one treat at a time. After the first five times, then give him only one treat again each time that he obeys.
Practice makes perfect!
Practice the German command until your pup can obey the German command without having to be told the command in the other language. When your pup has reached this point then practice the command often, so that he will not forget what he has learned. Now teach your dog another command in German!
The Start Fresh Method
Choose a German command
To begin, choose a command that you would like to teach to your dog and learn the German word for that command. Once you have chosen your command then grab lots of your dog's favorite treats and call him over to you. If your dog likes toys better than treats then you can use his favorite toys for this instead.
Choose a method
Choose a method for teaching your chosen command, with instructions that are in a language that you are familiar with, such as English. Use this method to teach your dog the command, and then when you reach the step where you are supposed to give your dog a command in a language other than German, replace the non-German word with your German command, and then follow the rest of the steps for teaching that command. For example, if you teaching your dog "Sitz", the German command for "Sit", using 'The Treat Lure Method' found in a Wag! article, then when you get to the part where you are supposed to tell your pup "Sit", while luring him into the position with a treat, tell your pup "Sitz" instead.
When your pup does the action that you are trying to train or moves into the position that you are trying to train, after you give the German command and show him what to do, then praise him in any language, and offer him a treat or a toy as a reward. The language that you praise your pup in can be any language, including German, but make sure that your tone of voice sounds happy and pleased when you speak to him because it is your tone of voice that will help him to understand that you are pleased with him.
Practice showing your dog what to do while saying the German command, and then praising and rewarding him when he does the correct behavior. Do this at least thirty times or until the method that you are following says to move onto the next step.
Phase things out
When your pup is ready to move onto the next step, if you have been using a lure, a temporary prop, or another temporary thing to show your dog what to do, then phase out that thing so that your dog is responding to just your German command.
Practice the German command with your dog until he can do it consistently without depending on a lure or a temporary prop. When your dog can do the command consistently then continue to practice that command regularly by using it in every day life. For example, if you have just taught your dog "Sitz", the German command for "Sit", then tell your dog to "Sitz" before feeding him, taking him for a walk, or letting him greet people. When your dog has mastered one command then teach him another one!
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 04/18/2018, edited: 01/08/2021