Basic Obedience Training for German Shepherds

Categorized as Training and Behavior, German Shepherd Basic
Featured image for an article about Basic Obedience Training for German Shepherds

he German Shepherd is an intelligent, active, and working breed of dog that is very popular as a family pet. They are naturally protective and loyal, making them excellent guard dogs and police/military dogs.

However, their size, energy level, and protective instincts also mean that German Shepherds need extensive obedience training and socialization from an early age to be well-behaved family companions. With proper training, though, German Shepherds make wonderfully devoted pets that integrate seamlessly into family life.

This article provides an overview of basic obedience training techniques that are essential for any German Shepherd owner. Establishing basic commands and manners provides the foundation for living happily with this large, driven breed.

Key Takeaways

  1. Start training as early as 8 weeks old to positively shape puppy behavior. Prioritize socialization.
  2. Core commands like sit, down, stay, come, and leave it form the foundation of manners.
  3. Conduct frequent short, positive sessions. Meet the puppy’s limited attention span.
  4. Exercise before training sessions so the puppy is receptive, not restless.
  5. Use rewards like food, toys, and praise to reinforce desired behaviors. Avoid punishment.
  6. Adequate exercise, stimulation, supervision, and training prevents most problematic behaviors.
  7. Lifelong consistent training provides needed activity and bonding. Advanced skills keep Shepherds engaged.
  8. Patience and realistic expectations are key for this intelligent but slower maturing breed. Allow at least a year for solid obedience.
  9. Obedience training benefits German Shepherds and owners tremendously by creating a well-mannered companion.

The Importance of Obedience Training

Obedience training is crucial for any dog, but especially for large, powerful breeds like the German Shepherd. Here are some of the key benefits of formal obedience work:

  • Safety: A well-trained German Shepherd will reliably come when called, walk calmly on a leash, and refrain from bolting out doors or jumping on people. This provides safety for family, friends, and the general public.
  • Better behavior: Formal training establishes expectations for polite manners, such as no begging, no furniture privileges, and respecting boundaries with children or strangers. This allows a German Shepherd to be included in family activities without problematic behavior.
  • Mental stimulation: Shepherds are working dogs that thrive when given jobs and challenges. Obedience work mentally stimulates these intelligent dogs.
  • Bonding: Training time provides meaningful bonding time with the owner. The shared experience helps strengthen the human-canine relationship.
  • Public manners: Well-trained Shepherds can earn access rights to places like outdoor restaurants, stores, parks, and more by demonstrating excellent public behavior. This enhances quality of life.

Clearly, the effort put into proper obedience pays off manifold for the whole family.

Puppy Training Timeline

German Shepherd puppies are ripe for training at a young age. Here is a timeline for the initial stages of their education:

8-10 weeks

  • Introduction to a collar and leash
  • Learning name recognition
  • Simple commands like “sit” and “come”
  • Housetraining
  • Socialization with people and environments

3-6 months

  • Solidifying basic obedience commands
  • Introduction to walking on leash
  • Continuing socialization
  • Gradual durations of time alone

6 months to 1 year

  • Reinforcing commands and manners
  • Public training sessions
  • Advancing distance and distraction commands like long “stays” and “comes”
  • Ongoing socialization with dogs and people

Training beginning at 8 weeks gives Shepherds the best start at being obedient and welcome family members. Professional group classes provide ideal socialization and education during the juvenile lanky stage from 5-18 months old.

5 Fundamental Commands

Certain key basic obedience commands form the foundation of a well-mannered German Shepherd. With regular short training sessions, even 10-15 minutes per day, Shepherd puppies can quickly learn these 5 fundamental commands:

1. Sit

Teaching a puppy to sit on command instills control and patience. Have a treat ready, say “sit”, and move it above the dog’s nose and over the head so the pup tips backwards into a sitting position. Praise and treat. Gradually phase out the treat lure.

2. Down

The “down” command is useful for settling a rambunctious dog. Have the dog sit. Hold a treat by the nose, say “down” and lower the hand straight down between the front paws to guide the dog into a down. Praise and treat in the down position.

3. Stay

Stay means to remain in place until released. Have the pup sit or down, say “stay”, step in front, pause, return, and reward. Gradually increase distance and duration. Change locations too. Refresh often.

4. Come

A reliable recall is vital. Say “come!” in happy voice when the pup is coming anyway at first. Pair with praise and treats when she comes. Slowly add distractions to proof the recall. Do not punish for slow recalls.

5. Leave it

Leave it teaches impulse control. Say “leave it” when the pup approaches something undesirable like garbage or a street chicken bone. Redirect their attention with a high value treat. It teaches them to avoid the object.

With much patience and consistency, a German Shepherd pup will reliably learn these core 5 commands by 5 months old. They establish essential manners for a well-trained adult.

Smart Strategies for Training Success

Training a German Shepherd requires realistic expectations about this active working breed. Here are some smart strategies for teaching Shepherds effectively:

  • Start young: Early socialization prevents fear, while young minds learn rapidly. Expose puppies gently to new places and people.
  • Short sessions: Shepherds have shorter attention spans. 5-10 minutes of training several times a day is more effective than 1 long session.
  • Exercise first: A calm dog learns better. Exercise before training so the pup is receptive, not restless.
  • Positive reinforcement: This breed responds best to praise, play, and food rewards. Avoid punishment or forcing behaviors.
  • Prevent rehearsal: Supervise closely so the puppy cannot practice unwanted habits like chewing, jumping up, or eliminating in the house.
  • Clear communication: Use simple, short commands the dog understands. Guide the pup physically at first. Reward desired responses.
  • Consistency: All family members should train using the same command words, gestures, and prompting. Consistency avoids confusion.
  • Patience: Shepherds mature slowly. Expect 6 months to a year for solid obedience. Keep training activities fun rather than frustrating.

With reasonable expectations and kind, consistent training methods, the average pet Shepherd can master basic obedience and become a enjoyable companion. Their trainability makes them wonderful partners when their intelligence is channeled in the right direction.

Common Obedience Training Equipment

Training tools, when used correctly, can enhance communication and safely manage this strong and driven breed. Here are some commonly used aids:

Slip collarMimics leash pressure from mother dogGive quick correction with leash, immediately release
Martingale collarPrevents slipping off headMust fit correctly, no choking
Chain training collarEnables leash correctionsOnly for training, never leave on
No-pull harnessDiscourages pulling on leashAttach leash on chest strap
ClickerPrecision marker for timing rewardsClick immediately when dog performs desired behavior
Treat pouchConvenient access to rewardsWear around waist during training
Training leashBetter handle long linesUsed for long “stays” and distance work
ToysProvide play rewardTug or fetch as reward for obedience

The keys are to properly fit and humanely use training equipment. Harsh tools like prong or shock collars are unnecessary and damaging to the human-canine bond. Reward-based methods should form the core of training this sensitive breed.

Addressing Common Behavior Issues

Even reliably trained German Shepherds can develop problematic behaviors without ongoing guidance. Here are some common issues and how to address them:

  • Chewing/destruction: Provide loads of exercise and mental stimulation. Manage the environment by keeping tempting items out of reach. Train “leave it.” Redirect chewing to durable toys.
  • Jumping up: Stand still and avoid eye contact when the pup jumps. Only give attention when all four paws are on the floor. Praise calm greetings.
  • Begging: Train a “place” command, where the dog goes to a designated spot and stays during meals. Give chews or puzzles in the place spot while you eat. Never feed from the table.
  • Pulling on leash: Stop immediately when leash gets tight. Reward slack leash. Use no-pull harness and train loose leash walking.
  • Anxiety: Gradually get the dog comfortable being alone. Provide stimulating toys. Avoid punishment which can worsen anxiety. Consult trainer/veterinarian if severe. Medication may help in some cases.
  • Aggression towards dogs/people: Socialize extensively to build confidence and appropriate social skills. Avoid scolding, which can increase aggression. Consult professional trainer.

With well-timed rewards and fair corrections, unwanted behaviors can be minimized. However, the key is managing a Shepherd’s environment and providing enough activity, training, and attention to prevent boredom and frustration. Adequate exercise, supervision, and training prevents most issues.


Here are some frequently asked questions about basic obedience training for German Shepherds:

Frequently Asked Questions

How old should a German Shepherd be when starting formal obedience training?

Ideally training should begin as early as 8 weeks old once puppies have had some basic veterinary care and are settled into their new home. Early socialization and training makes a huge impact long-term.

How often should I train my German Shepherd puppy?

Aim for short, positive sessions several times a day – as little as 5-10 minutes per session. Training should feel fun, not frustrating, for both pup and owner. Adult dogs can work up to 20-30 minute training blocks.

What are the best reward motivators for training a German Shepherd?

Food treats, praise, play, and life rewards work well. Determine what interests your individual dog the most. Vary rewards to maintain engagement. Avoid punishment-based methods.

Are German Shepherds easy to train?

Their intelligence makes them highly trainable, but they are a large, energetic, independent-minded breed. They require more extensive socialization and training than many breeds. Patience and persistence are key.

Should my German Shepherd go to group obedience classes?

Group classes are highly recommended. This provides socialization, professional guidance on proper handling, and proofing commands around distractions. Classes help cement obedience.

What is the most important command to teach a German Shepherd?

A rock-solid recall or “come” command can be lifesaving. It should override any distraction. Reinforce it constantly with praise and life rewards. Never punish slow recalls.

How do I discipline my German Shepherd for misbehavior?

Avoid physical punishment or harsh reprimands. It erodes trust and can increase aggression. Set rules and prevent access to undesirable temptations. Use fair corrections like leash checks, but focus mainly on rewarding desired behavior.

Can German Shepherds be reliable off-leash?

With intensive long line training, some German Shepherds can earn off-leash privileges in appropriate locations. But a strong recall is essential. Even well-trained Shepherds should not be trusted off-leash in unsecured areas. Their recall should still be reinforced regularly.

How long does it take to properly obedience train a German Shepherd?

Expect a year of consistent training to achieve solid obedience and manners. However, ongoing socialization and training should continue throughout their lifespan to keep them engaged and well-behaved. Training is a lifestyle, not a single class.

Lifelong Training Pays Off

Obedience training is not a one-time endeavor with German Shepherds. Their intelligence and energy means they require structured activity and human leadership on an ongoing basis. Luckily, activities like advanced obedience, agility, tracking, rally, and more can provide them with continued mental challenges and bonding time with their owner.

Investing the time and energy into proper lifelong obedience training creates an enjoyable companion that integrates wonderfully into family life. The initial effort pays off manifold over the years of this active breed’s lifespan.

With formal training, German Shepherds eagerly channel their abilities into serving their owners and comfortably navigating our human world. The result is a deeply bonded canine partner with indispensable real-world skills.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.