German Shepherds have long been the dog of choice for the police K-9 unit. They are incredibly loyal dogs who take well to training in this particular way. K-9 dogs must be trained with a specific set of skills when they join the unit.
What skills must a German Shepherd have to become a police dog?
There are three primary skills required by dogs in the K-9 unit. These skills ensure that they can adequately fulfill the duties needed out in the field. The skills are protection, attacking, and tracking. A German Shepherd will receive full training in the police dog academy, but they must possess those necessary three skills.
Training Your German Shepherd as a Guard Dog
Every dog breed possesses natural tendencies and skills. These tendencies come with their genetics. German Shepherds are guard dogs by nature, regardless of if they’ve been trained or not. If they see something out of line, or peculiar, they will usually bark, altering someone of the situation. For this reason, German Shepherds are often chosen as police dogs since it’s easier to train them in this way.
Some breeds are overly aggressive and hard to control, while others are meek and mild-tempered. German Shepherds are the perfect mix to train to be a guard dog.
Still, your German Shepherd will need the correct training to ensure they listen to commands and aren’t a danger to themselves or others.
Step 1: Socializing
The most critical step in basic training of your German Shepherd is socializing. Whether they are to be a guard dog or not, socializing will ensure they are not a hazard in social situations, and you can maintain control. Socializing them from a young age will make them a happy and confident adult dog. If they are not socialized, then they will likely become anxious and scared, which leads to aggression and attacking out of fear.
The best way to socialize your German Shepherd is to allow them to interact with as many people and animals as possible. Always be encouraging and remain calm in social situations to allow them to feel comfortable. Try to take your dog with you as many places as possible so they will get the chance to experience interactions in different environments and learn to enjoy them.
Step 2: Basic Training
Once your dog is comfortable in different environments and social situations, you’ll want to focus on some general obedience training. Obedience is one of the essential skills your German Shepherd must possess if it’s to become a police dog. They need to respond accurately to commands without hesitation since it will be crucial when out in the field. If they can’t follow orders, they may end up attacking the wrong person.
Obedience training can be done on your own or with the assistance of an obedience trainer. The first thing you’ll want to teach them is the basic sit and stay commands. From there, you can progress to more complex instructions such as having them go to specific locations that you point to, etc.
Further Reading: German Shepherd Obedience Training 101
Step 3: Barking Training
Your German Shepherd will use their bark a lot of the time to alert you of unusual and dangerous situations. For this reason, they will also need to learn how to control their bark and when to stop. This step comes after they’re familiar with their obedience training. They will need to learn they cannot bark at everyone and everything, and they should save their bark for specific situations.
The best method to train your dog to stop barking on command is the “Speak and Quiet” method.
To begin, teach your dog the “speak” command. Say the word loudly and with conviction until your dog barks back. When they do, reward them with a treat. If your German Shepherd stops barking automatically, keep doing the speak command until they start again.
Then, use the “quiet” command. It may take a few tries, but when your dog stops barking, then give them a treat and lots of praise. As with all training, keep repeating the process over and over until your dog listens every single time.
Step 4: Test It on a Stranger
Have a friend or family member come over to test the “Speak and Quiet” method on them. Ideally, it should be someone your dog doesn’t know. Make sure to praise them and give them a treat when they obey the commands correctly.
Step 5: Boost Their Alertness
Since your dog will be used to identify criminals and alert you to intruders, they will need to be alert. You can train them to recognize potential threats by doing some roleplaying with a friend. Again, recruit someone your dog isn’t familiar with to teach them.
Have them approach your home and try to enter into either your doorway or your backyard. When your dog barks at them, have them flee. Do not allow your dog to chase after them but use the “Quiet” command to silence their barking. It will teach them to be attentive and alert you to potential problems.
As always, reward your dog for their exemplary behavior every time and keep repeating this training activity with them.
Step 6: Create Boundaries
You will now need to create boundaries for your dog to guard. They must know what they are guarding and not to step out of their border or chase anyone. Take a walk around the boundaries of the area or your house with your dog. Repeat this walk until they are comfortable with the area.
Training Your German Shepherd to Attack
Teaching your GSD to attack is the next step after their obedience training. It can be a delicate process, so it must be done correctly and with care. Always seek the help of a professional if you are unsure of how to safely execute this training.