How to Train and Socialize Your German Shepherd

Categorized as German Shepherd Basic
Featured image for an article about Training and socialization for German Shepherds

The German Shepherd is an intelligent, loyal, and active breed that thrives with proper training. With consistency and positive reinforcement, you can teach your German Shepherd good manners and obedience commands. Proper training will also help prevent problem behaviors and build a strong bond between you and your dog.

This comprehensive guide will teach you how to train your German Shepherd through all life stages, from puppyhood to adulthood.

Key Takeaways

1. Start training and socializing your German Shepherd puppy early, as young as 8 weeks old. Their experiences during this time will shape their future behavior and personality.
2. Use positive reinforcement like treats, praise, and play to motivate your dog during training. Avoid punishment or scolding.
3. Focus first on teaching basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come, down, and heel. Be patient and consistent with these.
4. Socialize your German Shepherd puppy to a wide variety of people, dogs, environments, sounds, etc. between 8-16 weeks old. This prevents fearfulness.
5. Prevent and redirect unwanted behaviors like chewing, jumping, and barking using smart management and training techniques. Never physically punish your dog.
6. Provide your German Shepherd with plenty of physical and mental exercise daily to prevent boredom and hyperactivity.
7. Attend puppy and obedience training classes for socialization and to strengthen commands around distractions. Training is a lifelong commitment.

German Shepherd Training Tips

  • Start training early. German Shepherd puppies are receptive to training as early as 8 weeks old. Take advantage of your puppy’s impressionable age to teach basic commands and manners.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Reward good behavior with treats, praise, or play. This will motivate your dog to repeat the behavior. Avoid punishment like yelling or jerking the leash.
  • Keep training sessions short. German Shepherds have a shorter attention span. 5-10 minutes of training several times per day is ideal.
  • Be consistent. Use the same verbal cues and expect your dog to obey each time. All family members should participate in training.
  • Socialize your puppy. Expose your German Shepherd to new people, places, and other dogs starting at 8-12 weeks old. This will prevent fearfulness as an adult.
  • Provide plenty of exercise. A tired dog is less likely to misbehave! Walk or play with your German Shepherd daily.

Basic Obedience Training

Focus on teaching these 5 basic obedience commands to your German Shepherd:

Sit

  1. Hold a treat above your dog’s nose.
  2. Slowly move it above their head so they look up and tilt back.
  3. Say “Sit” right as their bottom touches the ground.
  4. Praise and give the treat.
  5. Practice until they sit reliably on command without the treat lure.

Down

  1. Ask your dog to “Sit”.
  2. Hold a treat in front of their nose.
  3. Slowly move it down towards the floor so their head follows in a downwards motion.
  4. Say “Down” as soon as they lie down, then praise and treat.
  5. Wean off the treat lure as they learn the command.

Stay

  1. Have your dog sit or lie down.
  2. Say “Stay”, pause for a few seconds, then say “Good stay!”
  3. Increase the duration of the pause as your dog masters it.
  4. Reward with a treat when they remain in place.
  5. Practice this with increasing levels of distraction.

Come

  1. Put your puppy on a long leash so they can’t run away.
  2. Say “[Dog’s name], come!” in an excited, happy voice while stepping backwards.
  3. Praise enthusiastically and give a treat when they come to you.
  4. Gradually practice off-leash and in distracted environments.

Heel

  1. With your dog on a leash, have them sit on your left side.
  2. Say “Heel” and start walking forward. Encourage them to walk with you.
  3. Use treats to keep your dog close to your leg and focused on you.
  4. Use turns and changes of pace to challenge them. Keep sessions short at first.
  5. Phase out treats as your dog masters heel.

Being consistent with these commands will instill good manners and control.

House Training

House training uses the following techniques to teach your German Shepherd to eliminate outside:

  • Crate training: Crates prevent indoor accidents and teach dogs to hold it. Puppies can hold their bladder about one hour per month of age (2 months = 2 hours).
  • Frequent potty breaks: Take your puppy outside every 1-2 hours, after playing or eating, and first thing in the morning. Go to the same spot and use a cue like “Go potty.”
  • Supervision: Watch your puppy closely so you can catch pre-potty signals like circling or sniffing. Take them out immediately if they look like they need to go.
  • Confinement: Restrict access to rooms until fully house trained. Close doors or use baby gates.
  • Positive reinforcement: Give treats and praise every time they go in the right spot outside. This will motivate them to keep going there.

With consistency, an 8-12 week old German Shepherd puppy can be fully house trained within 2-4 months. Adult dogs often pick it up faster.

Socialization

Socialization is the process of exposing your German Shepherd to new sights, sounds, people, animals, and environments starting in puppyhood. This has lifelong benefits:

  • Prevents fearfulness and skittish behavior as an adult
  • Makes them more comfortable in different situations
  • Teaches them to behave politely around strangers and other dogs

Aim to socialize your German Shepherd puppy in the 8-16 week age range. Positive experiences during this time will build their confidence. Practice at home and out in your neighborhood.

Introduce your puppy to:

  • New people (men, women, kids, elderly)
  • Other vaccinated dogs and puppies
  • Car rides
  • City sounds (sirens, motorcycles, etc)
  • Having their paws, ears, and mouth handled
  • Walks around the neighborhood and pet stores

Avoid:

  • Too many new things at once that may frighten the puppy
  • Unvaccinated dogs or high dog traffic areas
  • People who scare the puppy by being too handsy or in their face

With proper socialization, your German Shepherd will grow into a confident, well-adjusted dog.

Leash Training

Leash training teaches your German Shepherd not to pull or put pressure on the leash during walks. This makes walks more enjoyable for both of you.

  • Use a front-clipping harness designed to deter pulling by turning the dog towards you.
  • Hold a treat at your dog’s nose, say “Let’s go”, and walk forward. Reward them for moving with you without pulling.
  • Change directions frequently so they have to pay attention to you instead of getting fixated forward.
  • Reward with treats when your dog has a loose leash. Stop moving if they pull.
  • If your dog pulls towards something, create distance from the distraction rather than letting them reach it.
  • Practice heel training during walks to reinforce focus. Use high-value treats at first.

With regular training, your German Shepherd will learn to walk politely on a loose leash without pulling. Be patient – this takes time and consistency!

Stopping Unwanted Behaviors

Unwanted behaviors like chewing, barking, and jumping up must be addressed firmly yet patiently with your German Shepherd. Use these techniques:

Chewing:

  • Provide chew toys to satisfy this need and spray deterrents on furniture.
  • Redirect your dog to a chew toy with praise if they start nibbling something wrong.
  • Avoid scolding after the fact – they won’t understand. Catch them in the act.

Barking:

  • Determine the cause and avoid triggering it when possible (barrier frustration, fear, etc).
  • Teach “Quiet” by rewarding silence and stopping rewards for barking.
  • Ignore attention-seeking barking completely.
  • Desensitize your dog to triggers using positive counter-conditioning.

Jumping:

  • Fold arms and turn away when they jump, only giving attention with all four paws on the floor.
  • Teach an incompatible behavior like “Sit” to redirect them. Reward it.
  • Practice greetings with family and friends and reward good behavior.
  • Avoid physically punishing or pushing down on your dog.

Consistency is key when modifying your German Shepherd’s problem behaviors. Manage situations proactively, redirect to good behavior, and reward them for making the right choice. Patience and persistence will pay off.

German Shepherd Puppy Schedule

A typical daily schedule for an 8-12 week old German Shepherd puppy may look like:

TimeActivity
7:00 amPotty/play session
7:30 amBreakfast
8:00 amTraining session and play
9:30 amPotty break
10:00 amCrate time with treat puzzle toy
12:00 pmPotty break then lunch
12:30 pmTraining session and play
2:00 pmCrate time with chew toy
3:30 pmPotty break
4:00 pmSocialization/public exposure practice
5:30 pmPotty break then dinner
6:30 pmTraining session and play
8:00 pmPotty break then crate for the night

This schedule provides consistency with potty breaks, play and training sessions, crate rest periods, and socialization. The schedule will change as your German Shepherd puppy ages. An adult dog can hold their bladder longer and does not require as much supervision.

Ongoing Training Tips

  • Attend puppy and obedience classes. This allows for training with distractions and social time.
  • Learn about canine body language and communication. Observe your dog and make training positive.
  • Exercise before training. A calm dog will focus better. Food puzzles and chews can also build calmness.
  • Keep training sessions short but frequent with adult dogs. Work on one skill at a time.
  • Stay motivated. Training an intelligent breed like a German Shepherd requires dedication. Celebrate small successes!
  • Phase out food lures and treats gradually as your dog learns cues. Use variable reward schedules.

With consistent training techniques, you’ll continue to strengthen your bond with your German Shepherd throughout their life. Keep it positive!

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age can you start training a German Shepherd puppy?

German Shepherd puppies can start learning simple obedience skills as early as 8 weeks old. Training at a young age makes the most of key socialization periods and your puppy’s enthusiasm to learn new things.

How often should you train a German Shepherd puppy?

Puppies have short attention spans but quick learning ability. 5-10 minute training sessions 2-3 times per day are ideal starting at 8 weeks old. Make it frequent but keep each session short, playful and positive.

What’s the best way to socialize a German Shepherd puppy?

Intentionally expose your German Shepherd puppy to a wide variety of new sights, sounds, people, dogs, and environments in a positive way during the 8-16 week old timeframe. Let them approach and sniff new things at their own pace while keeping sessions upbeat.

Why does my German Shepherd jump on people?

Jumping is a common issue with untrained German Shepherds, who want to enthusiastically greet people. Teach and reward an incompatible behavior like “Sit”. Praise with attention only when your dog has all four paws on the floor. Stay consistent so they learn jumps get no attention.

How do I stop my German Shepherd from pulling on the leash?

Use a front-clipping harness and stop moving if they pull. Reward with treats when they walk with a loose leash. Turn frequently so your dog must pay attention to you. Over time, your German Shepherd will learn that staying close to you and not pulling is rewarded with more forward movement.

What’s the best way to potty train a German Shepherd puppy?

Take your puppy outside frequently and reward every time they go in the right spot. Crate train to teach bladder control. Supervise or confine your puppy when you can’t directly watch them. With consistency, your German Shepherd puppy can be house trained in 2-4 months.

How much exercise does a German Shepherd need daily?

German Shepherds are active dogs that need 60-90 minutes of exercise per day. This can include walks, play time in the yard, scent games, fetch, and training. Puppies should not jog long distances until they are over 1 year old and their growth plates have closed.

What are good activities to mentally stimulate my German Shepherd?

Food puzzle toys, hide and seek, learning new tricks, nose work, obedience training, and food-stuffed chew toys will all provide mental exercise. A bored German Shepherd can get into mischief, so provide outlets for their intelligence each day.

Training your German Shepherd is very rewarding but requires time, patience and consistency. Start early, keep sessions positive, and socialize your puppy for best results. With an intelligent breed like the German Shepherd, the sky’s the limit when you put in the work during training!

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 TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.