German shepherds are highly intelligent, confident and loyal dogs. They make excellent pets and formidable guard dogs. Every breed of dog responds differently to discipline; the key to having a well-behaved pet is to know your dog’s “currency.” German shepherds need firm, consistent discipline and rewards that appeal to their working instinct.
Observe your German shepherd's behavior. From the day you bring home your dog, keep a log of how he behaves in various situations. This will help you understand his likely future behavior. A typical German shepherd will be confident, alert and protective. His confidence should never become aggression, and he should be calm and watchful when encountering new stimuli. Pay special attention to how your pet responds to visitors arriving at the home, to other dogs coming to say hello, and to being taken for walks.
Note his naughty habits. All dogs develop naughty habits, such as climbing on furniture and chewing things they shouldn’t. These problems occur across the board, but a German shepherd’s worst habits are likely to include barking at visitors due to being overprotective.
Play with your dog to figure out his “currency.” Disciplining a dog successfully relies on discouraging unwanted behavior and encouraging good behavior equally. Encouraging good behavior means introducing a reward; discouraging behavior means taking away rewards. Some love toys while others see physical contact as the ultimate prize. Many will do anything for a treat. Your German shepherd’s herding instincts make him likely to do anything you ask of him for the chance to run off-leash.
Leash your German shepherd and expose him to stimuli likely to resort in bad behavior. For example, have a friend ring the doorbell. Just before your friend rings the bell, begin to verbally praise your dog. This is a positive stimulus. When the doorbell rings, monitor your dog’s reaction. If he remains passive and calm, increase the praise and let him off leash. If he barks, stop the praise and gently tug the leash to get his attention. This distracts him from barking. Over time, he’ll learn that being passive when a visitor arrives has a positive outcome, while being aggressive has a negative outcome.
Teaching the Sit
Hold a dog treat above your dog’s head.
Move the treat so he moves his head backward to follow it. As you do this, issue the sit command. He’ll eventually sit down to get a better look at the treat.
Release the treat as soon as he sits and then give lots of fuss and praise. With enough repetition he’ll learn that sitting on command has a positive consequence. Use the same technique to teach the “down” command, moving the treat toward the ground instead of over his head.
Use what you learned from observing your dog and monitoring his bad habits to anticipate bad behavior. For example, if he slopes off into the living room, discreetly follow him. If he looks like he’s about to get on the sofa or chew a cushion, you’re well-placed to give discipline.
Issue the sit command before he has chance to be naughty. Then issue the down command. These commands will distract the dog from the naughty behavior he was contemplating.
- Be consistent. Your dog will thrive once he knows his boundaries. If he's not allowed on the couch, never let him on. Allowing him on for "special occasions" or failing to discipline him when he tries to climb up will confuse your dog and limit your effectiveness.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.