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Start with the Basics for Training | The German Shepherd

You should begin thinking about training your German Shepherd Dog when he or she is about eight weeks old. Any younger and your dog is still developing and may not be able to process information in a sophisticated enough manner to understand what it is you ask of him or her. Likewise, ten weeks of age is a good time to start thinking about leash training your dog. But fear not! Given the incredible intelligence of the German Shepherd breed as a whole, it is never too late to start training your German Shepherd dog. The old adage that an old dog can't learn new tricks is really not applicable here!

The most important commands you can teach your German Shepherd are not, however, the showy “tricks” of circus animals or show dogs, but rather basic controls and restraints on your natural doggie behavior. Thus, Sit, Stay, Heel, and Down or Lie Down are the basic commands that you should teach your German Shepherd Dog before even considering other options. It is best to keep your commands short and sweet, and always be consistent. Thus “down” is better than “lie down” and even the most intelligent dog is likely to confuse “sit down” and “lie down.” Don't change up your command (“Sit right there!” and “Stay!”) for the same function - dogs are logical animals that learn by deduction – keeping things simple for them helps your German Shepherd establish a pattern of “If my owner says X, then I should do Y, in order to get treat A or avoid punishment B.” A mixture of positive and negative reinforcement is best, thus give your dog vocal or edible praise when he or she follows the command, and speak in a stern, rough, disapproving voice when he or she does not. Do not, however, get angry or yell, or physically punish your dog in any way. Your dog doesn't automatically “know” good or bad behavior, and punishing your dog excessively will only make him or her hurt and confused, rather than enlightened. Very quickly, your German Shepherd will be able to tell disapproval from your voice (or your withholding of special treats).

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