Information on buying and raising a German Shepherd Dog

Children | Spoiling | Leadership | Socialization
Discipline/Praise |  House Training | Biting | Treats
Chewing | Begging | Growling | Jumping

Early Puppy Training

There still remains a belief that dogs should not be trained until at least six months to one year of age. All dogs and their owners CAN benefit when behaviour, temperament and obedience training begin as soon as the seven or eight week old puppy enters his new home. By six months of age, almost all problem behaviours are already in place, and solving them will be difficult, frustrating and possibly not successful.

Nipping, chewing, digging, barking, mounting, etc. are all normal dog behaviour but, if left uncorrected, can lead to problems. Dogs learn each and every day whether it be good behaviour or bad behaviour.

Children and Dogs

Parents have an obligation to monitor all child-dog interaction, until both child and dog have learned to play nicely together. There will be times when you will have to protect the pup from children and vice-versa.

Do not leave children alone with a new pup. Inevitably, the pup will view small children as littermates and will nip.

Do not allow aggresive play or tug-of-war with the pet puppy. This can lead to aggressive behaviour and biting. Instead, throw a ball for the pup to chase.

Do not allow the pup to join in running games with children. The pup will be encouraged to think of children as "prey".

Tell children to leave a sleeping puppy alone. Dogs instinctively do not like surprises, and a serious incident could occur.

Encourage children to think of the puppy as a sensitive, living thing, with needs and desires. It is not a toy.

Spoiling | top

A trained dog is not likely to be spoiled. Through training he has learned to look for leadership, has learned trust and obedience. Indulging in bad behaviour, catering to his every desire, allowing nipping, begging, stealing from plates, barking, another matter. The irritating, unpleasant dog has become "leader of the pack", while the trained dog develops into a companion free to be with you wherever you dog.

Growling, snapping and nipping are an attempt to gain control - to become leader of the pack.

The destructive chewer has not been taught responsible behaviour and should not be rewarded with the freedom to behave so.

The food or garbage stealer has never been taught his limits.

The dog indifferent to his owners commands has learned not to respect his owner - he's not tired or bored.

The dog which incessantly demands his owners attention is over-indulged. Owners sometimes choose not to teach, preferring, instead, to "buy" the pup's love with permissiveness, overpetting and coddling. Each pup naturally must find his place in the [family] pack. The owner must assume the "leader" position to provide the security the pup needs. Preventing problems is easier than solving them!

Leadership | top

Dogs are genetically programmed to live in packs. A dog requires leadership to give structure and security to his life. The pup's mother corrected each pup firmly, swiftly, and instantly, by using a neck shake, a clout of her paw, or by pinning the pup to the ground. She was the "boss".

In his new home the pup will fill the role of leader if none is provided. This is usually shown through growls, nips and other dominant behaviour. Avoid excessive petting as only the pack leader is entitled to such demonstrations. Once a dog is trained and under control the owner can indulge in hugging without fear of spoiling him.

All members of the family must agree to behave consistently. Do not allow the pup on the couch one day and scold him the next. This is very confusing to a pup.

Socialization | top

At eight weeks the new puppy in the home should be accustomed to normal household sounds: the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, TV, radio, toilet, etc. Ideally, this was begun by the breeder. Invite friends and neighbours to your home to meet the new pup. Take him for short car rides to accustom his body to the motion of a moving car and to help prevent car sickness later on.

After a couple of weeks take him everywhere you can, choosing new environments each time. Examples are a park, a school yard, a construction site, a busy sidewalk, a busy plaza. If the pup ever shows fear, do NOT pet him. He'll view this as praise for being fearful. Remain calm and let him adjust his behaviour.

Praise and Discipline | top

As leader, use a happy, enthusiastic tone when praising your pup for good behaviour, and accompany your verbal praise with petting. Praise good behaviour generously. Never reward fearful behaviour by "soothing" it with a soft voice and stroking. This only reinforces the behaviour, from the dog's point of view, he is being rewarded.

Never pet or soothe a pup when he is aggressively threatening anyone. A full-blown case of dangerous aggression could result.

Use a calm, firm voice when disciplining. Do not plead with the pup. Discipline does not mean punishment and should not be harsh physical punishment.

Use NO to inform your pup that his actions are not appropriate. NO is an authoritative sound with the object of creating an immediate reaction. Do not use the word "no" combined with your pup's name.

OK is a happy-sounding, positive word. It gives permission and approval from you.

House Training | top

Dogs are den animals, and a crate is readily accepted as a pup's private place. A crate provides a secure place to prevent the pup from undesireable behaviour. Since no dog likes to soil his den, house training will be simplified by using a crate. The crate should be located in your bedroom to promote bonding with your pup.

The pup will earn freedom by demonstrating his responsibility. Later, the pup can be provided with more freedom and the crate left with the door open.

As a rule, all pups will have to "go" upon waking, after eating, after drinking, during or after play or excitement, whenever they are busily circling and sniffing, and just because!

Food remains in the intestinal tract about 16 hours. Therefore, a regular feeding schedule will equate to a regular washroom schedule. Dogs free fed are eating all the time - what goes in all day, comes out all day. A feeding at 6:00 a.m. will produce elimination at 10:00 p.m. and a 6:00 p.m. feeding will produce elimination at 10:00 a.m. Adjust the feeding schedule to times you can excercise the dog.

People who work part time simply crate the pup while away. People who are at home all day can tie the pup's leash to their waist as they go about their chores, monitoring him closely to take him out when he indicates he needs to "go". People who work full time should not expect a young pup to be in his crate for 8-10 hours at a stretch.

Remember, very young puppies need to sleep a lot, crate training takes advantage of this need by putting the pup in his crate to nap. Then, he is taken outside as soon as he awakens. Walk him on leash until he goes, then praise him happily. Encourage him with an expression such as "Do your business," "Go pee," et cetera.

After elimination the pup should be given play time with feeding afterwards.



Biting | top

All pups use their teeth, just as they did in their litter, nipping or chewing to test their limits. The mother never permits the pup to nip her - she punishes swift and to the point.

Biting is usually the result of misbehaviour that was never corrected. It escalates as the pup grows up thinking of himself as the leader of the pack. Corrections must be done instantly every time it occurs. Very young puppies generally respond to a piercing YIPE! and will release instantly. Another tecnique is the hand-over-the-muzzle grab accompanied by a firm NO and a low, menacing growl. He will understand this just as he did his mother.

For those who are a little more determined a firm, upward open-handed tap under the chin, a firm NO, and a growl will usually work. When he stops, take him to his crate and leave him alone for half an hour.

Keep a 4 inch-6 inch "grab" lead on him so he cannot escape from any correction.

Food Treats | top

The use of food treats to train basic commands is generally not recommended (with the exception, perhaps, of parlour tricks - they matter not in day-to-day activities). A pup is a pack animal and must learn through trial and error his position within his family pack. His mother never rewards with "treats".

The promise of food is a distraction wherein the pup will concentrate on the hand or pocket and not on his owner's face and eyes. A pup that avoids eye contact will not learn and will not concentrate. A pup trained with food will appear eager but is reacting in a mechanical way, that is, he is not learning.

Training without treats reinforces the owners dominant position over the dog. A pup that learns will be eager to learn more when he is properly praised.

Chewing | top

Pups that are prevented from destructive chewing never develop the problem. Any pup left to his own devices while the owners are away will vent his loneliness and frustration on whatever object catches his fancy. This is normal and to be expected. A pup who is crated during his owners' absence cannot indulge in such a destructive activity. The owner must keep the pup under close supervision at other times. Freedom of the house should not be granted. A pup will have to hear the word "No" many times before he learns that household objects are forbidden. Should he mouth an object, clap your hands, stamp on the floor, etc., to attract his attention. When he releases the object offer him his own approved "chewie" and praise him when he takes it.

Begging | top

Begging usually begins with an indulgent owner offering food from his plate or the kitchen counter. This easily leads to whining, barking, leaping at the table, etc. Never offer the pup food from your plate, table or kitchen counter. This will prevent all begging problems. Should the pup beg simply ignore him, eventually, the pup will give up and wander off in boredom.

Growling over Food | top

Pups should be prevented from growling over their food especially if there are children in the household.

Sit on the floor, holding the food dish, and call the pup to you. Verbally praise him for coming to you. As the pup eats, talk to him, pet him, and perhaps throw in a treat. Have each member of the family take turns at different meal times.

If the pup should growl or indicate any defensiveness, he must be told No, then grabbed by his middle, and pulled backward away from the dish. Roll the pup onto his back and scold him. When he subsides, release him, and allow him to resume eating. Repeat if he growls again. This works for young pups.

For older pups the owner should stand near the dish with the pup on lead. Should he growl, say No firmly, and pull the dog back away from the dish, administering a leash correction. In a day or two, you may hold the dish on your lap while the dog is eating quietly.

An older dog who has developed this behaviour should not be treated as above but should be referred to a professional trainer/behaviourist.

Jumping on People | top

Start immediately to teach your pup to keep all four feet on the ground. With the young pup do not encourage him to stretch up to greet you, instead, crouch down to his level, assist him in sitting, then greet him.

The pup should be taught the sit-stay. When visitors arrive the pup should be on lead and put in a sit-stay to one side of the door. The guests should be allowed to enter, told to ignore the pup, and when seated the pup should be brought on lead to meet them. The pup should be sat in front of each guest and then they can pet him. It is important that the sit-stay be mastered if the pup is to learn to keep his feet on the floor.

About The Breed
General Facts | Breed History | Raising Your Dog

Related Activities
Tracking | Obedience | Herding | Agility | Schutzhund

Temperament Test | Aggression