A German shepherd is like a star pupil of a canine training class. It has an inherent intelligence at its disposal as well as an effervescent eagerness to learn. But this star quality student also requires an adept teacher that is fully in line with the latest training methodologies that are circulating around. The trainer also needs to be aware of the training appropriate to each particular age, so that our dog apprentice manages A-levels for the entire report card.
German Shepherd Training Age Timeline
1. The Training Inception
The German shepherd training begins with your choice of the puppy itself. Just like humans, puppies are born with their own individualistic temperaments. Thus selecting a puppy that will complement your temperament, in the long run, can be a tedious task. A good breeder can help you with this as they have the privilege to observe the puppies since their conception.
Once you bring the puppy home, their training begins. However, a strategized training protocol starts as the puppy turn 8 weeks old.
2. The Onset Of Training (8-16 WEEKS)
The first training period specifically targets the age range from 8 to 16 weeks. The primary aim of the onset training is to socialize the dog. Another goal is to familiarize them with the surroundings they will grow up to be part of as adults. At this stage, a German shepherd puppy is highly impressionable and receptive to changes. Thus a training started well is a training half well done.
Socialization: German shepherds are dogs that are known to be extremely protective of their human families. It is hence important to drill into their psyche that not all strangers are dangerous. After all, you will not want your dog to tear into your child’s tutor the first time she comes around with the assessment report.
This socialization training thus incorporates familiarizing them with different people and sounds as they are growing up. German shepherds are great at sensing your emotions towards other people and thus modifying their behavior accordingly.
Hence, you need to be extra cheerful with people that usually frequent your house so that your puppy picks onto those emotions (unless you don’t want them to visit too often, in which case your German shepherd friend might come handy as well). Pet the puppy and then pet the children at home to help the dog feel a certain amount of camaraderie and common connection with the kids.
Also, play small two minutes games with it while familiarizing it with different sounds in the surrounding. This helps the dog develop a certain amount of self-confidence. It also reduces his nervousness while encountering unfamiliar and unchartered territories. A confident German shepherd puppy can turn out to be an awesome asset in its adulthood.
The Grooming approach: German shepherds require adequate grooming as they shed a lot of hair. They thus need a frequent brush through their thick coat as well as regular baths at reasonable time lengths. A German shepherd hence needs to familiarize itself with its grooming kit so that it does not throw a tantrum if you wish to clip its nails later.
The Crate Training: We all wish that we can spend every minute of our waking period with our dogs. But unfortunately, we have jobs to report to and errands to run. And a German shepherd unaccustomed to staying alone may have to deal with separation anxiety.
That is why we should prepare our dog for periods of alone time with crate training from the early onset.
The dog should be encouraged to spent time inside its crate, especially when the owner is performing its daily chores. This will help it overcome separation anxiety. This can also be done by feeding the dog while it is inside the crate so that it starts associating it with a place of comfort. It will also encourage it to associate the crate with positive feelings.
2. The Secondary Stage Of Training (3 to 9 Months)
3 to 9 months old German shepherds are in the adolescence of their youths-not a puppy anymore, not yet a dog. Hence, they should be carefully trained to follow commands with regular positive reinforcements and treats. It is important not to yell at them or forge a negative connection with them.
Their training begins with few minutes at times and should be slowly increased to a maximum of twenty minutes at a stretch. The training can go on throughout the day in specific phases.
It is important to spend quality time in their training during this period. It should usually start with only one family member presiding over the training sessions. Once our teen dog gets the hang of the training rules and starts obeying commands, other family members can also start pitching in.
You can also get a professional trainer to help you if you seem to be facing any difficulties.
Obedience training: This is a very important part of the German shepherd training. German shepherd dogs are excellent learners and are able to grasp commands much faster than other breeds.
However, just like a bored teenager, a German shepherd that is not engaged in proper training may get deviated and channelized its energy into destructive activities. Hence it is important to spend ample time teaching him commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stand’.
Correct execution of such commands should be rewarded with a treat of its choice. However, it is important to keep in mind that ample time should not lapse between the dog performing the task and you fetching him the treat. Otherwise, the dog will not be able to form a positive correlation between the two. The treat will then just add to its calorie count, without providing it with any mental stimulation.
Also ‘Recall’ command is an important part of the dog command training. The dog should be able to run up to you when you call its name. This will play an important part in its adulthood that will allow it to protect you against unwelcome strangers. On the other side, it will also help you to protect it should you foresee any danger in the surroundings.
Tuning in the treats: Treating the dog with snacks as positive reinforcement is an important part of the training process. Feeding time can indeed become an important component of the training process. However, it is equally important to know when to hold on to the treats.
While treating the dog with treats and snacks, it is important that it does not become its prime motivation. Hence, intermittently you can stop giving it snacks or at least decrease its frequency. You may do this once you are confident that it has begun to understand and execute a certain command properly.
Also, Grade the snacks into three categories. Give him a simple snack if it performs a simple command and a middle-level snack for a slightly complex task. For a task done exceptionally well, you can reward the dog with its favorite treat so that it knows that it has performed brilliantly.
Also, while dishing out these snacks, keep a check on the calorie count depending on the dietary requirements of the dog.
The Food Aggression Dilemma: Dogs at this age of 3 to 9 months may suffer from food aggression. This is a phase where they become overly possessive about their food and began to keep a close watch on their food bowl.
To make your dog overcome this food aggression, remove the food bowl and start feeding it with your hands. This makes him realize that you are a friendly presence who is not after its diet.
After it becomes comfortable eating out of your hand, introduce an empty bowl to him and still keep feeding with your hands.
Then start dropping food in his bowl and allow him to eat from it. This way he develops an assurance with regard to your presence. He also in this manner starts forging an emotional bond with you.
3. The Culminating Phase Of Training (9 to 24 Months)
This is the age when our German shepherd embraces adulthood in its full vigor.
The Impulse Training: Impulse training ideally should begin from the secondary stage itself. However, in this stage of his, training, it needs to be emphasized and refined even further.
The German shepherd dog should be taught to control its impulses both with and without the leash. This is especially true when they come across unfamiliar noises or even other aggressive dogs.
German shepherds have natural instincts as dogs of prey. In the state of domestication, they relive it by chasing cars in traffic. These impulses need to be controlled both by positive and negative reinforcements. It is thus a round-the-year Halloween for you playing “Trick or Treat” with your dog with doggie snacks and dog collars.
Other Command training also needs to be simultaneously continued and upgraded. Other activities like scent tracing and tracking also need to be incorporated. The dogs trained for incorporation in the military are of course trained at a much higher level.
The Pre-Trained Dog: If you adopted an untrained adult german shepherd, chances are, you have to retrain it. This may require some extra patience from your side. However, the good news is that German shepherds are excellent learners and their eagerness to learn is even more in adulthood.
However, if your German shepherd has been trained particularly badly, you might require professional help from a qualified trainer.
It is said that a man’s learning phase runs corresponding to his life. The same holds true for all dogs in general and German shepherds in particular. The blessing here, of course, is that a German Shepherd’s thirst for learning is something that cannot be easily quenched.
Training and teaching a German Shepherd is thus both a fun experience and a huge responsibility. He has an eager mind that cannot be allowed to stay at rest for long. An amateur trainer needs to continuously upgrade their learning from professional trainers, experienced friends with pets, or any other source they may happen to come across. And while you learn, train, and learn; you might end up gaining insight or two on life’s varied perspectives as well.