German Shepherds have held the rank of 2nd most popular dog in the world for years. They are extremely loyal, intelligent, energetic and friendly. A German Shepherd’s ability to be trained is arguably one of the most appealing qualities about their breed.
It may require some strategy and to train one, but German shepherds are known to be one of the better breeds when it comes to training. They are often willing and able to meet you half way, as they are hugely loyal and love to please their owners. Though the extent of this does depend on the individual pup.
Here, we will answer the question of whether or not German Shepherds are easy to train. We will be exploring their characteristics, as well as tips and training methods that can help your German Shepherd blossom into the best dog it can be!
Are German Shepherds Easy Or Hard To Train?
German Shepherds boast extreme intelligence and obedience – a combination that has for years demonstrated their ability to be easily trained. They have been ranked the 3rd most intelligent dog in the world by canine psychologists, and with effective training are capable of learning a new trick in just 5 repetitions!
In fact, there is little a German Shepherd can’t do. With a strong working history from herding to policing, German Shepherds have been bred to be determined, perceptive and alert since the very beginning, making them inherently easy to train.
Training your German shepherd from a puppy is the most effective option since they are highly impressionable at this stage, and able to absorb and retain what you teach them. One fast learning pup even managed to learn 100 tricks by her first birthday!
It can be more difficult to train (or un-train) a German Shepherd as an adult, as they may have learned some bad habits. However, it is still achievable if you are willing to put in the effort and be more patient with your training – they are intelligent dogs by nature and are still able to learn as adults.
So, as you can see, German Shepherd’s are some of the easiest dogs to train! As lnng as you start early, and your diligent with their training!
Why Are German Shepherds Easy To Train?
Lets take a look at what makes German Shepherds so easy to train…
They Are Highly Intelligent
German Shepherds are the 3rd most intelligent dog in the world according to Canine Psychologist, Stanley Coren. Their intelligence and versatility are why the highest percentage of police dogs in the world are German Shepherds!
Their high level of receptiveness and ability to quickly identify threats in their environment makes German Shepherds easy to train if done correctly. They can learn to do almost any task given to them – one family’s German Shepherd has even learnt how to do chores!
They Thrive off of Positive Reinforcement
German Shepherds are incredibly loyal and obedient. They are great listeners and love to please their owner by following commands once a relationship is built.
GSDs learn well from being encouraged and rewarded when they perform well. They are naturally determined dogs and are motivated to prove their loyalty to their owner, who they often attach themselves to. This makes them easier to train compared to other dogs.
A Utility Breed
For years, German Shepherds have been bred to carry out an array of different jobs, and the breed has attained many skills as a result.
When used for herding, German Shepherds could perform with little to no training or by responding to a few simple commands. It was their job to look out for threats whilst watching and gathering livestock, demonstrating their ability to listen attentively and be observant of any threats.
They have been hugely valuable to the military, too, with testimonies from some veterans that the only reason they survived was because of a German Shepherd service dog.
They Are Very Loyal
This particular breed of dog likes to attach themselves to their owner to create a companionship dynamic. A German Shepherds ability to be trained easily is often a reflection of their loyalty and respect for their owners.
German Shepherds feel the need to guard and protect their owner and have been known to save their lives when doing so. However, in a domestic environment this should not be taken advantage of, since it can make your German Shepherd too protective and hostile to others as a result.
What Can Make German Shepherds Difficult to Train?
They Are Full of Energy
This is an important one to take note of as you must know what to expect if you’re thinking about owning a German Shepherd.
Their high levels of energy are not for everyone: if they aren’t exercised enough they can become exasperated and misbehave by destroying and chewing furniture, excessively barking, or craving attention in other ways. This can be especially problematic in German Shepherds, since they grow to be so big and strong.
If you are athletic in nature too, a German Shepherd could bring you copious amounts of joy by being your fitness companion.
Champion boxer Manny Pacquito takes his German Shepherd running every morning leading up to a fight, and George Foreman’s German Shepherd was the only one who could keep up with him when he reached superhuman levels of fitness!
Age can play a big part in how easy it is to train a German Shepherd. Older dogs may have picked up bad habits during their lifetime as a result of poor treatment, inconsistent training, or a complete lack thereof.
However, it is not always possible to train your German Shepherd from a puppy; if you acquired it in its adult life or it was a rescue dog, for example.
Depending on whether the German Shepherd is mildly or wildly misbehaved, it can be doubly as difficult to train an adult, since you must un-train and override their bad habits at the same time.
If you have simply never trained your German shepherd properly, though, and have decided to start in its adult life, it is still achievable if you are able to put in the time and are willing to take on the responsibility! They still have inherent attributes that make them easy to train, after all.
How to Train a German Shepherd
Here are a few tips and tricks that can have a big impact on your German Shepherds training development:
Being firm and confident with your demands will establish a hierarchy between you and your pup, and show them that you are the boss. Don’t mistake this for being aggressive though!
Start off Simple
German Shepherds are smart, but take it easy to begin with so they don’t become confused and overwhelmed. Use simple commands like “sit” or “stay” to start with, and reward with an enthusiastic tone and a smile!
Repeat – Once They Have Learnt, Don’t Stop!
Repetition is key, once your German Shepherd has learned something, you should carry on training it just like before so that it will never forget.
This is important for the breed as a whole, but particularly when training adult German Shepherds, or if your individual pup doesn’t get it right away.
Touch Your Pups Ears and Paws
Start touching your German Shepherd puppy’s sensitive areas, like their ears and paws, softly so they get used to being touched in these areas for the future.
This should help to aid frustration if they need to have their ears or paws checked by the vet, or simply if they are touched by others when petting.
If your German Shepherd pulls on its lead when you are walking it, it is probably because it is curious and wants to explore. However, you will want to alter that natural instinct in order to gain control and have your pup walk nicely on its leash.
When your pup pulls on its leash, stop walking and stand still. This will cause confusion, and it should turn around to look at you. Encourage your pup to walk towards you with enthusiasm, but do not pull on the leash to achieve this.When your pup comes towards you, show it some positive reinforcement and begin to walk again.
After doing this multiple times, your pup will become aware that the tension on the leash will cease walking altogether, and when the tension is released, the walking will resume again.
Food Bowl Aggression
If your German Shepherd growls when you come near its food bowl, or barks madly when you go to put the food bowl down, you may want to try these methods to stop it being so aggressive and possessive of its food:
When you make up a bowl of food for your German Shepherd, do not put down the bowl until the dog has stopped barking. This will teach them that they will not get their food until they stop barking and should eventually stop doing so altogether so that they can be fed faster.
If your German Shepherd is eating from its bowl and growls when you come near him, this is a sign of being territorial. To ease the dogs nervousness, try feeding them from your hands sometimes, or holding the bowl up for them to eat from. This will allow them to gain your trust as they begin to realise you are not going to compromise their food and aren’t a threat.
You shouldn’t use puppy pads or papers for any longer than advised, or else it will become harder for you to potty train them. To get your German Shepherd puppy started with their potty training, try these tips:
Get into a routine of taking them to do their business at the same time every day. Be this a short trip to the garden, or a short walk around the block (perhaps you don’t have a garden). Your German Shepherd will associate your command with doing their business and should get into a routine if you remain consistent.
Refrain from punishing your German Shepherd if it has an accident indoors. This is to be expected during the training process, and shouting or becoming aggressive will only break down their trust with you – they simply have not learnt what you are trying to teach them yet. Instead, interrupt their flow if you can, using your usual command for potty training – like “outside”. Pick them up if you need to.
Don’t forget to do your positive affirmations! It’s a great thing to see your German Shepherd following your commands, especially with potty training. If you let them know how impressed you are, they will be sure to seek that reaction out again as they know they have done a good job.
What to Avoid When Training a German Shepherd
Poor training can not only confuse a German Shepherd, but cause a breakdown of communication between itself and its owner. It will also create difficulty in the future if the training has to start over to erase bad habits that their pup has developed.
Don’t shelter your German Shepherd – Socialize it!
It can be easy to get carried away with sheltering a new puppy or dog, since new owners can often feel protective over their dog with regards to the outside world.
It’s essential for your German Shepherd pup to get used to their new home and feel comfortable. But it is really important to socialize them so that they don’t grow up to be hostile towards people outside of your home.
German Shepherds should be taken out as much as possible to areas with people around, so they get used to being around strangers and don’t see them as a threat. If they become too sheltered, their loyalty can make them overprotective and they will see threats where they don’t exist.
You should always consider the individuality of your German Shepherd though. If you feel their temperament would make them overwhelmed in a place with too many people, start off in a less crowded and more quiet area. Patience is key!
(Find out more about socialising your german shepherd.)
Being inconsistent in your training is one of the biggest mistakes you can make with your German Shepherd. For each trick or training activity, it is vital that you stick to one method. Don’t have multiple family members, for example, training your dog to do the same thing in different ways.
A solution to this would be to have a designated trainer for your German Shepherd, or ensure everyone in your family sticks to doing the same thing to avoid frustration for you and your pup!
Being aggressive to your German Shepherd is a recipe for disaster if you want it to listen to you. Making your dog afraid will diminish their trust towards you and cause a breakdown in communication. You should expect to be patient when training a German Shepherd so that you don’t get frustrated and antagonise them.
German Shepherds can be well tuned to your tone of voice and body language, so make sure you are always behaving positively towards them. This way they will enjoy training and want to engage with you in different activities.
(If you’ve got an aggressive german shepherd puppy, then find out what to do!)
German Shepherds are an amazing breed of dog, with a demonstrated history of intelligence, vigilance and loyalty towards their domestic and working companions. From a young age, most German Shepherds absorb commands like a sponge, so can be easily trained if their owner or trainer does so effectively and with enthusiasm.
As an adult, they can be harder to train as they may have picked up bad habits in their younger life. But it is certainly not impossible since their inherent characteristics align so well with obedience and motivation to perform well.
If you can afford to put in the time and effort to train a German Shepherd, you will be met with incredible reward in doing so. With the right methods and attitude, you could build a solid relationship with your German Shepherd, and it will be happy to obey your commands and be trained easily!