A decidedly handsome, athletic, and loyal breed, German Shepherds can make for a wonderful addition to your home. Learning how to discipline a German Shepherd puppy will go a long way towards ensuring everyone will enjoy this new addition to your family, including the dog itself.
These are extremely intelligent, energetic dogs. To that end, they can be very demanding for new owners. Setting a good foundation right from the start with sensible, compassionate training is simple and essential.
Let’s discuss everything you’re going to need to keep in mind with discipline for German Shepherd puppies.
How Do You Discipline A German Shepherd Puppy?
At the end of the day, training a German Shepherd puppy is NOT particularly difficult. Like many energetic/intelligent breeds, it simply requires patience, loving attention, a good reward system, and perhaps above all else, consistency.
Start Early And Stay The Path
Before you ever bring your German Shepherd puppy home, create a basic list of rules that you know you’re going to want your new friend to adhere to. For example, you probably don’t want them jumping on the furniture, anyone in your household, or visitors. From the moment your puppy comes home, you should have a consistent response to this type of behavior.
What you don’t want to do is start your puppy off with conflicting directions. This will only confuse them and make training more difficult over the long haul.
Reward-Centric Training Is DEFINITELY Wise
Remember, we’re talking about one of the brightest dog breeds around. With consistency in how you discipline your puppy, they are likely to start picking up your cues very quickly. You can emphasize your success in this regard by keeping a steady source of rewards and treats on hand.
When your puppy learns to sit by the door, waiting patiently to go for a walk, rewarding them with a treat can accomplish a lot. Over time, giving small snacks and words of praise will eventually show your puppy the difference between good and bad behavior.
Dog Toys Are Very Calming!
Erratic behavior is something many dog owners must contend with. This certainly applies to German Shepherd puppies. Start early on methods designed to redirect their attention during these situations.
To that end, dog toys are a perfect way to regain their attention.
German Shepherd puppies are going to be little bundles of chaos regardless. You can’t control that energy, and you’re only going to frustrate yourself if you try. Bone chew toys and rubber ball toys are good examples of tough dog toys that can stand up to the enthusiasm of your German Shepherd.
When To Say No And When It’s “Time Out” Time
A stern, clear tone is essential when saying no to your German Shepheard puppy’s bad behavior. Yelling is not necessary or appropriate. Speak firmly and distinctively and be ready to remove your dog from the space, if nothing else works.
This brings us to the subject of whether you should put a German Shepherd puppy on time out.
The short answer is yes, time-outs for German Shepherd puppies can be essential to the larger concern of how to discipline a German Shepherd puppy. This involves taking them to a different area for a couple of minutes and making an effort to redirect behavior. You don’t need to yell at them, take them to a dark or scary place, or anything that might include force.
Take them to a space with a puppy-safe baby gate to keep them contained. Again, this should only be for a couple of minutes. You do not need to scold them. Nor should you let them out immediately after they begin to whine. Wait a few seconds, no more than 20, until they have stopped whining. You don’t want to give them the impression that this behavior will eventually be rewarded.
Try To Reward And “Punish” When “In The Moment”
One of the most important strategies for disciplining your German Shepherd puppy comes down to catching them in the moment. This extends to both good and bad behavior.
As intelligent as they are, we are still ultimately talking about an animal with a short attention span. No one is saying that if you come home, and the couch has been damaged, you shouldn’t say or do anything. However, the best results are driven by immediate responses.
In other words, if your German Shepherd puppy is doing something correct, such as calmly resting, or playing with a toy you gave them, reward them with a small treat. Likewise, if you catch your dog doing something inappropriate, respond immediately.
Stick to the methods you’ve implemented for training and discipline.
Positive Reinforcement Vs Negative Reinforcement
We’ve touched on this a little bit already, but it’s worth taking a second look at why positive reinforcement is so much stronger and better for training than negative reinforcement.
In a nutshell, positive reinforcement turns a new puppy into a happy, confident, and well-trained adult German Shepherd. Negative reinforcement can create stress and anxiety in your puppy, which can lead to a plethora of problematic behaviors when they get older.
However, negative reinforcement can also extend to simply removing a treat or reward, or perhaps gently correcting the dog in their behavior. Gently correcting means exactly that. No hitting or yelling whatsoever. No lengthy time-outs. No extended periods of being tied up or simply left outside.
Positive reinforcement is always preferred. Let’s get into exactly what we mean by positive reinforcement.
How To Use Positive Reinforcement Effectively
The steps involved in positive reinforcement are not too complicated. All you need to remember is the value of consistency. These steps should be maintained as often as possible. Changes in your positive or even negative reinforcement can confuse a puppy, undoing your hard work in short order.
We’ve already broken down how negative reinforcement with German Shepherd puppies should be handled. Here are the steps involved in discipline for German Shepherd puppies from the positive reinforcement side:
- You give your German Shepherd a command. This can include anything from “Sit!” to “Stay!”
- The next step in how to discipline a German Shepherd puppy will be to wait for the dog to respond to the command. As you can imagine, with puppies, you shouldn’t expect a perfect response every single time. If you did, obviously, training wouldn’t take very long.
- If the dog responds correctly, immediately give them a small treat and praise. Hugging them is also a nice way to positively reinforce their behavior.
- Eventually, the response will become inherent, and you won’t need to give them praise or a treat every single time.
The benefits of positive reinforcement for German Shepherd puppies should be evident at this point. Once again, the most powerful puppy training tools at your disposal are going to be patience and consistency. Combine them with a heavy dose of love!
At this point, you may still be asking yourself what sort of results you can reasonably expect.
What You Should Expect From Your German Shepherd Puppy
In a broad sense, what should you come to expect from a German Shepherd puppy? What behaviors are going to define what you need to address on the training/discipline side of things?
Here are a few things that EVERY experienced German Shepherd owner will tell you
German Shepherds Are Very Much Their Own Breeds
If you don’t have any significant experience with dogs, German Shepherds are still a fine choice. However, understand that this breed is quite unique. Some people assume all dogs of this size and appearance are along the lines of golden retrievers, or some sort of standard where the dog possesses an extremely friendly temperament and loves strangers.
For one thing, German Shepherds can be highly guarded around strangers. This is one of the reasons why some owners like them from a reliable guard dog standpoint. As a rule, German Shepherds show the most loyalty to their owner or family.
Beware Of Bitey Babies!
This is a little bit of an exaggeration. You almost certainly do not need to fear this aspect of many German Shepherds’ behavior. Still, they are one of the most notorious breeds for biting and chewing things, particularly objects. This will be an ongoing issue in their puppy stage.
Remember when we suggested dog toys that can stand up to lots of chewing and biting? This would be the reason why. They love to play, and that can get a little rough when they’re young.
If you have small, equally rambunctious children in your home, this behavior is worth keeping in mind. You can still get this dog, but don’t lose sight of common German Shepherd behaviors either.
Many Puppies Are Shy At The Start
While German Shepherds can be very sweet, outgoing animals, these behaviors still must be taught to a certain extent. Many German Shepherd puppies are very shy when first brought home. This is normal, but it’s up to you to make sure this doesn’t carry over into adulthood.
Understanding how to discipline a German Shepherd puppy means consistent socializing. Interacting with your puppy on a regular basis should be something you continue to do well into adulthood.
Unchecked shyness and anxiety, without proper attention, will eventually turn to highly aggressive behavior. That is much more difficult to change.
They’re Always In Your Business!
German Shepherds are also marked by their curiosity. This helps their likability and charm a great deal. It can also create a somewhat uncomfortable adjustment for anyone who isn’t used to this sort of thing.
Part of the loyalty of a German Shepherd is its desire to keep its humans safe at all times. This means it will have the tendency to want to follow you wherever you go.
This isn’t a big deal per say. Just keep this in mind and remember the benefits of positive reinforcement for those occasions in which your German Shepherd wants to tag along but can’t.
Dog Hair EVERYWHERE!
Discipline for German Shepherd puppies also includes embracing certain qualities you simply cannot change.
For example, did you know there’s another popular name for German Shepherds?
Some dog breeds shed much more than others. While German Shepherds aren’t the “worst” in this regard, they still tend to leave a lot of hair behind wherever they go. Their double coat means finding hair in your clothing, furniture, floor, and elsewhere.
There really isn’t much you can do about this, so make sure you are completely at peace with finding a variety of hairs all throughout your home.
They Love To Roughhouse!
We’ve mentioned before how energetic and playful they can be. Beyond the chewing/biting habit that is particularly prominent with the puppies, you’re going to find that in general, they just like to play rough.
While this is not a behavior you can completely do away with, you can still set limits for what is and isn’t okay. Steady breaks and timeouts will go a long way towards safeguarding against just how involved in their play this breed can become.
This isn’t malicious. They just need you to keep an eye on them!
These Dogs Are So, So Smart
The intelligence of this breed is really worth emphasizing. Why? Because if you’re intimidated at the prospect of having to train them, you can relax in the knowledge that they will almost certainly take to that training at once.
Requiring fewer repetitions of your training and disciplinary measures than many other breeds, German Shepherds are very easy to train for those who understand the challenges right from the beginning. In addition to that loyalty we’ve already discussed, they also have a tendency to be very eager to make their humans happy with them.
Potential Health Issues For German Shepherds
Degenerative Myelopathy was once a disease that was exclusively associated with German Shepherds, despite the fact that it could impact other breeds. While every breed will come with certain health issues, this seems to be a particularly unpleasant reality for German Shepherds.
The good news is that potential health issues for German Shepherds are not the end of the world. Be on the lookout for conditions ranging from simple but persistent allergies to more serious conditions such as osteosarcoma and hemangioma.
As long as you have a good vet with formidable GSD experience, you’ll be prepared for just about anything.
Keeping Your German Shepherd Puppy Mentally Engaged
Boredom is the last thing you want from your German Shepherd puppy or any German Shepherd at any particular age. With how to discipline your German Shepherd puppy, one of the most effective things you can do is make sure they are being mentally engaged as much as you can.
Even an activity as simple as playing hide and go seek with their snacks can be useful. Schutzhund, Disc Dog, and Flyball are three good physical activities that also keep their brains moving.
Find games for your puppy to enjoy early on.
Why Is Your German Shepherd Puppy Not Listening?
“Why isn’t my German Shepherd puppy listening to me?”
Here are some straightforward answers to this common question
They Need More Training!
The most logical reason is likely the fact that they simply do not understand your commands yet. Just be patient!
They Need More Exercise!
A lack of exercise in German Shepherds, who require quite a bit, can lead to hyperactivity. This creates a state where it can be that much harder for them to listen to you.
They Fear Punishment!
Abusive punishment can create a German Shepherd who fears YOU, as opposed to learning that the behavior is incorrect. If they develop a fear of you, they probably won’t listen to you.
Too Many Commands?
If you are repeating a command to your GSP, and they aren’t listening, the solution isn’t to just keep repeating the same command. Simplify the order as much as possible, and make sure to reward them with a treat for listening.
If you take your German Shepherd puppy or even dog to an unfamiliar location, particularly one that is outdoors, they can become very overwhelmed very quickly. Remember that this breed is known for being extremely energetic. For this reason, many experts suggest training and familiarizing your puppy in a variety of locations early.
What Should You Avoid Doing?
By now, you should have a fairly strong idea of what you want to do with discipline for German Shepherd puppies. It is also worth mentioning that obedience school can be a great way to get the assistance you need if you find yourself struggling to any degree.
Patience and compassion cannot be stressed enough. Let’s take a final look at what you should absolutely avoid when training or disciplining your German Shepherd puppy.
Avoid Negative Training Strategies
What do we mean by negative training strategies for German Shepherd puppies? As you may have already guessed, the strategies that involve “dominating” or instilling fear into your German Shepherd really aren’t going to do them any favors. If anything, it will cause deep emotional scarring and profound distress.
“Dominating” strategies also includes the use of shock collars.
Even if they obey you, the dog will be increasingly marked by anxiety and mistrust in their human. That isn’t very enjoyable for anyone involved.
Under no circumstances should you “punish” your German Shepherd by isolating them from yourself or anyone else. Brief time-outs are fine, but these should always be done under your direct supervision.
Most German Shepherds simply want to be in the company of the human or humans they love so much. Keep this fact in mind, when you look for ways to discourage your dog from doing something they shouldn’t be doing.
Avoid Giving Up
When you take good care of your German Shepherd, the result can be years of friendship, companionship, and enjoyment for both you and your GSD. Your German shepherd is looking to you to take care of them. This means they need you in their corner every step of the way.
If you find the training to be too difficult, consider some professional assistance. We have to drive home the value of patience and consistency. As long as you’re willing to remember those qualities, the odds of even wanting to give up are going to be pretty slim.
As we wrap up this complete guide to how to discipline a German Shepherd puppy, let’s try to cover any remaining questions about this that you may have:
What Age Do German Shepherds Become Aggressive?
As hormones fluctuate, and GSDs become more sexually mature, you can expect your German Shepherd to begin showing signs of aggression in the 3-to-6-month age range. A professional breeder or other behavioral expert may be necessary to help you determine if this is the case.
You can also avoid a lot of this by remembering all of the steps we have covered today.
Are German Shepherd Puppies Hard To Train?
The answer to this question, in terms of successful discipline for German Shepherd puppies practices, is yes and no. Mostly no. Simply remember what these puppies expect of you, as well as how exceptionally intelligent they are.
What Happens If You Hit A German Shepherd?
From everything we’ve discussed in this guide to German Shepherd puppy discipline and care, it should be very apparent to you what will happen, if you hit a German Shepherd.
At best, you will physically and emotionally devastate your GSD. They will not understand what you’re doing or why, and they will become anxious and miserable.
At worst, they will strike back.
There is no question that German Shepherds are a wonderful, curious, and phenomenal breed in every possible regard. They can be a loyal best friend that you can enjoy for years to come.
With all of the suggestions and tips suggested above, you are now in the best possible decision to decide if you should adopt your own German Shepherd puppy.
What do you think? Are you up for such a rewarding challenge?