We handle a buttload of German Shepherds. Almost every single day we work with at least one or two of them. As an intelligent and sensitive guarding breed many, many owners screw things up with their GSDs. (Yes, I’m giving it to you straight like I always do and like a dog would) In my opinion many professional trainers screw it up too through “over training” (more on that later)!
Here are 4 Great Tips for the German Shepherd dog owner:
- Never coddle the weak. All of nature teaches us this and yet a lot of dog owners refuse to learn it. If you have a nervous pup or a skittish older Shepherd coddling it and talking softly to it at all the wrong times will only serve to grow the fearful state of mind and misbehavior. GSDs come with extra nerves so they could potentially be alert watch dogs but way too many owners let this grow to out of control proportions. Keep in mind the dog’s own birth mother and father would NEVER coddle! GSDs give birth to too many pups to do it. And they do not talk as much as humans – instead, they prefer action. Do you think you’re a better canine communicator and dog leader than the pup’s own natural parents? Do you have dog instincts? Can you run 32-45 mph? Do you have an incredible sense of touch, smell, and taste? Et Cetera Et Cetera…NO – you don’t – so please don’t presume to know more than mom or dad dog and to then dramatically change how they (and almost all animal parents) would do things with their young. INSTEAD of coddling place your German Shepherd into confident and peaceful postures familiar to all canines.
- Don’t over train. If you have a GSD then you know a lot of training comes fairly easy when compared to many other breeds. The GSD is definitely smart and highly observant. Sometimes they are too observant and too smart! Do not over train and over ritualize everything. In fact, the only thing I really want to set a rigid schedule for is feeding and elimination. Everything else I do with my German Shepherd should be about flexibility and sociability (with the caveat of raising and training a professional working dog – which most folks do not do). Over training your GSD just leads them into manipulating your training and controlling the same tired, stupid routine that you set. Maybe you were impressed at first because the dog knew precisely when you were going on your walk but now there’s rudeness involved because the dog is hyping everything up prior to your getting the leash out of the closet, spinning in circles, whining, etc. He knows where the leash is kept and that initial hyperactivity and rudeness can easily lead to exploding out the front door, and that then leads to dragging you off the porch, which then leads into pulling on the leash while walking, and then maybe even going crazy at every dog or person your dog sees! And all this trouble actually stems from your training and you having your GSD perform the same thing each day! Change it up, buttercup.
- Socialize like crazy. Socialization does not just mean taking a puppy class at the local Petsmart. Socialization is the gradual desensitization of our dogs’ super senses. Socialization is any and every new experience, new location, new touches, smells, tastes, sights, and sounds. Think about the vehicles, the beaches, the mountains, the cities, the country, the children, the old folks, the other dogs, the neighborhood cats, the squirrels, the garbage trucks, the Home Depot, the Costco parking lot, being left behind, or loading up and coming with…genuine socialization is infinitely more important to raising a healthy dog than going to the vet, than attending formal training, than grooming…socialization is and must be King! If you socialize your GSD enough with calm, firm, and sometimes playful leadership your Shepherd will absolutely have the best life and love you the more for it. Your GSD should NOT only love your family – that’s great in a literal war zone but everywhere else it sucks. Don’t let yourself, your family, your dog and all society down…socialize for success.
- Learn your dog’s language and use the 4 Pillars for great behavioral results. All dogs share an authentic and universal language. I’d highly recommend learning it from the dogs themselves. To aid you in this observational quest to learn real dog language my books are always available for purchase. Dogs can be incredibly manipulative – my books are there to help you identify and then stop those manipulations which then can let the better parts of your German Shepherd’s nature (and none of the nasty) come to fruition and full maturity. (All dogs featured belong to former clients)