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Dogs are wonderful creatures. I have met many people who don’t like dogs or fear dogs, but many admit that inherently they are loving creatures. They serve as loyal companions and hard workers in our societies, being equally at home dozing by a fireplace or serving those with disabilities who need help navigating our cities.
However, that doesn’t mean that they are immune to bad behavior, and we have to teach them how to act in our homes. This gets all the more difficult when you have to train dogs to do specific things, you can’t just have an enlightening discussion about it.
For different breeds of dog, the level of difficulty varies. One breed might be very obedient, but have trouble understanding commands, another might catch on to your commands easily, but choose to ignore them for something more fun.
So, where do German Shepherds fall into this? They are one of the most popular breeds of dog owned in the world today, but are they easy to train? In this article, we will look at German Shepherds and determine whether or not training them will be a walk in the park or an unrelenting burden.
Training German Shepherds
As with any dog, there are pros and cons to training a German Shepherd, with the pros mainly to do with their intelligence and the cons being to do with their intelligence as well.
What Makes German Shepherds Easy To Train?
German Shepherds are originally from a herding group of dogs, as their ancestors were originally used to protect and herd sheep in difficult terrain. Thanks to this long history as a work dog, Shepherds have fantastic instincts and can fall into many roles that we have designated for dogs to work.
One of the obvious roles would be sheep herding, but they equally apply their instincts to guard work, watch work, guidance and hunting. If you need a dog to work on land you own, a German Shepherd would be a good one to use.
Given their history of working with people, it is only natural that German Shepherds be intelligent. They need to be able to pick up commands quickly and understand them easily, if they are to work with or for humans.
As such, Shepherds tend to learn very easily and will understand and obey commands within only a couple of repetitions, rather than the 25 to 40 repetitions it takes a dog of average intelligence.
One thing that German Shepherds are is loyal. Once they have found a family, they are usually incredibly attached to them and are actually quite difficult to rehome. This loyalty means that they are incredibly eager to please their owners, which is very useful when training a dog.
While training, they will look to see whether you are happy with their behavior and, thanks to their high intelligence, it is easy to convey when you are pleased with them or when you are disappointed in them, which is perfect for stamping out problematic behavior early on.
This eagerness to please make Shepherds dogs that are also quite easily motivated. You can easily make a Shepherd excited about a task by simply acting excited about the task yourself.
Apart from this, it is easy to find out what motivates your Shepherd through training. Do they respond better to treats, scratches, or praise? A Shepherd will let you know and once you know, it makes it much easier to train your dog.
Lastly, a German Shepherd is a highly determined and highly energetic dog. They need constant mental and physical stimulation to be satisfied. If they don’t get this stimulation, then they can be moody or destructive, which is bad news all round, especially for any dog toys in the vicinity.
However, this means if you give them a task, then a Shepherd will see it through to the end. They may get annoyed or over eager at points, but they normally won’t quit the task if it interests them.
What Makes German Shepherds Difficult To Train?
Unfortunately, the same traits that make a German Shepherd a delight to train can also be a hindrance to their training in the right circumstances. For starters, that intelligence can quickly turn to cunning and your Shepherd may start trying to take over your position as the handler or dominant person.
They need to know that you are calling the shots and that they need to give some respect, otherwise they might try and walk all over you.
If you live a life that involves a lot of structure, then this should be somewhat easy, but if you live a life that is more flexible with different times for things each day, this might be more difficult. Even if your life lacks structure, make sure your Shepherd’s has it, and training them should be a lot easier.
In fact, this structure is crucial to training a German Shepherd. They are creatures that need consistency, whether that be in routine or discipline, make sure that it is consistent every time.
For example, if your German Shepherd is not allowed on the sofa during mealtimes, make sure to enforce this every time, otherwise they will begin to undermine your authority and maybe start to become unruly.
Another thing that makes German Shepherd’s difficult to train is their need for firmer training methods. Shepherds thrive off praise and so positive reinforcement is a perfect way to train them, however they are also very confident and strong-willed dogs.
They can be prone to ignoring commands or doing their own thing if bored. The best way to solve this is to try and encourage them back to the task at hand, but if that fails, you are going to have to be firmer in your commands.
This does not mean to be abusive or violent to your dog, which you should never be under any circumstances. Instead, you just need to be firm and authoritative in your tone and never back down from a command that you have given.
If your dog is continuing to ignore you, keep at it and refuse to move on until they have completed the command. Remember, you are in control, not them.
Training Areas For German Shepherds
Most dogs struggle in learning one form of training or another. This is not a problem for German Shepherds, as their intelligence, strong bodies, and endurance make them all round very able dogs.
In truth, they are used very heavily by police and military services because of these three traits and have been very successful in both institutions. Obedience training comes easily to German Shepherds, and they understand basic commands very well, if you wanted to you could even start training them slightly earlier than the 6-month point where people usually begin obedience training.
The constant need for stimulation makes them perfect for learning tricks and recreational activities, as these both require an abundance of energy and mental ability, both of which Shepherds have. The only area where they would struggle a little is in behavior modification.
Every dog does something that we wish it didn’t. Licking the sofa, eating shoes, rolling in poop, every dog does something that is not well liked by us. Shepherds are no different, but their strong wills make it a little more difficult to correct than other dogs.
With time and effort, these traits should disappear rather quickly though, yet make sure to keep an eye on your dog in case they resurface at any point.
German Shepherds are popular as a breed for a reason. They are smart, bundles of barely contained energy that love their owners and families dearly. These wonderful traits can also be problematic when training them, though, as being a ‘smart, bundle of barely contained energy’ normally does not make you easy to train.
However, with a firm hand and lots of positive reinforcement, Shepherds can become the most well-behaved family pets or the hardest working of working dogs. If you are planning on training a Shepherd, make sure your dog respects you, and you should be fine.