You need to learn how to discipline a German Shepherd puppy early on or you might regret it later. Letting your GSD puppy get away with bad behaviors when they are a puppy will carry on with them into adulthood. It is much better to nip them in the bud now so that you have a well-behaved dog later that knows how to act around other people and pets.
You want to discipline your German Shepherd puppy by distracting them when they are doing something wrong, redirecting their bad behavior to something more appealing, and then rewarding them for their good behavior.
Sounds easy right? Well, each dog is different and certain ages will be harder to train than others. Whatever the case, you can use these same methods to discipline and train any GSD. Just stay patient and use positive reinforcement for the best results.
3 Steps To Discipline A German Shepherd Puppy
Most breeders and owners use the same positive reinforcement model for discipline and training because it works. You always want to reward good behavior and not punish bad behavior. These 3 simple steps outline the process and should get your young German Shepherd to behave appropriately.
1. Distract Them From The Bad Behavior With Positive Words
As a puppy, your German Shepherd will be getting into all sorts of trouble. From barking, to biting, to chewing, your GSD will need consistent discipline to curb these unwanted behaviors.
The first thing you want to do when they are behaving badly is distract them with some verbal word cues. The key to this method is using positive words and an encouraging tone to your voice.
Click with your tongue or use words like “puppy.” Avoid negative words like “bad” or “no.” You just want to get their attention and not scare or frighten them.
You also never want to yell at your dog. Studies have shown that is causes long-term psychological damage. It makes them more pessimistic and stressed.
“Our results show that companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short- and the long-term level,”Big Think – Yelling at your dog can cause long-term psychological damage
If they seem scared from your cue, try a word and tone that is more optimistic. Once you have found a good word cue, it is time to move on to the redirection.
2. Redirect Their Behavior To Something More Appealing
Once you have successfully learned to grab their attention quickly from the bad behavior, it is time to redirect it to something more positive.
To do this you are going to have to give your German Shepherd something to do that they would find more interesting or fun than the bad behavior.
This could be tough. I mean what is more fun than chewing on mommy or daddy’s shoes? Well, there are a couple of obvious go-tos.
The first and most obvious choice is a tasty treat. You can have a small bag of healthy lean treats ready for the occasion. Just don’t overdo it on the treats.
Another option is to offer them their favorite chew toy which shouldn’t be hard if they are already in the mood to chew.
You can also grab their attention quickly with the sound of a squeaky toy.
3. Reward Them For Their Good Behavior
To reinforce them switching from the bad behavior to the good behavior, you need to reward them. This discipline, when taught consistently, will teach them over time that the reward outweighs the bad conduct.
There are several ways to reward your GSD once they redirect their attention towards you. One of the best ways to reward them is with praise or a treat.
Let them know they did the correct thing by abandoning their negative conduct and redirecting it towards the new positive behavior. Once they oblige, praise them by saying “good boy or girl.”
You can use other forms of positive reinforcement as well including petting or playing different fun games.
Continue all 3 of these steps on a consistent basis. Always try to stay positive and never scold or yell at your dog.
Eventually, you and your dog will build a good strong bond and your GSD will learn its boundaries.
What If They Won’t Stop The Negative Behavior?
Unfortunately, some pups may be more stubborn than others and continue acting inappropriately. Stay calm as this is normal.
German Shepherds are smart but discipline and training takes time. If you have tried the above 3 steps a couple of times to no avail, it is time to change up the strategy.
A short timeout is a great way to calm your puppy down and stop the acting out. However, it should be used sparingly and not everyday or as a punishment.
Try to keep it to a minimum of 2-3 times a week for the best results. Only use it when absolutely necessary like if you have guests over and your GSD is jumping on them or they won’t stop nipping or biting someone.
Before you give them a timeout, you will need a safe space like their crate or an empty room that is partitioned off from the rest of the house. Don’t shut the door on them and make sure that they can still see you.
When they act up, gently say “timeout” and take them to their crate or room to calm down. Leave them there for no more than a couple of minutes.
Once they have stopped whining, you can let them rejoin the family. Don’t make it a big deal so they don’t think they are in trouble.
If they are still whining after two minutes, wait until they can stop whining for 3-5 seconds before letting them out. This will teach them that they have to stop wining to get out.
Pro Tip: Make sure that everyone else in the household is being consistent with discipline and timeouts. Everyone needs to participate for it to be effective.
Ignore Your German Shepherd To Discipline For Certain Behaviors
Naturally, a German Shepherd will eventually stop certain behaviors once they realize there is no reward for them.
So, in order to discipline your GSD and prevent certain unwanted conduct, you can ignore them. However, this works best with a specific set of actions and won’t work for everything.
These behaviors are called “self-reinforcing” meaning the more that they get what they want, the more they will partake in the negative behavior.
- Demand barking to go outside for example
- Jumping on you or other people
- Pawing or nudging you with their nose
Before we discuss how to ignore these behaviors, it is important to realize that the best way to avoid this type of conduct is by being proactive and training them the right way to do things.
However, ignoring your GSD can be effective if combined with a negative punishment. Here are some good examples of how to respond correctly to your dog by ignoring their unwanted behavior:
Example 1: Your German Shepherd demand barks trying to get your attention. You ignore him or her by looking away, turning your back or leaving the area.
Example 2: Your German Shepherd is jumping on you for attention. You ignore him or her by turning around and walking away, removing the attention.
Example 3: Your German Shepherd is pawing or nudging you with its nose. You get up and walk away leaving the room.
The reason this works is because you aren’t giving them the attention they desire. Avoid making eye contact or using vocal commands when you ignore their misconduct. This can reinforce the bad behavior.
Unfortunately, a lot of times simply ignoring them isn’t enough and they will escalate the behavior in what is known as an “extinction burst.” In other words, if your dog is barking, the barking may get louder and more insistent.
This is when things get tricky and patience comes in. Even then, it will be hard for some owners to wait it out while their puppy barks repeatedly at high decibels.
Fun Fact: The loudest bark ever recorded by a German Shepherd was 108 decibels back in 2009 by a dog named Daz Lightening. That’s equivalent to a live rock concert.
We recommend using ear plugs to protect your ears from the onslaught of barks that you may be exposed to when attempting to ignore them.
It can also be very difficult to ignore them when they are jumping up and down on you or your family members.
As we mentioned earlier, being proactive is better than being reactive. That is why proactive training is used to prevent the misconduct before it ever happens.
Dos And Don’ts Of Disciplining A German Shepherd Puppy
There are lots of dos and don’ts when it comes to disciplining your German Shepherd puppy. There are certain things that will benefit your dog and others that you should avoid completely.
How you train your puppy now will determine the adult they become. This list, compiled from experts and owners, should give you some good guidelines for training your GSD puppy properly.
Dos of Discipline:
- Be consistent with your training: Make sure you use the same verbal and hand cues every time you train. You don’t want your dog to get confused. Also make sure that the rest of the family is using the same cues.
- Do something light and fun before and after training: Have some fun play time before and after you train. It should help to lighten up the mood and prepare your GSD for the hard work. It should also increase your chance of success.
- Give commands only once on most occasions: For the most part, you only want to give the command a single time. Although there can be occasions when you can use the command multiple times. In that case, make sure to pause for 2-3 seconds between.
- Train when you are feeling good and positive: Your demeanor and mood can have an effect on the outcome of the training. When you are in a good mood, it will rub off on your dog and make the discipline easier. You don’t want to get angry or frustrated.
- Use short quick training sessions: Instead of one long 30 minute or hour training session, break them up into smaller 5-15 minute sessions 2-3 times a day. A German Shepherd is smart but their brain needs time to absorb and soak up new information.
Don’ts of Discipline:
- Don’t ever yell at your dog: As we mentioned earlier in the article. It has negative long-term effects on their personality and stress levels. It will increase their anxiety making them more skittish and harder to train because there will be less trust.
- Don’t ever hit your dog: You should never use physical abuse during discipline or training. It will make your GSD afraid and scared of you. This will also make it harder to train and diminish the amount of trust between you and your dog.
- Don’t give your dog a command if you can’t immediately enforce it: Make sure that your dog is close enough to obey the command. If he or she is too far away and can’t hear the command or just ignores it, it won’t be very effective.
- Don’t rub your GSD’s nose in his or her excrement: It can be very frustrating when your dog goes potty in the house. But be patient and refrain from sticking his or her nose in it to teach them a lesson.
- Don’t punish your dog after the bad behavior: If your German Shepherd chews up the furniture but you weren’t their to witness it, don’t punish him later. You must discipline your dog during the act to be effective.
What Age Should You Start To Discipline A German Shepherd Puppy?
You can start to discipline using positive reinforcement when a German Shepherd puppy is 8-12 weeks old. You also want to focus on crate training, house training and socialization at this early stage in their growth.
However, you will want to wait until your puppy is 6 months old to start obedience training. You should try to teach your GSD at least two new commands every month.
Disciplining your German Shepherd isn’t going to be easy. It is going to take a lot of patience and perseverance. However, GSDs are highly intelligent and fast learners which should make life easier on you than some other breeds.
Be consistent and train them a little each day. If you get overwhelmed, you can always hire a professional trainer in your area. They can help you with basic obedience and commands.
Please leave a comment and let us know what you think!
Have you had any success with certain techniques not listed in the article. Let us know! We would love to hear your personal tips and story!