Training German Shepherds

By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015

Are German Shepherd Dogs easy to train?

Because this breed has such a stellar reputation as a smart and capable working dog, you might assume that training a German Shepherd would be very easy. But really, that might or might not be true. Individual German Shepherds can be so different from each other that predicting whether any given German Shepherd will be easy to train isn't, well, easy!

I've had the pleasure of owning and training (and loving) three German Shepherds who were very different from each other. Kelly was smart as a whip, but also dominant, meaning she wanted to be the boss, so she would use her intelligence to figure out clever ways of getting out of what I wanted her to do! Training a German Shepherd like Kelly can be challenging if you don't know what you're doing.

My sweet Luke, on the other hand, didn't have a dominant bone in his oversized easygoing body. (That's Luke in the photo, with me when I was young – those were the days!). Luke was a "good ol' boy" who always tried to please, always tried to do the right thing, even when he couldn't quite remember what the right thing was. Luke, you see, was what you might call a slow learner. Training a German Shepherd like Luke isn't difficult, but does require time and patient repetition.

My third German Shepherd, Gretchen, was moderately intelligent and moderately willing to please, but came from a working line of high-energy German Shepherds bred to be protection dogs, schutzhund dogs, and police dogs. Training a German Shepherd like Gretchen requires that you provide a LOT of daily activity (physical and mental) because these high-drive dogs have considerable energy they need to vent. Otherwise, they become

too much to handle.

I've also been involved in training, oh, probably a hundred German Shepherds owned by other people. Some of these German Shepherds were virtually perfect "hero dogs" – handsome, noble, intelligent, responsive. Others were so unstable that it made me want to weep. Long-time obedience instructor and behavioral consultants (like myself) have seen far too many German Shepherds with neurotic behaviors, especially aggression, skittishness, and extreme fearfulness. Training these German Shepherds takes patience and skill, and usually the assistance of a professional trainer.

So when you ask, "How easy is it – training German Shepherd Dogs?" my answer is, "A good German Shepherd with a stable temperament is one of the most capable and trainable breeds in all of dogdom. But how "easy" it will be to train him depends on the temperament and personality of the individual dog, plus your own dog training skills."

That's where I come in. Keep reading my dog training articles (and hopefully buy my book, "Teach Your Dog 100 English Words") and I will help you train your German Shepherd to be well-mannered and well-behaved. I've been working with dogs for 35+ years, as a dog trainer, canine psychologist, breed advisor, and author of 15 books about dogs.

Dog Training – What Works, and What Doesn't

Some dog training methods are based on what makes the OWNER feel good, rather than what on actually makes sense to the dog. For example, "positive-only" dog training is a big fad right now. Now, treats can be great motivators for training German Shepherds, but if your dog will only obey for a treat, then HE is in charge of his obedience, not you. [read more]

Teach Your German Shepherd To Respect You

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