Dogs are an amazing and loyal creature who could act as a caretaker and guard you, your kids, home, possessions by risking their lives and wanting only love and attention in return. Out of many breeds, German Shepherds are conventional when it comes to safeguarding and protection.
As the name implies, this family of dogs originated in Germany and has a prominent characteristic of a ‘shepherd’ or sheepherder. This is the main reason German Shepherds are raised and kept as police dogs and guard dogs.
For centuries they have served as excellent war dogs, military dogs, police dogs, watch dogs, guide dogs for the blind and rescue dogs. Almost every German family treasures it as a loving pet. They have an average lifespan of 10-12 years if unaffected by common dog diseases. Reaching upto 23-25 inches in height, these well-proportioned dogs possess upright ears and a dominating stance and stature. Average weight measures about 95 pounds (approximately 41 kilograms).
Before bringing one home, search for reputable breeders. Poorly bred dogs are prone to be victims of anxiety and depression. German Shepherds are smart and easy to train; They are fond of children and other pets if raised with them. Large and powerful, they have strong guarding instincts and are fantastic in protection and patrolling. It is important to consume their high energy level in a positive manner.
Their versatility requires an active lifestyle, and more or less 40 minutes of daily exercise sessions would keep them agile and happy. Sometimes German Shepherds become high-strung and nervous due to reasons such as poor socialization or inadequate training; to avoid this, it is compulsory to provide them with ample time and training for serving the purpose and behave like a good dog!
This article caters to some golden learning methods of how to train a German shepherd if you want them to act as watchdogs and only attack on command when needed.
Step 1: Take baby steps
It is a common knowledge that majority of pups are kept as pets rather than guard dogs but we expect them to act as one if a situation arises, which is quite unfair. Your dog needs undivided attention and vigorous training to become a watchdog. And this has to be done gradually and naturally because each animal learns at its own pace. It is also advisable to refer to a few books or consult a reinforcement trainer for expert advice.
Even though this breed has innate guarding abilities and is famous for being the most intelligent, you should still use baby steps in your training in addition to serious, positive instructions from a trainer or breeder; which would ensure that your dog does not become nervous or aggressive. Misguided attempts or abusive body language make them go wild and uncontrollable.
Step 2: Be a good leader
Your GSD look up to you for guidance. Know your worth and become a good leader for your dog. It will spontaneously reflect in its behavior. This does not mean implementing alpha leadership because your dog recognizes the fact that you are not a dog or an alpha. Develop an environment of trust, comfort and safety for your pooch when it comes to following you and your guidelines in whatever situation.
Step 3: Make them socialize
Dogs are aggressive creatures. So select your guardian mutt with qualities such as courage, friendliness, sobriety, stability and clear-headedness; to further educate and bring him up about protection and shepherding. Just like children, training at a tender age proves to be effective.
To make them distinguish between a normal and an endangered situation, you need to take your German shepherds for socialization. Travel with them, walk in unusual, strange places at a quite time especially at night and simultaneously allow them to meet people in parks or crowded places.
This practice would naturally inculcate in them a sense of recognition- how to differentiate strangers and passer bys and if there is a genuine threat of danger. A dog that hasn’t been well socialized is likely to be shy or fearful of new environments and may take flight or even bite out of anxiety.
Step 4: Sign up for an obedience training class
An essential part of training; teach basic commands through enrolling them in obedience class at the earliest. These include learning how to come to you, sit, and stand or lie down. Your German shepherd must know to be obedient and have a clear understanding of instructions asked of it.
Although it’s a task that needs to be taken seriously, positive reinforcement must be instilled while making them to be dutiful and obliging at your beck and call. Rewarding with a cookie or their favorite snack, appreciating by patting on back or even praising them verbally will serve the purpose. This also ensures a fun learning and bonding time with you. Punishing them for mistakes is like loading grenades into a 90 pound mongrel with brains and canines of its own.
Step 5: Make them stop barking on command
Firstly, check for any unnecessary items or objects in your yard or household must be removed which could stimulate barking. Then start coaching on how to cease barking on your command. To avoid the common barking nuisance, it is especially important that they understand to stop growling as soon as you order them to. A fulfilled “Quiet” or “Enough” command must be followed by immediate praise and a small treat.
Simultaneously teach them to “Speak” or “Bark” with a reward in some other way. This practice will give you control over their barking out of nowhere or at anybody unfamiliar.
Step 6: Encourage barking on strangers at your house
Motivate and let your German Shepherds know that they are in fact doing you a favor by announcing arrival of strangers at their owner’s property. To f boost up their confidence and further develop this trait; take a good look at whom your pup’s snarling, applaud at the courageous act then give the “Quiet/Enough” command to make them silent. However, do not encourage this trait away from home. Your German shepherd must identify that being outside among unfamiliar people and other animals does not trigger any kind of warning and alertness. This way they will learn to be unconcerned about neutral, friendly outsiders or bystanders.
Step 7: Enact intrusion
Try setting up the practice drill by creating a mock scenario. Ask a friend or someone you know to come by your place (note that your GSD should not be familiar with him/her) and enact intrusion. As soon as your pooch starts barking the trespasser must look at it and then flee while you hold it by appreciating this encounter. If convenient, execute this step in evening so that your dog adapts to darkness. But do not allow your pet to chase the stranger. Reward with a treat for its accurate and timely response. And ask him to calm down as soon as the potential ‘attacker’ disappears.
Step 8: Let your friend know what it is protecting
Walk your German shepherd on a leash around the perimeter of your house or yard. The dog should recognize its territory and boundary that has to be guarded. It must also be discouraged when barking at or chasing people under any circumstances.
Step 9: Consistence is the key
Being trained at the same place and time and hearing similar commands everyday will be beneficial in the long run. Do not make it monotonous though, take breaks but be consistent. Don’t fret too much; German shepherds are keen observers and good learners.
These steps require an endless amount of practice and dedication. Controlling the animal is imperative to carry out all the specified strategies. Spending quality time with your dog and bonding over different tiring yet fun-filled activities will allow both of you to gain confidence and achieve a strong relationship. It will also assist in fruitful obedience training as well as cultivate it into a well-educated guard dog.
Still if you find it challenging to run through all the above-mentioned steps, seek for help from a renowned group such as local schutzhund club that focuses on proper training. Schutzhund is a German word meaning ‘protection dog’. It originated in Germany in 1900s. Such clubs puts much emphasis on the dog’s breed and personality; test them for their characteristics and traits then train them according to their temperament.
A reputable society affiliated with an international schutzhund organization will be a great option for turning your pet into a well-rounded working dog. It has become a competition sport where dog owners from various regions take part along their pet. Not only this, the German shepherds and other breeds are efficiently trained to perform at their best abilities. Schutzhund training also motivates owners to learn to handle expertise.