Training

The Importance of Training

 

When you bring your German Shepherd puppy home he or she is a cute little bundle of fur. A tiny baby. It is very easy to fall into the trap of allowing your puppy at this stage to get away with behaviours that you will not want your fully grown adult German Shepherd doing. Things such as mouthing and jumping up need to be dealt with instantly. 

 

Your puppy does not know your rules and you cannot expect him or her to know what is acceptable behaviour or not. This is up to you to teach them.

From the moment your puppy comes home training begins. 

 

You MUST be prepared to spend a large amount of time shaping your puppies behaviour into the ideal adult dog that you wish them to become. 

 

The most important time for training is in the first 16 weeks of life. At this time your puppies brain is like a sponge, and it is up to you to fill that sponge with positive training and experiences. This is the time that you set your foundation for the future. Establishing your ground rules during this time is vital. 

 

When our puppies leave our home at eight weeks old they have already begun very basic manners training and have been introduced to crate training. They already know the word gentle and the word no. These are two words that we highly recommend continuing. Gentle is the word we use when puppies are mouthing. It is natural for puppies to mouth, when they mouth each other, if the pressure in the bite becomes too hard the other puppy will generally yelp and stop playing. This is a technique that can (to some degree) be applied to your puppy when they come home. If your puppy’s mouthing becomes more of a bite and gains pressure you must deal with this behaviour instantly. Some techniques that you can try are

 

Distraction - 

Carry a toy with you if your puppy is inclined to mouth a lot. When playing with the puppy ensure that they only thing that is in the puppies mouth at any stage is the toy. If the puppy continues to try to mouth you, stop the game. Walk away. We do not continue to play when there is unacceptable behaviour happening. 

 

Distraction is generally a great way for puppy to have a good bonding game with you whilst learning that biting toys is ok, biting people is not.

 

Imitation 

If a puppy was to bite its mother too hard she would growl at it, perhaps even give it a nip back to remind it that this is not acceptable behaviour. (I’m not suggesting that you bite your puppy!) I am suggesting that if the puppy bites too hard you can try a growl and a ‘human nip’ which is a term we use to describe two fingers fairly firmly and very quickly, jabbing into the puppies neck area (Obviously not anywhere that may cause the puppy to choke or cough, avoid the front of the neck, aim for the muscled area above the shoulder blade.) The aim is not to hurt the puppy but to make the puppy stop and think about the direct consequences of its behaviour. A short firm growl with a quick ‘jab’ imitates the behaviour a mother dog would display and can be easier for your puppy to understand whilst also affirming your place as the puppies leader.

 

Another imitation technique that can be applied is following the behaviour of other puppies. If puppy bites, we yelp. Pull our hand away and turn our backs. This is not a preferred technique in my mind however as we want to establish respect from our puppy and not encourage dominance. However in less serious mouthing play this can be a handy trick without it become a big deal to you or the puppy.

 

Older puppy biting

 

If you have not gained control of your puppies mouthing behaviour within the first 16 weeks this behaviour gets harder to deal with. You must be firmer with your puppy and you must do so in a calm and controlled manner. If your puppy is biting you above the age of 16 weeks I would suggest firmly pinching puppies cheek, (this immediately blocks the puppy from the ability to continue the behaviour if done correctly, puppy cannot bite you when you are holding his or her cheek. Again the action is not intended to hurt the puppy, but to immediately stop the puppy from continuing the behaviour) make direct eye contact with your puppy and very firmly (grumpy Mother voice) say NO. Then walk away from your puppy. It is very important in these moments to get your timing right. (I suggest at this stage of development having a treat bag on you at all times.) When puppy is sitting back looking a bit bewildered about what just happened, take the opportunity to redirect the behaviour and turn the moment into a positive one. Commence some of your basic manners training. Focussing on commands that puppy has already mastered. For example ‘sit’. Spend a few minutes going through some of puppies basic commands and rewarding correct behaviour with lots of praise and a few treats. It is important to follow up a stern correction with a positive experience. We do not want puppy staying in the state of mind of confusion. If puppy bites again during this time repeat the stern correction and try again. 

 

Jumping up

 

Puppies when they first come home are very little and its very easy to allow them to jump up so you dont have to bend down so far to pat them. This is a very common mistake. Puppy should have all four feet on the ground at all times when greeting people or other dogs. If your dog is lunging and jumping at people as a tiny puppy it leads to an adult dog who becomes very difficult to control in social situations. It is up to you to teach your puppy acceptable socialising behaviour and again, it is much easier to do this from the start. 

 

Behaviour that has been allowed or ignored in the first 16 weeks of life becomes very difficult to retrain. From the time puppy comes home ensure that you encourage puppy to keep all four feet on the ground at all times. Mastering sit at this age is a brilliant way of encouraging this. When you want to give puppy a cuddle, make puppy sit, the cuddle becomes the reward for good behaviour. If puppy continues to jump, stand up and turn your back. We do not play when unacceptable behaviour is being displayed. Puppy will very quickly learn that if they sit down they get much bigger and more loving pats. If they jump up the attention stops. 

 

Training Tips

 

German Shepherds are incredibly smart dogs, if you do not have the ability to commit to providing the training that your German Shepherd needs from you in order to shape them into a stable minded, happy adult then dont get one. It’s as simple as that. 

 

A German Shepherd (like any dog) is a huge responsibility that must be taken seriously. We do not stress the importance of obedience classes and puppy kindy for no reason. And lets be real about this, obedience classes are just as much (if not more) for you as they are for your puppy. You need to ensure that you are communicating with your puppy clearly and effectively. One of the biggest issues we find in behavioural problems is miscommunication from the owner. Behaviours that have been focussed on in order to stop have unintentionally been encouraged. Whilst we do not discredit the role of a one on one home trainer, we do not recommend this for young puppies. It is equally important that your puppy learns to obey you in public with distractions. This simply cannot be achieved in a home environment with a one on one instructor. One on one instructors and far better suited for specific problems that you are struggling to deal with in order to guide you with a broader range of techniques to try. 

 

One of the easiest ways to train your dog is to watch them. Learn to read your dogs body language. When you see puppy about to sit, get ready. As puppy is doing the action of sitting down say “sit” (try to time this so that the word is said as the puppies bottom hits the ground in a sit) puppy is then sitting and you can say “Good girl/boy! ‘Sit!’ Very good!” etc. you can apply this to almost every action your dog does. What you are then doing is teaching your dog the word that belongs to the action. Lay down, toilet, bed etc. all of these normal things that puppy does everyday can be very simply taught by watching your puppy. It is much easier to teach them the word that goes with the action then it is to teach them both a word and an action. This, of course, is not a replacement for obedience training, more of a gentle introduction that you can be doing all the way along. This helps your puppy to ‘learn your language’ 

 

Finally I cannot underestimate the importance of common sense. There is no end to the amount of training schools and techniques out there and what suits one person and one dog may not suit the next. If you go to a puppy kindy or an obedience class and their techniques dont sit well with you, change. Take what you can from the experience (there is always something to be learnt even if it is a way that you DONT want to do things) You and you alone are responsible for ensuring that your dog grows up to be a pleasure to live with. This means being responsible for keeping your puppy safe from danger and negative experiences and teaching your puppy acceptable social behaviours. 

 

Training takes time. In the first year of your puppies life you set the foundations and build the structures of what will shape him or her for the rest of their lives. 

 

At 7/8 months when your puppy hits ‘teenage’ age you pretty much need to start all over again and keep going through everything you have taught them on a daily basis. As they mature you will see all of the time and patience that you have put into teaching them in the first year of life paying off. Do not be distracted by the ‘cute puppy’ stage. Never forget that within 8 months your tiny puppy will be an almost fully grown ‘puppy’ and therefore basic manners like walking nicely on a lead, not mouthing, not jumping up etc must be already well under control. 

 

If you are having a problem dealing with any behaviours in your puppy please act immediately. The longer problem behaviours are allowed to continue the harder they are to resolve. If you have a Kantenna Puppy and are finding any aspect of training a struggle, please dont hesitate to contact us. We take our responsibility to the puppies that we bring into the world very seriously and our help and guidance is available throughout the entire life of your Kantenna Dog. 

 

Contact Details

Sharon & Diane Ballantyne
Coominya & Brisbane/Gold Coast, QLD, Australia
Phone : 0408 702766 or 0411 433739
Email : [email protected]