How to train a German Shepherd by reward and reinforcement

By Sally Gutteridge | Breeds

German Shepherd Dog

The German shepherd dog is beautiful. An intelligent canine from working descent, he will bond with and protect his handler with courage and conviction.

This breed of dog is employed by police and military within roles ranging from crowd control to tracking and physical capture of an escaping subject.

The German shepherd can make a wonderful family pet and when choosing a particular dog, it is important to keep in mind that many suffer from hip dysplasia and related problems. This is normally due to irresponsible breeding. Both parents of a litter should be hip scored before mating. When taking on an adult dog certainly check the gait. If the dogs back slopes downwards towards the tail it may have a problem with hips due to excess pressure. It is not always possible to see potential hip problems but sometimes they are obvious.

How to Train a German Shepherd Dog

A biddable and handler focused dog, this breed is a pleasure to train. Extensive research on how to train a German shepherd dog is not always necessary. Positive reinforcement and reward based training is however essential.

Train your German shepherd with a suitable reward. His intelligence will ensure timely response and keen learning. Clicker training is a perfect tool when deciding how to train a German shepherd dog.

Train a German shepherd Dog with Positive Reinforcement.

Clicker training works on reinforcing positive behavior with a reward. The dog must first learn that a click always provides a treat. Then the behavior that you would like him to repeat is pinpointed with the sound. Any unhelpful behavior is ignored completely as this will encourage the dog to offer the behavior that provides him with the click and reward. The high intelligence of this breed ensures that he will pick up this type of training quickly.

When learning how to train a German shepherd dog with a clicker, you must first ensure that your dog is completely in tune with the sound and always expects a treat after hearing it. If the dog is not rewarded every single time, then the sound will lose its effectiveness. Also, if you click at the wrong time, you must still provide the treat despite the unhelpful behavior that you may have unwittingly reinforced.

Walking and other Dogs

The German shepherd is handler focused and obedient by nature. As they mature and if trained well they rarely go far from the person they are out with. Before bringing your dog home for the first time, take some time to research how to train a German shepherd dog on walks and recall. Practice calling him back for rewards on the leash initially. Extend the leash to a long line and continue to practice recall. Only if you are certain that the dog will return on command, should you begin to let him off the leash.

Socialized well they can accept other dogs and play with little concern, but the primary focus is often their human family.

The Family Protector

Be aware that a German shepherd is protective by nature. It is for this and their fearlessness that they are employed in guard dog roles. Your dog may guard the person holding its leash and everyone within the family including children. This should always be discouraged by regular and careful socialization in varied situations. The German shepherd can be a reactive breed that could bark or snap relatively quickly if he feels threatened or cornered. Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not you should welcome a German Shepherd into your home.

Overall, the German shepherd as all other dogs can be a wonderful family pet if properly trained and socialized. Noble, loyal and stunning to look at ensures that as a breed type, they automatically command a certain respect.

About the Author

  • How old the puppy should be to start trainning ?

    • Jean Cote says:

      Training should start from day 1. But obviously you’ll be working on building a relationship with the puppy, and teaching house rules before you do anything else. 😉 Think of training as a way of life and not just something you do for an hour a week. Your puppy will learn more from the time you are not “actually” training than in the time you are.

  • Alissafaralli says:

    i love these dogs!!!!!!!

  • Jithin Jithin144 says:

    i have 2.5 yrs GSD.. can i train it??

    • Jean Cote says:

      Of course! There are no age restrictions to training a dog. It may be more challenging if you have to counter-condition some behaviors that have been previously conditioned, but if you are dedicated you can really train any aged dog to do anything you want.

  • John says:

    Is walking with a german shepherd unleashed in the streets easy ?

    • Jean Cote says:

      Yes, technically you can teach any German Shepherd to walk off-leash in the streets. But personally, even if I had the most obedient dog in the world, I would not walk my dog on sidewalks without a leash. The reason is because anything can startle your dog and your dog will jump in the street.

      For example, I was walking my Border Collie in the morning about 3 years ago, she is extremely leashed trained and I could easily walk her without a leash. But as we walked near a bush, a rabbit jumped out and startled my dog that she jumped into the street. Had she not been on a leash she could have easily ran into the street and gotten hit by a car.

      But if you live in a rural area, then sure I’d say it’s no problem. But if you live in a city, I’d always walk my dog on a leash.

  • raina says:

    germend sherperd are very good dogs and also there have lots of power

  • Ghazi says:

    My german shepherd doesnt bark when he sees strangers. What can i do to make him bark?

    • Jean Cote says:

      Why would you want him to bark at strangers? I take it that you want to train a ‘guard’ dog that alerts you when there are strangers near your property?

    • Vlad says:

      I’m interested in this too, i want to train my dog to bark when people enter my property.

      • SURESH says:


  • akki says:

    i have a GSD pup of 8 months and i think these dogs are the best
    i just love them

  • morgan says:

    could you give me some tips or ideas on different tecneaks on training gsd(s)?

  • My dog has become an adult and when i love him more, feed him then he tries to jump on my leg and trying to be like f**king me. why is this?
    He is so protected. He was 1 day old when i had him. I think he has never seen a dog in his life. Is this because of we have no female dog to have intercourse with?
    How to get rid of this problem?

  • Jean Cote says:

    Use positive training methods. Avoid choke collars or anything that is from the punishment world.

  • GSD Lover says:

    we are getting two puppies. one male and one female. Do you think there will be any issues with training or fighting for dominance between siblings.

    • Jean Cote says:

      That is no problem at all. You should train each one individually anyhow, unless you are training them to do something together.

  • Ryleigh says:

    I never really tried it but I bet I could use it because my dog is very loyal and always listins

  • my puppy always try to bite my family member,, he is 3 months old only,,,then what should i do ?

    • Jean Cote says:

      You must curb this behavior immediately, the earlier you do it the better! It really depends on the intensity of the bite, but at 3 months old, he just hasn’t learned that biting humans is unacceptable. So you’ll have to punish him by taking away ALL attention as soon as he does that. And what I mean is simply turn around and do not give him any attention.

      You can also pretend like you are seriously hurt and yipe like a puppy as soon as he ‘bites’ you. Of course it’s hard to tell you exactly what to do because I can’t see the situation, but for a young puppy that should work. Also make sure that he has lots of chew toys.

  • Jean Cote says:

    If you really want to do this, then you’ll have to ask a friend to walk near your property and entice your dog to bark, then you’ll have to reward that behavior with a treat. But careful, rewarding this will lead to a dog that barks constantly at noises or people near your property. It might be a good idea now but what if you move to another area, or what about your neighbors who might not like a barking dog?

  • Rayon Andrew says:

    I have a gsd. Now he’s almost 8yrs old…… he has become too inactive that he’s always sleeping, not even interested in going out much…. what should i do????? can he still be trained ?????? if yes, then can u guide me how????

  • Jean Cote says:

    Of course! 8 years old isn’t THAT old! What your dog needs is mental stimulation. I’d strongly suggest you get a clicker and a bunch of DELICIOUS treats. Then click anytime your dog does something you like and give him a treat. Try it with a box or wait until he yawns, then click & give him a treat.

  • Sawyer says:

    Our new puppy ( 9 weeks old) is not well received by our already over protective english Shepard…any suggestions???

  • Anthony Saenz says:

    I have a german Shepperd/coyote/lab will it be able to train? And how would it be when it’s an adult?it’s 6Weeks.old

  • Confused in Greensboro NC says:

    Recently I acquired a 15 month old German Shepherd, and she has no training. How do I start? She’s skiddish, and not good with other animals, but she loves my chihuhua, and my children. She’s not house broken, as we were lead to believe, but she is loveable. Please help us.

  • Priscilla says:

    I just got my pup about a week ago n I’m trying to house train him, is it necessary to reward him when he used outside as well as teaching him to do so other things?

    • Jean Cote says:

      Absolutely! The more you reward your pup for good behaviors the better he will understand what you want him to do. Rewarding him to go outside will fasten your house training by a mile. Plus you can associate it to a word like “duties” and then your dog will do his duties on command later on.

  • Jean Cote says:

    The first thing you need to know is get familiarized with positive reinforcement training. This is the type of training that I use and have used to teach my dogs all sorts of cool tricks, behaviors… It’s all about rewarding your dog for good behaviors and choices, which will lead the dog to seek out your reinforcements by behaving nicely.

    You can learn all about it by downloading my eBook “The Power of Positive Reinforcements”.

    • hellokity25 says:

      I love these dogs

  • Shanna says:

    I’m pretty sure this works for most GSD, but mine GSD no way she is like the worst dog ever, she’s got kicked out of 3 obedient schools alone she is seriously like “MARLEY’ from Marley & Me, I just don’t know what to do with her and making her a really good house dog, I love her to pieces, but she just doesn’t listen and she thinks she can do whatever she wants and I don’t like punishing her all the time because she doesn’t listen. What am I suppose to do, to get her to be a good dog.

  • Ana says:

    i have a german shepard but he is to motivated and bites me alot also im always trying to teach him to sit but he wont how can i get him to listen to me??
    whe he bites me my friend tod me to use a newspaper and smack something to make noise its scares them but everytime i do this it does not help what should i do please help!!

    • Jean Cote says:

      How old is your german shepherd? And what technique are you using to train him to sit? I assume you are trying to lure him? You must first train your dog to take treats nicely from you hands. I talk about this in details in my “Good Dog, Good Life” training program, but basically you want to take the treat away if your dog is rough to your hand, and give your dog the treat only if he takes it nicely.

  • Jean Cote says:

    Hi Shanna, the first thing that you must do is stop punishing your dog. Punishment doesn’t eliminate behavior, it only suppresses it… Think about the last time you’ve gotten a speeding ticket, did it eliminate the behavior of speeding? What you want to do instead is strategically control the reinforcements that your dog receives so that you reward good choices and good behaviors. Please download my free upcoming eBook “The power of Positive Reinforcements” which will be available in a few days. I talk in details about how to train with positive reinforcements.

  • my 1 year old pup keeps coming off his leash hes a german shepard

  • tsadler says:

    I saved a German sheppeted lab mix from a shelter a week ago he is 4 mouths old should I train him like u said or is there a different way cause he has lab in him?

  • My GS is protective on a leach against other dogs. I have to be careful when I walk him. If he is not on a leach, he would go greet them. At the dog park, he would play and greet the dogs coming in. He is close to 3 years. We got him as a rescue when he was 1 years old. He is very sweet. He won’t bark in my apartment. How can I tame him when he is on a leach during his walk.

  • eddie0vedder says:

    i got a german shepherd at about 8 months old, a friends neighbor was going to give him to the pound so i took him, i have had him for over 2 years and he is a really good dog but the previous owner used to hit him hard and he just cant seem to get over it, whenever i raise a hand or if we are playing and i get him in a corner he cowers and flinches every time, i have only ever hit him once when he ran away for a whole night and i thought he was gone (i know its probably not the best plan but i was pretty emotional). i have tried a few things but it doesn’t look hes improving in that aspect, the slightest movement of the hand makes him flinch even though he has not been abused for years, is there anything i can do to teach him not to be so scared? also he does not understand violence from other dogs, there has been a few incidents where other dogs have almost attacked him and even had him by the neck and he just sniffs and wags his tail even though he could be torn to shreds, he has not been properly attacked, probably because he doesn’t retaliate but i worry if he did get attacked he wouldn’t do anything. is this normal? my last dog i had 15 years and he was very friendly, never hurt anyone but if he got attacked by another dog he would defend himself and he was good at it so i never had to worry. i have heard that if a dog is abused at a young age he will never forget?

    • ash says:

      Hi Eddy,I have the exact same problems with my gsd. Have u made any progress? This is a huge issue for me as I would like to train him to be a haird dog. Is this possible?

  • eddie0vedder says:

    where is my question?

  • why does my shepherd hate the mail man. She has never seen him, but when he comes thru the main entrance of the complex my dog starts barking like crazy. I can’t get her to stop, any suggestions

  • disqus_hwAvGGQlnh says:

    I have a GSD thats becoming aggressive and wont listen to me tried everything. Always pulling me with the leash, wanting treats all the time, just totally ignores me… I wish there was a GSD trainer near me instead of more than 50 miles from me…

  • Paul says:

    I just got a 6 weeks old gsd.can u give me tips on how to train her on my own?to learn some basic skills?

    • Jean Cote says:

      Sure, you should first get my eBook “The power of positive reinforcements”, it explains how you can train your dog using positive reinforcement training.

  • leona says:

    How to I train my 9 month old pup to not jump up on people?

  • leona says:

    How do I train her to calm down 9 month old?

  • Aimee says:

    I have an almost 3 year old GSD. We got him from a family who didn’t spend time with him. He is a super smart, loving dog, but is also VERY protective. We have been working with him a lot and he seems to be settled, but for some reason dislikes my 11yr old daughter. Often when she’s petting and loving him up he’ll let ourt a slow grumble/growl and turns his head away from her….I fear one day he’ll snap. He doesn’t do this to my son,…..any tips on what to do. I don’t want to get rid of him, but my daughter shouldn’t fear our family pet! Help!

  • Eric says:

    Can you do all these training without a clicker?

    • Jean Cote says:

      Hi Eric, yes a clicker is only used to pinpoint a specific behavior – think of it like a snapshot. But in most cases you don’t need to use a clicker, simply giving the positive reinforcement immediately after a desired behavior is quick enough for the dog to make the connection.

  • Nina says:

    I just got an 8 month old GSD today, she was fine up until my boyfriend and I went to bed, she then had moments where she would start barking aggressively especially at my boyfriend, is this because she is unfamiliar with us? How do I get her to stop! She is very timid and shy and hasn’t come to either of us since she has been here, I tried taking her out because i thought she may have to ise the bathroom but she runs away from me every time I try and go close?

  • shweta says:

    My puppy is 2mnths old. Is it too early to train him? Also I am a first time pet owner can u just tell me what to start with? He responds to his name. What should be my next step?

    • Jean Cote says:

      It’s never too early to start training, you should start with relationship building activities and house training.

  • Poppy says:

    I have a GSD which is 11 months old, i have trained it to sit, lay, open the door, shake head if i say are you hungry but i dont know what else to train her?? x

  • sakshi says:

    what is mean by clicker training and reinforcement?

  • Matt says:

    What is the minimum age to start training? I’ve always heard at 3-4 months. Is this true?

    • Jean Cote says:

      You can begin training from the first day that you get the puppy, however what you work on will be different from older dogs. You will be focused more on relationship building, socialization, potty training, chewing, biting, barking, etc.

  • donna says:


    we have a 10 week gsd, we also have two west highland terriers, ones 8yrs and the other is 6yrs old, are gsd good at sharing there owners with other dogs within the household??

  • Arpan says:

    my gsd is 1.5years old and he use to piss inside my home he never asks to take him out when he want to get fresh and he is to much sleepy. what can i do train him?

  • Elena says:

    Hello, I just got a pure bred female German Shepard who is about 9 weeks old. We are trying to crate train her so she doesn’t pee everywhere and chew things at night. She hates the crate. She cries all night and tries to climb the cage. Is there a way to make her more comfortable with the crate and not be so afraid to sleep at night? And also do you suggest puppy pee pads? We have been taking her outside a lot to go to the bathroom but we have been trying to show her when she is inside she needs to pee on the pad. Any tricks to make her go to the pad when inside?

  • Lorraine says:

    Hi, we rescued a beautiful 20 month old Long haired Shepherd 5 weeks ago. He is loving and adorable. However he is difficult on the lead and recall he comes when he wants. He also jumps up a lot and mouths. I have been using the clicker training (lol with not much joy) he knows it gives a treat and when we are on our own he does what his told. As soon as he is preoccupied with something else he does not do anything he is told any ideas. I have him on a gentle leader which he tries to get off jumping about. Once he is worn out with the ball he walks perfect, but I would love him to walk like that all the time. I had a german shepherd before from 6 weeks old and trained him perfect . Finding training an adult one with strong will more difficult. Thank you.

  • Catalina says:

    Hi, I have a lovely 13 month German Sheperd. I adore him and he loves the entire family. The problem is he is too hyper and don’t really listen our orders like stay or sit. He just wants to play. He is very strong and playful to the point he can hurt us. Just last night while I was trying to feed him he got too excited and hurted my knee while he was jumping around. He is a sweet dog and very protective but I want to train him. I have tried to walk him but he gets to excited and distracted that holding the leash hurts. What do you recomend?

  • Claire says:

    My female GSD won’t listen to me. This morning i tried teaching her how to roll over and play dead, but she’d just look at me like i’m stupid. She knows basic commands (sit, stay, lay, take it, leave it) I’d get to the point in teaching the roll over where the treat is at her rear (which she would do) and she just get back up in the sitting position. It really ticks me off. She’s been to beginners obedience school, and she’s 2 years old. What should I do?

  • rudi says:

    have a 2 yrs old GSD ,never been trained, he tugs and just switches off when he sees other dogs and trys to bite them.
    very protective about my two yrs son.
    its difficult to take him on walks because of this lunging and trying to bite other dogs / humans if they come too close to us.

  • StrangeMusicFanatic says:

    I have a 10 month old German Shepard & he using the bathroom inside. I need some advice on how to train him to use the restroom outside.

  • Adegoke Adewale Gospel says:

    I have a German shepherd of about 4 years now.actually I didn’t train it because I didn’t have the time.the only command it understands is to ‘sit’ and ‘go to your cage’. now when I have the time,it seem impossible. also it does not have the fighting affinity. it runs away or just wags it’s tail unlike my former dog who fight and wounds any dog that trespasses.also how can I get it to stop licking my hands.please I need answers because the dog is getting out of hand and can send it to my E-mail.

  • Jennie says:

    I have a i year old German Shepherd and a 6 year old pug. The shepherd is always picking on the pug or trying to play I’m not sure which. How can I make them get along? they are both males, the shepherd is fixed, the pug is not.

  • catherine says:

    I have an 8 month old male GS, he is a beaut, training has been a nightmare though, he only sits for a treat now or when he knows he is getting his lead on for a walk. Had to get a head lead following professional trainer advise, works great, no more pulling me down the road, I have a great walk………..big problem letting him off lead for a run in the park I have a 30 metre training lead, did all the recall stuff so when i go to the park Ive let him off leash (only when no one is around) but if a dog appears he is gone, no amount of re-calling works. I notice he will turn his mouth towards my hand when he knows Im going to catch his collar ?? Im worried about these issues particularly recalls, what is the point of a training lead and all the work ??

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