Socializing and Training
One of the most beautiful and noble qualities of the German Shepherd Dog is its ability and desire to work as a partner. This quality must be nurtured, however, through training and socializing.
Socializing is simply the process of adjusting a puppy to the human world. This means taking a puppy from the time it's in its new home to as many different places as possible. Until the pup is at least 4 to 5 months old, it should ideally be taken along once a day on some kind of outing. There are many places dogs are allowed. We like to take our dogs with us to hardware stores, video stores (a great place since it often takes a while to pick out a movie and the pup has 'lots of time to be among all kinds of people), banks, the post office, and pet-supply stores. We also like to sit on chairs or benches in front of cafes. Simply taking the pup on walks around areas where it will meet other people and dogs is also a good socializing opportunity. (One always needs to make sure a strange dog is perfectly fine with puppies. A bad dog experience when a pup is younger than 7 months old can leave the pup leary of dogs for the rest of its life.) The pup should also be able to experience strollers, bicycles, hear trucks, cars, etc. Once the puppy is a bit older, about 5 months, the basis that's been established can be kept up by taking the pup 3 or 4 times a week. These outings shouldn't stop until the pup is at least 10,11, or 12 months old.
If a shepherd isn't socialized properly, it can, and often does, turn shy, skittish, and sometimes even fear-aggressive. So socialize, socialize, socialize that pup! Besides,it's fun to share such a beautiful new being in your life with the rest of the world.
While socializing a pup at a young age, socializing and training go hand in hand. One doesn't let a pup jump up on people, for example. Nor does one let the pup mouthe anyone. One also doesn't let the pup pick the garbage or chew on shoes, etc. Teaching the pup not to do these behaviors is all training (teaching manners). While most of the above actions are harmless when the pup is young, it's not acceptable when the pup has become an adult. So, it's a good idea to stop the behavior before it even starts. One can start formal training with a shepherd pup at 3 months. Shepherds' puppyhoods are rather short and their attention span matures quickly. Training is a beautiful process and, if done well, will teach a pup to become a great team-player. When first starting training, it seems the pup is just learning basic vocabulary (e.g. 'sit', 'down', etc.). But after a couple of weeks, one starts to see a change in the pup's whole attitude. The puppy is suddenly really tuning in, is making amazing eye-contact, and, when finding itself in new situations where it is unsure of how to react, is looking up to its person as if to ask what they think rather than making its own interpretation of the situation. This is exactly how it should be. The pup is, after all, in a human world and should look to the person for guidance.
Basic obedience training is simply the process of teaching the pup the basic vocabulary and thereafter following through with the commands. After a couple of months (IF a good training method was used which seems to be rather difficult to find these days), the dog will quite willingly respect these commands. The German Shepherd Dog loves working as a partner, is a very intelligent breed, and is a pleasure to train with. In fact, not thoroughly training a shepherd is like keeping a gifted child in 2nd grade for the rest of its life. It is a sad waste of a beautiful mind and wonderful potential. Training, when done clearly and fairly, also creates an incredible bond between person and dog that is hard to surpass.
The initial effort in socializing and training in a German Shepherd Dog's first year will pay off with unending rewards. One ends up with a partner for the next 12 to 15 years that's confident, well-mannered, calm, and dignified - a dog that is a joy and blessing to live with!
Books we recommend for training:
- Books by The Monks of New Skete (good for young puppies)
- My favorite method, and appropriate for puppies 5 months and up:
The Koehler Method of Dog Training by William Koehler
Books can be bought used on Amazon.com or Abe Books.
Old World Shepherds