Celhaus German Shepherds
Personality Brains Beauty
Teaching Puppy Manners
Those all important manners
Your pup will soon be a large, active dog. Start teaching her manners as soon as she gets home with you. Never let her do anything as a pup that you don’t want a 70 to 90 pound adult to do. Teach her manners so that she is a good canine citizen. There is a growing movement towards breed specific legislation banning certain kinds of dogs or forcing them to be muzzled and double-fenced to protect the public–and the German Shepherd is on the list because of its guard dog reputation. Any time your dog is a nuisance or scares someone accidentally, that gives fuel to the anti-dog people.
Be sure to be a responsible dog owner yourself. Take along a ziplock bag or a plastic grocery sack whenever you go places with your dog, pick up her poop and dispose of it in a proper receptacle. I sympathize with all those people who HATE to step in dog poop. Don’t contribute to the problem.
Get started on manners and basic obedience from day 1. Remember, use only incentive methods (praise & food rewards), never corrections, on a pup, and keep training sessions short (5 minutes, several times a day) and fun. Take her to a puppy kindergarten class once she’s had her second shot at 12 weeks. After she’s 6 months old, take her to an obedience class–check out instructors and be sure to pick a good, gentle one–and one who likes GSD’s (some don’t!). German Shepherds are ranked as one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs. Worldwide, they are THE working breed. They have the intelligence of a six year old child (most breeds are rated like a 3 year old child), and can learn over 300 different commands. Give this pup a chance, teach her tricks, obedience, retrieving, and you won’t have a problem barker, digger, or general nuisance. She–and you–will be much happier.
A great training thing to do with a new pup is the umbilical cord exercise. This is very simple. Just put the pup on leash and attach the end of the leash to your belt or arm. As you go about your daily routine in the house, cooking or cleaning or watching TV or just wandering, the pup has to come with you. (It also helps to really leash train them.) Have a pocketful of small treats, and reward the pup every time he pays attention to you, gives you eye contact, gives to the leash’s pull, cooperates in any way. LOOK for reasons to praise and treat him. If he throws a fit, let him carry on but respond to the first tiny mental “give” with a reward of petting, picking him up, a treat or whatever. Then put him down and see if he responds to you more quickly the next time. This is a great bonding exercise for a new pup and it eventually teaches him the very best place in the world is right with you. Once that is thoroughly in his consciousness, all further training is easy. He also will be easy to teach to obey off-lead, because you have established the beginnings of a “mental leash” by doing this over a period of time.
Meeting Other Dogs
Now that the shot protocol has the first shot given at 8 weeks instead of 5, I don’t get to do as much introducing the pups to non-German Shepherds as I used to be able to do. I just hesitate to take them very many places before they’ve had a shot. One thing you may see in pups is a little too much defense instinct concerning canines (has nothing to do with people). What this means is that the pups automatically think other dogs are going to hurt them, rather than seeing them as potential playmates. One of your first, and most important, tasks when you get your pup is to begin introducing her to all kinds of other dogs. Pick those dogs carefully. You definitely don’t want a dog who is crabby with pups–that will just convince your pup that strange dogs are going to get her! Remember, her little mind is like a sponge until she’s 4 months old, and any negative experience is going to be engraved deeply and enlarged forever in her consciousness. So make sure she meets other nice dogs, big and little, old and young, just so they will positively interact with her. The more she successfully meets the more her confidence will grow and the less she’ll be inclined to defend herself when meeting a strange dog. Oh, yes, be sure you don’t keep the leash tight when she’s approached by another dog or you’re going towards one. A tight leash, especially if you’re a little nervous, communicates negative things to her brain and makes her more nervous. Try to be neutral (like a tree) and keep a loose lead so she is able to think and learn how to meet another canine.
Another big “no no” when introducing her into any situation in which she is nervous, is to say, “Oh, that’s okay baby, he won’t hurt you” in that instinctively comforting voice we use with young children. It may work with young children, but it does the opposite in dogs: it only serves to convince them that there IS danger there and they could get hurt. You should be neutral and calm as your pup reacts to another dog. Encourage her unemotionally to go forward and look at the other dog, otherwise just be quiet and ignore her (as you watch her out of the corner of your eye to make sure she’s all right). Let her work through her initial fear into a confidence of being able to handle the situation. At first it may take a while, but gradually as you introduce her to other dogs you will see her do better and better. The only time you need to intervene is if she roars into their face like she’s going to eat them alive; at that time intervene and tell her to cut it out, perhaps give her a pop on her lead. What you’re trying to do is get her to think rather than blindly react. Once she is calmly interacting with the dog you can let her off lead and see if she’ll play, that’s great for her. Just remember not to baby her, and to correct her if she acts like king kong or something awful.
One exercise I heartily recommend that you start from the time you get your pup is the come. It is the easiest thing in the world to teach a young puppy because they’re a little nervous about that strange new world they’ve entered and they naturally want to be with you. So utilize that and get the “come” instilled deeply before your pup gets independent (about 4 months of age). Your pup knows to come running when I call excitedly, “Pup! Pup! Pup! Pup!” or “Puppy! Puppy! Puppy!” in a high, cheerful voice. He has heard that since his ears opened at about 3 weeks of age, and it always has meant a treat or being scooped up and loved and praised. For no reason at all, call him that way a bunch of times a day and reward him for coming by getting down on the floor and wrestling with him, or throwing a ball, or petting or giving a treat–vary the reward so he’s always wondering and never gets bored.
Another good part of this exercise can be played with two people. Have one person lightly restrain him, but either cradling his body in their arms as they kneel on the floor or by holding his collar. (Always start this with a person he knows holding him, but later begin practicing it with a less familiar person holding him–it makes him want to come even more.) You meanwhile, go a short distance (a few feet until he learns the game, then farther and farther away). You get on the floor, excitedly call his name and talk to him, patting the ground, whatever, to get him squirming and whining to come to you. When he is straining towards you with all his might, you call “COME” or “HERE” (whichever you prefer) in a high, playful voice, and as you do that the other person releases him. Let him come running into you, body slam you, kiss and everything else, while you praise and praise and pet and massage and eventually give him a little easily- swallowed treat. Then while he is still excited about how great he is, have the person hold him again. Do this exercise 3 times in a row. Then don’t repeat it again for at least a half day. Don’t overdo it so that he gets bored with it.
Once he knows the “game” you can have your spouse hold him and you call him, then you hold him and your spouse calls him back. They LOVE this game and like to play it long after they’re grown. Be sure to be extremely enthusiastic and raise him to fever pitch before calling him. I’ll say things like “Glory, hey Glory, whatcha doing over there? Do you know what I have? Why don’t you get over here? I’m leaving! See you around” “Gosh, you must like him more than me?” “Don’t you want to be with me?” “Where are you….” “Where’s my Glory?” “I can’t find my Glory ANYWHERE!”, all kinds of nonsense like that until she’s frustratedly trying to break free, then my “HERE!” comes as a tremendous release and she races towards me as fast as she can. That’s the way to teach it.
Another thing I do with the come is I take the pup on hikes off-lead while he’s still a little insecure and wanting to stay close. Invariably, though, he’ll get distracted, and that’s when I’ll drop to the ground or dart behind a bush where he can’t see me (if you hold perfectly still you don’t have to be in much cover). All of a sudden he’ll realize he’s alone and start to worry and that’s when I’ll excitedly call him and let him find me, rewarding him with all kinds of praise and petting and of course a treat I’ve had hidden in my pocket. All my dogs love this game and I use it to keep them checking in and ranging within a certain radius as we hike. If they get distracted, say, with a scent, I’ll just drop flat in the grass. They’ll race past me a couple of times as they frantically try to find me, and usually they find me because I’m giggling so hard I make a little noise or shake the grass so they hone in on me. They never know when I’ll suddenly disappear and they’ll come racing back to find me and be rewarded with enthusiasm. They also learn to keep looking for me and never assume I’m safely in any one place and can be ignored. This frequent game keeps them checking in and not wandering too far from my reach.
I also whistle-train them from babyhood. I get a regular sports whistle like referees use. I first will blow it and reward them for looking at me and coming back to investigate. I do this first in the house, then in the backyard, say while I’m working outside. For this they ALWAYS get a treat for coming. Pretty soon the pup learns from the older ones that the whistle sound means great things. I’ll take the pup somewhere by himself and practice this, too. I practice this off and on all their lives. I always wear a whistle when hiking, and I can stop them from chasing deer or other animals as long as I whistle before they really take off. If I’m too slow, I whistle and they’ll come back very quickly from the chase.
Never, ever, ever call the pup to you to punish it. If you have to punish the pup, walk it down and capture it, but don’t call it to you and then correct it. All that teaches him is that coming to you is bad. I can’t count the number of otherwise intelligent people who have made this mistake over and over and then come to us dog “experts” and ask why our dogs come and theirs don’t. Dogs only have a 3 second attention span, so if you don’t correct them for a mistake within that 3 seconds they will associate the correction with whatever thing was on their minds when they were corrected. If that was “come”, you’ve just taught the pup to come is dangerous. And he’ll never forget that negative lesson.
Teaching Them to Accept Restraint
German Shepherd puppies grow into large, powerful dogs with a proud sense of self. One of your most important jobs will be to prepare them to accept reasonable and necessary restraint without throwing a fit. What is reasonable and necessary restraint? You need to be able to clip their nails, take a bone or other object away from them, brush them all over, open their mouth (to remove a splinter or something stuck, to check their teeth or be sure they only bit their tongue and nothing more serious…). You also may need to be able to remove burrs, check wounds, apply medicine or bandages, and so forth. They also must learn to allow a vet or other person, with your permission, to do such things as well.
I begin teaching the puppies, before they leave here at 7 or 8 weeks, to accept restraint. It may take me 30 minutes to trip a 6 week old puppy’s nails, but that puppy is learning, nail by nail, to let me do what I want. I patiently hold the foot until the puppy “gives” (quits trying to draw the paw out of my hand and lets me know he accepts my right to do what I want), clip it (being very sure not to cut the quick!), then I release it on my own good time and give a treat and praise. I then take the paw and do the same thing for the next nail. We don’t rush, and we don’t get into a battle, but the puppy has just had a lesson in life.
I also deliberately hold a puppy for a few seconds after it begins to squirm, just a little “stress” it has to accept. Of course, they have been held several times daily since birth, so all I’m doing is lightly reinforce those lessons after the puppy is very active and defining itself as an individual. I also make sure they will let me take a toy away just for a second, and not get grabby as I return to it.
You need to continue these lessons as your puppy grows. Think ahead what you want to accomplish, and how best to set up the lesson so that the pup finds it easy to do the right thing. Avoid getting into a big battle. If you see that beginning, lower your expectations until you can end the session with you being the one to win, before the puppy throws a screaming fit. Try at a later time, with a better game plan, to accomplish what you need to do. Always end a session when the puppy is in a “give” mentality so that you are praising and giving a treat when the puppy is sure what it’s being praised for.
Practice opening the puppy’s mouth and checking teeth. Be sure not to release when he is squirming, but wait for that little mental and physical “give” that she will offer as she accepts your action. Occasionally put down her food bowl or chew bone or favorite toy, then pick it up for a second before giving it back, making sure she accepts your actions as “head of the pack”, the one in authority. Practice holding the puppy still for short periods of time, holding your arms around her like someone might do to keep her still for a vet exam. You can put a command to this (I use “Easy”), so that when you practice restraint she begins to understand what you want, and you have something to praise her with, “Good Easy. Very good Easy.”, as well as something you can really drawl or draw out if she begins to struggle, “E – a – s – y…. E – a – s – y….”, to help her accept the restraint. I often give a treat after a “Good Easy” comment, before I release the puppy. And yes, I do use a release word here, to let the pup know the lesson (or vet exam or whatever) is over. I use my standard release word, “Okay” or “Free.” When I take a puppy or young, inexperienced dog to the vet, I always take a few treats in my pocket and give praise and a treat when the pup has been good during a procedure that she didn’t like, or if it’s a lengthy process, when the vet moves away for something. I use every experience as a teaching opportunity. I don’t care if the vet or vet techs or anyone else think I’m a little strange–I’m forming that dog into a good canine citizen. They will thank me later, when they realize that they never have trouble treating one of my dogs, never have to muzzle one or wrestle it down, as they often do with other dogs.
So, use opportunities to teach your dog that his body is not strictly his, that you have rights upon which you insist, and that it is to his benefit to cooperate. This is an absolutely fantastic thing to teach your dog.
(Remember, CONTACT ME any time you encounter a situation that surprises or disturbs you, and I can help suggest ways to get your pup back on track. They all do something dumb as they’re growing up.)
I seldom correct my dogs for anything anyway, except through the use of my voice. I’ll use a “growl” sound, kind of like a “Oh, no, what are you doing?” right when the dog commits a “sin”, but otherwise will do nothing other than try to set up a situation where the dog can easily be successful in doing the right thing. About the only thing I ever correct for is picking on another dog. Or deliberately “blowing me off” and not listening. Then they’ll get a shake of the ruff or a “time out” in the crate and later a chance to listen to me correctly.
Being obnoxious to visitors
One thing I occasionally see in puppies is a little bit of being spoiled by the owners (really?) combined with an over inflated sense of their own worth (OK, I start them out that way, I know). Anyway, sometimes new owners tell me their puppies are already being protective. Wrong! The protective instinct doesn’t come in until they are 12 to 18 months old.
So what is it when the pup begins barking at people who come to the house and won’t quit? I’m noticing that some of mine are doing this now that they don’t leave until they’re 8 weeks old due to the new shot schedule. Before, when they left at 7 weeks, they were still young enough not to be imitating my big dogs, not to be influenced by the environment. That extra week really does make a lot of difference, because they begin noticing what my dogs do, which is bark when people come. Unfortunately, they often don’t notice that the big dogs quit barking when I say, “QUIET” and then get busy greeting and enjoying the visitors. So the puppy sometimes leaves here with only the first part of the greeting ritual forming as a habit.
It’s your job to finish teaching the ritual so that they greet correctly. Remember, too, that the 8 – 10 week period is called a “fear stage” because for the first time in its life the pup is noticing the things around it, and with that noticing comes the realization that things CAN hurt it. That’s quite a new and shocking revelation to the baby who previously thought the world was her oyster, and takes some getting used to. Combined with going to a new home, you have a situation where she may react inappropriately just through inexperience.
Usually, the pups who are given lots of socialization do not show any obnoxious behaviors. They should get at least 3 to 4 trips each week to new places to meet new people, sounds, footings, smells, etc. until they’re 5 months old. I cannot stress enough that you need to get puppies out into the world. These 3 to 4 trips per week should be to places the pup has never been NOT another trip to a place that’s familiar! Refer to Socialize for more information on socializing. Socializing is the most important thing you can do for your puppy. Lack of or poor socializing can ruin a dog which has good genetic temperament. Your pup will go through a lot of stages in development as it notices more and more of the world around him. Those stages will be smooth and problem-free if you have done your job of introducing him to a huge bit of the world.
When a pup barks (and sometimes even growls) when someone comes to your home, it’s mostly possessiveness coming out, and it needs to be corrected. You will do good to teach certain commands. First, “QUIET” means just exactly that. The reason I teach it as a command is that when the puppy does quit barking or whatever, I can praise it for a GOOD QUIET! This is so much nicer and more positive than “shut up” (besides, no one ever says “good shut up”!). Pups have to learn when enough is enough is all kinds of activities. They’re naturally trying out their wings, so to speak, and it’s the owner’s responsibility to set clear limits of allowable vs. unallowable.
Another thing I teach is “ENOUGH”. I like my dogs to announce someone is at the door. Usually I don’t have to encourage that. If your pup does seem to be slow off the mark on that one, you can encourage her by asking “What’s that?” when someone knocks, and saying “Good speak” if she does make some noise to announce a visitor. Sometimes, though, they will get too noisy and not know when to quit (remember, puppies have to learn limits to nearly everything), and sometimes the possessiveness thing kicks in and they don’t want that person in their house (they have to learn it’s your house and you determine who is welcome, not they). That’s when the “ENOUGH” comes in handy. It means, simply, “stop”. Then you can say “Good Enough!” or “Good Quiet” so that the puppy is praised for listening to you and letting the person come in. They need to be taught that once you invite a person into your house then they are to be treated as a friend, accepted, played with possibly, but not to be bothered by growls or barks or anything obnoxious. Sometimes pups will have the tendency to be obnoxious over visitors so you want to nip it in the bud immediately. Once the person has entered, have them offer the pup a treat and praise the pup for interacting with the stranger. It’s okay if the pup then goes off and plays. German Shepherds are not dogs who need to be everybody’s friend–but puppies need to meet all kinds of people to learn what “normal” people are like, because once the protective instinct kicks in they’ll judge whether or not there is danger by how much they know of normal human activity. If for some reason puppy wants to be obnoxious (remember this is not protectiveness at this age!), then you might need to put her in a “time out” in her crate (no treats!) for perhaps 5 minutes, then bring her out, have the visitor offer her a treat, and see if she will interact. Praise her for accepting the person.
Some pups just don’t want to do this and insist on barking or growling, so you might have to designate a marathon teaching day. Line up friends to come every 20 minutes or so. Have some very special treats just outside the front door so that they can grab one as they ring the doorbell. Let the pup bark to greet, then tell her “enough” and have the stranger offer her the treat at the door. If she doesn’t want to take it (just make sure she quits barking), have them ignore her, talk to you for a minute or two, then come in and sit down. At that point encourage the pup to go see the visitor and take the treat from them. If she doesn’t behave, put her in the crate for a few minutes then try again. When you are satisfied with her accepting that person, have them leave. Give perhaps 5 minutes for that lesson to soak in (let the pup just be quiet and she WILL think about what just transpired) and then have another person come to the door and ring the doorbell. Go through the whole process again. Hopefully she will be better this time. The main thing to remember is that she is not to be allowed to be obnoxious to visitors, from the very beginning of her life.
Absolutely no exceptions here! Mold her well as a baby and you’ll have a super dog who knows how to behave around people. As she grows and matures she will more than likely become more aloof as is natural in a German Shepherd, to where she may merely greet people then go off and lie down, but that is very acceptable. What you do not want is one who growls and threatens anyone. The well-mannered dog is the one who will be handy if someone evil ever comes and will be there to protect you; the obnoxious one would probably be locked away in the bedroom so they wouldn’t bother the visitor and therefore won’t help you if you need it.
At the Vet’s
She will have been to the vet’s she leaves here–for shots and physical. I never have any problem, but sometimes owners will after they take their pup home. Many owners neglect to continue teaching their pup to be handled all over his body–teeth, mouth, feet, toenails, etc. The pup decided HE will determine what people can or can’t do to him. Again, the best solution is prevention: deliberately handle the pup in all kinds of ways, gently but firmly, so that he learns that he needs to cooperate.
This is a similar problem to that of greeting visitors. The pup is developing her personality and lo and behold decides she doesn’t have to accept being handled in a certain way. Or, being in the fear stage, she overreacts. Sometimes puppies react to a situation and then don’t know how to stop, so they keep reacting. That’s when a calm-headed owner needs to step in and stop the reaction so the brain can again take over. She may bark as she enters the vet clinic, growl or bite if they take her temperature, etc. All this is totally unacceptable and should be corrected immediately. Don’t make the mistake of babying her (oh, baby, that’s okay, they won’t hurt you…). Remember, it works with human kids but with canine kids just serves to convince them there is something to fear. Depending on the pup and the severity of her reaction, you might just firmly tell her to “Cut it out” or “Leave it”, whatever you want, in a growly tone of voice. You might have to shake her by the scruff of her neck. You may have to put your hands around her muzzle, look her straight in the eye and say “OUT!”. This last is a very serious correction to be used for aggression. When said in a low growly, kind of drawn out command, it is very similar to the sound the bitch uses when she disciplines her puppies, and they never forget it. It literally means, “Cut it out or I’ll beat you up.” Don’t use this often–save it for the most serious infractions. And don’t feel bad if your pup acts up. Remember, they’re like kids, they often choose the most public places to test you. Be prepared to take action to stop the infraction, then look for ways to praise when she “gives”. (“Good quiet” or just Good girl”.) Then forgive and forget.
Those herding drives–attacking your legs
You can always tell when the herding drives come in. All of a sudden your puppy may seem permanently attached to your pants leg. This usually happens before they leave here, and finds me having a terrible time walking with puppies attached to both legs, gripping, tugging, growling and generally giving me grief. When the drives come in, the puppies “go with them” and have to be gently taught when they’re appropriate to express and when not. I allow mayhem when I’m outside, wearing jeans or coveralls. I discourage it inside, when I’m wearing good clothes, etc. That’s where the “LEAVE IT!” command is great. In fact they often learn it right here. If they are biting inappropriately (and this includes biting at your hands or any part of your body that moves), tell them “LEAVE IT”, gently pry their mouths off the unacceptable target, and substitute something else. Inside, it might be a chewbone or toy. Outside it might be a stick. The praise “GOOD LEAVE IT” when the puppy accepts the substitution. If she doesn’t, you might have to use some force to remove her. Gently place your hand on her muzzle, palm of hand on top of muzzle so that your fingers are on one side and thumb on the other side of her snout. Squeeze gently so that you press her lips against her teeth. this presses on nerves and usually results in the puppy letting go. If it doesn’t, give the command again and press harder. Sometimes they may get mad and bite again, just repeat firmly until they “give”. Then praise with a “GOOD LEAVE IT” and pet the puppy. You may have to do this over and over until she gets the idea. If she is so loaded with drive that the brain shuts off, resulting in her re-engaging over and over, scoop her up and put her in “time out” in her crate (no treats). Give her a few minutes to think things over and bring her out again. In the beginning it may take several time out’s before she gets the idea. You don’t want to kill or suppress the drives, which are the basis of her desire to be trained, but you do need to teach her how to control and funnel them positively. Be patient. These drives are a good thing and an integral part of your German Shepherd Dog.
Mouthing or Biting Hard
Puppies have to learn how to inhibit their bites. They begin to learn it in play with littermates, who get furious and pound them when they bite and hurt. They have to continue learning with their humans. Puppies are very oral (like human babies); it’s just that, unlike human babies, their teeth are razor sharp! The “LEAVE IT!” command and pressing the lips against the teeth work very well with this problem, too. Some people find it helpful to even firmly place their finger in the pup’s mouth so that the puppy decided he really doesn’t want that thing after all. Be sure to have a toy to substitute for your hand. Remember, these are still babies, and sometimes they’ll want to suck on your finger or ear. Just take the time to teach them to do it gently (I use “EASY” a lot).