How To House Train Your German Shepherd

Being able to have your German Shepherd inside with you creates many opportunities for bonding. Simply having your German Shepherd close by, to pat, or play with, can be a real calming influence in your life. Before you get to this point though, you need to house train your German Shepherd.

House training is all about having a German Shepherd that knows the rules of the house, it involves many behaviours, and these behaviours can be different for every family. Dogs’ don’t arrive in your home knowing how to behave, but they learn quickly, so it is up to you to teach them the rules. What are your house rules? What do you expect of your dog?

I find most people want a dog that is calm and clean inside. German Shepherds are more than capable of this if we set them up for success, and anticipate any disasters. You know your German Shepherd better than anyone, and you know your house rules better than anyone.

Stealing food is often an issue with indoor German Shepherds. German Shepherds are opportunistic hunters if there is food to be had they will take it. If you know your German Shepherd is inclined to steal food don’t leave it lying around where your German Shepherd can get at it (that includes inside the oven for some dogs!). Your German Shepherd will get a huge reinforcement for this behaviour of stealing food, and so they will continue to do so. If you have been vigilant at keeping your food away from your German Shepherd for several months it is unlikely they will jump up on the bench to investigate what is there. The behaviour will become extinct because it not being reinforced anymore.

Eating without having your German Shepherdjumping all over you is usually another house rule people want their German Shepherd to learn. I use a crate to train my dogs to behave inside, so my puppy is simply put away when we eat. However, you will also need to take the time to train your German Shepherd to not pester you while you eat. Take an opportunity when the house is quiet, sit at the table, and eat a meal. Feed your German Shepherd for good behaviour, relaxed and calm. If you reinforce your German Shepherd for laying down quietly at your feet it is not begging. Decide on where you want your German Shepherd to be when you eat and reinforce them for good behaviour. I don’t mind my dog being at my feet quietly when I eat.

Destructive chewing is also a problem when dogs are inside. If your German Shepherd chews items in your home, pack the items away for the time being. I have puppy-proofed my house against the jaws of terror of my 11-week old pup, Ben. This has meant rolling up our rugs, packing all of the cushions away, and hanging up any loose cables, electrical cords etc. Doing this means that your German Shepherd will not begin chewing these items, it will save your sanity, as it is one less thing to manage. German Shepherds are very transparent in their behaviours if they are chewing, they want to chew, so give them something appropriate to chew. Confinement training will also help with stopping unwanted chewing.

Stealing items of clothing is another problem to overcome. If your German Shepherd picks up an item of your clothing (usually socks and jocks) tell them how wonderful and clever they are. If you are nice to them each time they pick something up they will be less likely to run away from you with it. You will then be able to swap it with something more appropriate. If you yell at your German Shepherd they will run off with the object and perhaps destroy it, or it becomes a game of chase, one that you will never win (in the long run). Encourage family members to shut their bedroom doors and keep items off the floor. Always reward your German Shepherd for picking things up in their mouth, it’s great for retrieving and reinforcing your German Shepherd for coming to you.

With regard to all of the behaviours above it is always better to take the time to teach your German Shepherd what you want them to do. Instead of saying ‘No!’ for every undesirable behaviour, ask yourself what you want your dog to do for you. Do you want them to lay down, sit, give? Saying ‘No!’ is simply putting out spot fires all day, it will wear you out, and your German Shepherd will learn nothing. Learning about how to apply corrections will help with house training.

House training is so much more than teaching your German Shepherd to go to the toilet outside. If you think about it, you have many rules at home that your new German Shepherd may be unaware of. Be fair on your German Shepherd, and help them understand how to behave inside. It will be best to bring your German Shepherd inside for the first time after a long, stimulating walk to set them up for indoor calmness.

There is nothing better than having a cuddle with your dog inside, being able to stroke them mindlessly while you watch TV or read a book, knowing that they are also in bliss. Enjoy.

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