There’s no way around it, puppies get into trouble. German Shepherds in particular are extremely smart and curious. Many people forget that the German Shepherd was created to think and problem solve on its own.
The breed’s original purpose was to tend flocks of sheep and be able to make decisions for the flock’s safety when the Shepherd was away.
While there aren’t many people who use their German Shepherds for herding, that strong will and natural ability to fill the “alpha” role in their home pack is still very much present, even in puppyhood.
For this reason, it’s essential that owners, especially those new to the breed, understand the correct way to discipline their new German Shepherd puppy.
It’s also a good idea to have a step-by-step plan for how to discipline your puppy in place before disaster strikes, so you can set your future good-boy or good-girl up for success!
Read on to learn how to successfully discipline your German Shepherd puppy.
Strategies for Disciplining your German Shepherd Puppy
Before you do anything, try to determine why your puppy is exhibiting undesirable behavior
Keeping track of everything that’s going on with your puppy can sometimes be overwhelming. Last week he chewed his way through one of your throw pillows. Yesterday he chewed a shoe; Today, he got into the garbage!
For busy adults, it may help to keep a logbook or journal of situations where your puppy acts out. Is your puppy barking at new people, digging in the yard, chewing anything and everything, or nipping at ankles or hands?
Once you pinpoint the behavior, you will be better equipped to come up with an appropriate discipline plan.
In this same journal, some owners may find it helpful to keep a log of how much exercise the puppy receives. Keep in mind, German Shepherds require a lot of exercises.
Your puppy’s destructive behavior may be remedied by simply making sure they have an appropriate outlet for this excess energy.
Redirect Unwanted Behavior
German Shepherds are notorious for being heavy chewers, and chewing is a natural behavior for a puppy. Having a variety of appropriate, and puppy-safe, chew toys will help satisfy this natural urge.
On the other hand, if your puppy does not have access to appropriate chew toys, they may direct this behavior to your favorite pair of shoes, furniture, or even walls.
Filling interactive toys like Kongs with peanut butter is a great way to keep your puppy engaged. Not only do toys like this satisfy your puppy’s need to chew, but they will also have to think about how to get the peanut butter out of the Kong, which also expends energy.
Plastic teething bones and soft stuffed animals are often not enough to satisfy puppy chewing.
If you discover your puppy chewing on something they shouldn’t, redirect the unwanted behavior by using the “this, not that” method.
For example, if your puppy is chewing on a shoe, take the shoe away and give the puppy a toy or bone. Chew on this, not that. You want your puppy to understand that they can chew on this (the toy or bone), and not that (AKA your shoe!).
Timing is Everything
Catching your puppy in the act is key to correctly discipline your puppy.
Staying with our shoe example, if you leave your puppy unattended and return to find your favorite pair of shoes destroyed, disciplining your puppy after the fact will be ineffective.
Puppies have short attention spans. Your puppy will not associate the discipline with his act of destroying the shoes.
Disciplining in this situation will only create confusion. While it’s frustrating to find that your puppy destroyed something, be sure to stick with your discipline and training plan.
Being consistent is crucial to your puppy understanding what you’re asking, why you’re asking, and what your expectations are.
Reward your puppy’s good choices to avoid future bad choices.
When your puppy does something right, like going potty in the yard, instead of on the floor; or, sits nicely in the kitchen, instead of begging for food, get ready to give him lots of praise!
Toys, verbal praise, treats, and physical attention like pets or ear scratches are all good tools for positive reinforcement. Dogs are individuals, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here.
Some dogs are more food-driven and will respond better to treats than praise, and vice versa. Find out what your puppy responds best to, and use that when engaging in positive reinforcement techniques.
German Shepherds are a high-energy breed that requires both physical exercise and mental stimulation. When your puppy doesn’t have a productive outlet to release its energy, undesirable behaviors may occur. In fact, many unwanted puppy behaviors can be a result of excess puppy energy.
Using the same journal you use to track your puppy’s bad behavior, keep a log of how much exercise the puppy receives. If you see a correlation between destructive behavior and lack of exercise, it may mean that your puppy just needs more exercise.
Many owners are surprised by how easily a puppy’s destructive behavior is remedied by simply making sure they have an appropriate outlet for their energy.
Check this out: 6 Common German Shepherd Health Issues (Explained)
What Not to Do When Disciplining Your German Shepherd Puppy
We’ve covered a few easy ways for you to discipline your German Shepherd puppy, now let’s take a quick look at unproductive methods you should avoid.
Never Use Physical Punishment
Physical punishments should never be used with a puppy. Period. Because your puppy lacks training at this young age, it will not know how to associate physical punishment with misbehaving.
In fact, physically punishing your puppy may lead to fear and even aggression. If your puppy comes to fear you, they may become defensive in your presence, which will lead to further negative behavior.
Don’t Raise Your Voice
Like physical punishment, yelling at your puppy can create fear and aggression in German Shepherd puppies. The last thing you want to do is create an environment of fear for your new dog.
If your dog fears you, not only will future training be more difficult, you may never have a healthy, happy relationship with your dog.
Don’t Rub Your Puppy’s Nose in a Soiled Area, Mess, or in the Dirt
Rubbing a puppy’s nose in a soiled area on a rug is an outdated way of disciplining a dog – and it’s totally ineffective. Doing so will only make your puppy nervous and anxious around you.
Puppies cannot hold their bladders as long as adult dogs. If your puppy has an accident, ask yourself:
- Have I established a potty routine for my puppy?
- Is he getting outside frequently enough?
- Have medical conditions been ruled out by a trusted veterinarian? Frequent urination or defecation inside may be linked to an undiagnosed UTI or parasite.
Ignore Demanding Behavior
It’s tempting to give in to demanding behavior like barking, pawing, and jumping up. Our natural reaction is to give the dog attention when it paws or jumps up.
But rewarding undesirable behavior with attention will only encourage your dog to engage in these behaviors more.
Some owners (or their friends) may even think this behavior is cute. While it may seem cute for your ten-pound German Shepherd puppy to jump up for attention, it’s certainly not cute when you’re full-grown ninety-pound German Shepherd jumps up for attention.
Rather than give in to this behavior, when your puppy jumps on you or starts barking for attention, walk away. If you’re sitting on the couch, and your puppy paws at your leg, stand up and walk away.
Removing yourself from these attention-seeking situations will let your puppy know that these behaviors will not result in pets or attention. Once your puppy understands this, they will stop this behavior.
Don’t Encourage Bad Behavior
We all love to take photos of our puppies doing cute things like playing with tennis balls or looking with curiosity at a new toy. It can also be tempting to pull out your phone to capture the moment when that same puppy does something they shouldn’t.
It’s crucial to remember that dogs are observational learners, and very in tune with our emotions. Relaying a positive emotion, like laughing at your dog’s behavior when they’ve been bad, could encourage future bad behavior.
A dog who feels the need for attention may then intentionally do something they know will cause their owner to give them this attention.
Your puppy will be most successful if you start training early. Establish a routine and stick to it. For the best training results, always train in short time segments – five to ten minutes, at the most.
Puppies have short attention spans and will respond best to learning new things when they do so in short, repetitive intervals.