The German Shepherd is one of the most intelligent breeds in the dog world. They are known for trainability in every arena including Search and Rescue, Seeing Eye, Police Work, Herding and multiple other complicated professions. Because of their intelligence, the first year of a German Shepherds life should be one of planning and creating a multi faceted learning process for your new puppy. Never assume you can simply put your puppy in the back yard and his experience stop at the fence line.
Everything a dog may encounter under normal circumstances should be experienced early to assure your dog has an well rounded, and stable attitude.
We recommend a great book by Mike Ritland called Team Dog for an outstanding look into a dogs mind and how to be respected and considered a leader in your dogs life.
Everything from Grooming, meeting other dogs, delivery people, children, loud noises, busy streets, and any varied situation you imagine your dog may experience should all be included in the education of your puppy.
Grooming experiences should start at 8 weeks old. Trimming nails, cleaning ears, checking teeth, brushing, bathing can become a simple and pleasant chore by making them fun, and non threatening. Our dogs will step into the bath tub on command, sit for nail trims and all the normal grooming processes because they have been exposed to these experiences since puppyhood. Treats or praise are a great way to make the experience something the dog looks forward too instead of dreading it.
People and places of all descriptions should be part of the learning experience. Walks in Town, down busy streets, Trails, Hiking, Stores, and even the occasional area where farm animals can be seen, as well as swimming should all be included. While walking, one can ask an occasional person to pat the puppy to create a positive experience with strangers. The noises of cars, trucks, busy areas are all good situations for the dog to learn to be at ease. Passing other dogs on walks is an important issue. They should be guided into learning to simply ignore other dogs and focus on you while still young and easy to manage. Repetition is a great tool to instill wanted behaviors. We do not recommend Dog Parks. Far too many people bring uncontrolled aggressive dogs to these parks and a young dog should never suffer an attack by another dog. A controlled setting with other dogs on leashes is a better option.
Children are another pivotal learning situation. If there are no children in the home, taking the puppy to parks or areas where they can become accustomed to seeing and interacting with children is extremely necessary. Never allow a child to hurt your puppy, as a dog can often remember a poor experience, so being in control of the interaction is a good idea.
There are many Rescue Agencies full of dogs who's socialization was neglected and the resulting behavior problems were too much for an owner to manage as it grew into an adult. This should never take place, and diligence in making sure your puppy can experience life with a joyful, relaxed attitude is your responsibility. Dogs don't just 'grow' into good behavior, it is built just as one puts effort into raising a child to be a good citizen.
Educating the puppy will create a wonderful bond between you and your dog that will continue for years to come. The rewards of having a stable and reliable dog no matter where you may go has lasting value, and will be a great source of pride for both you and your dog.