Effective German Shepherd Training Tools and Techniques

German Shepherd jumps over an agility hurdle on a dog agility course

Key Points

  • Using a clicker alongside positive reinforcement encourages and clarifies your desires for your dog while training.

  • Treats should be high-value to encourage your dog to stay interested in them.

  • Leashes offer control while training and keeps your dog safe when out in public.

  • Training collars require understanding and supervision from a professional.

  • Don't be afraid to try new toys with your dog; it keeps them mentally stimulated.

If you are sitting across from your new German shepherd puppy, wondering what you got into, know you aren't alone. German shepherd training isn't an easy task as these dogs are not only energetic but intelligent.

Training doesn't have to be a nightmare if you have the right tools and techniques for the job. The best way to go about German shepherd training is to use positive reinforcement. It makes your dog happy to listen to you, and you can rest easy knowing your dog is enjoying the training.

What do you do to start training, though? You need the proper German shepherd training tools, and you've come to the right place.

Clicker Training

Clicker training uses a clicker alongside positive reinforcement training, like the Karen Pryor i-Click Clicker. The clicker is a small mechanical noisemaker with a button you press down.

The value of using a clicker is that it tells your dog exactly which behavior you're rewarding. When you click at the right time, you make a "mark" that tells your dog that they did what you wanted. It takes the guesswork away from your dog.

Clicker training gives your dog a clear point of what you want from them. For example, if you are teaching lay down, how do you make it clear to your dog that you are rewarding the belly on the ground? If you mistime and give the reward when your dog gets up, they might consider that what you want. With a Karen Pryor i-Click Clicker, or any other clicker, you reward the belly on the ground with an audible click and a treat.

You have to teach your dog what the click means to use the clicker. German shepherds love learning, so this part of the task is easy for most owners. You click, then reward them immediately with a treat. After 10 to 20 repetitions, your dog will understand that the click means a good thing, and you can start using it in training.

Karen Pryor i-Click Clicker


Rarely will you find a dog that isn't motivated by food. A puppy, especially your German shepherd, likely will do anything you want for a smelly treat. It is why training with treats is one of the best ways to get your dog to understand that good behavior gets treats and bad behavior means no treats.

When you start training, you want to use high-value treats. High-value treats are like getting ice cream for humans. Hard to resist, and it tastes fantastic. Your dog is more likely to do what you want if you have their favorite treat around, unlike just using their kibble as a reward.

Soft treats like Zuke's Mini Naturals work great for this. They are easy to eat, low in calories, smelly (which dogs love), and small. The small treats ensure your dog isn't bulking up around the waist and stays focused on you for their reward. When training is intense, you might be going through a handful of treats each day, so smaller and low-calorie matters.

Switch it up if you notice your dog's enthusiasm is fading with the treat you provide. Keep it fresh so your dog stays engaged in training, and it never hurts to mix different types for a more stimulating experience.

Zuke's Mini Naturals


It is no secret that leashes keep dogs safe. Most people don't think about having a leash when training unless they are trying to get their dog to walk on a leash. However, a leash is far more than just a tool for a walk.

Leashes like the Max and Neo leash provide you with control during training. Puppies are easily distracted by everything. Leashes give you control over where your puppy can and can't go. It also gives you the ability to keep the attention on you.

You want to avoid retractable leashes. The founder of Inquisitive Canine and certified dog trainer Joan Mayer states in an interview with Rover that "a retractable leash acts similarly to a fishing reel, in that it spins at a high rate and can be difficult to control."

Not only do retractable leashes make it hard to control your dog, they are also dangerous. If the thin line wraps around your finger and the dog runs forward, it can easily cut off your circulation or, in the worst-case scenario, cut off your finger. They also pose a risk of whiplash for dogs as the sudden stop of the leash after freedom jerks them back. The Max and Neo leash keeps your fingers safe and the risk of whiplash down.

Max and Neo leash

Training Collars

Hold on before you run out and get your hands on a training collar. You have to know how to use it, especially if you will consider something like the Herm Sprenger Prong Training Collar.

Most trainers will warn against using prong collars for training. There is a good reason — if they are misused, they cause serious harm to your dog. Most pet stores don't sell prong collars anymore for that reason. The idea behind it was that if you added discomfort to a specific action, it would stop, but much like people getting hurt, it just causes fear.

A head halter is excellent at redirecting your dog if your dog is pulling. The head halter is a gentle reminder to your dog that goes over their nose and neck.

Before using a training collar, contact a dog trainer. These collars can be dangerous and should only be used with understanding and, ideally, supervision.

Herm Sprenger Prong Training Collar

Agility Equipment

German shepherds are working dogs, and a working dog needs to be kept busy. Agility training is a great way to keep your dog active. It keeps your dog fit, helps prevent obesity, increases endurance, and strengthens bones and joints. Agility also provides your dog with a problem to solve, keeping their brains active and engaged.

If going out to a course isn't readily available, then the PawHut Agility Set can be set up in your backyard. The PawHut Agility Set is easy to set up, meaning agility training can happen whenever you like.

An added benefit to agility training is that you stay in shape too.

PawHut Agility Set

Interactive Toys

A bored dog is a destructive dog. As much as pet parents want to stay home with their dogs, it isn't possible to do all the time. One way to keep your pup busy is interactive toys.

German shepherds need stimulation to keep from being bored. An interactive toy such as the Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Puzzle keeps your dog's mind active and makes problem-solving fun.

Of course, any of the Outward Hound toys will work. Outward Hound toys provide mental stimulation that can help your dog's mental health in the long run. If you have an anxious dog, a puzzle toy keeps them busy without thinking about the anxiety. With all kinds, you can experiment and find which one your dog finds the most fun. Just remember to rotate the toys so the fun doesn't get lost.

German shepherd dog sniffs the ground

Obedience Classes

Don't be afraid of using obedience classes like the ones offered at Petco. Petco obedience classes provide you with support, knowledge, and consistency with training.

Training a dog is challenging and can get overwhelming quickly when you have an active one like a German shepherd. Professional guidance ensures that your dog learns in a way that works for them. Petco obedience classes use positive reinforcement to train; you learn alongside your dog simultaneously.

If you have never tried training, an obedience class is the best way to learn.

German shepherd dog knocks over cones to discover the ball

Enjoy German Shepherd Training

Seriously! Training a dog isn't always easy, so don't give up if you don't succeed at first. Take your time, and if you need extra help, don't wait until you are overwhelmed to talk to a trainer or enroll in an obedience class.

Not every dog is going to love the same thing. Figure out what works for you and your dog, and the training process goes smoothly. Remember, positive interaction and reinforcement is the best way to get your dog to understand what you want.

If you need more tips on dog training, German shepherd accessories, or techniques, subscribe to BreedExpert!

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