Puppy Training Basics


Basic Training free tips & tricks, Love’s Shepherds Approved.

We don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel, EXCEPT! There is some bad teachings out there and misconceptions. We have put together a little section from AAHA that we totally agree on. People do not realize that a German Shepherd as other breeds are unique in their breed. Not all training practices and beliefs are sure to work for all breeds.

On this website you will see training recommended for the German Shepherd breed. Although these tips and tricks can work for other breeds these ones do work for The German Shepherd. Everything you see here is tested and personally proven to work, as we use most of these practices ourselves.

The following texts may help you understand some of the basic behavioral issues regarding your dog.

  • Crate training
  • Pushy pups: Preventing and Handling Aggression in Dogs
  • Basic Training: Teaching Your Puppy to Mind its Manners
  • The Social Scene: Introducing Your Puppy to the World
  • Training for Cleanliness


Dogs are known not to soil their resting place; let’s use this tool properly.

1. Choice of cage:
There are many different types of cages on the market: transport plastic cages and metal cages through which dogs can see. You may choose the one that is most convenient for you. The size of the cage must be proportional to the size of the adult dog. The dog, once mature, must be able to lie comfortably on its back, turn on himself (herself) and be able to stand without touching the roof of the cage. At first, a part of the cage must be blocked by inserting a box or a plank of wood to prevent the puppy from using the other half of the cage.

2. Placement of the cage:
Dogs are sociable animals by nature and therefore they prefer not to be isolated in a garage or laundry room. The crate should be situated in a room in which the family spends a lot of time (the family room or kitchen are excellent choices). During the first few nights that the dog will be spending in the crate, you may situate it in the bed room.

3. Transform the crate into a home:
You may put a blanket in the back of the cage and toys. For a positive first impression you may put some cookies in the crate. During feeding, place the bowl in the back of the cage and leave the door open. You want the dog to enter the cage on it’s own for the first few times and that the experience is a pleasant one. Do not force the dog to enter the cage or stay in it at this point. You can accomplish this if you are able to dedicate a few nights or a weekend to the task.

4. Introduction to the crate:
When the dog enters the cage on his (her) own, you may then close the door. You will have greater success if you confine the dog in the cage when he (she) is tired, i.e. after playing. First allow the dog a chance to empty his or her bladder and bowels, and then put him (her) in the crate. Using a snack, guide your pet towards the cage. You may also want to associate a command to the action i.e. house, sleep…. Close the door for a few seconds and let the dog out if he (she) is very calm, do not open the cage if the dog is barking or if he (she) is too agitated. In the case of agitated behavior, ignore the dog until he (she) calms down. Do not try to elongate this exercise to see how much the dog can endure, always keep it short and positive. When the dog exits the cage, do not make this an important event by exciting the dog. We want him (her) to think that staying in the cage is more rewarding than exiting it.

5. Long term confinement:
The point of using the cage will be to avoid errors or destructive behavior. If the dog must stay in the cage for longer periods than he (she) can hold their bladder, you can initially give him (her) the whole cage.

6. Short term confinement:
Every time you are not able to supervise the dog 100% of the time, he (she) should be in the crate. Make sure he (she) has had the chance to eliminate before being confined. Again, you may want to associate a command to the action of putting him (her) in the cage. Say the command, take a cookie and lure him (her) inside the cage, once inside give the treat and close the door. After many repetitions the dog will respond to the command.


Preventing and Handling Aggression in Dogs

Most puppies are friendly and playful, but as dogs mature, they may become increasingly harder to control. Although genetic factors do play an important role in behavior development, how you handle, train, and control your new puppy is also critical in shaping its adult behavior.

Canids (e.g., wolves, dogs) are a highly social “pack” species that develop a hierarchy among individuals within the pack. This allows the group to live together with minimal confrontation. In a pair of individuals, one will usually emerge as dominant. This is the leader who controls food, mates, and sleeping areas and usually comes out on top in conflicts. By contrast, the subordinate gives in or backs down, rather than challenging.

In the home, it is important to understand a dog’s instinct and work to prevent the dog from seizing control or exhibiting inappropriate behavior. Otherwise, you may soon find that the dog is unwilling to obey commands and may even challenge you when you try to approach, handle, or control it. Dogs displaying such behavior may be exhibiting signs of dominance aggression. Some dogs, even those that are not particularly domineering, can be overly possessive or protective of valued objects, such as food or a favored toy. Another common cause of aggression is fear, which can make the dog bite or act defensive when challenged, confronted, or punished.

The dog of choice
Although studying puppies can be helpful in determining personality, many problems such as fearful or possessive behavior may not develop until long after you select your puppy. Therefore, it might be more valuable to research the typical behavior of the breed. Take a close look at both the parents and the offspring from previous litters and see what behavior other family members exhibit. When selecting an adult dog or older puppy, temperament and personality testing will be more valuable since the dog’s personality is already formed. For specific information on testing a dog’s personality, ask your veterinarian or a pet behaviorist.

Handling your hound
By setting up your dog to succeed, most problems can be prevented. Constant supervision ensures that desirable behavior is rewarded and undesirable behavior is interrupted. Keeping your puppy on a leash can also help. Training your dog to obey verbal commands and accept all forms of handling are important in gaining control and leadership and should begin from day one. Although physical punishment should be avoided, reward-based techniques- rewarding your dog with food, favored toys, and praise when it displays good behavior- are best ways to teach your puppy. (For more training techniques, see Basic Training: Teaching Your Puppy to Mind its Manners.)

Your dog should get used to accepting all forms of handling without resisting or showing fear or anxiety. At some point you will need to handle of lift your dog, bathe or groom it, brush its teeth, clean in or around its ears and eyes, or trim its nails. In addition, you should be able to gently grasp around the muzzle or hold your puppy in a down position on its belly or side. These forms of handling should be practiced regularly with rewards given for compliance. Pushy puppies are likely to struggle and resist, so you will need to be persistent, but never force the puppy to a point where it causes fear, retaliation, or escape. If you reach a part of the body or a type of handling that your puppy resists, proceed gradually until your dog becomes accustomed to the handling and accepts it. Rewards can be given for each successful step.

When adult dogs are lifted or handled in a way they are not used to, it can lead to fear or dominance-related forms of aggression. If you identify any resistance or threats, immediately cease and seek the guidance of your veterinarian or a behaviorist. With assistance, your dog can be properly trained to accept these forms of handling.

Drop it!
Possessive behavior or guarding over food, toys, and objects can emerge at any time as a puppy grows up. A number of actions can be taken to help prevent problems before they emerge. However, should your dog begin to display any aggression when in possession of food or objects, immediately seek the guidance of a veterinarian or behaviorist. This way, you can determine a safe and effective way to correct the problem.

The first step in preventing this type of guarding is to teach your dog to give up objects on command. Begin with a toy that is of minimal appeal and teach your dog to “give” the toy to you for rewards. You may need to prompt your dog with a treat the first time, but each time thereafter the food should be hidden and given only after your dog gives up the object. Once your dog reliably drops objects for rewards with each command, switch to intermittent food reinforcement (praise each time and food occasionally).

Although it is best not to bother a dog during meals, it is important that the dog understand that you control resources such as food and toys. Your dog should also be comfortable when family members are around during meal times. Train the dog to sit and stay while you prepare the food and place it on the floor. Then allow the dog to come and eat. During feeding, approach your dog once or twice, interrupt it with a “sit” or “come” command, lift up the food bowl, put in a special food reward, and give it back to your dog. It can also be helpful to place a small amount of food in your dog’s bowl at feeding times and pick up the bowl and refill it a few times during feeding. Againg, it is important to remember that if your dog begins growling and threatening to bite, immediately consult your veterinarian or a pet behaviorist.

Power plays
Of course puppies will not be trained immediately, and some dogs can be very difficult to train, even with the best of efforts. Problems often develop when the owner first allows or is unable to control the pushy behavior– pulling on walks, jumping up on greeting, nipping, or sleeping on furniture- and then later attempts to stop the problem. Dealing with these situations before they become problems is critical.

Whenever your dog begins to exhibit pushy, demanding, undesirable, or over-exuberant behavior, it should be ignored so that the behavior is not encouraged. Another option is to use a verbal command such as “quit” of “off”. Dogs that are mouth-oriented, stubborn, excitable, or hard to train can be better controlled with a leash and head halter. Unless your dog is responsive to your commands, games such as tug-of-war and rough-house wrestling should be avoided. These games are never acceptable if your dog initiates them, if they escalate into aggressive displays of nipping and growling, or if you are unable to stop them at will.

Even with the best of efforts, aggression problems can arise. By immediately identifying what causes the aggression, you improve your chances of resolving the problem. If you are having difficulty gaining control of your dog, or should aggression begin to emerge, contact your veterinarian immediately. Together, you can determine if help from a pet behaviorist is necessary.


When to begin

Puppy training can begin at an early age, even as young as 8-12 weeks, and often goes much faster and smoother when the pup is young. Early training can help with important areas of puppy learning, including establishing leadership, socializing, and preventing unruly behaviors.

To successfully train a puppy, it is important to use correct training methods. Puppies don’t learn well with forceful training. In addition, too much force during your puppy’s formative months can ruin your bond with your pet. Instead, use positive motivation to facilitate- rather than force- the training process. The biggest motivating factors for training and reinforcing obedient behavior are food, a favored toy, affection, and social attention.

Here’s the how-to
Generally, the healthiest choice for a reward is the puppy’s own dry food, along with praise. Special treats are usually not necessary. Training just prior to the puppy’s routine dinner is an excellent time as the puppy’s interest in the food will be focused. Initially, the food reward should be given immediately following every correct response.

As the pup gets better at performing the desired behavior, stop giving a food reward for less than exact responses, and only reward quick, well-performed responses. Once your reach your goal, continue to give praise for every correct response but only provide the food reward on an intermittent, random basis. This will render the longest retention of learning.

Also, remember to use hand signals along with food rewards. A dog is more likely to respond to a double signal (verbal and visual) command, rather than only a verbal command.

Teaching your puppy to come when he is called is quite simple. Hold a piece of dry food out between your thumb and forefinger, extend it toward the pup, and say his name. As he approaches you, repeatedly wave your hand toward your chest and say “come”. This gives your pet both verbal and visual cues to respond to. When he reaches you, give him the food and, as he eats, quickly take a few steps back and repeat the procedure.

To teach your dog to sit on command, start with the puppy in the standing position. Hold a piece of dry food directly in front of his nose between your thumb and forefinger, and say the pet’s name. Slowly move the food over the pet’s head so that his nose points straight up. As the puppy’s nose goes up, his rear end will be leveraged into the sit position. Say “sit” as he assumes the position and give the food reward. Be careful not to hold the food lure too high above the pet’s head, or he will jump up for the food. After some practicing, the pup will automatically sit when you sweep your hand in an upward movement, even without food.

Lie down
Teaching your pet to lie down on command is easier if the pup is on a smooth surface, such as tile or linoleum. Begin with the puppy in the sitting position. Hold a piece of dry food directly in front of his nose. Say the pet’s name and, with a swift movement, move the food down to the floor directly next to the puppy’s front paws. As the pet slides into the down position, say “down”, and give the food reward. This command usually takes a little more patience than the first two. Be careful to move the food to the floor, right next to the paws. Otherwise if the food is five inches or more in front of the pup, he will probably stand up as he tries to get the food. With time, the downward sweep of your hand by itself will cause the pup to go into the down position.

The stay command is the most difficult for the puppy to learn. Young puppies don’t like to sit still for very long and love to follow people. Keeping this in mind, will help you understand your puppy’s actions, and you will be better able to train him. The best time to begin training is when your puppy is calm, possibly after a long walk or play session.

Start with the puppy in the sitting position. Ask him to sit using a hand and a verbal signal, but no food. As soon as the puppy is sitting, lean toward him, make fixed eye contact, extend the palm of your hand toward the pup, and in a firm voice say “stay”. Wait only one second, then return to your dog, calmly praise him, and give the food reward while the dog is still sitting. Repeat the command.

Many owners will immediately walk away after giving the command, triggering the young pet to follow. Gradually, you can request that the pup stay for longer and longer periods. If the pet strays from eye contact, calmly repeat “stay” in a serious tone as you lean toward him.

Once the pet will successfully stay for ten seconds at one step away, you can start working on distance. Slowly increase distance and time until your pet fully understands the concept.

Additional tips

  • Remember that patience and consistency are key!
  • On days when the pet seems fidgety and has a shorter attention span, keep the training session short and stop before the pup begins ignoring commands.
  • Start the training in a quiet area. When the puppy’s responses to commands become dependable, move the training to environments with more distractions. Be sure the pet knows one command before proceeding to the next.
  • Tone of voice is important. When teaching “come”, “sit”, and “down”, use a happy, high-pitched tone of voice. This will help motivate the pet to move. “Stay” requires a slow, deep-toned command.
  • Avoid repeating your command over and over. If your puppy is not taught to obey on the first command, he will learn that it’s not necessary to obey until multiple commands are given.
  • Praise your puppy and say “good dog” whenever you are giving a food reward. This will reinforce desired behavior and help in training as the food reward is gradually withdrawn.


Introducing Your Puppy To The World

Little puppies don’t come into our world with ready knowledge about humans or the world in which we live. They need to learn all about us-about car rides, vacuums, weaving bicycles, and more. If they don’t have a chance to learn about the people, animals, and things in their environment, they may grow up to be fearful, anxious, antisocial adults. This situation can usually be prevented with early socialization and exposure to as many people, animals, sights, sound, and places as possible. If you are considering getting a new puppy, it is best to obtain him at approximately seven weeks old. Before this time, a puppy needs to be socialized to his mother and litter mates. From seven weeks on, it is critical that puppies socialize with humans.

Socialization-making friends

Socialization is the process of developing relationships with other living beings in your environment. The first few months of your puppy’s life are the most critical for his development. If this time passes without the young pup making necessary social contacts, irreparable damage may result, leading to fear, timidity, or aggression. Since the most sensitive period for puppy socialization occurs during the first 12 weeks of age, you should begin the socialization process as soon as you get your new puppy (and then continue into adulthood).

Start with simple, quiet, one-person introductions and gradually include more people in noisier situations. Invite friends, relatives, and their pets to come to your home to meet, greet, and play with your puppy. As soon as your veterinarian says your puppy is adequately vaccinated, take him on as many walks and outings as possible. Initially avoid situations that might be high risk for disease, such as neighborhood parks or areas with stray dogs. To make the new introductions special, give a small biscuit to your puppy whenever he meets someone. As soon as your puppy can sit on command, have him sit when he meets new people, letting each new friends give the reward. This teaches your puppy to greet properly, rather than lunging or jumping up on visitors and passersby.

It is important that your puppy meets and receives treats from a wide variety of people of all ages and appearances. A puppy that grows up in a restricted social group (e.g., all adults or all females) may show fear and aggression when later exposed to people who appear or act differently (e.g., children, men with beards). Even if there are no children living at home, it is likely your puppy will encounter them sometime. Therefore, every effort should be made to see that your young pup has plenty of opportunities to play with and learn about children. Some pups seem to consider kids to be a completely different species since they walk, act, and talk much differently than adults. If you don’t provide your puppy with adequate, positive interaction with children during his early months, he may never feel comfortable around them.

Another excellent way to promote early socialization is to take your puppy to training classes. The new concept in training is to start puppies young, before they pick up bad habits and when learning is rapid. Many communities now have puppy training and socialization classes where puppies can be admitted as early as their third month. These classes not only help the pups get off to a great start with training, they also offer a wonderful opportunity for important social experiences with other puppies and people. Ask your veterinarian about classes available in your area.

Punishment during the early development stages can negatively influence the puppy’s relationships with people. Avoid training method that involve physical discipline, such as swatting your pup, thumping him on the nose, and rubbing his face in a mess. These methods can teach your dog to fear the human hand or to become a fear biter. In general, during the early months of your puppy’s life, avoid any interactions with people who might make him anxious.

Habituation-hello world!
Habituation is a fancy term that involves getting used to a varied environment. As your puppy matures, new sounds and situations can lead to fear and anxiety. Begin the habituation process at an early age. Frequently expose your puppy to different sights, sounds, odors, and situations.

For example, repeated, short car rides can minimize anxiety associated with traveling, provided nothing unpleasant occurs during the ride. Also expose your puppy to stimuli such as the sound of traffic, sirens, airplanes, water, elevators, or alarm clocks. If your puppy seems to be exceptionally cautious when first introduced to new situations or stimuli, start off with mild exposure and give food rewards for non fearful responses. Never give rewards while the pet is exhibiting fearful behavior- this only rewards the very response you are trying to discourage. Your puppy then can be gradually “built up” to more intense exposure. Tape recordings of a variety of environmental sounds are available if it’s difficult to expose your puppy to sufficient stimuli in your own neighborhood.

Properly socializing and shaping your puppy’s temperament requires an investment in time. You will find that your efforts are worthwhile when you become the proud parent of a social, friendly dog.


Whether it is a puppy that we are trying to train or an older dog that has never learned or has “forgotten”, the steps are the same. It is essential that you follow the steps to the letter and that you follow them slowly but surely.

1. Establishing a constant reward history during elimination at the appropriate location:
This means that you must be present every time your dog is doing his (her) business outside to be able to reward him (her) every time. Chose rewards that would be very motivating for the animal (food!!). No error should occur during this period. This procedure should take between a few days to a few weeks.

2. Prevent errors until #1 is established:
Your dog should be confined (in a cage or in a small room) when no one can supervise him (her). When your pet is free in the house, he (she) should always be under direct supervision. You may at this point use an “umbilical cord” and keep him (her) attached to you. The goal is to prevent errors during step #1, and your dog should therefore be taken out often or confined to his (her) cage.
If your pet has not yet been properly crate trained, please refer to the “crate training” pamphlet. This step should taken before training for cleanliness.

3. Maintain the behavior with occasional rewards and the cage confinement if necessary.

A few extra tips:

  • Avoid physical punishment or violent yelling at a dog that is eliminating in the house. The dog will quickly learn to eliminate in the house in your absence, which will make the problem more difficult to fix. Also, this will ruin your relation with your dog.
  • Never put the dog’s nose in his (her) urine or stools.
  • If the mess is made during your absence, the area should be cleaned and the incidence forgotten. The supervision should then be reinforced.
  • Clean the surfaces which were previously soiled to eliminate the odor therefore diminishing the likelihood of the dog soiling there again. Never use vinegar or products that contain ammonium.
  • We need to allow the puppy or the adult dog to eliminate after sleeping, after a play period, as soon as he (she) comes out of the crate, approximately 30 minutes after a meal and approximately every 1 to 4 hours for puppies in general.
  • Keeping a regular feeding schedule will help you to predict the times at which your pet will need to eliminate.