In a recent post in another thread @seltzer posted what I believe is an invaluable set of rules/guidelines for new GSD puppy owners, and it seemed like a great idea to create a sticky that we can all point to when the inevitable questions on training come up. IMHO the list is great as is, but the goal here is to come up with a prioritized list of 10-25 general guidelines that all new owners should be aware of, and your expertise and experience is required!
So, please chime in! Imagine you are talking directly to the proud owner of a 3 to 4 month old puppy who needs help, or share the things that helped you the most when raising your puppy. What tips or information would have or did help you the most? Is the list prioritized correctly?
As a starting point I've just included most all of @selzer
's post, because the points made above the "Guidelines" list seemed too important to not be included somehow. I have changed some of the language in a couple places to make it more generally applicable, rather than leaving it as stated because it was specific to the situation being discussed in the thread, and took a first stab at ordering. Feel free to add, delete, replace, reorder, or whatever.
Training a puppy requires discipline. Discipline on YOUR part. You have to train and discipline yourself to build the language that your pup can understand. They are creatures of habit. They understand body language better than words, but use words too.*And always use the SAME word to mean the same action, so your puppy can understand.
In general 8 weeks of proper training should have an adult dog with a reliable recall. 8 weeks of proper training for a young puppy will net you a puppy who may or may not have the basics pretty well understood. Depends on the puppy. Training a baby like yours means, being patient, repeating -- but not too many times in a row, understand that he has the attention span of a flea. You have to have realistic expectations.*
If you want your dog to listen to you every time, stop repeating yourself. Giving commands that you cannot enforce immediately, teaches a dog to ignore your commands. This leads to you repeating your commands, which teaches a dog that he does not have to follow them.*
Corrections. The thing is, a correction is really dependent on the puppy, and too many people believe an untrained puppy is stubborn or defiant or defective, when they are actually confused, and do not want to do the wrong thing. So the owner corrects a behavior he views as stubborn or defiant. The puppy becomes even more confused, and reluctant to do something for you because he is now not wanting to be corrected.*
Corrections themselves can amp some pups up because it is more like play than something to avoid. The same correction can shut other puppies down, because they are softer and don't want to do anything wrong. So you can see why we can't tell you, "Stop the games and and give the pup a proper correction" or "Your puppy is not coming to you because he is afraid of the correction." Know your puppy and adjust your corrections accordingly. Err on the milder end, until you see plainly that you need to escalate a correction for it to be effective.
1. Do not give a command that you cannot immediately enforce.
2. Recall is a life-skill. A dog with good recall (COME) can be saved in a bad situation by the use and following of this command. So you NEED to get this one right.
When training recall, NEVER use the term unless you have the ability to enforce it immediately. In the beginning, this means the dog is connected to a 6' leash. That can change to a long line. Being in a fenced field when the dog is doing the work on a line perfectly. NEVER EVER call the dog to you to punish him. NEVER punish COME. If you called the dog to COME and he did not, then you did the wrong thing. You were unable to enforce immediately, and did not realize the dog was not yet ready to do the command off-line. Punishment is inappropriate. You want the dog to come to you every single time. He will not if you punish him some of the time with that word. Make coming to you better than chopped liver.*
3. Do not repeat commands, tell the dog 1 time, and then help him get into the proper position, then praise the proper position, Good SIT, Good Down. etc.*
4. Praise behavior you want, praise and treat in the beginning, then you can start to wean off the treats. You can temper praise to the circumstances and the performance. Use your voice as an instrument and tune it to your dog's temperament and drives. (a good trainer can help you with this!)
5. Realistic expectations. You have a baby here. You have to teach the dog first what is wanted, and then you have to practice it and get good at it. Then you have to perform it with distractions and in different places. Just because your dog knows how to lay down in your living room, does not mean he can do it on the sidewalk when you are talking to a lady with two dogs.*
6. Stay calm. If you lose control, the trust your dog has in you can be totally shattered. Dogs do not like instability .*
7. Do not repeat an exercise more than 3 times in a row. Try it once, get into position, praise, then again, and possibly again, then move on to something else.
8. Use the same body language or signs for the different exercises. A good trainer can help you with this. Because sometimes we do not realize that we do a certain thing with our body that our dog is cuing on, and a good trainer may be able to recognize it.*
9. Start and end all training sessions with something light, fun, that the dog will have success with.*
10. Keep training sessions short for puppies.*
11. Set your dog up for success and praise him for succeeding. If you find yourself correcting the dog more than 5% of your training, then re-evaluate your training and your expectations, go back a few steps. It is a marathon not a race.