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Discussion Starter #1
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.


Puppy training

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.


Guidelines:*

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.
 

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I also play and bond for the first six months or so. But I also take them once a week for probably six weeks to a puppy class that does not allow free-for-all. I do the work in the class and only in the class. I try to make it fun and light, playing and bonding. I am there mostly so that the puppies between say 10 and 12 weeks up through 16 -18 weeks, learn to work with me when there are other dogs and people on lead in the vacinity. That is the main reason.

Most of the stuff in my list are management tools as much as training tools. Or maybe leadership tools. Even with a baby puppy, repeating commands doesn't make sense, it is nagging. If I want them in the crate, and I say, "kennel" I give the puppy the opportunity to go into the crate, if they do not, I pick them up and put them in the crate. If they do it the first time, that Good Boy!!! What a good puppy you are!

These are babies. There is nothing wrong with using some of our bonding time to shape behaviors we want and to eliminate behaviors we do not want. But it is so much more helpful to do by keeping it short and simple and fun. We can make a game out of sitting, out of downing, out of going to one's place, out of looking at my face. Out of moving over to my side and sitting. It is fun for us, it is fun for the puppy, there is praise, and even treats involved. There is little stress. We are not trying to get a puppy to the point of a CGC or a title by six months. Just some foundations that the puppy can learn painlessly.

But yes, serious training can happen after the dog is older. I have a buddy who does no training until 10 months and then puts a prong on the dog and has them obedience trained within a week. It works for him. And then there is Ramona... But I think I made a thread about that day at training.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I think I'm sensing a new #1 for the list!

The more I think about this, the more I realize that this key element is either missing or grossly understated in most training materials. The one thing that true animal lovers do naturally and effortlessly is learn to communicate with the animal! It's easy to take that for granted, and when I'm talking to people in person or online, it's often a given in my mind...and that's a mistake! The number one task for any new dog owner is to learn to communicate with their dog/puppy. And you can't do that without thoughtful observation and interaction, or without bonding and building trust.
 

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Basic manners. Boundaries for safety.

I don't teach a recall. Puppies naturally follow. I just pla and bond.
Yes! You should be able to teach them what their pack members would have taught them; respect and allowed a certain amount of freedom.
I don't understand why we accept the landshark behavior while they would never be able to pull that off with sane adult dogs.
OK, back to the sticky-topic but many struggle with the biting so it should be in there.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yes! You should be able to teach them what their pack members would have taught them; respect and allowed a certain amount of freedom.
I don't understand why we accept the landshark behavior while they would never be able to pull that off with sane adult dogs.
OK, back to the sticky-topic but many struggle with the biting so it should be in there.
I agree. So far I've made a note to add:

Bonding and communication
Potty training
Socialization 2.0
LandSharks

Am I alone in finding it extremely ironic that the first element of training is don't? >:) I love it!
 

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Medical Procedures

I think that this is a GREAT idea Tim! I like the edits that you made to Selzer's post too. I've got three suggestions. First, much of what's been described applies to newly adopted, adult dogs too. So, is there a way to include that suggestion at the beginning? Second, crate training and/or the two week shutdown (for adult adoptees) are both approaches that new owners should know about. No need to recreate the wheel, so could you/we include links to prior discussion of these points? Finally, I teach all new puppies/dogs what I call "Medical Procedures." What follows is a description of what I do, lifted from a post that I made on another thread. Feel free to edit, as necessary, if you decide to keep/use it.

Aly

As soon as a puppy/yearling/adult comes home, we start learning "medical procedures." This includes:

1. Teaching them to "Stand" on command for an exam (which basically consists of running my hands all over their bodies). Also useful when you need to dry off wet dogs quickly.

2. Teaching them to let me mess with their paws (e.g., starting with gentle paw massages, then sticking my fingers between their toes, building up to tapping their nails with a human nail file, and eventually clipping their nails).

3. Teaching them to "give me your paw" (which I then wipe with a dry towel) and "give me the other one."

4. Teaching them to let me mess about with their ears (e.g., starting with gentle massages at the base of the ear, slowly working up to sticking the tip of my finger and, later, cotton balls in their ears, to gentle cleanings).

5. Teaching them to open their mouths on command ("Open Wide"), let me mess about with their teeth and eventually brush their teeth.

6. Teach them to stand for "Booty Call," (yes, that's what I call it) which is basically letting me wipe their ...ah...nether regions with a soft cloth. Eventually this culminates in teaching them to let me take their temps without protest (Have your vet show you how to take a temp --- very helpful in emergencies).

7. Teaching them to lie on their sides for x-rays, grooming, etc. ("Over")

Basically, training what I call "medical procedures" is just getting the puppy/dog ready for whatever I/vet staff may need to do as part of a regular exam or in an emergency. Easy to do (5 minutes a day), it's fun and, as treats are involved, the dogs enjoy it as well.

We don't get there in one session. We do it over a period of months. Unless, there's some medical reason to skip steps (e.g., an ear infection), I keep it light, pleasant and brief, so the pup/dog has no reason to get defensive.

Small steps....
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Basically, training what I call "medical procedures" is just getting the puppy/dog ready for whatever I/vet staff may need to do as part of a regular exam or in an emergency. Easy to do (5 minutes a day), it's fun and, as treats are involved, the dogs enjoy it as well.
Thanks for this @Aly. I think the "medical procedures" bit fits in with the bonding and communication section. It makes good sense to get your dog or puppy comfortable with these, and it is building trust not training. I'll add it.

On the other items you mentioned you're right, the process is much the same for adult dogs or puppies, so maybe a more appropriate title for the sticky would just be "training fundamentals" or something similar...good stuff!
 

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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.
Forgot to answer your question in my previous post, so here goes. What follows are more philosophical than prescriptive, but I've found them to extend beyond raising/training dogs. The very best advice I ever got was: "Deal with the dog in front of you." At base, it's less about the breed or even the line and more about what the puppy/dog is actually doing. Often, in our excitement about having finally gotten the [fill in the blank] that we longed and saved for, we manage to forget that it's a puppy --- with basic needs for structure, limits and, most of all, management.

Second best piece of advice that I've ever gotten came from my childhood horse trainer: "What are you doing?" The unsubtle message was that if things weren't going the way that I wanted/expected, to look honestly at what *I* was doing (or not doing) first and to change my behavior and expectations accordingly.

Third best piece of advice came from the same trainer: "Reward the try." Puppy may not give you a perfectly square sit on the first or even second effort, but if that little bum hovers even close to the ground, treat it like the gift it is.

Aly
 

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I think I'm sensing a new #1 for the list!

The more I think about this, the more I realize that this key element is either missing or grossly understated in most training materials. The one thing that true animal lovers do naturally and effortlessly is learn to communicate with the animal! It's easy to take that for granted, and when I'm talking to people in person or online, it's often a given in my mind...and that's a mistake! The number one task for any new dog owner is to learn to communicate with their dog/puppy. And you can't do that without thoughtful observation and interaction, or without bonding and building trust.
Maybe because I have a pack of dogs it is different, but my method of bonding(trust)/learning to communicate with the individual dog is through training. Not stiff, training, but those games I was talking about.

Dogs gain confidence and build their trust in us by being set up to succeed and being praised for succeeding. So by following the rules (which minimize confusion/make it easier for our dog to learn stuff), we build trust, we build the bond. The dog knows what to expect, he likes stability, he trusts us when we are not unpredictable. And the more often we succeed in training, however minor, the more the dog/human bond grows.

I think of training itself as building a language between you and the dog.

Another thing I would put on my original list, is the GENTLE command. Some use EASY or NICE. We train a word with treats, by begining very simple with the palm open to get the dog to take the treat gently. We say the word gently when we offer, "Gentle." and we say it again when we praise the gentle, "Good Gentle." We say it every time we play this game, and then we make it harder by putting a thumb over the treat. We take time, we say the word. We make that perfect, and then we close the fist, and remind, "Gentle" Licking gets the fist open and a Good Gentle. Biting gets the fist and treat into the pocket and a half-hour or so break. When this is perfect and we have taken time with it, we move the treat to the thumb and index finger (the most dangerous way to offer a treat). We remind with Gentle. We praise the Gentle. And when it is perfect, we start using the term Gentle in other situations. "Gentle with my fingers." Gentle with the baby. And so on. We train the dog to be careful with its teeth.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Maybe because I have a pack of dogs it is different, but my method of bonding(trust)/learning to communicate with the individual dog is through training. Not stiff, training, but those games I was talking about.

Dogs gain confidence and build their trust in us by being set up to succeed and being praised for succeeding. So by following the rules (which minimize confusion/make it easier for our dog to learn stuff), we build trust, we build the bond. The dog knows what to expect, he likes stability, he trusts us when we are not unpredictable. And the more often we succeed in training, however minor, the more the dog/human bond grows.

I think of training itself as building a language between you and the dog.

Another thing I would put on my original list, is the GENTLE command. Some use EASY or NICE. We train a word with treats, by begining very simple with the palm open to get the dog to take the treat gently. We say the word gently when we offer, "Gentle." and we say it again when we praise the gentle, "Good Gentle." We say it every time we play this game, and then we make it harder by putting a thumb over the treat. We take time, we say the word. We make that perfect, and then we close the fist, and remind, "Gentle" Licking gets the fist open and a Good Gentle. Biting gets the fist and treat into the pocket and a half-hour or so break. When this is perfect and we have taken time with it, we move the treat to the thumb and index finger (the most dangerous way to offer a treat). We remind with Gentle. We praise the Gentle. And when it is perfect, we start using the term Gentle in other situations. "Gentle with my fingers." Gentle with the baby. And so on. We train the dog to be careful with its teeth.
Let me begin by saying thanks for making this so easy! And yes, that is sarcasm LOL! I couldn't agree with you more though, and I am now struggling with the desire for a concisely stated list, versus a more comprehensive list plus reasonably short explanations.

One thing a sticky has going for it that a book or pamphlet doesn't is the ability to link other threads on a given topic for further reading/explanation. That is an acceptable practice in a sticky right? Sure a book or pamphlet can include further reading links too, but who ever uses them besides nerds like myself?

Right now the biggest hurdle I'm facing is how to "concisely" include everything that goes into bonding and communication learning. It really includes a wide range of things, touching/handling as @Aly mentioned, avoiding all but "basic manners and safety rules" as @cloudpump mentioned, and how you can and should include behaviour shaping - both to encourage desired behaviours, and to discourage unwanted behaviors - as you've mentioned. It's a concept that comes easily to an animal person, but not so much to those less exposed or used to dealing with animals so closely. Good info, but I'm not sure how to exactly convey it sufficiently in a concise manner.

I do think it's of CRITICAL importance to emphasize the advantages of waiting for any kind of "formal" training, especially for new dog people or puppy owners, and making sure they understand what REASONABLE expectations for a puppy are! Most people run into problems because they see how smart and responsive their puppy is at home, then think the puppy is being bad by not performing equally well at the park or home depot, or off leash. **** puppy, he knows what I'm saying and is just being bad. We know better, they don't. How to convey that concisely is the mystery we're trying to unravel...

But every comment here is going to make the finished product better...and, of course, make my job harder LOL, So keep them coming! I am hoping that some novice dog owners and or new GSD folks will chime in with comments on what would or did help you the most in raising your puppies...
 

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Maybe we do puppy training all wrong. Maybe it should be more like a 12 step program:

Hello, my name is Sue, I have a puppy.

Hi Sue!!!

At today's meeting, we are going to focus on the fourth step, keeping calm when your puppy has destroyed something irreplaceable, staying calm when your puppy is barking at other dogs, staying calm when your puppy was charged by another dog, staying calm when your potty-trained dog just made a mess in the living room.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Maybe we do puppy training all wrong. Maybe it should be more like a 12 step program:

Hello, my name is Sue, I have a puppy.

Hi Sue!!!

At today's meeting, we are going to focus on the fourth step, keeping calm when your puppy has destroyed something irreplaceable, staying calm when your puppy is barking at other dogs, staying calm when your puppy was charged by another dog, staying calm when your potty-trained dog just made a mess in the living room.
LOL...can you say OHM....
 

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I think of training itself as building a language between you and the dog. .
This is SO true! Among the important (life) lessons that I've learned is that everything you do with your puppy/dog is training. Not because you're prepping for formal obedience/IPO/whatever competition, but because you're building a relationship --- a common language, if you will.
 
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