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Are German Shepherds Easy to Train? Breed Facts and FAQs

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

woman teaching german shepherd to keep paws on floor

German Shepherds are typically easy to train. They are brilliant, devoted dogs. Typically, these canines can quickly pick up the meaning of commands and are more than willing to listen to their owners.

However, there are many misconceptions about what training a German Shepherd should look like.

Since this breed seems more “wolf-like,” it is common for dog owners to believe that they need to show dominance. However, this isn’t how dogs (or even wolves) work. Many dog organizations and dog trainer organizations no longer recommend dominance training theory for this reason.

Instead, German Shepherds need to be trained using positive reinforcement. The bond between a German Shepherd and their owners is essential. Therefore, training should revolve around that bond and seek to encourage it.

When you train a German Shepherd correctly, the process should be fun and straightforward. These intelligent dogs want to follow commands and please their family, making training relatively easy.

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How Long Does It Take to Train a German Shepherd?

You shouldn’t train your dog on a set timeline. Each dog is different and will struggle and thrive in different areas of training. Some dogs may accomplish specific commands quickly and then have trouble with another one.

You should feel free to slow down and speed up as necessary. If your dog masters a command, there is no reason to linger on it for longer than necessary. If your canine takes a bit longer to catch on to another command, feel free to take as long as they need to master it!

Rushing through the command to stay “on schedule” can lead to holes in training and further difficulties later.

German Shepherds need a strong foundation if training is going to work!

That said, training a German Shepherd on all the basics usually takes about 8 weeks. Not every dog will meet this timeline, however.

You shouldn’t stop training your German Shepherd when they master the basics, though. These intelligent dogs need constant training to stay happy and healthy. Otherwise, they may try to find their own mental stimulation, which usually involves destructive behavior.

You should commit to training your dog throughout their whole lifespan. Otherwise, a German Shepperd is not the best breed for you.

german shepherd dog with his owner at the park
Photo Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

Are German Shepherds Easy for Beginners to Train?

If you seek out the correct help, German Shepherds are often easy enough for nearly anyone to train. They are willing to take part in training and intelligent enough to learn most commands quickly.

However, just because German Shepherds can be trained easily doesn’t mean that we recommend a German Shepherd for beginners. They are not an easy breed to care for, even though they can be trained efficiently.

They have many requirements that can be hard for a new dog owner to meet.

For instance, they are incredibly active. German Shepherds are working dogs, through and through. They need to be out and about for hours a day. You can’t just put them in a backyard or a house and expect them to be happy. Without the proper exercise, they can become destructive and reactive.

Furthermore, their extreme intelligence means that you will need to provide plenty of mental stimulation. Training is an excellent way to accomplish this, but puzzle toys and canine sports can also be good options.

These dogs need to be brushed at least every other day, although every day is best. Their coats shed frequently, and they need regular brushing to keep them clean. Otherwise, you’ll have hair all over your house and dirt all in their fur.

New dog owners often don’t quite understand what they’re getting into with this breed. You’ll likely be taking care of a German Shepherd for at least 3 hours a day and more when they are a puppy.

Are German Shepherds Easy to Potty Train?

This breed is usually easy to potty train. German Shepherds are intelligent and take to just about any training. It won’t take them long to figure out where they’re supposed to use the bathroom, and they’ll want to do so to make you happy.

They are also large dogs, which means they have large bladders when puppies. Smaller dogs are notoriously difficult to potty train because they need to use the bathroom frequently. Their bladders are just so tiny!

Luckily, German Shepherds do not fit into this category. They have decent-sized bladders as puppies, so they don’t have to go outside quite as often as some other breeds.

That said, they are still puppies, and the easiest way to potty train them involves taking them outside on a regular basis. They can’t hold their bladder for more than a few hours at 12 weeks, so plan on taking them outside every couple of hours or so. You just won’t have to take them outside every 30 minutes like you would a Chihuahua.

German Shepherd puppy six months_Marina_1307_shutterstock
Photo Credit: Marina_1307, Shutterstock

When Should You Start Training a German Shepherd?

You should never delay training a German Shepherd. Most high-quality breeders will start training their puppies before they even adopt them out.

If your puppy’s breeder started this process previously, you should keep going once your puppy is home. But even if they didn’t, you should start the second that your puppy gets through the front door.

German Shepherds like training, even as puppies. They’re eager to please and love using their brain. You aren’t doing your dog any favors by giving them a few days to relax after adoption. They will feel much more comfortable learning the rules of the house right away.

Start with the basics and keep the sessions short. You only want to train your pup for a few minutes at a time, as puppies can get overwhelmed and bored. They have short attention spans, just like human children.

Socialization and More Socialization!

The most vital part of a German Shepherd’s training is socialization. Most people don’t consider this training, but it is essential for this breed.

You need to introduce your German Shepherd to as many people, places, and pets as possible. Otherwise, they can be territorial and aggressive as adults. A well-socialized German Shepherd is a confident German Shepherd. A confident German Shepherd isn’t fearful and aggressive.

We highly recommend puppy training classes for this reason. They are safe places to socialize your puppy with other people and dogs.

However, you can’t just rely on puppy classes for your German Shepherd. They need more than an hour-long class once a week.

german shepherd and spitz bestfriends_charlene dipietro smith_shutterstock
Photo By: Charlene DiPietro Smith, Shutterstock

How Much Training Do German Shepherds Need?

You should plan on training your German Shepherd for about 10 minutes, twice a day, at least. Many dogs benefit more from three or four sessions a day, especially when younger and a bit more rambunctious.

These training sessions help your dog master commands, as well as keep them entertained. A dog that is regularly challenged throughout the day with training won’t need to find their fun elsewhere.

Training sessions for your German Shepherd should continue for their entire life. You may be able to cut back to one session a day for older dogs, but you should never remove them altogether.

German Shepherds love training and benefit from the mental challenge well into their senior years. These dogs were not made to lie around all day without a job. Giving them something to do, like training, is vital to their wellbeing.

Training a German Shepherd isn’t necessarily something with an end goal. You should accomplish all the basic commands and probably most advanced ones, but that doesn’t mean you should stop training altogether. The journey means more for these dogs than the destination.

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Final Thoughts

German Shepherds were bred to be trained. Due to their high intelligence, they can easily understand commands. They are responsive to their owners because they want to make you happy!

As long as you’re using the correct training method, these dogs are often easy to train. Training should focus on building your relationship with your dog, as this is what makes the German Shepherd obedient.

If they don’t trust you (or don’t like you), they may not listen to your commands at all.

Training should begin as soon as you adopt your puppy. You will likely master all the basics in about 9 weeks, but you shouldn’t stop there!

Training is a lifelong activity for German Shepherds. It keeps their brains active and prevents them from needing to find their own fun. Many destructive behaviors in this breed are linked to a lack of mental or physical exercise.

Finally, don’t forget about socialization. It is a vital component of any German Shepherd’s training. Otherwise, they can become incredibly territorial. Training and socialization should go hand-in-hand.

Featured Image Credit: marcin jucha, Shutterstock

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