A Little Puppy Training for a Pair of German Shepherds in Omaha

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 24, 2016


Elway and Davis are a pair of German Shepherds who live in mid-town Omaha. Their guardians arranged a dog and puppy obedience training session with me to address Elway’s nipping and biting behavior. They also wanted me to help put a stop to Davis’ habit of not letting other dogs have bones around him, including the puppy.

The dogs were clearly excited to see me but that isn’t what caught my eye in the video below. One of the dog’s guardians was engaging in the behavior that actually intensified the dog’s reactions at the door.

It’s pretty common for me to spot a number of things that humans do that actually confuses their dogs. Many of my clients tell me, you’re not a dog or puppy trainer you’re a dog translator, LOL. I actually referred to myself as a dog behaviorist, but I’ll take what I can get.

I sat down with the dogs and their guardians to observe them and get a little bit more information on the behaviors their family wanted help with.

I made a few suggestions including some rules that will help the dog start to see and identify the humans as being the clear authority figures. If the dog doesn’t have a lot of rules in place, and it lives with other dogs, it’s very easy for it to get the impression that everyone has the same authority. If that is the case in the dogs mind, that means that listening to the humans is optional.

After suggesting a number of rules and going over how to enforce them, I noticed that anytime either dog got near one of his humans, the human reached over and immediately started to pet the dog.

Normally, petting a dog is not a cause for concern. However when Davis got overly nosy with me and the contents of my bag, I offered him a minor correction that had a profound impact on the dog. At one point he left the room and waited in the kitchen by himself.

This is an indicator of a dog that has lower confidence and self-esteem. I suggested that the humans go to YouTube and find a handful of tricks or commands and take turns teaching them to the dogs.

Just like humans, dogs get a sense of pride and accomplishment with a master a new skill. I suggested that each week a different guardian goes to YouTube and find a command or trip to teach the dogs. After teaching the dogs the tricks independently, then they can work with the other dog and then finally teach the other human what the command word is. By practicing that trick or command throughout the rest of the week, the humans can give their dogs and ego boost while simultaneously giving them skills that will help enrich their and their human’s lives.

It’s also possible that some of Davises insecurities are a result of being petted at the wrong times. If his guardians are petting him when he appears anxious, nervous or reactive, they are actually nurturing that unbalanced state of mind. I spent the next couple of minutes going over my putting with a purpose strategy. This way the humans can start petting their dogs in a way that will help boost their self-esteem.

Because Elway is such a little guy and both dogs are so lovable, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge for the guardians to refrain from putting them without any purpose. But if they can get into a habit of doing so, every time they put their dog, they will help it identify as being in a follower position while simultaneously boosting it’s confidence.

German shepherds are well known for their intelligence and ability to absorb training. I wanted to give the guardians some tools that they could use to help tap into this intense focus so I spent a couple of minutes going over a focus exercise with Davis.

While the exercise itself seems very simple, it took us quite a bit of practice before we were able to get the dog to complete it. Ironically, Davis was very distracted and kept on getting up to move away.

Regarding practices this exercise a couple of times a day for the next week she should’ve notice A dramatic improvement in his mastery of the exercise as well as the ability to redirect him anytime he starts to get distracted or into trouble.

By this point we have been going at it for over an hour and a half and little Elway seemed to be indicating that he needed to go outside to potty.

When we got outside I found out that no way didn’t have problems with accidents in the house despite the fact that he did not have a command word. I spent the next couple of minutes going over some potty training basics with his guardian.

Even though Elway wasn’t having accidents, establishing a command word makes things easier down the road for times when you need your dog to go on demand (like if you are leaving early, traveling or at a friends).

Next up was Davis’ behavior on walks. Being a young healthy dog, he was pulling quite a bit which resulted in his guardians not taking him out as often as they would like. The problem is walks, at least those where the dog stays next to and follows its handler, are great ways to develop respect for the human as authority figures.

I fitted Davis up with a Martingale collar, added the special twist to the leash and went over my three rules for a structured walk. Once we were all on the same page, I took Davis out with one of his guardians while the other stayed behind to hang with Elway.

It was great to see how well Davis responded. His guardian said it was like a night and day difference. Having a dog who knows how to walk at a heel or doesn’t pull your arm out of its socket is worth its weight in gold.

We repeated the leash training with Davis’ other guardian who was equally impressed with his improved leash behavior. It will take them a few walks before the new techniques become second nature, but I was quite happy with the progress.

By the end of the session, both dogs were all worn out. It will take a few days of practice at the various techniques and exercises before they become second nature to the guardians. Petting with a purpose, enforcing the new rules with good timing and adding structure to meal times, walks and other activities should help both dogs start to see their humans as authority figures and move into the follower position.

Once Davis identifies as a follower, he should be able to relax a little bit and not over react when corrected as he did at the start of the session. Combined with learning new tricks and commands, David and Elway should become more confident, learn to listen to their humans right away and stop engaging in any other unwanted behaviors.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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