Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds around today and for good reason. They have a lot of positive traits associated with them that make them good companions for families and employers alike.
The German Shepherd dog, or GSD, is known for having a mild temperament and being very loyal. They are smart, strong, and eager to perform tasks, which makes them the ideal sort of dog for training.
Today, we’re going to teach you how to teach your GSD one of the most important commands for any dog owner: how to stay. We’ll also include some tips and tricks that will help you make the best of your training experience.
Why Teach a Dog to Stay?
"Stay" is one of the most important commands that you will teach your dog, and you can probably understand why quite easily.
If you have ever been to a friend’s place and rung the doorbell, only to hear a dog’s aggressive barking, then you might have wondered if you were going to be greeted by a dog at the door. If you weren’t, chances are that your friend has already instructed your dog how to properly stay.
But the stay command can be useful for more than just preventing a mere domestic frightening. Stay can be useful for helping to stop your dog from potential fights with other dogs. It can also stop them from running into dangerous areas. If you see your dog running towards a barbed wire fence in the woods and you don’t want them to get hurt, it’s a good thing to be able to command them to stay.
How to Start German Shepherd Training
Before you teach your dog how to stay, it’s recommended that you first teach them how to lie down. Before that, you should teach them how to sit, because it’s easier to train a dog how to lie down once they know how to sit. We have articles written on each of these topics if you would like to check them out.
After your dog knows how to sit and lie down, you can begin the basic training for teaching them how to sit.
Make sure that you get some healthy treats so your dog will have a reward whenever they successfully complete the task. You may want to get a clicker before training your dog if you don’t already have one. Clickers can help to reinforce good behavior and can make it a lot easier to train your puppy.
Steps to Train a Dog to Stay
There are some basic instructions that you can follow to make this fairly simple.
- Get your dog to sit or lie down, depending on which position that you want them to go into when you tell them to stay.
- Once they’re in position, say "stay" in a normal tone of voice that you’ll be able to recreate whenever you want your dog to listen.
- Put your hand out in front of you and make sure that your palm is facing forward. If you have a clicker, you can click it several times and reward your dog. Even if you don’t have a clicker, give them a treat.
- Practice this a few times, then tell him to lie down or sit. Increase the distance and the length of time that you get your dog to stay every time he successfully completes the task.
- If your dog is unable to complete the next level of the task, then go back and resume training him at an easier level.
Train a German Shepherd to Stay
You will also want to decide on a "release cue," so your dog will know when it’s okay to move again. This can be anything from "okay" to "free." Whatever you feel comfortable with. Generally, it’s best not to begin using your release cue until after your dog has become quite comfortable with the command and can stay for a while.
Remember, it’s important to use a fairly neutral voice when you are teaching your dog a command. Dogs do not understand English in the same way that we do, and they listen to our volume and intonation as much as they do to the actual word.
It’s good to train your dog in your normal voice and then command them in the future using your normal voice. If you are too soft or too loud, you may need to spend extra time training for them to recognize different tones of voice. This is particularly important in situations where you will need to immediately tell your dog to stay—you might be inclined to shout "STAY," but they may not recognize this as the same command.
© 2018 Sam Shepards
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on October 16, 2018:
Ah the leash pulling dog when seeing other dogs? :) I had one of those it all started with bad habits that can be difficult to unlearn.
For me letting my dog stay on a training field with other dogs when tennisballs are being thrown. The best way to fail at stay is making your dog crazy for months about tennisballs and then make im stay/lie down on a field for 10 minutes when you have to stand 20 meters from him and other dogs are having fun.
corina hollander on October 16, 2018:
My dog’s biggest distraction is someone at the door or outside, and especially other dogs when I’m walking him.:(
How To Teach Your German Shepherd Dog To Stay
While German Shepherd Dogs are known for being intelligent and very willing, this does not mean that training them is a breeze. For any dog, “stay” is a difficult behavior to do. Would you want to sit still without moving your limbs for long periods of time? Neither does your Shepherd. They can have a particularly hard time with it if they want to chase things that move – staying in a “sit” while a bike or a cat goes by, for example, takes a lot of self-control. Luckily, the following training method breaks “stay” up into three parts, making it easier on both you and your Shepherd. The end result is a more reliable bahavior.
Duration & Distance
To make “stay” training easier for your GSD, you are going to break it up into the following three parts: duration, distance, and distractions. First, you are going to work on just duration and then just distance. Finally, you will add distractions once a solid stay has been taught.
At this point, do not use the cue “stay.” You don’t want to use your cue until your dog knows what you want.
Start by building up duration – how long your GSD can sit in one position. Do this in small increments by asking your dog to sit then counting to one second and rewarding. Then count to two seconds and reward. At this point, release your dog by saying your release cue (common ones are “okay,” “free,” “break,” and “release”), and tossing a treat for your dog to get. Then you can start over, gradually building up duration.
Ideally, your GSD will never break his “stay” using this method. If he does, just put him back in a “sit,” count a second or two depending on where you are in your training and then reward.
In the beginning, do short training sessions in a quiet room with little to no distractions.
Do the same thing with distance by taking steps away from your GSD and returning to reward. Again, no cue for “stay.” Don’t forget to use your release cue every time you end the “stay.”
Adding the Cue
Once you can count to around 10-15 seconds and take at least 5 steps away from your GSD without him getting up, you can start adding the cue. To do this, say “stay” (or whatever cue you wish) while your dog is in the middle of an exercise, then return and reward. Don’t forget to use your release cue every time you end the “stay.”
Once the cue has been added, it’s time to start adding in distractions that your GSD will have to ignore while keeping his stay. The younger your GSD is, the more slowly you will probably have to add distractions.
What is a hard distraction for one GSD may be easy for another, so think about what gets your dog excited. Anything that excites your GSD will make him want to break his “stay.” Start with something your GSD doesn’t find that interesting. Maybe it’s another family member walking by, the TV on, or a toy (not being thrown, just holding it). Basically, anything that is a bit of a distraction, but not your dog’s favorite thing on Earth.
- Tossing a toy.
- Tossing a treat.
- Kids – walking, laughing, running etc.
- Other dogs – walking by, doing stays next to them, etc.
- Other animals – cats, squirrels, etc.
- People – greeting, walking by, etc.
- New places – pet stores, parks, etc. long lines are great for practicing stays in public places.
- Cars – this can be hard for dogs that like to chase, for some dogs it’s no big deal.
If your dog breaks his “stay” three times in a row when you add a new distraction, he is not ready for that one. Remove it and try something that’s in-between his last successful distraction and the one he failed. So, for example let’s say your GSD was fine with you holding a ball but when you threw it, he failed. Next time you might try dropping or placing it on the ground, rolling it slowly, or tossing it gently so it goes a foot or two. The goal is to make your GSD successful. Follow these simple steps, and you will have a rock-solid “stay.”
How to train a german shepherd puppy
If you buy or adopt a German Shepherd puppy, there are 3 things you want to teach him right away. Housebreaking, crate training, and leash training are all major training methods to teach your pup how to be a well-behaved German Shepherd.
Housebreaking a puppy can be extremely stressful for a new dog owner. Potty time every 20 minutes? Yikes. But it must be done and it will reap great rewards. The best way for a puppy to learn where he is supposed to do his business is by automatically taking him to that place before he gives any signals. Take your puppy outside every 20 minutes that he is awake. If you avoid giving him the opportunity to have an accident in the house, you won’t get so stressed about cleaning up messes.
I personally do not recommend teaching your German Shepherd puppy to use a puppy pad before teaching him to go outside. The puppy pad will only confuse him when you transition to going potty outside. He’ll think, “But I thought I’m supposed to pee here? Why is it changing?” Dogs like a consistent routine. Creating a routine of potty time gives your puppy comfort in knowing he has an opportunity to relieve himself when the need arises. Read more detail on my new tip: How To Potty Train a German Shepherd Puppy The Fastest Way.
2. Crate Training
Crate Training is essential for providing your German Shepherd puppy a safe place of his own for sleeping, playing, or housing. You want the crate to feel like a den, so you should never use the crate as punishment.
When would you need to use a crate?
- When you’re not home and need to keep him safely contained.
- At night when he needs a comfortable place to sleep.
- When it’s nap time and you need to know he’s not going to wake up and get into trouble.
- When you have company at the house and your puppy wants a familiar spot away from commotion.
Crate training can start out rather frustrating. The first few times you place your German Shepherd puppy in the crate, he may cry and beg to be let out. Be strong. He will get used to being in the crate and will eventually realize it’s a cozy place for him to sleep.
Place him in the crate for nap time during the day before putting him in there overnight. Shorter spans of time in the crate will get him used to it sooner. Otherwise, if his first experience in a crate is through an entire night, he’ll cry all night long and keep you awake. Both you and your puppy will be tired and cranky the next day.
Keep in mind that all members of the household must follow the same crate training rules. Set a standard that if no one is home the puppy must be in the crate with a blanket and a toy. He must be in the crate for nap time. Perhaps you prefer him to be in the crate during your dinner time. Whatever the set rules may be, everyone must follow them. If one person doesn’t follow these rules, the puppy will get confused and his crate training will regress.
3. Leash Training
Leash training means your German Shepherd puppy should walk on a leash at your pace. He shouldn’t pull on the leash and he should stop walking when you give a “Stop” command. You’ll have to begin teaching leash training right away since you’ll be taking him outside on a leash for potty breaks. Your puppy needs to be comfortable with wearing a collar and walking with a leash tethered to a human, while walking at the human’s pace.
The proper equipment for leash training includes a collar, a leash, and a treat pouch. Pretty simple, right? The best collar for a pup younger than 6 months old is a nylon buckle collar, 3/4” wide, and adjusted so that you can fit only 2 fingers between the collar and the puppy’s neck. This will allow him plenty of room to breath without being too loose to slip out of the collar.
After your puppy is 6 months old, you can switch to a different type of collar for better control. A martingale collar or training collar work well for making corrections while training or walking. Introduce these types of collars gently. They tighten as the dog pulls on the leash, so begin working with the collars while practicing commands in the house. Don’t take him for a walk right away. He may get stressed out by the tightening sensation. Be careful not to correct too hard on the leash when your puppy is wearing a training collar. He may not expect it and become fearful of training. Being gentle with the training collar does not pose any risk to your dog.
As for a leash, you’ll want one between 4 and 6 feet long. Primal Pet Gear makes a heavy-duty leash with two fleece-lined handles so your hands and wrists don’t get cut or sore from rough nylon.
RoyalCare makes a handy food-grade silicone treat pouch with a magnetic closure. Cary kibble or small treats while training or walking to reward your puppy for proper pace during leash training sessions. He’ll associate the reward with the behavior.
If your German Shepherd puppy pulls on the leash, stop walking and wait for him to stop pulling. It may take a few minutes. Be persistent and patient. Don’t continue walking until he stops pulling or else he will think that if he’s persistent enough, you’ll give into his pulling. Wait for your puppy to return to your side, give him a treat, and praise him. Then give a Forward command and continue walking with a verbal praise.
If you allow your puppy to pull at a young age, he’ll grow up thinking that pulling is acceptable behavior. And when he’s a full-grown 60 to 80-pound dog, he will pull you around if he’s not corrected at a young age. An 8-week-old puppy may not seem to pull very much, but keep an eye on his pace and praise him every time he’s walking at your pace.
The Reward-Based training method proves extremely successful for German Shepherds. They’re classic food-motivated dogs who are eager to please with hopes of a treat in their near future. Some treats are high in fat, so be sure to check the nutrition label for healthy treat options. Or if your German Shepherd eats dry kibble, you can use that as a reward. Kibble is often lower in fat and calories than treats and therefore a healthier option for rewarding.
In addition to treats, give your German Shepherd verbal and physical praise. Compliments, hugs, and kisses also show your pup that he’s done something good. Alternating forms of praise prevents your pup from becoming dependent on treats.
5. Positive Reinforcement
The Positive Reinforcement training method uses constructive correction to show your German Shepherd which behaviors are undesirable and what he should do instead to receive praise. As a breed who is eager to please, Positive Reinforcement provides a way for your puppy to make you happy. Let’s say you catch your German Shepherd puppy chewing on your shoe. To handle the situation using Positive Reinforcement, take the shoe from him while giving a stern “No” command. Immediately give him one of his favorite toys while praising him with a high-pitched “Good boy!” and a pat on the back. Your puppy will realize which object receives praise.
This training method is useful for teaching basic commands as well. If you’re teaching your puppy “Down” and he walks away instead, correct him with a stern “No” and move his body into a down position, then praise with a treat or “Good boy!”
6. Nothing In Life Is Free
The Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF) training method teaches your German Shepherd that there is a give-and-take in life. If your dog wants a treat, he must first Sit and Shake. If he wants to go outside, he must first Sit and patiently wait for you to attach his leash. NILIF teaches your German Shepherd that you are the master, and he must barter with you for the things he wants.
Teaching with this method is fairly simple. All you have to do is teach your dog to Sit before you give him a treat, for example. Do not give him that treat until he sits still for at least 5 seconds. By doing so, you are teaching him patience.
Use your creative freedom with this training method! You decide what you want your dog to do before he receives a reward or attention. Maybe you want him to “roll over” before he gets a bowl of food. Or maybe you need him to Sit before jumping into the car so you can situate his seat belt. NILIF works to your advantage so that your German Shepherd remembers you are the alpha master.