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This site is run by Sarah Filipiak, dog trainer and German Shepherd enthusiast. Please feel free to ask a training question, or sign up for our newsletter. We’ll email occasionally when we have new or interesting German Shepherd information to share.

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Q&A: My German Shepherd runs past me when I call

Q: I’m trying to problem solve one of my German Shepherd’s behaviors. It happens at least once and occasionally twice when we are doing off-leash walking. I will call her from a far distance and she will get so revved up in the process of racing towards me that she will zoom past me, turn around and zoom back towards where she came from, zoom towards me again, and eventually be sniffing around near me, or sitting right in front of me. I’m worried that she’ll be hit by a car, or run into another danger, in the time it takes her to get to me.

A: I would build massive value for targeting (your hand, a particular target stick, sitting in front position), then use that as your recall when you suspect she’s in a racing mood. I’d also try to avoid calling her when she’s in zoomies, just turn and walk in the opposite direction and then quietly praise and feed your most high-value treats when she does catch up to you, and tell her to “Go run” again. This will reduce her desire to fly by, as well as put the zoomies on cue.

So — don’t call during high-octane situations, build up an emergency recall for emergencies (which may or may not include targeting, but Leslie Nelson’s DVD “Really Reliable Recall” is the best explanation of how to teach this) and use a targeted recall with a running release as a reward when she seems excited.

You could also start to keep notes of how many off-leash recalls result in the zoomies (location, immediate previous activity, etc). That’s about the only sure way to tell if your training is working and to predict when/where/how she’ll perform the behavior correctly.

Or, easier (and more like what I’d do) is to assume she will go into zoomies 100 percent of the time and work backwards from there. Set the bar low — don’t attempt recalls from 10 feet away, try them at 4, 6, then 8 feet, using a long line where needed to keep her from bolting.

What to do when your puppy bites

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Puppies use their mouths for many reasons. Teething, exploration, taste, play, and chewing are just a few. Plus, your puppy needs to learn bite inhibition so he or she can regulate those powerful GSD jaws as an adult dog. So what do you do when those needle-sharp baby German Shepherd teeth are tearing up your clothes or skin?

First, let’s cover a few DON’Ts:

  • Don’t hold your puppy’s mouth shut. Besides possibly hurting your puppy and causing him to retaliate with a hard bite, think about what puppies do when they play — they mouth each other! If you start interacting with your puppy when he puts his mouth on you, he will be likely to try that strategy again the next time he wants your attention.
  • Don’t smack or hit your puppy (on the face, or anywhere else). Besides hurting your puppy, hitting teaches him to be wary or afraid of human hands — definitely not an association we want our adult German Shepherds to have!
  • Don’t shout NO! or Stop! If this worked, it would have worked the first time, and forevermore! Instead, shouting at your puppy teaches him to be afraid of you or to ignore you (or maybe both).

Here are some strategies to try if you find your puppy is biting too hard:

  • Decide what “too hard” is. Remember, your puppy NEEDS to bite. Biting with puppy teeth is how your pup learns how to be gentle with his or her mouth. You want your puppy to bite you! However, you get to decide how hard is too hard. My rule of thumb is if the bite leaves a red mark, that is too hard. If your puppy bites too hard, say “Ouch!” in an unpleasant tone, and stop playing with your pup for a moment. IMPORTANT: You should never allow your puppy to mouth or bite babies and children. Kids aren’t capable of appropriately telling a puppy how hard is too hard, and biting can easily become a game, or could hurt the child. Have kids play with the puppy with toys or feed your GSD puppy treats for being calm.
  • Use toys. Use a tug or fluffy toy to encourage your pup to bite a toy instead of your hands and clothes. Remember to trade your puppy the toy for a treat each time you want him to give it up, so he learns to give you the toy quickly and easily!
  • Teach a desired behavior. Teach your puppy to chase a treat up and down the stairs, or to walk nicely on leash, or to fetch something, instead of biting.
  • Create some downtime. Using a leash, tether, crate or other barrier is a good way to help your puppy calm down when he or she is to excited to play appropriately. If the “Ouch!” technique isn’t working, or your puppy is disinterested in toys and only wants to bite you or your clothing, it’s time to shift to a calmer activity. Use the teaching calmness technique as above, or put your puppy on a leash, temporary tether, or crate with a stuffed Kong or other tasty chew toy. Try playing again in a little while, after a potty break!

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Free ebook: Choosing Your New German Shepherd

Thinking about adding a German Shepherd to your family? This short guide covers all you need to know about finding and choosing your next best friend.

Choosing Your New German Shepherd

Choosing Your New German Shepherd

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This little book is packed with tips for adopting your German Shepherd Dog, and covers breeders, pet stores, rescues and shelters; traits to look for in your potential GSD; 10 questions you must ask ANY German Shepherd breeder you are considering purchasing a puppy from; and more!

Table of Contents

  • Do I Want a Purebred German Shepherd Puppy?
  • Pet Store Puppies
  • What the pet stores tell you
  • Finding a reputable pet store
  • Adopting from a pet store
  • How To Find A Responsible German Shepherd Breeder
  • Questions you should ask a German Shepherd breeder
  • Where to find breeders
  • What’s involved in breeding German Shepherds?
  • The German Shepherd breed standard
  • Hip screening for GSDs
  • Adopting A German Shepherd From A Shelter Or Rescue
  • Where do the dogs in rescue come from?
  • What should you ask the German Shepherd rescue?
  • Shelter adoptions
  • Additional resources
  • Appendix: What does a good puppy contract include?
Table of Contents

Table of Contents

There is no cost to download this guide, it is free for your personal use! Download it today and start the search for your German Shepherd!