You’re helping your German Shepherd learn a few new behaviors, and you’re starting to think of ways to reward your dog for polite behavior. This is great! It means the more new cues and tricks your GSD learns, the more freedom you have to enjoy each other’s company, instead of constantly battling for the responses you each want.
But what about those times you’re not in “training mode”? When can you just be done training?
I’ll answer this question in two parts. First, every interaction you have with your German Shepherd is, in fact, training. Although we can and should set aside a little time each day to work with our dogs, it’s impossible to be with your dog and not be training. Either you are training your dog, or your dog is training you!
Second, this means it’s up to you to maintain your German Shepherd’s training. You can do this by learning to anticipate your dog’s response to a variety of situations. That way, you can plan your response to your German Shepherd’s behavior.
Let’s say you’re about to walk your trained German Shepherd past another house. The house has a dog barking behind a fence. First, anticipate your dog’s response: Will he pull on the lead to get closer to the other dog? Will he bark? Now, plan your response: You could change your walking route, thereby avoiding the other dog; you could cross the street well before you reach that spot and feed your dog as you walk past, to build your dog’s confidence; or you could play a game of tug with your dog as you walk by that spot.
Any of these might be good responses, depending on your dog’s typical reaction in that situation. You can probably think of more solutions to this problem that allow you to anticipate and respond to your dog’s reaction before a reaction occurs. As your dog becomes more comfortable following your lead in even distracting situations, you are ready to lessen your reliance on a plan and replace it with the new habit!
A perfect example of this concept is teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash. Before your next walk with your dog, you can anticipate that your dog will pull. You haven’t trained him not to pull yet! Your plan will be to use a head halter, no-pull harness or similar tool to prevent pulling on everyday walks. We use these tools to manage our dog’s behavior and protect our hard work training our GSDs, in between training sessions.