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Leader of the Pack

Show your dog the correct way to behave by providing good leadership.

When it comes time to train your German Shepherd, one of the best things you can do is provide the positive leadership role your dog craves. This breed's extreme intelligence is attractive to many people, but experts remind would-be owners that this highly intelligent dog also means more work. They are best suited in homes with dedicated owners who are knowledgeable about the breed, willing to be a leader and able to deal with specific characteristics that make German Shepherds unique. In the wild, wolves survive using this pack mentality: A leader rules the roost and provides guidance and structure for the rest of the his pack. Even though German Shepherds are not wolves but rather domesticated animals, they still retain that instinct on some level. If you don't provide the leadership, then these dogs will take it upon themselves to step up and rarely is that a good outcome. Issues like excessive barking, biting, guarding, aggression, and extreme protectiveness can surface when a German Shepherd is forced to assume the leadership role.

The best way to become your German Shepherd's leader is to instill respect. Setting up good house rules - and lots of them - is key to a harmonious relationship with your German Shepherd. A popular way to do this is through the "Nothing In Life Is Free," or NILIF, training mentality. The NILIF method mandates that the dog do something first in exchange for getting something later. For example, before you give them a treat ask them to sit. German Shepherds crave jobs; it helps them feel secure and useful.
A German Shepherd dog requires socialization and training,perhaps more than most breeds. They crave schooling. Positive training, along with outlined consequences, is critical. But remember, dogs should listen to you out of respect, not fear. The skills learned in class must be practices in order for them to become habit and for your dog to look to you, the leader, for guidance.

More tips on the road to a happy dog-and-owner leadership relationship also include:
No Dogs Allowed - Don't let your German Shepherd on the furniture with you. By letting dogs share your couch or your bed with you, you're telling them they're equal to you in the pack. No Pulling - When out on walks, your dog must not pull you down the road. Train your German Shepherd to walk nicely by your side by practicing the heel command. Me First - Don't let your German Shepherd charge out of the door in front of you. Don't let your German Shepherd eat before you. Allow your dog to watch you eat, then feed him/her. This puts you in charge of the dog's biggest resource. No, You Move - Don't step over a sleeping or lounging German Shepherd blocking a doorway or hallway. Gently yet firmly make him/her move. Say It Like You Mean it - Use your voice to summon respect. Be firm and confident when you speak to your German Shepherd. Stand Tall - Use body language to convey your message. When you give your dog a command, stand up straight with you shoulders back and head held high.

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