Preparations Part III: House Rules and Routines
Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Consistency is an important element in raising your puppy successfully. When your pup is added to your family, he will try different behaviors in an attempt to understand how his new world works and how to receive praise and rewards. The more consistent the family is, the quicker he’ll figure it all out. To develop trust, respect, and cooperation, we strongly recommend using nonviolent management and training techniques. Avoid harsh verbal correction and physical punishment.
Your German Shepherd will grow quickly and soon you will have a 65-100 lb beast on your hands whom you have trained into thinking that might makes right and who does not trust you. Abuse of any kind ruins relationships and you will want to have a strong and reliable friend by your side instead of a resentful animal that looks at you with distrust.
Prevention is better than the cure so, it is preferable that you help your pup stay our of trouble, stop unwanted behavior before it happens while reinforcing and rewarding desirable behaviors. Raising a puppy is a demanding job for the first year of life and a sustained effort that should be carried out until your dog will reach two years of age.
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If you put in the work from the start, you will live a happy life without worries or stress and you will be able to enjoy every moment with your friend. Here are some things that your family should prepare for and discuss before the arrival of your new puppy:
Where will your puppy sleep?
Our suggestion is to crate your dog at night or anytime he is unsupervised until he is at least one year old. After that, because your dog will be more mature and because you've done such a good job raising him, you'll know you can trust him to not destroy your property or hurt himself.
Keep the crate in your bedroom, somewhere close to your bed. Your pup will know you are near and will feel protected but be prepared for a few nights of lost sleep. Very few puppies will sleep through the night when they are removed from the litter. We have done our best to keep them on a schedule of 11pm – 7am sleep but, the change of scenery and the absence of his brothers and sisters will stress your puppy and he will probably cry at night.
Another strong suggestion is to not allow your dog to sleep in your bed. He is a cute and cuddly puppy now but you will regret this decision when your 100 lb dog will come back home after a walk in the rain. You chose a German Shepherd, not a Yorkie or a Chihuahua, and these dogs require boundaries. You and your family should always be in charge and, as alphas, you should claim the best sleeping spot in the house.
Will your pup be allowed on the furniture?
The short answer is a strong no. German Shepherds are not lap dogs and treating them as such will cause trouble in the future. The great mistake that many dog owners make is to treat their dogs like children. This is a failure to empathize with the nature of your new friend. To project on him a role that goes against his nature will prevent him from thriving and fulfill his true potential. You wouldn't want your puppy to treat you like a dog so don't treat him like a person.
However, if you want him to cuddle on the sofa with you sometimes, make sure he asks permission first and that he understands that the sofa is your space where he is not allowed unless specifically invited. Associate the a specific command with the invitation.
Where will your puppy be during the day?
The best answer is with you, if you have the luxury of working at home or taking him to your place of business where you can supervise him. Keep in mind that your pup will need potty breaks every couple of hours in the beginning. If you leave your puppy at home, he should be indoors and crated but only if you can arrange for frequent potty breaks.
Otherwise, you should leave him in his exercise pen which should have a “bathroom” area covered with puppy pads. Pick a corner of the pen, far from his sleeping and eating spots for this purpose. Look and see where your puppy chooses to relieve himself and, if needed, move the pee pads to that spot.
If you will purchased the washable pads that we recommended in Preparations Part I: Supplies, you'll probably have an easier time. Your puppy has been using them successfully here and he will recognize the pads as his bathroom spot from the beginning.
What games will you play with your pup?
Games are a great way to teach your puppy but, be careful. Games can teach him good behavior or, you might unknowingly teach him some really bad habits. Tug, fetch and seek the toy are great training starters while jump-up, bite-hand, pull-pant-leg are games that will set your puppy up for failure. The best way to look at it is to always treat your cute little pup as if he were a 100 lb dog already.
You should not have to change the rules as your puppy grows. It is cruel to confuse the dog with ever-changing rules. Make sure that all your family members and the people coming to visit are on board with playing the good games and maintaining the rules.
If family members – most often kids - insist on an inappropriate game like jump-up (biting is always off limits), get them to teach polite behavior first (sit or lay down) and only then allow the pup to jump-up on a specific command. Allow this only on command.
Who will feed your puppy; when, and where?
Your pup should be kept on a regular feeding schedule. Make sure his bowl is clean and placed in a quiet spot in your home. Dogs provide a great opportunity to teach responsibility to children and, if you put your kids in charge of feeding, make sure you supervise them and check to see if the pup is fed properly.
Water should be available at all times. Don't allow anyone to annoy or stress your dog during his meals. A great way to avoid the development of food aggression is to calmly walk by and drop special treats in his bowl while he is eating.
Who will train your pup and how?
The positive reinforcement methods are the first choice when it comes to our training philosophy. However, an overall balanced training will deliver the best results in this process. Incentives and rewards work wonders but deterrents must exist and should be used with care and caution depending on the situation.
For more info on the different types of training watch: What Is the Best Training Method?
There should be a primary trainer in your home but, you should encourage your whole family to participate in the training activities. Every member of the “pack” must learn to communicate consistently and effectively in a way that your dog is able to understand. I feel like I'm beating an old drum but, the key here is consistency, consistency, consistency. Make a list of commands that you want to teach your dog and post it somewhere in sight. This will help everyone in the home remember the words that your dog is learning. Expand the list as you continue with training.
For more info watch: How to Talk to Your Dog
As a gun owner, you must know how to safely handle and carry your weapon and, as a German Shepherd owner, you must train your dog. If not properly raised, your cute puppy of today can turn into a dangerous weapon tomorrow. Whether you choose to train your shepherd or not, training will take place regardless. It will either be you training your dog or it will be your dog training you. They are smart, perceptive and have been bred for 120 years for work. Just like a Labrador will naturally love water, a German Shepherd will love training and thrive with it.
How will you correct your pup?
Prevention is your best tool here. Your pup shouldn't have the opportunity to make mistakes or develop bad habits. However, mistakes will happen and, when they do, you must address them calmly. A confident “No!” or a pop on the leash can be appropriate corrections, although luring or redirecting your pup to a more appropriate activity often works better. Map your dog's bad behaviors by making mental notes of his mistakes and ramp up your training of these specific circumstances to prevent the situation from happening again in the future.
If you find yourself in a situation where your small corrections don't work and you feel the need to escalate their intensity, please ask the advice of a good balanced trainer first. Harsher corrections might be necessary at times and, if you must go down that road, make sure that you know what you're doing and you're not ruining the relationship that you worked so hard to build or creating phobias and anxieties.
Your puppy is like a sponge and he will develop lifelong habits during the first few months of his life. An extra effort early on will save you years of headaches later. If you don’t let your puppy know how good the couch tastes or how nice it is to chew on the leg of the table, you will be able to trust him more and, as a result, he will enjoy more freedom sooner. When you see him heading for your furniture or the trash can with bad intentions, offer him a chew treat, a stuffed Kong or challenge him to a game of tug.
If he is jumping up on you demanding attention, ignore him until he gets tired and sits on his own. As soon as he does this, shower him with love and rewards. If the jumping resumes, go back to ignoring him. Before you know it, he'll catch on and demand your attention not by jumping and scratching but by calmly sitting and waiting.
Thank you for taking an interest in preparing for the arrival of your pup. By making this effort together we are closer to ensuring that these cute little fur balls will grow to live happy and fulfilled lives alongside you and your family members.