Dog Training Methods

Read and Learn about some of the most popular canine training techniques

The aim of this section is to explain some of the more popular methods of dog training techniques to enable you to train your GSD to be a well behaved family member.

You need to do your part in order to make it happen!

By learning the principals of canine learning or the “laws of learning” if you will, you will you will gain an understanding of how animals learn. These principals are the  foundation of any dog obedience training method.

Dog training methods  are a set of different techniques that can be utilised to train your GSD. Here you will discover in depth  information on each together with the pros and cons of each. The purpose is to arm you with everything you need to know to make an informed choice in the methods you will need to train your GSD to carry out various commands and behaviours. 

Learning Principals

There are three laws of learning that form the foundation of all training methods. By reading and learning about these these three laws: Classical conditioning, Operant conditioning and Extinction, you will be armed with the knowledge needed to implement the various training methods outlined within these pages. So let’s have a closer look at the three laws of learning.

Classical Conditioning: Basic Learning

When a signal is immediately followed by an event, animals learns to associate them. 
Example: Your GSD gets excited when he/she hears you getting his/her food bowl. Your GSD has learned to anticipate that particular sound with being fed.

Your GSD has no control over the signal nor can he/she make the signal start or stop. 
Example: Irrespective of what your GSD is doing, you will not feed him/her until you want to. And when that time has come, regardless of what he/she is doing, you will take the bowl and feed him/her. His/her behaviour does not influence or control when you choose to feed him/her. With practice, the signal “feels” like the event itself and this is a key concept and why this principle is so important. 

You can train your pet to “feel” good about a particular signal (for example: a Marker Word) and then use this signal as the reward itself!

Classical conditioning is used to teach your GSD a Marker Word or when using the clicker training method. For an in depth understanding it is recommended that you read “Classical Conditioning: a basic form of learning”.

Classical conditioning is how we learn to associate things.

Operant Conditioning: Consequences of Behaviour

Operant conditioning is how we learn to associate our own actions and behaviour with a consequence.

  1. Your GSD RECEIVES a reward for a specific behaviour, therefore, it performs that behaviour MORE OFTEN. 
    : Your GSD sits and receives a treat. Eventually your GSD will sit more often to obtain more treats.
  2. Your GSD RECEIVES a punishment for a specific behaviour, therefore, it performs that behaviour LESS OFTEN.
    Example: Your GSD barks, his/her citronella collar releasing a burst citronella that he/she dislikes. Your GSD will bark less often to avoid this undesired smell.
  3. A punishment is TAKEN AWAY or stopped when your GSD does a particular behaviour, so the dog does that behaviour MORE OFTEN.
    Example: Your GSD feels pressure from a choke/check chain while growling, he/she stops growling and relaxes his/her face, the pressure on the chain is released. Your GSD will relax his/her face more often to keep the pressure from the chain from causing him/her discomfort.
  4. A reward is TAKEN AWAY from your GSD when he/she does something, the behavior appears LESS OFTEN, so your GSD can get his/her reward back.
    Example: You greet your GSD at the door, he/she jumps on you, you ignore your GSD not paying him/her any attention. Your GSD ceases his/her jumping to get your attention back.

The dog has control over the signal, he can make things happen or stop from happening by choosing the appropriate behavior.

Operant conditioning will be utilised each time you teach a new command or when training your GSD basic manners. For an in depth understanding it is recommended that you read “Operant Conditioning: An associatory learning process”.

Operant conditioning is how we learn to associate our own behavior with a consequence.


Extinction is when you stop reinforcing a behaviour, the behaviour fades away.

Extinction and Classical Conditioning
Classical Conditioning occurs when we learn to associate two events.
Example: The sound of the leash is associated with your GSD going for a walk.

Extinction happens when the signal does NOT predict an event any longer.

Example: If you shake the leash making noise to make noise with it, but then don’t take your GSD for a walk (repeating many times but only taking him/her for a walk  without the leash, that noise or signal if you will, would lose its meaning and your GSD will no longer reacting to it.

Extinction and Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning is a form of associatory learning process through which the force of a behaviour is modified by reinforcement or punishment. 
Example: You ask your GSD to sit and when he/she sits they receive a treat.

Extinction happens when the behavior stops producing the consequence.

Example: Your GSD sits but does not get a treat anymore. Your GSD learns that sitting does not get a reward and eventually will stop sitting when you ask him/her to.

As the majority of training methods use extinction it is highly recommended that you read and familiarise yourself with “Extinction: When you stop reinforcing a behaviour, the behavior fades away.”

Extinction means that a behaviour will decline because it is no longer being reinforced.

An overview of training methods

Luring - How to start training your GSD

Luring the method of moving your GSD around and positioning him/her physical interventions such as pushing or using a leash. It is not always the most effective but this method IS fast and highly recommended for beginners. 

Luring makes your dog follow you!

Luring is achieved by placing a treat between your fingers, your GSD will follow your hand to obtain the treat allowing you to maneuver your GSD into a sit or lay down position along with many other commands. Read more information on “Luring a Behaviour: Make your GSD follow a treat to show him/her what to do.”

Capturing - Turn any behavior your dog does into a command

Capturing a dog behaviour is the best training method to use with your GSD. It requires your GSD to “think” about the situation and it uses only behaviours freely offered by your GSD. It all depends upon your patience and skill in observing your GSD.

You need patience and practice!

The capture method is based on the concept of operant conditioning, is how animals make an association between their own actions/behaviours and a the related reaction/consequence. In this case, the reaction/consequence will be a reward. Read more about “Capturing: Turn any behavior your dog does into a command”.

Shaping - Positive training used to train complex commands

Shaping is an advanced dog training method as the trainer needs to be patient, extremely observant and have great timing when delivering the reward. Shaping is a powerful training technique as it can be used to train your GSD complex commands  such as “turn the light on/off” or “bring me the remote control”.

Shaping is a positive training method as you never use force or discomfort.

Shaping dog behaviour that uses Capturing to train advanced behaviours that your GSD will not produce independently. For more information read “Shaping:: An advanced dog training technique”.

Targeting - Speeds up Training

Targeting is a training method used to speed up some behaviours that are trained by Shaping. This is done by using a visual cue to prompt your GSD on the right direction.

Targeting is the most common way of using visual prompts to train many behaviours.

Targeting is a training method used to accelerate how we elicit the desired behaviour as opposed to simply waiting for it to occur naturally. This is achieved by using a visual cue to prompt your GSD on the right direction. For more information read “Targeting: Speeds up training“.


The modeling is where trainer physically positions the animal to do what is desired.
Example: Pushing your GSD’s bottom down in order to teach him/her to sit.

Always use dog training methods that reinforce a behaviour freely offered by your GSD.

This training method is NOT RECOMMENDED as not only can it be intimidating, frightening and/or uncomfortable to your GSD but it ineffective not requiring your GSD to use it’s brain.

Clicker Training

Clicker training is a technique used to train your GSD using a “clicker”. It is also a philosophy, as trainers that use this method do not want to coerce or punish. Instead they use the behaviours freely offered by and reward the ones that they want to reinforce.

There is immense satisfaction just watching it all ‘click’ together for you and your GSD.
(Pun intended)

Systematic Desensitisation and Counterconditioning

These two training methods are frequently used together to modify an animal’s fear emotions to to that of enjoyable or relaxed ones.

Does your GSD have behavioural issues due to fear? 
Dog barking, dog aggression problems, and shyness due to past damaging experiences are all examples of problems that can be resolved using these techniques.

Systematic desensitisation is a method where you expose your GSD to the fear eliciting-stimulus (i.e. other dogs, strangers, loud sounds, strange objects, etc.) using a gradual approach. The crucial concept is to take it very slowly, so that your GSD does not have a fearful reaction (at all) during the whole process. Read more about “Systematic Desensitisation: What does it mean and how it can be used”.

Counterconditioning is similar to classical conditioning. The distinction between them is that counterconditioning your GSD already has an association, unfortunately it is a negative one with the fear eliciting-stimulus. Therefore, by rewarding your GSD with each time the object/subject that produces fear appears, he/she will gradually start feeling happy instead of fearful. This happens because now your GSD anticipates a reward is coming. Read more about “Counterconditioning: What does it mean and how it can be used”.


This method also treats fears and phobias and is also based on the principle of Classical conditioning. But unlike Systematic Desensitisation, this technique is very traumatic and potentially harmful. This is because the animal is faced with the fear-eliciting stimulus at its worse. The animal is not allowed to escape or fight, and this situation continues until the dog gives up. It is cruel and can be horrific for your GSD.

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