Different people have different needs and may look for different characteristics in a dog. However, everyone will agree that they want a confident German Shepherd Dog, a dog that will not hide behind the owner each time it comes across something new. A big portion of a dog’s confidence is genetic. There are dogs that are born to hide under the bed at the first sound of a thunderstorm. The only thing you can do to prevent this is to do your homework and get a dog from proven bloodlines. But even when you get a puppy from sound parents and bloodlines, it is your responsibility to raise your puppy in such a way that his confidence is developed to its full potential. Just assume it is a 50/50 situation - 50% of your puppy’s confidence comes from his genes, and 50% comes from the way you raise him.
While proper socialization is the key, there are other necessities in order to help your German Shepherd puppy develop into a confident dog: respect your puppy’s social needs, avoid physical punishment, and protect your puppy from other dogs. The following guidelines for raising your German Shepherd puppy are very important- whether you are raising a future Schutzhund
dog or a family pet.
First of all, you should respect your puppy’s need for a secure nest. It should be the only place in the house that is “his.” It should be like a castle for your puppy. Puppy is first and foremost a pack animal, and in the pack, every dog, even the lowest in rank, will not be rudely bothered when it’s resting. For a healthy state of mind and some sense of security, every social creature needs to have a place where it can go and not be bothered, the place that is theirs.
You should not brusquely pull your puppy out of his nest. If you need your puppy to leave the nest and come to you, use treats. Show a treat to your puppy, crouch down, clap your hands - he will gladly come to you. THEN, you can pick him up and do whatever you intended (after you give the treat). Never punish your puppy in any way, even verbally, when he is in his nest.
Another rule you should follow is to avoid physically punishing your German Shepherd puppy. In nature, young puppies are “untouchable.” They are not attacked or punished by the adult members of their pack. This is why you have probably seen a little pup fearlessly biting on the ankles of a huge adult dog, which will only try to evade, and never hurt the puppy. In this case, the puppy is not fearless, he just “knows,” due to his instincts, that he will NEVER be hurt by another pack member. And the adult dog is not helpless - it just CANNOT hurt the puppy (even though it probably wants to!). It doesn’t mean, however that the puppy should be allowed to do anything and never get corrected. There are certain situations, especially if you have a dominant puppy, when you should show that you are a leader who must be respected early on, but that is a different story. A puppy should never be physically punished for such mischief as chewed up shoes, digging holes in the yard or puddles on the floor.
The third rule that applies to all puppies, regardless of whether they are being raised as Schutzhund prospects or not, is that you should not allow other, especially older, dogs to bully your puppy. Often, a dog that has been attacked at a young age will grow to be dog aggressive. Sometimes just one incident is enough. The dog will then think that the best defense is to go on the offensive, and will show aggression towards any dog he meets. This problem is very difficult to fix. In nature, if a young puppy is attacked by a strange adult, this usually means the death of the puppy. This is a very traumatizing experience that may lead to a loss of self-confidence, and some puppies actually never get over it, even when they grow up. This is why it is extremely important to protect your German Shepherd puppy from such occurrences. The best thing to do is to avoid the company of adult dogs, that is - do not take your pup to dog parks, or to friends who have adult dogs (unless they are known for their absolute tolerance of puppies).
Remember, for your German Shepherd puppy you are the ultimate leader and it is up to you to provide the proper environment in which he can grow and reach his potential. Your kind guidance, patience, and lots of quality time spent with your puppy will help to establish a very strong bond which will make your life together more enjoyable for both of you.
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