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Surviving the First Year after Adoption

What You Should Know and Do During Your First Year of You and Your German Shepherds New Life Together.

Congratulations on adopting your new German Shepherd! With this breed, it is very important to develop a, “What You Should Know and Do During Your First Year of You and Your German Shepherds New Life Together” philosophy.
From day one, you must establish a strong leadership role. Whether your new dog is 8 weeks old or 8 years old, the first year they are in your home is critical to your relationship.
German Shepherds are brilliant dogs.  The key to developing a good relationship with them is:

 Respect, trust and love, and in that order.


First they must respect you, then they will trust you and then they will love you.  Your German Shepherd wants to look to you to be a strong pack leader. They want to follow you and learn from you.  Give them too much affection and not enough structure and you will not get the kind of wonderful bond you can have with your dog.  You should never hit or yell at your German Shepherd.  That shows them that you are not a good and stable leader.  You should be calm and use the appropriate tone voice to command your dogs. Remember they call them “commands” for a reason.  And always use the leash for a correction.  NEVER hit them with the leash, but rather pull the leash in a firm and quick motion and then release the tension.  NEVER GRAB YOUR DOG’S COLLAR AND DRAG HIM!  Use the collar and the leash for corrections.
    •  Every minute you are with your dog, they are in training.
    • They should be in a “down-stay” near you or in a crate.  They should not be wandering around your house unattended.
    • When you have your dog on leash inside the house, you should also be using a flat (identification) collar and leash so that you can quickly correct bad behavior.
    • If your dog jumps on the sofa (a major NO! NO!) take the handle of the leash, give the command ‘OFF’ and if your dog does not respond, give a quick pop of the leash.  Then praise your dog for obeying by saying, “GOOD OFF!” and then tell the dog to lay down on their bed.
    • Your dog should not be pacing back and forth and all around. This creates a nervous and stressed dog.  Your dog should be in a down or in a sit near you.
    • If your dog seems stressed, put your dog in the crate to calm him.  After 10-15 minutes and when the dog is completely relaxed, then walk to the crate, open the crate and walk away without verbal communication.  The dog will learn that coming in and our of the crate is not a major event.
    • Don’t lavish your dog with attention.  If your dog is constantly soliciting attention, you have a problem. They think they are in charge. It is up to you, as their leader, to decide when to give attention (e.g. Use the “nothing is free” philosophy.  Make them sit or down, and then pet or hug them).



You decide when to feed your dog. While you prepare the food, put the dog in a sit stay or down stay. Only give them about 10 minutes to eat and then pick the food up if the dog does not eat. Do not put the food down again until the next feeding.  They will eat better the next feeding time and learn to eat when you put the food down. Free feeding (keeping food down at all times) is NOT recommended for any dog.  Dogs that don’t eat when food is presented to them are testing you and learning how to control you.  We recommend that you feed your GSD twice a day.  Remember not to exercise your dog for at least 2 hours after feeding to try to avoid bloat.



  • During at least the first year, dogs should be crated.  This accomplishes several things.  It teaches the dog to self calm so they are not stressing and pacing.  It teaches the dog potty training and scheduling.  It also establishes control and dominance of over your dog. And in the event that you must go away or your dog must stay at a kennel or vet’s office over night they are not stressed by being confined to a kennel.
  • Don’t allow the dog to sleep on your bed, the couch, or other furniture.  This invites your dog to assume a higher level in the pecking order of your home.  Dogs should never be allowed on the bed or sofa at any time.
  • Don’t lie on the floor with your dog.  This demonstrates to the dog that you have come down to their level.  This may invite over confidence issues in your dog.
  • Always make sure you walk through doorways before your dog.  Do not allow them to push past you, EVER!
  • When walk your dog, your dog should be in a heel position.  Your dog should never walk in front of you.  Keep the leash lax, do not have tension on the leash. 
  • A walk should be enjoyable for both you and your dog.  When your dog is heeling next to you they are using their mind as well as their body. They should not be sniffing or stopping.  
  • You can designate a time and area to stop and let your dog sniff but you should do this by command such as saying ‘FREE’ which means they are free to sniff and explore. 
  • When you want to continue your walk, you end this by saying your dogs name and ‘HEEL’ and your dog should heel and you should continue your walk.
  • Pick a spot in your yard for the dog to potty and always take them there for this purpose.  If you let your dog out 10 times a day, each time you should walk your dog to that spot, on leash if necessary, and give the command to go to the bathroom.  If your dog obliges, then praise them by saying ‘GOOD PEE PEE’ give them a treat and then unhook the leash and say a command like ‘LET’S GO PLAY.’ 
  • You must do this every single time to develop a routine so your dog learns that first they must do their business and then they can play.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  Once you have established this routine your dog will gladly oblige so they can go to the bathroom and then play. 
  •  If your dog acts aggressively toward other animals when you are walking, it is up to you to immediately give a collar correction, turn, and walk in the opposite direction until you have command and focus of your dog.  Then turn back towards the other animal and the split second your dog begins the aggressive behavior, repeat the correction and walk in the opposite direction.   If necessary, continue this process until your dog is focused on you.  Remember once your dog gets into a barking and pulling frenzy you have lost that battle.  You waited to long and to initiate your correction.


  • Your job as the pack leader is to be focused on your dog and the moment your dog decides to ignore you and good behavior you must act with a correction IMMEDIATELY.  Never let your dog get into a situation where you cannot control him.  It’s your responsibility to keep your dog safe and under control. Remember there are no bad dogs just bad owners!!


  • If your dog persists in this aggressive behavior towards other dogs, you must work on this until you have control.  This will not get better on it’s own.
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