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A Guide to Training a Dog German Commands

Updated on February 25, 2018
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Alexadry, all rights reserved.
Alexadry, all rights reserved.

Training a dog German commands is best if done from fresh, as soon as you get your puppy. This is the ideal scenario because your puppy is a clean slate and therefore will be introduced to German commands from scratch. German will therefore be considered your puppy's primary language when it comes to performing obedience commands. You would therefore proceed in the same exact manner as with teaching English commands only that your commands used would be in German.

Things should also go fairly smoothly when you import purebred dogs from Germany such as German shepherd dogs, Rottweilers, Dobermans and several other working breeds that were already trained in German language. The biggest hassle in this case is you having to actually learn how to pronounce the commands correctly. No worries though, your dog won't judge you if you mispronounce things a bit, at the very worst, he may hesitate a bit and tilt his head!

Things can get more complicated though if you have been training your dog commands in English, but now you want to switch over to using exclusively German commands. Your dog likely responds very fluently to English commands and now he has to start to understand German. There is a distinct process to rely on in order to switch over successfully, but it is not very difficult to master.

In order to succeed, you will have to follow an exact procedure carefully. If you follow these guidelines to a "T," your dog will soon be on his way to assimilating the new command and responding to it promptly as if he was always familiar with it!

*Please note that normally, I refrain fro using the term "commands" for dog training because it implies issuing an order with a potential threat of something unpleasant happening as consequence for disobedience. In recent years, I have switched over to the use of the term "cue." For this article though, I am making an exception and using mostly the word "command" throughout for sake of clarity. Always make sure that your dog's training is fun and that your dog complies to your training because of happy consequences that provide him access to things he enjoys.

Advantages of Training Your Dog German Commands

There are several advantages that come from training your dog German commands. The most obvious is that your dog has very small chances of getting confused because he is very unlikely to hear any German words in your common conversations.

For instance, many dog owners in the USA choose to use the release word "OK" to release their dogs from a stay. The biggest drawback with this is that, since the word "OK" is so commonly used in conversations, there are risks that, at some time or another, the dog will be accidentally released.

With German commands, this is very unlikely to happen! German commands can therefore come quite handy in busy areas where there are other people giving out commands in English such as at busy dog events. Of course, this won't be the case though if you're participating in a Schutzhund event where a great amount of dogs are trained in German!

One main reason why dog owners like training German commands is because their dogs will learn to only respond to them. Other people may tell their dogs "down" repeatedly and their dog will totally ignore because he doesn't understand its meaning. If your dog in question is accused as being disobedient because he doesn't respond to English commands such as "down," explain that he only responds to "platz" because he has been trained to respond only to German words.

Last, but not least, many people are drawn to using German training commands because they simply like the sound of a foreign language. German commands are simple, short and often contain hard consonants which may help grab a dog's attention.

How to Train Your Dog German Commands in 3 Easy Steps

Training your dog German commands require a precise training method that systematically focuses on creating new associations and allowing these new associations to replace the older ones.

To a dog who was never trained German words, a German word acts as a neutral stimulus, in other words it has no meaning. Therefore, you can't just pronounce a new German word and expect your dog to respond to it as if using a magic wand. And of course, you can't talk to your dog and tell him: "Hey, Jasper, guess what? From today, your new command word for heel with be "fuss."

Fortunately, there's an easy-peasy method to help your dog out. It entails transferring stimulus control from one cue to another using a prompt delay procedure.

For sake of an example, let's imagine you want to train your dog to lie down using the German command "platz." In this case, you need to help your dog understand that "platz" has the exact same meaning as "down."

Here's how to do it in a way that your dog will understand. Please note that the below steps can be applied to virtually any language. So use the same steps whether you are trying to train your dog in German, Hungarian, Czech or Dutch. To keep things simple, focus on training only one command at a time.

1) Introduce the New Word

To help your dog understand that the new German word replaces the English one, start by pronouncing first the German word (in this case "platz") followed by the familiar English word. So say "platz," then make a small pause, and then follow up with "down."

When your dog hears "platz" it's totally normal for him to care less about it since it doesn't have a meaning yet, but when he hears "down" he should readily respond. Praise and reward your dog for successfully lying down.

2) Practice Makes Perfect

Repeat the above exercise several times in a row for several brief and sweet training sessions during the day. What you are trying to accomplish here is that your dog starts associating both words with the action of lying down. "Platz" and then "down" therefore becomes the a new evocative stimulus.

3) Dropping the Old Command

Now comes the time to start testing whether your dog is ready to attend only to the German cue by dropping out the old command. Therefore try saying "platz" only.

Odds are that, if you practiced long enough, your dog will lie down even without needing to hear the old command. This is more likely to happen if you have an eager dog who has a tendency to want to anticipate you. When your dog successfully lies down, make sure to praise lavishly and reward. You need to make clear that that is what you wanted, so don't be stingy, give several treats in a row, jackpot-style.

What if My Dog Didn't Lie Down?

If your dog didn't lie down, you may need to practice a bit more. To further help your dog, you can start fading a bit the old command. You can do this by truncating a bit the word "down." You can for instance say "platz-dow" (making the word "down" shorter) or you can lower the volume of the word down by saying "platz" in a louder tone, but then "down" almost whispering. Afterward you can do both, shorten the word and whisper it too.

You can then test your dog again by saying "platz" and then waiting a second or two in hopes that your dog anticipates you and lies down. Make sure you are ready to praise lavishly and celebrate when your dog guesses right and responds to only "platz." Lots of praise, pats, treats and play. Your dog needs to know that Bingo! He got it right!

Note: if your dog is trained using hand signals, you can use those signals to your advantage to help your dog better understand what you are asking him to do. In this case pronounce the German command first and the follow-up with your hand signal. Praise and reward your dog upon performing the desired behavior. Happy training!

Popular German Words Used for Dog Training

Sitz: (pronounced "siz") German command for sit

Platz: (pronounced "plots")German command for down

Bleib: (pronounced "bly'b") German command for stay

Hier: (pronounced "hee er") German command for here

Fuss: (pronounced "fooss") German command for heel

Hopp: (pronounced " hup") German word for jump

Gib-laut: (pronounced "gib-laout") German word for speak

Achtung (pronounced "ak-toong") German word for watch

Aus: (pronounced "owss") German word for drop

© 2018 Adrienne Janet Farricelli

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