A striking combination of two extremely popular breeds, Gerberian Shepskies have some of the best traits from both parents, but also some that can be extremely frustrating for inexperienced owners. Their intelligence, independence and willingness to learn and please their owners can be extraordinary, but without appropriate training and socialization, these very traits can also be problematic. These clever pups are easily bored, and can become distracted easily by more interesting things around them. They’re also very discriminating when it comes to obedience (a personality quirk that derives from their Husky heritage), and need the right type of motivation to perform a task that they’ve been asked to do. Despite being independent thinkers, Gerberian Shepskies are often extremely perceptive dogs, sensitive to even slight changes in mood and body language, and since rough handling or punishment can easily cause these dogs to become aggressive or fearful, it’s best to train them using confident, yet reward-based handling.
Before you start training your Gerberian Shepsky, here are a few guidelines to help you learn how to positively motivate your pup to learn and work together with you.
- Focus on rewarding the behavior you want, instead of punishing your pooch for undesirable actions. For example, instead of yelling at your dog to stop jumping up, reward them when they’re sitting calmly to greet people.
- Be confident and consistent! The cue for a particular behavior should be the same no matter where you are; don’t use ‘Come here!’ at home and ‘Bailey, come!’ at the park, for instance.
- Find your dog’s currency. Each dog is an individual; for some, their greatest motivator is food, while for others, it may be a specific toy, praise, or even the freedom to play with other dogs.
- Keep training simple and fun! Break up training sessions into brief periods of no more than 5-10 minutes at a time, several times daily to keep your dog’s attention on you. Learning is hard work, so let your dog blow off steam with a game of tug or fetch afterwards.
- Always end training sessions on a positive note, even if it means getting your dog to do something super easy that they already know how to do.
- If you get frustrated, stop, end the session, and break down what you’re trying to teach into smaller steps next time.
- Don’t use tools or methods that scare your Gerberian Shepsky or cause them pain or discomfort – it disrupts the bond of trust your furry friend has in you, and while some of those techniques might be effective in getting the behavior that you want, they could also make your dog fearful, defensive, and apt to avoid situations where they’ve experienced punishment before.
Training your dog doesn’t require much in the way of tools – a simple flat collar, leash, and a great supply of rewards (which may be treats, toys, praise, petting, or a combination of all of these) is all you need to start with.
This is probably the most important thing that you can do for your Gerberian Shepsky – yes, even more important than teaching ‘sit, stay, come!’ Dogs have a specific window of time, usually between the ages of 8 and 16 weeks, in which it’s absolutely essential for them to be introduced and exposed to a wide variety of different people, places, sounds, smells, and situations to prevent them from being fearful or reactive as adults. Once your Gerberian Shepsky has had their first vaccines, get them out and about to puppy-safe places for some social time! Enroll them in a beginner obedience class, take them to visit friends and neighbors, arrange meet and greets with other friendly dogs and puppies. It’s also a good idea to take them for frequent friendly drop-in visits at your veterinarian, groomer, pet store and doggie daycare, and let the staff shower them with pats, treats, and praise. Since these pups can be sensitive to some sounds as adults, make an audio track with different noises (like bells, sirens, whistles, thunder, fireworks and engine sounds) and play it at a low to moderate volume in your home while your pup is eating or playing.
It’s natural for Gerberian Shepskies to be exuberant and energetic dogs, but their large size means that their enthusiastic antics can be overwhelming for many people if they aren’t taught to respect our space and act appropriately in our home. Teaching your Gerberian Shepsky to be a good canine citizen will not only make them a friendlier, more well-rounded pooch, but also helps to further positive perceptions of these pups as fantastic companion dogs. One of the main ways to help curb bad behavior is to make sure that your dog is getting enough exercise, in fact! A tired dog is far less motivated to behave ‘badly’ because of boredom, frustration or excess energy. Start with teaching and rewarding your dog for the behaviors you want them to do, while ignoring or firmly redirecting the unwanted actions; reward them with a fun chew toy when they’re relaxing on their bed, for example, or give them a treat each time they pause in their barking out the window to teach them that silence is the behavior that you desire.
Mouthing and Biting
Puppies tend to explore the world with their mouth and teeth, and some Gerberian Shepskies tend to take more after their more orally-oriented Husky parents – ouch! Many dog owners have been on the wrong end of a sharp set of puppy teeth used in play or exploration. Luckily, these perceptive pups can easily be taught what types of toothy tricks are unacceptable. As soon as your dog begins to use their teeth, give a sharp ‘ouch!’, stop the activity immediately and walk away from your dog; you can also redirect them to bite on a long rope or tug toy. They’ll soon learn to be gentle with their mouth if they want your continued attention!
Although Gerberian Shepskies learn very quickly, one of the most essential commands for them to master is a solid recall; they have a highly ingrained motivation to run and chase than many other breeds, and if distracted enough, can run dangerously far! A long line of 25-30 feet attached to your dog’s collar is a fantastic tool for keeping them safe until they reliably return to your side. Begin at home with your dog’s favorite rewards; using an excited tone of voice, call their name, give your recall cue (most owners use ‘come’ or ‘here’) then quickly run away from them. When they catch up to you, give them lots of treats and praise! Over time, stop rewarding your dog’s slowest return trips, and increase the distance between you two. Don’t forget to practice this new skill in different locations with different distractions as your dog’s recall skills improve!
Training your Gerberian Shepsky to be a well-mannered, obedient dog isn’t going to happen quickly; just like humans, dogs take time to learn new skills. Training with respect, understanding and positivity, however, not only builds a fantastic bond between you and your furry best friend, but is the best way to end up with a happy healthy companion for years to come.