Training Your German Shorthaired Pointer

Training Your GSP

As mentioned above, GSPs are very active, creative, fast and strong.  Training your GSP is a must or you will be faced with many undesirable surprises when you get home.  This breed is magnificent as a companion but you will not be able to enjoy each others’ company if your puppy isn’t well trained.  Training method should be gentle with consistent positive reinforcement.

My plan is to bring you tips and advice on a monthly basis from Naomi Heck, a professional trainer. on this website. 

I introduce to you, Naomi Heck!

Hi!  I’m Naomi Heck, proud mom of a 5 year old male German Shorthaired Pointer named Chase.  I own Trusting Paws Dog Training, LLC, a canine behavior consulting business based in Camp Hill, PA.  I do private in-home consultations for all sorts of dog behavior problems including fear, anxiety, aggression and rambunctiousness.   My website is

I was thrilled when Yazmin asked me to write a monthly training column for her website.  I’ve trained hundreds of dogs of many breeds and temperaments.   But by actually raising a super-high energy sporting dog (more like the Energizer Bunny™ on speed) whose main passion is pointing at and chasing furry little critters, I’ve experienced first-hand the feelings of amazement, embarrassment, and even frustration that you may also have felt with your own German Shorthaired Pointer.

In many aspects, GSPs are just like any other dog (or animal, including humans).  They obey the laws of learning perfectly.  They learn to repeatedly do the things that get them what they want or need.  They learn what is safe and unsafe.  And they learn what’s fun and not-so-fun.   You are probably already familiar with behavioral tendencies of the GSP (like their endless need for exercise).  But there is wide variability within any breed of dog.  Each dog is an individual, and what one GSP finds enticing, fun, and rewarding might not apply to the next GSP.

Of course, it is wise to research general behavioral tendencies of a certain breed before deciding to adopt a dog or puppy, but it’s equally important to discover what motivates your dog so you can make the most of the time you spend training.  I’d like to point out that if your dog is awake, he or she is learning.  And what’s more, if you are with your dog, one of you is teaching the other!  So start thinking about training as brief teachable moments throughout the day rather than an hour long lesson.


In future posts I will talk about how to manipulate your dog’s motivators to help you overcome some common training challenges.  I will also show you how to increase the value of a weak motivator, turning it into a more effective training tool.

In the meantime, I suggest you make a written list of things that your dog absolutely loves.  Include foods, activities, games, events…once you start this list, you’ll probably think of things to add over the course of a week as you observe your dog in her daily activities.  Even sniffing a just-peed-on tree can be included on the list.  The degree of motivation may vary depending on the situation, so make any notes of that, too.  For example, Chase loves steak, but he won’t bother eating it if he is pointing at a bunny in the yard.

On the same page, make a second list – of the things your dog does not like.  They can be things he avoids, runs away from, barks/growls at, or turns a deaf ear to. Or his reaction can be more subtle.  Maybe he ducks his head slightly when you reach over to pet him.  Chase doesn’t like coming inside when I call him if he is out in the yard having fun.   He loves being outside where the wild things are and wouldn’t mind being out there all day if the weather’s nice.  Keep in mind that training can be impeded or even undone if we are not careful about how we handle things on this “Don’t Like” list.  In the months to come, I’ll point out common training mistakes people (including me) have made and also discuss how to turn a “Don’t Like” into a “Not So Bad” or even “Hey, I Like This”.  So start your lists and I’ll see you back here next month!


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109 Responses to Training Your German Shorthaired Pointer

  1. Kellyn says:

    Hi there!
    We adopted our now 8 year old GSP, 4 years ago. She was in a home where she wasn’t getting enough excercise, mainly from being crated. She has done really well with us. She goes to dogginday camp, runsz, plays outside and chases squirrels when she can. I have noticed over the past year she doesn’t enjoy the dog park anymore, and prefers to play in smaller groups.
    My family close family that we visit weekly all have smaller dogs. A Frenchie, 4 Boston terriors, and a min pin. They belong to 4 different houses. Our GSP has recently been aggressive towards the little dogs in one on one settings. She has laid them out. It was clearly not play and has been a little scary. The most recent she went after the 10 year old min pin while it was under my sisters feet.

    Any ideas on how we can correct this? She is a sweet dog and has never had problems before this year. The only thing that has changed is we brought our first human baby home. We still give her attention and exercise and make sure she knows she is loved and important.

    Thanks for your help!

  2. Lisa Vandermeulen says:

    I have 2 10 month old GSPs who are just great. One of them easily listens to commands while the other doesn’t at all. I’ve trained them both the same way (using positive reinforcement) and have had very different results. My biggest concern is that the one won’t come when I call. We live on an acreage and I love to take them on long walks but I’m terrified she won’t come back. What can I do? I feel bad just walking her on a leash but I’d feel much worse if she got lost. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Naomi says:

      The positive reinforcement for ignoring your call is being able to continue exploring the world. There is no greater reward than freedom, even if it only lasts a few minutes (or seconds). As long as your dog has the option to ignore you by being off leash, he will continue to choose what is most reinforcing for him. Experiencing freedom in this way is like opening a can of worms.

      It is not that positive reinforcement training per se failed; it is how it was implemented that needs to be adjusted. Please read (or re-read) my post Training GSP’s To Listen. Choosing effective rewards and using them well is the key to successful training.

      I never allow young dogs to run free until they are thoroughly trained to reliably respond on a long line as well as in fenced enclosures in a variety of environments amid numerous distractions. Permission to run off and explore has often been the reward for compliance. This can take anywhere from a full year to several years depending on the dog.

      There is no single formula or secret. I highly recommend Jane Killion’s book “When Pigs Fly! Training Success with Impossible Dogs” to get a better understanding of how to train a challenging dog while making it fun for BOTH of you.

  3. Sam McCoy says:

    Hi Naomi,

    I have a 9 month old GSP that I have raised since he was 12 weeks old. He is calmer than most GSPs I have been around, and has a good temperament. I have crate trained him and he has basic commands down well. There is one huge problem: he cannot stand it when I am not in the room with him. If I go outside even to grab the mail, he whines and scratches at the door. I can’t even go to the bathroom without him scratching at the door. Even if there is someone else in the room, he freaks out when I leave.
    I have tried all of the usual tricks: getting him used to me picking up keys/putting on a coat/grabbing my bag to go. I also exercise him twice daily until he is dead tired, and leave puzzle toys when I leave. Will he grow out of this? How do I fix this?Anything will help.

    • Naomi Heck says:

      Separation distress is a tough issue to address because it required a professionally designed behavior modification protocol and a lot of patience to stick to the program. Resist the temptation to “cherry pick” from a list of tips that you might find online or get from friends. Teaching your dog to relax in situations that currently cause panic requires a high degree of structure.
      The top expert in the U.S. on separation anxiety is Malena DeMartini-Price, and she has written a book that I highly recommend:
      She also has a website that you might find helpful : You can set up a phone call through the site to discuss your situation and get paired with a qualified trainer if that is what is needed.
      Your patience, understanding and commitment to sticking with a well-designed program is the greatest gift you can give your GSP. Good luck!


  4. Dan Custer says:

    Hi! Would like your opinion!! I am looking forward to training my new GSP and I have a question about invisible fencing and hunting peeper collars. Will the vibration mode and the peeping of the fence confuse the young dog when introducing him to the hunting collar. Not sure if there is a correct answer but don’t want to make the wrong move and make things more difficult.

    • Simba's Mom says:

      I think it can be done, but I would get help from a trainer who is very familiar with using hunting beeper collars in a humane way and not try to do it himself (I never heard it called “peeper” – that’s a new one for me). When a dog is trained on an Invisible Fence collar, the warning tone creates a strong avoidance response because of the negative association that was created with it; it predicts a shock or vibration unless the dog moves away from the area (although I am not familiar with any underground fencing system that uses only vibration and never a shock). A vibration sensation from a training collar could also elicit a fear or avoidance response depending on how it is introduced. If the tone on the hunting collar is noticeably different from the IF collar tone (it should be), a fear response can be avoided or minimized with appropriate training. Skilled introduction to it is the key, because it’s hard to undo any emotional fallout once it happens.

  5. Jeremut says:

    I just got a 3year old gsp that knows nothing about hunting I also have an eight year old that I use hunting what is the best way to go about teaching the 3 year old to hunt the sane as the other

    • Simba's Mom says:

      Hello Jeremut,
      You need to start training obedience fundamentals as soon as you get your pup, and you can also start playing simple retrieving games, too. I recommend reading the book “Positive Gun Dogs” by Jim Barry, Mary Emmen and Susan Smith. I do not train hunting dogs, but know that compulsive “correction-based” methods, including the use of shock collars, are quite common. Make sure that you are comfortable with the techniques used if you consult a professional hunting dog trainer for help. From what I’ve read, the time to begin a dog on actual birds depends on who you ask. But it needs to be done systematically. Foundation training for retrieves is usually done with bumpers and dummies first. Sorry I can’t be more specific because this is out of my area of expertise.


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  7. Candy says:

    Hi Naomi,
    My husband and I just recently adopted Dr. Spock, a cousin’s gsp who just wasn’t getting enough attention/exercise at home. He’s almost 7, such good energy with other dogs, still so fast and energetic that others are amazed of his age. Even though we work all day, we make sure he gets a lot of free running and trips to dog parks, etc, and he has been absolutely great by himself in the house. Reading all these other comments about gsp traits and behaviors is quite fun, as Spock fits most of them. He loves staring at the furry creatures, either through the back door or on his chain outside; he could do it all day long, and when he gets on the chase, there’s no stopping him. Which leads to my question; how can we get him to “hear us” once he takes off? He’s chased a bunny across and down our city street and we don’t want him to hit by a car, obviously. He doesn’t respond to his name being called, or a whistle, or “wait”. He doesn’t care about treats or toys when we’re outside, it’s all the hunt. Thank you for any suggestions you can give us!

    • Naomi Heck says:

      Hi Candy,
      Spock is a lucky dog to finally have the opportunity to experience more enrichment that is vital to physical as well as mental health. He’s a handsome guy, too!

      A reliable recall during a chase is the PhD of dog training. A lot of work and practice goes into getting a prompt response in a variety of challenging situations. If Spock has had 7 years to run off without listening, being able and willing to abruptly stop a thrilling run and return to you is a tall order. For his own safety, he should never have the opportunity to run loose down the street, no matter how much he enjoys being off leash. Things happen and distractions appear when you least expect it. When he is already in chase mode, he is literally unable to hear or respond to you. The cognitive part of his brain has pretty much shut off and the more primitive, reflexive part has taken over. That can be modified with diligent training. To what degree depends partly on age and past experiences.

      Outlining how to train a high level recall is beyond the scope of this site, and there is no single recipe anyway. I recommend that you read the book “When Pigs Fly” by Jane Killion. She explains how to use natural reinforcers (rather than cookies) to train difficult dogs. Applying the techniques in the book will get you started on the right foot to creating a partnership with Spock where you both win. Good luck!

  8. sean says:

    I think I must have been very lucky or unconsciously doing a few things right. I have a 19 month old tall (24kg) male GSP who lives in a small suburban yard. As expected, Arlo destroyed the yard when he was a puppy but he has never barked or escaped and seemed to learn to amuse himself with a few puzzle toys that we gave him.
    i agree that they need exercise but not as much as i expected. A walk in the morning with some off leash time is all he seems to require but i usually take him for some long runs through the bush – he does some benefit form some tug of war or training in the afternoon as well though. he is not nearly as demanding as I thought he would be in terms of exercise – he is very settled, even lazy, around the house in the evenings.
    he is far more temperementally stable and less ‘nervy’ than my last dog – a kelpie working dog. Every dog and breeder has differing traits but this is the most stable and predictable dog that I have ever had.
    I worked on obedience when Arlo was young but i don’t consider myself a particularly skilled or experienced dog trainer – I just followed the rules and was consistent and because GSPs are so intelligent i now have a dog with extremely reliable recall and sit-stay from a distance etc. This really seemed to firm up around 1 year and is nearly rock-solid. I think that consistent positive reward is the key with these dogs but negative reinforcement (raised voice and congruent body language) is surprisingly effective with a strong willed GSP but I rarely use a loud admonishment as they seem very sensitive to it.

    he is great off-lead but has some tendency to chase kangaroos that i can stop if I intervene early enough with a ‘stay’ command. Once he chases I have no hope of stopping him though – although he always comes back. The converse is he will drop at your feet at a cafe and stays placidly whilst you eat breakfast.
    he has self taught himself a few things like to lift his paw when being taken in and out of a harness and to step over the lead when it gets under him when walking. they are a very intelligent breed.
    I got my dog from a breeder who bred them for hunting. i wanted to avoid a show breeder as i wanted a smart dog bred to work. He has no papers but I would consider him an almost perfect pet for an active person – importantly i did view the mother who was very friendly and placid.
    I think that much of the character of your dog is luck of the draw and/or down to some basic following of the rules; view the parents, ignore show dogs (unless you are interested in form over function) and go for some reliable traits that work for hunting-i.e.intelligence, independence and biddability; they are the same traits that make a good pet.
    The bonus with my dog is that he is also extremely affectionate and very gentle with small dogs and children – cats, not so much.
    Downsides? He is a big boisterous dog – I take him to dog socialisation classes once a week to keep him respectful of other dogs and strangers and i would recommend that for any big boisterous dog. He also has the GSP capacity to whine when separated outside (but not when I have left the house) which can be pretty annoying. And he is a massive trip hazard.
    Apart from that, until I get old and feeble, i will continue to have GSPs.

  9. Craig Rowston says:

    Hi Naomi,

    I have a female GSP Poppy that will be 2 in August. She is an awesome dog, very energetic and to be honest I’ve thrown her into a difficult living situation that is going as well as you would expect (not very well).

    I am renovating my house and have moved into my girlfriends town house. It is a short term – 3/5 months build.

    After moving in everything was going ok, but in the last 2 weeks Poppy has learned how to open the kitchen cupboards and drawers and is opening them daily and eating everything.

    We have moved all the food out of the lower drawers etc, but we are still having problems with her. She can smell spices and seeds/nuts and is doing whatever she needs to, to get to them and eat them. I’m concerned for her health and also the damage she is doing to the cabinetry (which is minor).

    Is there any short term training I could be doing to help, or is this just one step to far for my dog, and I should look for some other form of accommodation for her during the day whilst I finish renovating the house and she can go back to having her yard?

    Thanks A lot


  10. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Deena,

    What a great question! Kudos to you for working hard on Ruby’s recall training in the forest. You are now witnessing 2 normal phenomena: 1.) the difficulty in generalizing learned obedience cues to different settings, and 2.) the testing of boundaries that starts in adolescence (5 months and up). Giving a young dog too much freedom too soon is like opening Pandora’s Box. Once she learns that ignoring you results in the freedom to explore even for just a minute, you have demoted yourself as respected leader and the environment has reinforced her heavily with new sights and smells. You can be certain any dog would repeat this behavior at the next opportunity. This does not mean you should reprimand Ruby for ignoring you, though. Who wants to come to someone who is annoyed?

    I never trust my own dogs off leash until I have build a rock-solid history of reinforcement for coming to me immediately in the face of their most challenging distractions in many different locations. It is imperative to use management (fence or long training line) to prevent Ruby from ever experiencing the thrill of taking off and not listening. I still do not trust my 21 month old mixed breed to come to me off leash when there are other dogs around, so she has not earned the privilege of being off leash in such settings . I am not going to test her ability until I am 99.9% certain she will comply on the FIRST call. If she fails on that first trial, back she goes on the leash for more training. That is how important a reliable recall is to me. Each error I make sets her training back significantly, and I need to make her safety a priority over my own wishful thinking. I didn’t trust Chase to that degree until he was 7 or 8 years old, and I would be foolish to think he is 100% reliable with every possible distraction the environment has to offer him. I ALWAYS reward generously for recalls away from distractions. With squirrels on our walks, the reward is to continue pointing at or following them; he could care less about treats at those times).

    If you haven’t yet looked at my other posts, first look at this one where I make every mistake in the book because I am frustrated and embarrassed (this is at a client’s house with my GSP Chase). The only thing I did sort of right is finally clipping a short leash on, calling him, and releasing him when he came. I didn’t even do that very well (I should not have asked him to sit on top of coming to me because he was having so much trouble listening)! Makes me look bad, but I want people to learn from my mistakes.

    Then take a look at this post, which should be the foundation for how you train whenever you are competing with an environment that is beckoning your dog with things more interesting than what you have to offer.

    In your situation, I would definitely use a long line. Start with 6 ft and gradually increase the length to 30 or even 50 ft as your dog progresses. I would then practice with a very light line that your dog can drag (without you holding the other end) so it mimics the feel of being off leash. Don’t even think about removing the line until you get an immediate “hairpin turn” away from a rabbit or squirrel when he hears your call, without having to pull him to you even slightly, for numerous trials. It sounds tedious, but it’s worth the reward that YOU reap in the end (having a dog that listens to you because she wants to, not because she has to). Good luck!

  11. Deena says:

    Hello, We have a 10 month old female GSP named Ruby. She has been a great puppy so far. However, her once strong recall is now “do I feel like coming or not” totally depends on her mood! We do a lot of off leash work in the forest by my house & I always have treats available. She is ok at recall there but if she gets out in the front yard she is gone! She acts like she doesn’t know who we are or even her name! (I know she does though). We can’t get her to come back no matter what kind of treat. How can I get her to have a strong recall no matter what the circumstance?

  12. Alison says:

    Hi I have a 3 and a half year old gsp called Lukas – he is a beautiful dog but the most challenging pointer we have ever owned. I walk him for an hour twice a day and he has a yard to play in but lately he has started digging furiously and bars at me and refuses to do what i tell him. Help

    • Naomi Heck says:

      Hi Alison,
      It sounds like Lukas is an intelligent boy who needs a lot of mental exercise along with the physical exercise he is already getting. You mention that his digging is “furious”. If it seems obsessive, or he is doing other repetitive behaviors that are hard to interrupt (he goes right back to doing them), I would get him checked out by your vet. Dogs who are bored will find entertainment in forms we humans don’t like, and it doesn’t take long for a dog in a huge yard full of toys with no playmate to find things to destroy for fun. Since digging is a natural behavior that many dogs enjoy, consider providing a “legal” digging pit or sandbox filled with a dirt/sand mixture. Bury bones, long lasting chews, novel toys and hard biscuits for him to discover. Try to prevent access to flower beds and the like, and make that digging pit the most interested place in the yard. Play games like hiding treats scattered in the yard to engage the natural seeking instinct that is so important for dogs of all ages. When Lukas starts his “back-talking” at you, just turn and leave the room without further talking. Do it immediately (at the first bark), and resist the temptation to repeat your command or “reason” with him. Go into another area and close the door behind you if possible to make your point clear. After 20 seconds, come back to him for another chance. Repeat as needed. Every time. And abide by my 10 to 1 Rule – Reward good behavior 10 times more than you correct bad ones. Teach him what to do instead of barking at you, and reward that replacement behavior more frequently than you would like for 7 straight consecutive days. Pretty soon, he’ll change his mind when his old behaviors do not pay off or aren’t fun anymore. Good luck!


  13. Shari says:

    Hi I have a loving 6 year old male GSP. He is grawling and showing subtle signs of aggression towards my sons puppy. Any ideas how to get him to accept the new puppy? He recently got a small bite from a small dog over a raw hide. Not sure if this is part of the problem. He sniffs the puppy and walks away as long as the pup is being held. But if the puppy is on the ground or barks his reaction changes. Any help or suggestions on how to handle this would be appreciated. Thanks

    • Shari says:

      I should add my dogs name is Wyatt. We also have 2 springer spaniels in our home. Ages 8 and 10. Wyatt gets along with them just fine. The issue is when the pup comes over. I hate to say not to bring the pup over. But Wyatt is a large strong GSP. Do we keep exposing him to the pup? What till the pup is older? The puppy is a 4 month old hound lab mix. Rescued from the human society a month ago. We have had 3 meetings so far. When we are on neutral ground on leashes he seems fine. I think because he is distracted with new smells and checking out the different area. But at my house and the pup moves he is different. Suggestions???

      • Simba's Mom says:

        The most important thing you can do is to respect what Wyatt is telling you. The more you insist on making him accept the puppy, the less likely he will. First impressions can make or break dog to dog introductions.

        If being together off property while exploring the environment without interacting with the puppy is enjoyable for Wyatt, continue to do that on a regular basis. If he chooses to ignore the puppy, let him, and don’t let the puppy invade his space or bother him.

        Forego indoor encounters until you clearly see Wyatt happily seeking interaction with the puppy when off property. Then do the same process in your yard before taking them indoors. Put away all toys, bones, and food bowls (even empty ones) ahead of time.

        It is normal for an adult dog to be intolerant of puppy behaviors. It is our responsibility to ensure things don’t escalate by being the elder dog’s advocate. Every negative experience is a setback and makes acceptance less likely.


  14. Maria says:

    Hi Naomi.

    Hi have a 5 month GSP. I never had a puppy before and all the training i have been making is what i read in the web. He was used to spending the days in the garden in my old house and was only inside whenever i was at home when i arrived from work, but now i moved to an apartment so i had to housetrain him again. I think he his already house trained, because he behaves really well during the day. I walk twice with him before going to work, then he walks every two hours with me or with whom is at home. I go home everyday to lunch and he his the perfect dog, never pees inside and always asks when he needs to go out. In the afternoon when i arrive from work i walk for an hour with him, and then play in front of my house before going home. after this is when trouble begins. when i go home he asks to go out every 10 to 20 min, and sometimes when i go outside he only plays, then i bring him home and he pees, and drinks more and more water, and the pees, and he can keep on doing this for 3 to 4 hours. I know he can behave because he his perfect through the day, this only happens in the afternoon. i tried longer walks but he always wants more. When i dont take him out he barks and pees. What can i do to change this behaviour?

    • Simba's Mom says:

      Hi Maria,

      Although it may appear that your 5 month old puppy is fully housetrained and “should” know better, that is still too young to expect complete bladder control when he is active and drinking lots of water (which he needs). Activity speeds up urine production, so the frequency you describe sounds normal. Be sure to walk him after he pees in the yard, not before. When he asks to go out, take him out to the yard on leash. If he doesn’t go after a few minutes of standing in the potty area, bring him in and confine him or watch him like a hawk. Don’t get into a pattern of going out to play after he pees inside, either. Provide a pee pad in an exercise pen or take him outside on leash to pee more often during active hours so he doesn’t develop a habit of peeing anywhere he wants in the house when he can’t hold it. Teach him that barking never works to get you to do anything except walk away from him. Confine him so he can’t follow you and bark. It will take a few more months until he is more reliably housetrained. Expect a few accidents especially during the first year. Limit his freedom to roam indoors until he has proven himself accident-free for at least one month.


  15. Serena Foley says:

    Hi Naomi
    I wonder if you can help us, we have a gsp called Coco who is 15months old…..but she has terrible separation anxiety, I cant go anywhere as she gets so distressed. We’ve tried all the training, going to the door, going in & out, picking up keys, putting jackets on & off….so we have now started to leave her for a little time…..we put her in the kitchen & clear all the surfaces…by the time we come back she has got the kitchen doors open & has her head out of the cat flap, howling her head off.

    Should we try crate training her? She had one as a puppy but didn’t seem to settle in it at all…

    She’s a really lovely dog, but it’s beginning to make life very difficult.

    We have consulted a couple of dog behaviourists, but they all say do the above….

    Can you help at all?? Will it always be like this or is there a possibility she may grow out of it?

    Any help/advice would be much appreciated.

    • Simba's Mom says:

      True separation anxiety is not something a dog outgrows. The sooner it is addressed, the better. You say you consulted a few dog behaviorists, but did they support you through each step that you mentioned you tried? Was Coco successful (stayed totally relaxed) with all those preliminary steps? Only when Coco is totally comfortable and relaxed being apart from you while you are home, and remains relaxed as you do each pre-departure cue, should you begin actual departure training. And that might start with just walking to the door, touching the doorknob and returning for multiple repetitions until Coco doesn’t care about it. It can be very tedious but teeny tiny steps are absolutely necessary, and you should never leave long enough for her to get distressed. The purpose is to allow her to rehearse calmness in tiny increments, raising the durations (by seconds at a time) as she is ready to handle it.

      Each panicked episode is a set-back, so it is best to arrange for a sitter or daycare if at all possible when you are not home. If the anxiety is severe, consider talking to your vet about anti-anxiety medication to help with the training (meds alone will not cure separation anxiety but will calm the mind so she can more easily learn). Do not use the crate; it will make the situation worse. Read Nicole Wilde’s book “Don’t Leave Me” to get an idea of the process. Also check out this website:

      Good luck! It is treatable with lots of patience.


  16. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Charm,
    What a beautiful dog! I have a feeling that in your efforts to try all sorts of things to get Henry to stop barking, you have inadvertently taught him that barking works (the dog’s mind doesn’t always see what we want it to see). Does he start barking when you stop paying attention to him (such as playing with him), or is he barking as you are appeasing him? Once a dog learns that barking will get him attention (even if it takes time, eventually you respond), just ignoring doesn’t work and in fact often makes it worse. If you are sure the purpose of the barking is to get you to do something or pay attention to him, you need to make it perfectly clear that he gets attention when quiet, but you immediately disappear at the very first bark. It has to be black and white, yes and no, right and wrong, giving him constant feedback until he demonstrates that he gets it. So, the easiest way that I know to make it perfectly clear is this: I stand near a door to a bathroom. I play, pet or talk to the dog, giving *constant* verbal feedback when he is NOT barking. Good boy, good dog, you’re so quiet, thank you for being so quiet, etc. At the first bark, I say a firm “Quiet!” (or whatever word you choose-just don’t yell it) to pinpoint the precise moment he blew it and quickly shut myself into the bathroom so he can no longer see me or get to me. I wait until he is quiet for a full 10 seconds. You might have to endure a long outburst of barking in the beginning, so be prepared to wait it out. When there is at least 10 seconds of silence (don’t wait too long and frustrate him all over again), open the door and start talking and praising before he starts barking. Repeat, repeat, repeat some more. If your dog has been practicing attention-barking for a long time, expect that it will take a dozen or more repetitions of this sequence every day for the next several days before he fully understands that barking to demand something of you no longer works and in fact makes you disappear. The consequence must be consistent or you will create a gambler. Once you do it near a bathroom door, take it to a different area but be close to a door you can quickly walk through and shut.

    I do this exercise with every new puppy I get. I make sure his needs are met first, like feeding, playing, going to the bathroom. Then as I am in the bathroom getting ready in the morning, I set up an exercise pen or crate just outside the bathroom door (so he can’t scratch the door or run off and chew something he is not supposed to have). As long as the pup is quiet, I praise, and he gets to watch me and be right there with me. As soon as the first bark or whine comes out, I shut the door and wait for 10 seconds of quiet. Then I open the door and continue drying my hair, putting on makeup, etc. Really easy, really clear, really effective. Good luck!

  17. Charm Minton says:

    Hi there! We have a 5 month old GSP named Henry. He is amazing! Recently he has started to bark incessantly. We will walk, run him, play all his favorite games, play ball, feed and water, rub his tummy I mean everything you can think of doing we have done to try to discover what will make him stop barking. Nothing seems to work. Even when we find something to appease him its only for a few minutes and then it starts again. I have even tried to ignore him thinking we are teaching him that his barking is getting his way, but as your probably guessed that didn’t work either. He is still very young and so we are diligently working with him and his obedience and he sometimes does not want to come when called or jumps when greeting us but that is about it. What suggestions might you have for us to help him stop and us regain our sanity.

  18. Wes says:

    Hi I have a GSP that is a bit over 2 years old and have worked hard on her obedience and she seemed to have it down pat I have had her out hunting ducks a couple times this year and her obedience has been very good but had failed to get any ducks for to retrieve until the weekend were I had her out on Friday and she was being very disobedient so I thought that must have been just excitement so I took her out Saturday morning and finally shot a duck her and she went and fetched it up but then instead of bringing it back to me she took it all the back to camp which was about 400 meters and then came back without the duck and then for the rest of the morning she was still disobeying me can you tell me why this would be?

    • Naomi Heck says:

      A few things jumped out at me when I read your question. The first is that “she has it (obedience) down pat” but you haven’t shot ducks down for her to retrieve until recently. This tells me that she hasn’t had enough training that focuses on generalizing her skills to a variety of situations/environments. Let’s say she is excellent at retrieving a dummy in that same setting at the same distance. How is she retrieving a dummy with real feathers or a frozen duck (if that is a training tool)? I’m not a hunter, but the concept of training for generalization is the same no matter the sport. How much rehearsal has she had with real dead ducks while she is on a long training line or at a shorter distance?

      You mentioned several times that she was being very disobedient. When non-compliance is viewed as willful disobedience, it sets the stage for frustration, which a dog will perceive as aversive (mildly or strongly depending on the dog’s sensitivity), and can set back training. Skilled trainers just view it as incomplete training and start trouble-shooting as I will discuss below. The dog can’t (for whatever reason) perform that particular task in that situation yet. That puts you in a mindset to make training plans without the pitfalls of frustration or anthropomorphism which will cloud your thinking.

      What is the consequence for her returning a dead duck/scented decoy to you? In other words, what’s in it for her when she brings and gives to you the most valuable possession she can dream of? Does she do it promptly and joyfully? Does she truly value the reinforcement (reward) you are giving her, whether it’s praise, food, a toy, resuming the hunt, etc.? Build value to the return and release with the “artificial” rewards first. Then you can gradually fade them out and rely on the more natural rewards of praise and/or continuing the hunt. Are you using avoidance of corrections as a training tool? Is she in a cooperative partnership with you? Close examination and methodical training will allow you to pinpoint any weak links that need to be strengthened using positive reinforcement.


      • Wes says:

        I was using just a plain dummy for training but I never used a rope or anything to correct her but she was retrieving the dummy just as I wanted. she wouldn’t break and if she did she would come straight back to me until I gave her the command to fetch and also I have had her with the gun going off as well simulating what would happen in the field and she was doing it all perfect and the first time I took her out into the field I was firing shots and there were shots going off around her and she was obedient with all my demands until I took her out again on the weekend where she just ignored me

  19. Todd says:

    Hi Naomi, i am picking up my pup today. he is 12 weeks old and is called Hendrix. what is the best type of training for him. click training or ? there are so many ways i am a bit confused. He has a Laundry area where he will be staying while we are at work with a bed, food and water with pee pads down. at what age can i walk him on a leash in the back yard and start basic commands?

    I want to make the most of training him.

    any help is appreciated.


    • Naomi Heck says:

      Hi Todd,
      Congratulations on your new puppy! You have many years of fun ahead. It is never too soon to train you puppy. Hendrix is a sponge for learning at this age. With every experience and interaction, he is learning something. Keep things low key for the first few days to allow him to adjust to his surroundings without being overwhelmed. Keep the number of visitors to one or 2; don’t invite the whole neighborhood.

      Unless you are experienced with clicker training, I would hold off on that for now. You can always pick it up later if you’d like. Your top priorities at this age is house training and socialization. House training is about disciplining yourself to prevent accidents from happening and generously rewarding elimination outside in a designated potty spot. I recently wrote an article about it on this site.

      Socialization is critical at this age. The clock is truly ticking; get a solid start now (in small doses, don’t overwhelm), and continue the effort well into adulthood. Most people are unaware of the phenomenon of “de-socialization”, when dogs revert back to being wary of new things and/or people because frequent happy exposures come to an end after puppy class is over. Here is an excellent article on socialization.
      This website is also a wealth of information on clicker training. Have fun!

  20. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Clinton,

    Thank you for posting about your 9 month old GSP. It is unfortunate that his socialization ceased when he went back to the breeder. The good news is that he got a good start with you, which might make rehab efforts a little easier. It is a commonly held belief that after the first 4 months of a dog’s life, socialization can be put on the back burner or forgotten. I see many dogs that have successfully completed puppy “socialization” classes. But frequent happy exposures to *new* situations, people, and/or dogs did not continue after classes were over, and at about 7 to 9 months of age, the owner is desperate for help because his once social dog is showing threatening behavior toward strangers or dogs that aren’t already his buddies.

    It is a natural developmental progression for dogs to become distrustful (fearful) of the unknown as they grow. It was a useful survival mechanism of their ancestors, but undesirable now that dogs live in human society. Puppies generally seek and explore new things without fear between 4 to 12 weeks of age. Compare that to wolf pups where fearless exploration begins at 2 weeks, with the window closing around 6 weeks. It is true that the critical window of socialization is 3 to 12 weeks, but what is often overlooked is how important it is to continue positive exposures to new situations beyond 12 weeks. Regression can easily occur if we drop the ball, even in the stereotypically friendly GSP’s (although breeds that have been developed as guardians for protection need even more intensive socialization that sporting breeds like the GSP that were bred to work closely with humans). In addition, it only takes one traumatic incident (like a fight with another dog) to have a lasting effect on the dog’s view of that particular situation or situations similar to it. Especially during that formative first year.

    Contrary to what your breeder told you, dogs do not outgrow this; it usually gets worse if it is not addressed correctly. This is not a dominance issue. I urge you to get with a qualified force-free trainer right away. Behavior modification should focus on 1.) changing your dog’s emotional response to the sight of other dogs; 2.) teaching your dog better coping skills when afraid; and 3.) learning how to handle your dog so he feels safe, without inadvertently adding to his stress by your own behavior. Good luck. He will improve with the right guidance.


  21. Clinton Carroll says:

    Hi. We have a 9 month old GSP from strong hunting bloodlines. He was raised around other dogs and around people growing up. We have had him since he was 8 weeks old. Crate trained and around neighbor dogs and people. At 6 months old we decided he was too much work with our busy schedules and work and gave him back to the breeder. Things changed in our lives and we recently brought him back home. We really missed him. When he was with the breeder he was with different dogs but not around a lot of people. He has been with us for a month back at home. The issue is that he barks very loud and consistent when seeing a new dog he doesn’t know. Its not an aggressive bark but it could be. Its loud and very consistent. Like he is showing his dominance to the dog. The barking can cause other dogs to become aggressize towards him. We are not sure what to do. We have a miniature dachshund that he grew up with and they get a long. The daschund put him in his place if he goes over board. No fighting at all. He has not been snipped yet. We have spoken with the breeder and he believes he will grow out of this. His reaction towards other dogs does not seem normal for a GSP. Any thoughts. THanks.

  22. Hi Allison,

    I just submitted an article to the site supervisor on house training. It addresses crate soiling. Please check out the archives for my article on leash pulling. Thanks!


  23. Allison says:

    I have a gsp that is a little over a year old. He is bad about peeing in his kennel even right after being let ouside. He also is not good on a leash at all. do you any ways to try to fix this

  24. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Niall,

    Unfortunately I do not have any experience training dogs to hunt. My guess is that training is to a large degree a process of shaping instinctive behaviors (that the dog is genetically programmed to do). I don’t know why Sasha doesn’t freeze or point when she picks up a scent. I saw these behaviors in my GSP from very early puppyhood. I would consult with a trainer experienced in training upland bird dogs to see whether those instinctive behaviors can be taught, especially to a degree of reliability that you would need in a hunting companion. Sorry I can’t help you more than that.


  25. Niall says:

    Hello Naomi,
    I have just recently bought a 3 year old gsp named Sasha, i have her for hunting pheasents etc,but her previous owner never trained her properly,although i have got her coming to me on the whistle etc i cant get her to stop when she picks up the scent of a bird also i cant get her to point any suggestions?

  26. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Marisa,

    Thank you for posting your question about your GSP’s house-training problem. There are some factors that you haven’t mentioned that can have a big effect on success (or lack of). They include: an undiagnosed medical issue (always consult with your vet first, don’t guess); past history (how long you have had him; what age house-training efforts began; how many times and how often he’s practiced “accidents”; is he neutered; is he marking or eliminating – they have different causes; is every last molecule of scent cleaned effectively; are you consistently managing access to favorite elimination spots or rooms in your house (see my answer to the previous poster’s question); and are you rewarding generously and immediately after he eliminates outside.

    In the meantime, keep a written record for the next 5 days on exact time he: wakes up, is taken outside, pees outside, poops outside, pees indoors, poops indoors, naps, plays, eats treats, eats meals. Don’t leave food down for him to graze whenever he feels like it. Have set mealtimes and pick up any leftovers after 10 minutes if he doesn’t eat it all. Save it for the next scheduled mealtime. Keep his schedule as consistent as possible, even on weekends or days you are not working. A detailed *written* record of his week is your best tool for troubleshooting. Don’t skip it. A dog that is not house-trained should be handled as an 8 week old puppy (elimination-wise) regardless of how old he is. Your question has given me the idea for my next training blog post: Common Myths and Misconceptions about House Training Your GSP. Look for it on this site in the upcoming week.


    • Simba's Mom says:

      Thanks Naomi,
      Very informative, especially about keeping a written record and being consistent. I know exactly the times that Simba needs to go out. By keeping record of her habits and being very consistent even on the weekends when I didn’t want to get up at 4:00 am! Thank goodness that as she got older she could go past 4:00 am. But you’re right, you really need to know your dogs schedule and routing. Thanks again for your time.

  27. Marisa Gartland says:

    Hi, I have a 13 month old GSP who still pees in the house a few times a week. It doesn’t seem to mater how often we let him out (I would say at maximum…once an hour). He doesn’t cue when he needs to go outside and he doesn’t pee in his crate. He doesn’t get up at night to pee (he sleeps with my daughter in her bed). I’m at my wits end with this dog! I’ve tried the doggy doorbell, and I’ve also tried the doggie diapers. I don’t know what else to do with him.

  28. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi M,
    You are smack in the middle of what is a common frustrating time in puppy raising. I just went through it with my 6 month old. Make sure your puppy wears a warm coat when you take him outside. Bring extra yummy treats in your pocket (like dried liver or jerky) to immediately give as soon as your dog comes out of his squat when he goes. Most importantly, be consistent in not giving him the *option* to eliminate indoors. This is accomplished by the use of leashes, tethers (always under constant supervision), crates, exercise pens, and baby gates. This may seem like overkill, but the fewer accidents your pup experiences, the faster he will be house-trained.

    The privilege to roam from room to room should be earned, one room at a time. Keep in mind that you won’t start to see real bladder and bowel control (holding it when he really has to go) until about 6 months. You have to “artificially” make the good toileting habit happen with 100% management for the next few months so eliminating inside just doesn’t “feel right” to him.

    If you have to leave your pup alone for longer than an hour or 2, don’t be afraid to put your pup in an exercise pen (I used 2 attached together with a wire top that can be purchased separately) with pee pads on one end (I used a pad holder too) and a crate with the door taken off at the other end. In a month or so, when bladder and bowel control is better, you can do away with this setup and just use a crate. Hope this helps.


  29. M says:

    We have a 13 week old GSP and are having the hardest time house training him. He constantly is going to pee in the house, even when we let him outside. Unfortunately, we had gotten him right before it turned cold weather. He hates being out in the cold. Nothing seems to be working. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you!

  30. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Nita,

    As you have learned the hard way, finding an escape proof cage (jail in your dog’s mind) is not the answer. He may injure himself if he can’t break out the next time. You should get help from a certified behaviorist to determine why your dog is so desperate to break out and be destructive. Depending on whether the cause is separation anxiety, crate aversion, boredom, or all 3, the solutions will be different.

    This will not be an easy fix if you must leave him alone every day. Because you got him when he was 11 months old, I am assuming you rescued him? This kind of behavior is a common reason why young adult dogs end up in shelters. I wonder if his previous owner relinquished him for that reason. A dog’s past experience and early upbringing have profound effects on mental health and behavior. Fortunately, dogs (for the most part) live in the moment, and as long as their physical, mental, and behavioral needs are met, change is possible. A qualified professional will help you decide whether you are willing and able to do the work necessary to help your dog to overcome this serious issue. Good luck.


  31. nita says:

    My male 3 year old gsh is crazy. Got him at 11 months and left him at home for two hours a few weeks after getting him and he ate the door off our bedroom so got him a heavy duty inside kennel he bent the bars enough to get out, we got him a chain link outside kennel 6 foot by 10 so a big one, put it on a cement slab so no digging and covered the top cause he crawled over the top, then he broke through the door and can’t keep him in there. Can’t leave him in the house alone cause he eats pillows and two reclining chairs. I need help my daughter is 5 and they are best friends or he would be gone.

  32. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Dan,

    Lucy’s rough play might be because she is annoyed. This is not good and must be interrupted. It’s not uncommon for high energy adolescent dogs to have trouble turning themselves “off” when highly aroused without help. It sounds like Macey needs to be taught how to relax in the presence of Lucy. If you know Macey has had plenty of exercise and Lucy wants to relax, keep them apart and prevent Macey from pestering Lucy. Teach her to relax in her crate or confinement area and chew on a stuffed Kong or bone. If you do this routinely when she is tired and ready for a nap (when Lucy is not there), it will be easier for her to relax in the same way when Lucy visits. Be Lucy’s advocate so she can get the rest she desires. Her patience may eventually wear thin. Don’t let it get to the point where Lucy feels the need to resort to being rough to get her point across to Macey. That can lead to more serious problems which could have been prevented with structure and rules. Hope this helps.


  33. Dan says:

    I have a question about socialization. I am the proud owner of an 8-month old, female GSP. My girlfriend has a pitbull that is about (a rescue) 2 years old. The two dogs get along swimmingly when at the park or on walks together. However, once we all get inside either of our homes, my little girl will not relax. Even after a rigorous run or an hour at the park, she is constantly in “play” mode. It creates a problem because the other dog, Lucy, is much more accepting and will happily go about her normal routine of immediately sleeping after a run/play. Macey, the GSP, just will not leave her alone (in a non-aggresive/playful way) which leads to Lucy playing too rough with her. The most frustrating part is that 2-minutes after Lucy leaves our house or Macey and I get in the car, she is sound asleep! I just want her to be able to relax in the presence of another dog so we don’t have to leave one of our dogs alone while we spend time together.
    I’m hoping that with age, maturity, more frequent visits with Lucy that she will relax and accept that Lucy is part of the family and not just a play thing. Any help or advice you could give would be great! I’ve really enjoyed reading the other posts on site. Thank you.



  34. Pingback: Gsp Dog Training | Dog Training

  35. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Brian,

    I’m sure you and your wife are experiencing cuteness overload! Who wouldn’t be? It’s double the fun but also more work. I always stress to my clients who adopt 2 puppies at once to make sure the pups learn to be comfortable separated from each other. Although there might not come a time when you HAVE to separate them in the near future, you probably will at some point in their lives (say, when one has to be hospitalized). It is heartbreaking to see a dog emotionally fall apart without his other half for even a few minutes. And it’s not healthy for them to experience that degree of stress. Such distress is totally preventable if you start working on it now. Here is an article with good tips on how to do that:

    Also, take them each separately to puppy socialization classes as soon as you get the okay from your veterinarian, and don’t just stop at puppy class. Keep going to adulthood. If you take them to the same class together, they will focus on each other and not get the full experience that they should.

    Keep a close eye when they play together and interrupt with time outs to settle down if things get too rough. It may be fun to watch, but if they try that while playing with other dogs, they might get a stern reprimand (and rightfully so). Make sure each pup learns good doggie manners from temperamentally sound adult dogs who will be firm but not hurt them. Good luck!


  36. Brian says:

    Me and my wife just got two GSP boys who are a little over ten weeks old. What would be the first thing to start training them on and what’s the best method?

    • Simba's Mom says:

      Congradulations on your new family additions! Naomi who is a professional trainer will be responding to your inquiry. As to me, I would love pictures of your new pups with comments telling me about their personalities so that we may post them if you don’t mind. In the future, I would love to adopt 2 sisters GSPs and wonder how it would be different to just having one. I wonder if Simba would be less of a velcro-dog (which I love unless I’m painting) if she had a sister. Anyhow, enjoy and love them. Yaz (Simba’s mom)

  37. James says:

    Thanks very much Naomi, I will look at your training posts and take your advice!! 🙂

  38. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi James,

    If Zia usually behaves well in class, then her outburst may have been due to over-stimulation. Hunger may have been a factor depending on how many hours she went without being fed, but if you are using food in class, ask your instructor to show you how to capture and reward calm behavior. Stay far enough away from others so she can learn and not be overwhelmed. If you do this correctly, you would reward often, so hunger would not be a cause for the crazy behavior, but a motivation to work for food.

    For jumping, please see my 2 training posts on this site.


  39. James says:

    HI Naomi,

    I own a 4 month old GSP girl called Zia.

    She is adorable, and really sweet!!

    The only trouble is…. every time she meets a new person or a new dog, she always tries to jump at them, which isn’t brilliant. How I can stop this??

    Also, she went to a big park one day, and had lots of fun. We got home, and she slept. When she awoke, we took her to puppy training, but she was very boisterous there, barking and jumping at everyone. She frigtened the few kids that were there! She’s normally fine, one of the best (if not the best) in her class, but she wasn’ then. Why did it happen? And how can I stop it from happening again?? Was it because it was the first day I didn’t give her lunch??

    Please help,


  40. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Patrick,
    It’s not a breed trait of GSP’s that a dog gets defensive when confrontational training methods are used. In order to train your dog not to chew, you will need to change your perspective from “how do I punish” to “how to I prevent” and “how do I meet his need to chew”. If behavior problems are not addressed this way, you run the risk of damaging your relationship. Punishment is most effective when the correction appears to come from the object in question, not from your hands. For example, using a taste deterrent such as bitter apple or booby trap the object with a motion detector made for pets.
    Make sure you are truly doing all the points addressed in this article:


  41. Patrick says:

    How do I get my GDP to stop chewing on everything and how do I punish him when he does wrong I’ve trained a beagle no problem I’ve trained a German Rott no problem but this dog is crazy hard to get trained and you can’t spank them or tap their nose because they turn aggressive I’ve done research but none of that is working what can I do

  42. Mieke says:

    Thank you so much for your reply Naomi, I truly appreciate it! I will make work of the leash process, the way you explain it I think I can work with it. Rafi is so smart and he looooooooooves food, so I think we can manage this!

  43. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Mieke,
    Leash training gets harder as a puppy gets older, but it’s still possible. Even though your dog is lucky enough to live on a farm, you might need to take him somewhere on a leash. Just as with horses being introduced riding equipment, do it gradually and use food to create a positive association. Start small and work your way up over the course of a week or 2. You could start with just attaching a clip (no leash attached to it) onto your dog’s collar and feeding his meal immediately AFTER the clip is put on. Take the clip off immediately after he is done eating. Do this with EVERY meal. Do not give any treats between meals during this training phase. When he is overjoyed about having the clip put on because it predicts food, attach a 6″ rope to it and do the same thing. When he shows an obvious happy response to having that put on (it might take several days which is OK), have a 12″ rope attached to the clip. Repeat the process, gradually adding more length, until he is happy about a 4 ft rope being attached because it means mealtime.
    Let him get used to dragging the rope around the house without you holding the end. Now, every time you get ready to take him out the door, don’t just let him run out. Clip the rope/leash on him, take him through the door in a controlled fashion, then unclip it so he can run free. Gradually extend the time he is on leash before you give him his freedom.
    Introducing the leash in this gradual fashion will prevent your dog from associating the leash with stress.
    If you plan on sending away your dog for training, make absolutely certain that you know exactly what equipment and training methods the trainers use, and that you are 100% comfortable with them. Where I live, there are many “board and train” businesses that use shock collars and/or choke chains. I personally would never send my dogs there because there are more humane ways to train. It’s not that those methods don’t work, but they should be aligned with your own philosophy on how your dog should be treated. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it would be good socialization. You should be the one doing the socialization, following the guidelines in this article:
    Good luck!


  44. Mieke says:

    Hello Naomi,

    I came to this website as I am the proud owner of the most beautiful GSP in the whole wide world 😉 his name is Rafael and he is nearly 5 months old. I am totally in love with him and his amazing energy! We live in South Africa on a big farm and I make it a point to walk with him over the farm at least 1,5 hours a day in total. We love it! But I do walk him off leash and I see in your previous comments that it should be a freedom earned. My question is, can I still train him to walk on the leash? He would not be happy AT ALL off course, but do you think with time and patience I will manage to get him ‘back on track’?

    And do you think it’s a good idea to let him go to a training school for a week for obedience training? I was thinking it would be a good idea as he would get used to other people training him (socialization) and those people are professional and might see things that I don’t? After that week I would get a training with them for 2 hours and I have to continue at home off course, just want to know what your opinion is about a week of training at another place.

    Thanks so much in advance!


  45. Tori says:

    Ok will do thanks

  46. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Tori,
    It sounds like you have quite a menagerie there! That’s great that your Dad rescued your GSP and brought him into a wonderful home where he can play with lots of pals. I have over 20 training posts on this website full of information and tips, with more to come. Please take the time to read them. I have covered the most important topics already. I just got a new puppy (not a GSP, but Chase, my GSP is helping with her training), so I will be posting a lot about her puppy training and socialization over the next few months, which is important for all breeds. Thanks for posting!


  47. Tori says:

    Hi my name is Tori. Me and my 3 other members of my family own 1 chawawa ,1 black lab ,2 great Diane’s ,1 German short-haired pointer( Fred ). When he is awake is mostly crazy; and when tiered he is the most sweetest thing ever. My dad rescued him from the side of the rode in a felid and I am proud to say he is healthy now. How would I train him and break the habits?

  48. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Deanna,
    Thanks for your question. Bobby is doing what GSP’s and their ancestors have been bred for centuries to do! Coming when called (or rather, NOT coming when called) amid high level distractions is perhaps the most common complaint I hear. And training a dog to overcome it’s genetic calling can be daunting. It’s so easy to teach our dogs to ignore us. How? We call the dog. He doesn’t respond. We repeat ourselves. Maybe he didn’t hear the first time? A dog’s hearing is much better than ours. What happens when we repeat ourselves is that we teach the dog it “pays” to ignore us. If your dog doesn’t come to you (and you’ve honestly trained him), he probably prefers to keep doing what he is doing AND he knows he has the option to ignore you if he is off leash. The biggest mistakes we make as dog owners is to expect performance without structured rehearsals and to give our dogs too much freedom too soon. My own personal rule is this: freedom is earned, and I will teach my dog in a humane way how to earn it.

    There are several cardinal rules when calling your dog: 1.) Never call your dog if you can’t bet your house that he will come. If he ignores you, go get him (don’t punish or get angry), entice him to follow you, or wait a little while until he is better able to focus on what you are asking. Then resolve to avoid putting yourself and him in that situation again. 2.) Train with gradually increasing distractions and distances as your dog becomes proficient, using a long training line until your dog is close to perfect (no dog responds 100% perfectly all the time). Only then should you train off leash, preferable in an enclosed area. Or, allow him to drag the line so you can stop him if necessary. Then gradually shorten the line. 3.) Always reward the dog generously for coming. I find that using the Premack Principle is most useful training “tool” for GSPs. See my two posts: “Training GSPs to Listen” and “Dogs – Stupid, Stubborn, or Smart”.

    I recommend reading the book “Chase! Managing Your Dog’s Predatory Instincts” :

    It takes work to train a GSP that will respond in all situations. They key is to be methodical, patient, and keep training fun. Just don’t ask for too much too soon. Good luck!


  49. deanna says:

    i live in victoria, australia.
    I have a 3 yo male gsp named bobby.
    He is a great dog, he is great with our 3 kids and our other little jack russell busta.
    He used to be great to take out for a run on our farm. /he would stay pretty close, and would point out lots of various animals etc,,,.
    But lately he is like a bull out of the gate. He takes off into the bush next to the track, chasing wallabies,rabbits,deer, and i can not seem to get him to listen to me, he is off miles in front of me and only comes back when he is ready not when i have been whistling and yelling for him to come back.
    I would love some advice on how to get him back to the way he was before.
    Thanks very much

  50. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Simon,
    It sounds like your dog is compulsive about balls. My GSP’s mother was that way, which is one of the reasons I took him, but alas his obsession turned out to be with little critters. It’s good that you keep balls out of your home. Are you able to sit and relax when there are no balls in the house? The first thing he must learn is that barking means he will no longer get the ball AND he will be taken away from the area completely (if you can’t remove the ball completely – he’ll be able to smell it if it’s nearby even if it is out of sight). When you are playing ball with him, only give it to him if he sits and is quiet. From now on, sitting quietly is the way he must say “Please”. If he barks, put the ball away (far away!); the game is over for at least an hour. Ignore him if he barks (for as long as it takes; you will have to be more persistent than him). He has learned in the past that barking works to get the ball (even occasionally). Expect the barking to worsen temporarily because he will think you have lost your hearing and will bark louder or longer. Hold out and don’t give up!

    Avoid dog parks until he is trained to control his impulse to bark. When in an unavoidable situation where he sees a ball and starts barking, have him on a leash or a long training line so you can have full control over the situation. You will need good timing: as soon as he starts barking for the ball, take him (pull him if you must) to the car and go home. If you just can’t bear to do that, the lesson won’t be as clear, but you could take him far away and out of sight (around a corner or behind a bush). Wait until he is quiet and calm (it may take 15 minutes in the beginning – wait him out without talking to him). When he is quiet, ask him to sit, then bring him back. As soon as the barking starts again, repeat the time out and wait. Expect to do this multiple times (most dogs improve after a dozen trials; yours may take more or less trials).

    From now on, YOU need to make the commitment that you will only allow him to have the ball if he is quiet AND he sits. EVERY time he starts barking for the ball, you remove him or the ball COMPLETELY, preferably for at least an hour if not for the rest of the day. This will test your patience, but you have the thumbs, therefore you have control. The rules need to be crystal clear and consistent in order to be fair. Good luck!

  51. mark says:

    Looking forward to your articles, I like seeing new training methods and ways of looking at your dogs behavior and how to be a more effective trainer. Thanks for your help!

  52. Simon says:

    Hi there.

    I’m the owner of a nearly two year old male GSP, Humphrey. He’s the best dog in every single way. Loyal, loving, fun, playful. I couldn’t have wished for a better dog.

    He’s generally very well trained and is very obedient. Great off leash. Barks very little. However, there’s one thing that causes us a LOT of issues… tennis balls.

    He’s absolutely obsessed, to the point of real annoyance for the people around us. In the city, we’re really careful to keep the apartment ball free. But in a dog park or out in the country where there’s lots of balls around, he’s a dog posessed. He ignores other dogs, stares, points and will not stop barking until you throw it. He chases, grabs it and then spends some time parading with the ball and chewing it, but never returning it. Then he pushes it away from himself (often under cars or through stairs) and again just barks and barks. We’ve tried a stern ‘no’ (he stops for maybe 10 seconds), we’ve tried putting him on the leash for 30 seconds as punishment (that didn’t work), we’ve tried taking the balls away (he’ll always find another, and we’re never going to be able to hide them all!). The only thing that remotely works is having a second ball; then he’ll drop the first and wait for the second. But when we’re sat trying to relax he just won’t let up. He still barks and barks and barks at the ball.

    It’s at the point that I’m considering a training collar, but would really rather find another way if I can. However, I’ve run out of ideas.


  53. LONNIE WALSTON says:

    I give her my old dogs blanket and that seemed to help alot. She is doing good now. Thank you for.your help 🙂

  54. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Lonnie,
    The first thing to do is to make sure the whining isn’t from pain or some medical issue. At this age, it’s not a “training” issue. She is not doing it for attention. Do you have a “scent item” from the breeder’s home? A cloth or soft toy with the scent of your puppy’s mom and littermates may help with the sudden separation from her family. You could also try a Comfort Zone diffuser or Adaptil collar. They both contain DAP which mimics the scent of mother dogs. Pet stores carry them. Let us know whether she improves over the next week or 2.

  55. LONNIE WALSTON says:

    Hi Naomi
    I just got GSP she is 8 weeks old. She wimpers constantly even while eating is this a puppy thing or will she continue on like this. I would like to trainer her not to whin so much.

  56. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Chelsea,
    It may be that your dog was born with a tendency to be overly cautious if he was like that at 12 weeks of age. It takes special techniques to help a dog who is fearful of strangers. The reason why he is better at dog parks is because he does not feel restricted as he does on leash. The other dogs probably give him more confidence, too. It is not unreasonable (but not socially acceptable) for any dog who feels there is no possible escape from a “scary monster” (it’s the perception, not the realilty that matters) to lunge or bite, especially if previous attempts to say “I’m scared, please don’t come closer” are not honored. What other recourse does he have to protect himself if he is not given the option to move away?

    Please don’t delay in finding a professional trainer to help you deal with your dog’s fear by going to either of the following trainer search features – or .

    The optimum time to “socialize” a dog to people with mere exposure is during puppyhood between 5 to 15 weeks. Much beyond 5 or 6 months of age, it is more about rehabilitation. Fear is an involuntary emotion based on survival. A dog or person that is afraid will have difficulty learning new skills. That is why just meeting strangers won’t help much and can make his fear worse.

    Although it is difficult to accept that your dog’s temperament is not what you had hoped (I’ve been there more than once!), your relationship with him will be much more satisfying when you become his advocate and help keep him feeling safe. Good luck!


  57. chelsea says:

    Hi Naomi,
    I have a 2 yr old GSP that i got when he was 3 months old from a breeder. He has been a fearful and cautious dog ever since we picked him up. Very shortly after getting him, he was enrolled and completed 2 training courses at our local petco. He struggled a little in those classes because he tends to act aggressive when he is scared. It isn’t towards other dogs, he loves playing with dogs, and he plays very well with them. His problem is with humans. He will bark aggressively when a stranger walks up to him, or someone new comes into our house. I started taking him to the dog park twice a week after he was neutered and he is just finally at the point where he will let people pet him, but only at the park, and only when off leash. If i am walking him and someone is close and wants to stop and pet him he will lunge at them. I of course always tell people to not get close, but it is so frustrating having a dog that i am constantly fearing will bite somebody. He seems to be more fearful of men, but somedays he is better than others. I try to socialize him and always take him places but i just feel like its not getting any better. He is a total sweetheart, and I’m terrified that he will end up biting someone one day. what steps should i take to try and correct this? I want him to feel more comfortable around people. btw once he knows someone is not a threat to him he warms up and is totally his playful self around them. ugh please help…any suggestions of trainers around the Baltimore area?


  58. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Jaime,
    Your question about introducing your newly adopted GSP puppy to your well-tempered 4 year old GSP raises several concerns for me. The puppy has a very valid reason for barking and growling. She is saying in no uncertain terms that she in not comfortable in your older dog’s presence. And your older dog should not have to experience the wrath of another dog, even if it is a young puppy.

    The puppy has been through some very stressful times. Being in a shelter for any amount of time is traumatic for a dog, and she has been in two. We don’t know the details of her social experiences the first 15 weeks of her life, which is the most critical time of a dog’s development. There is a fear period at about 8 to 10 weeks of age when scary experiences can have lasting effects. (A secondary fear period occurs during adolescence at 6 to 14 months of age.) A dog’s behavior can be suppressed in a stressful shelter environment, so it is possible that she did not feel comfortable enough to display threatening behaviors toward other dogs there. Or, it might be that she actually felt more comfortable with other dogs (hopefully besides her littermate) in the shelter environment and played with them, but in your home she is stressed because it is a new situation. It’s hard to tell because there are many unknowns here, and I am not there to observe the pup’s behavior.

    The way a new dog is introduced to a resident dog is extremely important and can set the stage for their future relationship. First impressions DO matter. Keep the dogs separated physically and visually for now, and read this article:

    Watch both dogs’ subtle body language and do not force either dog to interact or even remain in the other’s presence if either is not comfortable. Let each dog sleep on a blanket with the other dog’s scent, and place towels with the other dog’s scent under their food bowls. Rotate each dog through various rooms after the other dog has spent time in it. Same with the yard. Get scent acclimation before visual and physical acclimation. Then go for a walk together off property, several miles away from home, taking them in separate cars. Don’t put them nose to nose, just go for a walk, one person handling one dog. Walk in the same direction parallel to each other and let them explore the environment together without requiring that they interact unless both dogs want to out of curiosity and friendliness. Do this daily until they are totally comfortable before putting them together (closely supervised) at home.

    This probably sounds like overkill, but relationship problems between 2 female dogs in a household are generally harder to fix than 2 males or 1 male/1 female. So do everything you can to make the first introduction as smoothly and gradually as possible, even if it takes several weeks (hopefully it won’t take that long because your pup is young). Consult a professional in your area if you are not sure or if it isn’t going well. You can do a trainer search here:

    I do NOT recommend letting the dogs just “work it out”. It is not about dominance. The risk of injury and psychological trauma is not worth taking.
    Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

    Naomi Heck

  59. Jaime says:

    Hello, I live in South Carolina, I have a GSP whom is 4 years old, she has been with us since she was 8 weeks old and she is the apple of our eye. We just brought home a rescue GSP yesterday, she is 15 weeks old, and it was in a shelter with her brother, and they were rescued from another shelter where they were schedule to be eutanized. She was fine on the trip home, but as soon as we introduced her to our older GSP, whom is extremely friendly and curious, she started growling and barking at the older dog, for not reason whatsoever. The older dog looks at her puzzled and walks away. After we fed her a little bit (she is nothing but a sack of bones), we put her in our Family Room in her kennel (wire cage with a pillow) and closed the gate, we use it mostly for house training and to give the new dog a sense of her own space. Everytime the old dog walks near the kennel she growls, and this morning when the old dog came downstairs for her routinary outside business, while waiting patienly by the back door for us to get up from bed to let her out, young dog was barking at her with some ferocity.
    We do not know what kind of traumatic experiences she has had, whenever I put her on a leash and take her outside for her constitutional, she is fine, happy and wagging her tail, but as soon as she sees older dog, she becomes tense and hostile. She did not behave this way towards any of the other dogs at the shelter. My questions are, 1) what do you think could be the problem, and 2) what do we need to do to help her to be happy and get along with older dog?
    I am ready to let them both loose in the same environment to see if they work things out, and find their pecking order within the pack, older dog is fine, not confrontational at all, but, I’ve seen her in other situations with other dogs, and if she has to, she will establish her dominance. I want happy girls in my house, please help. Thanks

  60. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Hunter,
    Congratulations on getting your GSP puppy. 7 weeks old is much to young to expect your pup to hold it in the situations you are putting him in. The most important component of housetraining is the owner’s responsiblity to prevent accidents from happening so bad habits don’t get started. I would definitely change what you are doing and your expectations. Your pup physically is unable to hold it the way you want right now. Also, do not yell when your pup is making a mistake. Make a noise loud enough to interrupt. If you scare him, he might learn to eliminate out of sight where he feels safer. Please read this article on the ASPCA website thoroughly for details.
    Surface preference is established very early in life, so do all you can to make sure your puppy only goes on surfaces you deem “legal”! Hope this helps.


  61. Hunter says:

    Hi, I have a 7 week old gsp pup, jäger. I would really appreciate some advice on potty training; he does alright during the night, cries when he needs to go out then goes back to sleep after he’s relives himself. During the day though, because we have a week off of school, I try to take him out almost every hour and praise him when he relives himself, yet he’s still willing to just pop-a-squat and pee without warning, sometimes on my bed while I’m laying with him or on the floor 5 feet from me, I usually rush him out of the house as when I catch him in the act yelling “no”, and try to let him finish outside, but he doesn’t so I put him in his kennel and leave him there for 30 minutes, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Also, during the school days, he’s left in his kennel, he’s let out in the morning and at around 12:00 by my dad and then after school, but often I’ll come home to him having peed inside of his kennel laying on the wet spots, and I feel pretty horrible. I don’t know whether to change things up or continue doing what I’m doing.

  62. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Patia,
    You need to start training obedience fundamentals as soon as you get your pup, and you can also start playing simple retrieving games, too. I recommend reading the book “Positive Gun Dogs” by Jim Barry, Mary Emmen and Susan Smith. I do not train hunting dogs, but know that compulsive “correction-based” methods, including the use of shock collars, are quite common. Make sure that you are comfortable with the techniques used if you consult a professional hunting dog trainer for help. From what I’ve read, the time to begin a dog on actual birds depends on who you ask. But it needs to be done systematically. Foundation training for retrieves is usually done with bumpers and dummies first. Sorry I can’t be more specific because this is out of my area of expertise.


  63. patia says:

    I am fixing to get a GSP and he will be used for hunting purposes. When is a good age for him to start retrieving ducks?

  64. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Annemarie,
    Does your dog run away from you when she sees the rolled up newspaper? That would be the lesson that makes the most sense to *her* -a rolled up newspaper coming her way means something unpleasant will happen. Or even worse, “My mom becomes untrustworthy when she has a rolled up newspaper in her hand”. If your dog is continuing to misbehave after giving an immediate consequence, stop doing what you are doing or you run the risk of damaging her trust in you. If you are punishing her more than 5 seconds after she does the chewing, that will negatively affect your relationship. You will have to look at why she is chewing or eating things, and address the cause. Most dogs have a strong need to chew, especially when they are young. It’s in their DNA! Another common reason is boredom. Or to relieve stress. Again, look at the cause and do something about that, not just suppressing the behavior itself. Just because your dog has a big yard and a playmate does not necessarily mean all of her needs for mental and physical stimulation will be met in appropriate ways. You play a bigger role in channeling her energy in ways that meet your approval; otherwise she will find her own ways to entertain herself.


  65. Annemarie says:

    Hi there, I have a female gps 8 months old. She is one of two dogs. She bites everything, the plants, the waterpipes, she resently started biting the wooden window frames. I dont know why she does this, they have a very large yard to play, she has toys but seems to eat everything else. When she misbehaves I will hit her with a rolled up newspaper, it doesnot seem to work, please help

  66. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Glyn,
    This is not puppy biting anymore; it is an adolescent dog that has not learned to cope with arousal in an appropriate way. Insufficient exercise (both mental and physical) and anything that increases excitement or arousal like scolding, grabbing, etc. will worsen the behavior. I strongly recommend using a head halter like the Gentle Leader or Holt or Halti so you can interrupt and block his attempts to nip within the first 2 seconds of it starting. That will mean that he needs to be leashed all the time in the house for a week or so until he learns that biting is no longer an option. It’s imperative that you use positive reinforcement to teach your dog how to behave appropriately. Emily Larson, a trainer on YouTube, has an excellent video on how to do this. Although her video is aimed more for puppies, many of her suggestions apply for older dogs, too.–cCHPyU If the biting persists after a few weeks of consistently preventing the behavior and positively reinforcing (rewarding) appropriate behavior, I recommend contacting an experienced force-free trainer in your area. More than likely, this behavior will not go away on its own if not addressed right away.

  67. Glyn says:

    Hi, our family just received a GSP as a gift on christmas. It was 4 months old then, and is now 10 months old. He is a big dog and very rambunctious and also likes to bite on every thing he sees that’s why my parents wants him to be always caged. I feel sorry for the dog though, that’s why I walk him sometimes but other dogs seems to be always mad at him that’s why somehow sometimes I can’t walk him. Please I need your help on this, to lessen his biting habit. Thanks.

  68. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Jodi,

    3 1/2 years is definitely not too old to train. Even senior dogs can be trained using positive reinforcement. Your dog has had several years to find out what works to get him what he wants, and he has found that bolting results in a great adventure. Your primary job is to manage him so he cannot practice doing the things you don’t want him to do. That often means restricting his freedom at least temporarily and using equipment that will not fail on you (see my 2 posts on leash walking). And it may mean he will never be 100% dependable off leash, which is okay as long as you enrich his life with interesting activities. Make it a top priority to teach him “door manners”. Protect the space around the door with your body like a soccer goalie and make it an absolute rule that he must sit at least 5 ft away from the door when it is opened by anyone. Use a leash so he can’t bolt out until he is excellent at staying seated every time anyone approaches or opens the door. Look at it as a non-negotiable safety rule, like teaching a child to always buckle up in the car.


  69. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Jessica,
    Your young GSP definitely needs lots of aerobic exercise, but so do Labrador Retrievers. The first year with a young sporting dog is tough because it seems impossible to satisfy the need to run and play. Living in the city makes it even more challenging. Yes, running off leash is the ultimate joy of a young energetic dog like the GSP, but that might not be a realistic option in NYC. Think “outside the box” and get creative to meet your dog’s needs. Don’t underestimate the value of mental stimulation in the form of games. Channel your dog’s natural instincts like sniffing (30 to 60 minute walks 3 times a day), hunting/seeking (food and toys rather than pheasants and quail), and chasing (a toy on a rope). Look into getting or making a toy like a Woofstick (you can Google it). My husband made me one and it saved my sanity when my GSP was young. Read my other posts for ideas on games and activities to do with Charlie. Have very clear rules about running in the house. You do not need to yell or wrestle/pin your dog to clearly teach her what the rules of conduct are. In fact, yelling and getting physical can backfire and increase arousal. For a week or 2, have her drag a 6 ft leash around the house so you can immediately interrupt the “crazies” and divert her attention to a structured activity. If you have a long hallway, you could play fetch. If you have a staircase, you could send her up and down the stairs to fetch, search, or touch an object at the top and return for a treat. And please, please, please do not rely on TV personalities for dog handling tips. Every interaction you have with Charlie should be toward building a safe, mutually respectful and trusting relationship. True leaders are fair and benevolent, not forceful or intimidating. The dominance theory of dog training is outdated and does not help create a cooperative dog that finds joy in pleasing you.

  70. Jodi says:

    We just adopted a 3 1/2 year old GSP, Stitches, from a rescue place. He had to be surrendered as his family moved to Germany and couldn’t take him. He is a huge sweetheart. Very loving and very patient with our 14 week old puppy we just adopted as well (not a GSP). He does give a low growl at the pup and has rolled him twice when he has had enough of the nipping at him from those puppy teeth. Today when out with my husband, he bolted and ran through the neighborhood. He was gone for about an hour while we looked for him. We eventually found him and he came to us finally, on his own time schedule. I can get him to sit unless he is at the door then he will not listen. He pulls on a leash and basically ignores us when we are outside. My question is, can I train him after this much time has gone by? He’s so sweet and I want this to be a great relationship for us all. Any advice would be great!

  71. Jessica says:


    I recently adopted a very young (9 weeks old) puppy. The shelter told me she was a Lab mix. I have always had Labs so I thought, no problem. Once we get her home, fatten her up a little bit and take her to the vet, we find out she is actually a GSP. I’ve never owned a GSP never mind trained one. After reading this site and several others about the breed I’m a little concerned. I want to give her the best life possible but the fact of the matter is we live in the middle of New York City. Charlie, as I called her, is now 4 months old, very smart and sweet and already 98% housebroken, and can sit and stay for about 10 seconds at a time. We play tug and fetch in the house A LOT but it seems as long as I’m willing to play she has the energy to keep going forever. Sometimes she gets too rambunctious and goes crazy running around the house nonstop, jumping on the couch and nipping at me. I try not to lose my patience when she does this but scolding her doesn’t seem to work very well and I don’t know what else to do except grab her and hold her down until she relaxes (I saw that on the Dog Whisperer show). The thing is once she gets bigger she’ll be harder to hold down. Am I doing the right thing?

    Also, how vital is it for this breed to run off leash? There are very few options for off leash dog parks that are big enough to satisfy her energy drive in NYC. And I don’t run, so I wouldn’t be able to jog her once she’s older. I could train her to jog next to me on a bicycle but I’m scared she would get hit by the crazy traffic here. I guess I need help figuring out how best to exercise her within the limited options of a metropolitan area.

    Thanks for your help!

  72. Naomi Heck says:

    To Diamond’s owner,
    Sounds like Diamond is an athletic jumper eager to explore the world beyond her walls. If she is only doing it when you are not there to supervise, it is probably because she is bored and/or there is something more exciting on the other side (her perception, not yours). I am perplexed as to why you taught her to jump over the gate, although I don’t doubt that she would have learned it all on her own. This is much more than a training issue, although working with her to improve her reliability in obedience in the presence of various outdoor distractions would help (it’s called proofing, and is like 12th grade, compared to first grade which is obeying inside the house). Before addressing training, look first at the foundation – namely Relationship and Environmental Management. Are you meeting her need to explore her world and enrich her mind on a daily basis, and doing those things together so that she doesn’t feel the pull of the outside world so much? I don’t like using shock either, but can you come up with some way to build a better barrier, maybe brainstorming with your neighbors so you don’t need to worry about their disapproval? Is it forbidden to make changes to the wall? Look at it as a safety issue for Diamond. Can you put up a second barrier just inside the wall to make jumping over it more difficult? She will not forget how exciting it is beyond the wall if being confined in the yard gets boring (you need to take her perspective). Unfortunately, she has figured out for herself how to seek further entertainment. Dilemmas that a dog solves all on her own are lessons that are well remembered. Think of ways to make her happy about being in the yard, don’t leave her out there until she gets bored, make the yard escape proof if you can and if you can’t, there is no replacement for good supervision. Dogs will always seek to meet their immediate needs. What you want will be secondary or not even considered by your dog if you don’t convince her in a humane way that her needs will be *immediately* be met by doing what you want first. With any behavior problem, it helps to look at it from the dog’s perspective!

  73. No-name says:

    My beautiful 5 year old GSP, Diamond loves to be outside yet has problems with commands while other people or distractions are nearby. She easily jumps our 5 1/2 foot wall (not fence) in a single leap. She is a bit better in the house and on Friday nights sleeps on a dog bed in my room. How can I teach her to not jump over the wall (with out and shock devices or things on top of wall because the neighbor would complain)? I have taught her to jump out of his yard via gate because his land is lower so she cannot jump back in, his gate is locked so I have her jump over his 4 1/2 gate. She now has to be on a lead while I am not home. When I get back I have to be outside to prevent her from jumping. When she’s ornery even me being outside doesn’t stop her! Any ideas that may help?

  74. Naomi Heck says:

    Hi Mike,
    Falco is a lucky dog to have found someone committed to giving him the time he needs and deserves. Keep in mind that he has only had 2 months of real training, and he is at the age (adolescence, behaviorally speaking) where the outdoor world is beckoning to be explored. It’s great that he has made a lot of progress with the basic commands indoors and in your fenced yard, but that is just the beginning (think elementary school). The next step is to work on reliability where the distractions are more difficult, one step at a time. Off leash reliability in the woods or field is a high level skill (think college), and takes a lot of practice until the dog is completely trustworthy. Every time your dog practices ignoring your call and running off, he is learning that he gets to have great fun by ignoring you. The pay off for not listening is HUGE (there is not greater jackpot for a GSP than to run free in the woods). If you must let him run off leash, it is best to do so in a fenced area, otherwise you will undo the training you worked hard to achieve thus far. Train him to come to you in the field using a long line (20 to 30 ft). When that is highly reliable amid distractions (birds and other critters), let him drag the line so you can easily step on it to stop him if you need to. When he is excellent with that, gradually shorten the line that he drags. A dog’s freedom off leash should be earned, otherwise you will open Pandora’s box. Expect this to take a year or more of consistent training (It took my GSP 4 years before I trusted him off leash away from home, and I still do not take chances if I am not 99.99% certain he will listen. I practice recall with him outside daily (he is 6). It is that important!

  75. Mike says:


    I have a 13 month old male GSP named Falco. I picked him up at 11 months from somebody who bought him from a breeder and didn’t have time (or patience) to train him.

    He’s the sweetest dog I’ve ever had – so happy and excited to see people, dogs, cats… It seems he was quite well socialized. When I got him, he didn’t know ANY commands. It was like he was confused, didn’t know how to play, didn’t know how to run and didn’t even understand “sit” or “stay” let alone his recall.

    I started with a basic obedience class and he’s come a long way! With 20 min run before work every day and lots of fetch and play in the evening, he’s really come out of his shell. When we’re at home, he’ll sit, stay, lie down, shake, and his recall is extremely reliable within the confines of the house or the fenced yard.

    Recently I’ve been wanting to take him off leash in the fields to let him get more out of his daily exercise (making it less of an effort for me to run for an hour a day 😉 ). Only problem is, he increases the distance between us very quickly, doesn’t come when called and even disappeared in the forest without a trace only to emerge after 15 minutes and jump into my arms as if nothing has happened. I was a little afraid for his safety to say the least.

    I understand this is a very high energy breed and I think this kind of exercise is great for him, but I’m afraid to allow him loose like this until he learns not to get too far away and to come back to me when I need him to. I’m just at a loss right now, since he listens so well at home and need some advice…


  76. Naomi says:

    There are 3 things that caught my attention when reading your description of how you are teaching Felix to stay away from the table and not steal people’s dinners. 1.) Felix still has the opportunity to steal when no one is paying attention. There is no greater jackpot for Felix than people food from the table. He learned that by experience, and that memory cannot be erased. If Felix believes there is even a slight chance he could “win”, he’s going to take it. And the risk to him is worth it (I’m anthropomorphizing of course, but I think it’s still close to the truth). What’s missing is management. Not allowing access to the table when there is food on it. That could mean tethering him to his spot where he is supposed to stay, or crating him if you can’t keep your eyes on him. With every mistake he makes (success in his mind), he is learning something, and he is becoming a pro at it because practice makes perfect. 2.) The time out is either not being associated with the action of stealing, or it is not outweighing the value of what he is stealing. And what could be more valuable to an animal that has evolved as an opportunistic scavenger than stealing a gourmet meal (in his eyes)? I don’t recommend increasing the intensity of punishment. It will either damage your relationship with him or teach him that he needs to be even more secretive. Punishment, by definition, should be effective after 1 to 3 trials. If not, stop doing it because it is not working. 3.) The fact that he is not able to remain at his designated spot consistently just means you are expecting too much too soon. It could also mean he doesn’t fully understand that the “good stuff” happens ONLY at that spot and nowhere else. Are you using a dog bed or mat? Having a clear visual and tactile “place” would make it more clear. How frequently you should toss him a treat would depend on how long he is able to consistently remain on the spot right now. For example, if he is able to stay for 20 seconds very easily, then vary the interval (in seconds) that you toss him a treat around the 20 second “midpoint”. Make some easy, some just a little bit harder, like 10, 20, 5, 22, 13, 25, 8, etc. The key is to keep Felix guessing but set him up to succeed. When he is excellent at the midpoint of 20 seconds, bump up the midpoint to 25 seconds, and bounce around that until he’s excellent, and so on. This will minimize mistakes (the mark of good training), and the tether will limit his options should he break the stay. An alternative method to increasing duration is the “300 Peck Method”. I don’t have the attention span to stick with this method, but if a chicken can be taught to peck at a key 300 times to get one measly piece of grain using this method, it must works! My young nephew tried it with my GSP this past weekend. It worked and kept him busy.
    Gamblers like Felix need help quitting cold turkey (impeccable management) and need to experience success in baby steps with frequent but variable reinforcement (think slot machine). Hope this helps. Naomi

  77. Keith says:

    Hi Naomi,
    Coming back to my training issue around the dinner table and kitchen, I want to answer your question. In my observation, Felix cannot control himself the closer he is physically to the food. So I have tried to train him to stay about 5 feet away from the table while we are eating. This behavior is rewarded with treats or some food from the table – only after he remains in his place and keeps his distance for at least a few minutes. Sometimes this works, but normally not. And when there are guests in the house he is too distracted to listen at all. When he does steal someone’s dinner off the table I lock him in the bathroom for a 5-10 minute “time-out” to indicate he did something wrong.
    I guess I’m going about this the wrong way because I’ve seen zero improvement over the course of months.

  78. Keith says:

    My GSP, Felix, is 1.5 years old. He’s very pleasant and playful, never aggressive towards people nor other dogs. I cannot seem to get the training down, though. He knows the basic commands, but only chooses to obey them sometimes. The main issue is stealing food from the kitchen counter and dinner table. I’ve tried several methods and nothing is working.

    Any advice?

    • Simba's Mom says:

      Keith, thank you for visiting our site. Your concern has been forwarded to the site trainer. You should receive a response shortly.

    • Simba's Mom says:

      What methods have you tried? Please be specific in your descriptions of the methods, including how long you trained using each method and what the dog’s response was to each method. If your dog is “choosing” whether to obey, it is usually because the reinforcement (reward) for doing the correct behavior does not outweigh the reinforcing value of the undesirable behavior. However, I wouldn’t be too quick to assume that your dog is being stubborn. It may just be that training is not yet complete to the point that he really understands what is expected (and what is worth doing) in all situations.

      Thanks for your question. This gives me the idea of writing a future article on “getting rid of unwanted behaviors”. Problems like the one you are having are very common, and I think discussing this in more detail will help many others with similar issues.


  79. Liz says:

    I have a 5 1/2 month GSP called Moses. He’s absolutely amazing bar he switches completely off when there are other dogs around and then i worry that if i don”t have control of him, i might loose him! On a normal day at home he sits, waits (while i hide round the corner) then comes, does paw, fetches, lies and sits back again… this all goes out of the window as soon as another dog comes or he gets too excited. I work 9-5 but go home at lunch to walk him and he goes out in the morning and again at 5pm, i could take him to work but he’s a nightmare when i tie him up and he wont settle in the office, too much going on i expect. I guess i just want to know what to expect off him for just over 5 months old? Am i expecting too much from him? He is happy to settle at home and sleeps during the time i am not there, he has no insecurities, he’s bold and brave. He’s just an amazing dog to own and train but i am so conscious i don’t want to leave any bad habits until they become harder to correct.

    • Simba's Mom says:

      I have forwarded your comment to our site trainer. She will respond promptly. Thank you for visiting us.

    • Simba's Mom says:

      Hi Liz,
      I am assuming that when you say he “switches off” and is a “nightmare” at work, he is happy and eager to meet other dogs and people and is not worried or defensive. It is good that you have started teaching him basic skills in your home where there are no distractions. That is how to introduce new skills. But now you need to expand those skills to places and situations where there will be more distractions, but not too much that he loses focus on you. A useful analogy is to view Moses as a child who knows how to add and subtract but can’t do calculus. Expecting him to show self control in difficult situations (near other exciting dogs and people) is like wanting him to do calculus before he is ready. Young GSP’s are a bundle of energy and can be a handful when excited. You can start practicing impulse control by having one friend come over to serve as the distraction. Or take him to a park where kids are playing ball but train far enough away that he can easily pay attention to you. Gradually increase the difficulty (e.g., move closer to the distraction) only when he is doing an excellent job at the stage you are working on. Allow Moses to greet people/dogs only after he does what you want first. Take full advantage of the Premack Principle (see my “Training Your GSP to Listen” article) because in highly exciting situations, praise or treats may not be enough to compete with the enticing distraction. You will need to control access to what he wants most at any particular moment, and provide it when he earns it. Set him up for success by not asking for too much too soon. Work up to it gradually and practice frequently, while at the same time not allowing him to practice what you don’t want him to do. You will get there!


  80. Ken says:

    I just took Duke out to see how he acted around the heifers. He immediately pointed a killdeer and then went crazy when it flew. He is rcazy, absolutely nuts about all birds. I’m going to have a problem teaching him that only pheasants are important.

  81. Ken says:

    I just today adopted a beautiful 18 month old neutered male GSP. I live in the country and he will have a lot of room to run. I want to make certain that he knows where home is before I allow him to roam free. He has settled in nicely and I am certain that he knows I am his buddy. I don’t believe he has any tendency to bother cats, he’s friendly with the neighbor’s dogs. Right now, my only concern is that he may want to chase cars. I am also concerned about my ability to train him to hunt pheasant in 3 months.

    • Simba's Mom says:

      You are going to love him. They are so smart. Training Simba was not difficult at all. Sometimes because she is so smart she likes to test her boundaries. So you need to be very consistent. The car chasing is scary though. Send us pictures so that we may post them on the site. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  82. gracie's mom says:

    My female is 1 1/2…she’s really starting to mature now, and things are really “clicking” for her. She has an amazing temperament, is a real smarty-pants and has a comedienne gene. My goal is to train her to be a therapy dog. She’s incredibly sweet, and I think having a “job” will be good for her.

    She’s still not as responsive to some basic commands as I’d like her to be…and as she’ll need to be. Will she grow out of this stubbornness?

    • Simba's Mom says:

      Yes. They are extremely smart. Sometimes too smart for their own good. She will test her boundaries. Don’t let her get away with not responding, she’s just testing the waters. You need to be very consistent with your expectations from her and follow through. Enjoy her, they are amazing companions.

  83. Damien Estago says:

    Hi, i live in Queensland, Australia, own a 19month old Male GSP “Wally”

    He is fantastic! well trained ans a joy!!
    i am now looking to take it to the next level. dock jumping? something that is FUN and WET!!

    the groups are few and far between here for such activites?

    looking forward to another post/article from you Naomi??

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