People who own certain dog breeds such as German shepherd dogs, Rottweilers, and other working breeds that originated in Germany, often use German commands with their dogs, particularly if the dogs were imported as adults already trained in that language. The use of German is common in schutzhund training, which originated in Germany. Schutzhund dogs are trained for dog trials in which they demonstrate their proficiency in tracking, obedience and protection work.
You can choose to use German or any other language you please to train your dog. Using a language of your choice is one way of teaching your dog to listen to only you, since dogs trained in German will ignore English commands until they are taught what they mean. If you work one dog in English and another in German, however, you may soon find you own two bilingual dogs if you mix the commands up often enough.
Learn the German words for the commands you want to teach your dog. Your dog won’t know the difference if you use the wrong word or mispronounce it, but you might be more comfortable around other people if you learn the correct words and their pronunciations. Start with a few of the most common commands, and when your dog knows these, you can add more.
Teach your dog to respond to the word “sitz” (pronounced “sits”) when you want her to sit. Hold a treat just above her nose, give her the command “sitz,” and move the treat up over her nose to the back of her head, between her ears. When she sits, give her the treat and praise her lavishly. Repeat this several times per session until she learns to sit on command. Phase out the treat so that eventually she is responding only to the command and not the food.
Train your dog to lie down on command using the German word “platz” (pronounced “plots”). Start with your dog in a sitting position and hold a treat right in front of her nose. Give her the command “platz,” and slowly move the treat down to the floor between her front paws. As she brings her head down to get the treat, move it slightly back from her to encourage her to lie down to reach the treat. Once she is lying down, give her the treat and plenty of praise. Repeat this over several sessions until she understands and will lie down on command, with or without the treat.
Use similar methods of treats and encouragement to teach your dog other German commands. Useful words include “fuss” (“foos”) for heel; “blieb” (“bly'b”) for stay, and “hier” (“heer”) for come. Contact a schutzhund club if you want to get further into teaching your dog German dog training commands.