A German Shepherd is a big dog with a unique head shape—which makes it especially important to choose a properly fitted collar. Your dog's collar is where you attach vital information: ID tag, phone contacts, pertinent health info, etc. That's why fit is so crucial for comfort and to ensure that the collar stays on, whether he's running through the woods or crawling into tight spaces.
To measure for fit, place a tape around your dog's neck halfway between the back of his head and top of his shoulders. Then add at least one inch for correct sizing. When the collar is fitted properly, you should be able to slip two fingers between his neck and collar.
Keep in mind that German Shepherds have a unique head shape, with a thick neck (generally 18" to 24") in relation to skull size. That means shepherds can slip out of their collars if they are not fitted carefully. Also, choose a collar 1" to 1.5" wide to prevent a strong dog from slipping free.
Your German Shepherd is no Chihuahua. He's powerful with a strong pulling reflex and, even as a puppy, he can be a challenge to control. But when properly trained, your breed is a model of predictable behavior. Here are some frequently used training collars:
Choke Collar: Commonly used for temporary correction, it tightens around the dog's neck when the lead is pulled, getting his attention, then slipping loose. A choke collar can be dangerous if left on an unsupervised dog. Prong or pinch collars should only be used under the guidance of a trainer.
Head Collar: Also called "gentle leaders" or "halters," these attach around the head and behind the ears. Currently popular, they allow gentle correction by pulling at your dog's weakest point, the muzzle, while allowing him to pant, drink, and bark.
Harness: Consider this option if your dog has a respiratory or throat problem that makes wearing a conventional collar uncomfortable. Just remember that harnesses were designed to give working dogs more pulling power. That means you'll have less control when walking your strong German Shepherd. You can also try a No-Pull Harness, which puts gentle pressure against the chest and discourages pulling.
For your German Shepherd puppy, consider having both a conventional and training collar on hand. And always speak to a qualified dog trainer if there's any question about the proper use of a corrective collar or training device. Remember, keeping your German Shepherd safe and comfortable is the first priority when selecting the perfect collar.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!