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German Dog Commands

It can be effective and entertaining to use German commands to train your dog. German is the most common language used for dog commands because of a strong history of dog training in Germany, and many of these German commands are still in use today.

What are German dog commands? German dog commands are behavior instructions to a dog that are spoken in the German language. They are used in obedience training and are basic instructions that the dog is trained to respond to.

Why Use German?

German is a popular language to use for dog training because of a long history of dog training in Germany. Most people train their animals in their home language so that commands are clear and understood.

However, using German as a training language for your dog, even if you are not German-speaking, can be effective because then those words are used exclusively for the dog and the dog won’t be confused by hearing them in unrelated contexts.

German Dog Commands – With Pronunciation

Below are the most popular commands used in dog training, together with their German translation (and their phonetic pronunciation) 

Good dogBraver hundBraffer hoont
Leave itLass esLuss es
Watch outAchtungAhktoong
Stop AnhultenAn-hult-in
Go to sleepGeh SchlafenGe Shlaafn
Go to bedGeh ins bettGe ins bet
Go insideGeh reinGe rine
Go outsideGeh draussenGe drowsen
Shake (paw)PfoteFote
Roll overUmdrehenUmdre-en
Lie downLeg dichLekh dikh

History of German Dog Training

Formal dog training has its roots in German history. The German Shepherd dog was developed during the early 1900s by Max von Stephanitz, a captain in the German army.

The specific breed was honed for its intelligence and dedication and its suitability for a disciplined environment. Captain von Stephanitz loaned these new breed dogs to the German police department as a trial. They showed themselves to be obedient and able to track and protect. 

World War I

As World War I began, German Shepherd dogs were brought into the German army. Here they served as messengers and watchdogs and even carried ammunition.

They were also useful in leading wounded soldiers off the battlefield. Their early work with soldiers blinded by combat laid the foundation for the concept of a seeing-eye dog, which German Shepherd dogs are still used for today.

Soldiers who fought on both sides during World War I were impressed by these dogs and their ability to follow orders under extremely stressful conditions. The English and the Americans developed their own German Shepherd dogs after the war (source).

World War II

German Shepherd dogs were again utilized during World War II, particularly by the German and American armies. They were mainly used as guards and messengers on the battlefield as well as in search and rescue missions. During the war, the US Army established K-9 training camps to ensure a steady supply of service dogs to the army.

Five dog training centers were established in the U.S. from 1942. These initially accepted thirty-two different breeds, but by 1944 that was reduced to seven approved breeds.

Today the only one of those breeds to still be trained by the US Military is the German Shepherd. These K-9 training centers put the dogs through 8 – 12 weeks of intensive training.

This included basic training to accustom them to military life and then they were sent to specialized units where dedicated handlers trained them in one of the following:

  • Sentry dog training
  • Patrol dog training
  • Messenger dog training
  • Mine detection dog training

During World War II, fifteen platoons consisting of working dogs and their handlers were deployed. Of these, eight platoons were sent to Europe and seven to the Pacific. They are credited with preventing ambushes during the war (source).

Schutzhund Practice

Schutzhund (which translates from German to mean “protection dog”) is a dog sport that was initially used to test German Shepherd dogs to see if they had the appropriate characteristics to be a working army dog.

The practice started in the early 1900s, at the same time that German Shepherd dogs were being developed to be used in police and military work. It is still practiced today, although many other breeds of dogs also compete.

Dogs that pass the Schutzhund test can be considered for training in all sorts of police work including protection, smell detecting, search and rescue, etc. The traits that are tested include physical characteristics such as endurance, strength, and ability to detect odors. They also include the following character traits:

  • Perseverance
  • Courage
  • Desire to work
  • Intelligence
  • Bond with handler
  • Protective instinct

The practice developed to test German Shepherd dogs and only select those who demonstrated superior working ability for breeding. This practice is still utilized in Germany today and only dogs that have passed a Schutzhund test are able to breed and have their litters registered as German Shepherd dogs.

There are three levels of Schutzhund titles, each testing a dog’s ability in tracking, protection, and obedience. Before a dog can compete for a Schutzhund title, it has to pass a temperament test called a Begleihundprufing which tests obedience and confidence around loud noises and unfamiliar people and dogs (source).

Dog Training Today

training your dog today

Many people believe that it is essential to train your pet and that this will develop a stronger bond between dog and owner. Most people train a domestic pet in basic obedience skills so that it can be safe and under control.

While formal training for service dogs began with German Shepherd dogs in the early 1900s, the training of household pets only really began in the 1950s with the growth of suburban living. 

In its simplest form, dog training is the teaching of a response, generally using commands, that is not necessarily a natural response for the dog (source).

Dog training Philosophies

There are many methods of dog training but most base themselves on one of the following three models:

  • Classical conditioning: The dog forms an association between two stimuli to produce a conditioned response. This theory was made famous by Ivan Pavlov.
  • Operant conditioning: The dog’s behavior is modified through reward or punishment.
  • Non-associative learning: Habituation or sensitization is used to adapt to the dog’s behavior.

Classical Conditioning

This method is a very basic form of training and is best illustrated through Pavlov’s experiment where he rang a bell at the same time as feeding a dog.

The dog eventually associated the ringing of the bell with feeding time and would salivate on the sound of the bell, even if there was no food. This experiment also gave insight into how dogs’ memories work.

Operant Conditioning

This method is more complicated and comprises four quadrants:

Positive reinforcement

Here the desired behavior is rewarded with something positive. For example, giving a dog a reward for not barking at the doorbell would be positive reinforcement. This is regarded as the most popular and effective method for teaching a dog behavior.

Negative punishment

Here a positive is removed for undesired behavior. For example, not allowing your dog inside if he has jumped up at a guest would be a negative punishment. This is the second most effective form of operant conditioning.

Positive punishment

This focuses on using physical punishment in response to undesired behavior. An example would be hitting a dog for urinating inside. This method is not encouraged by dog trainers as it can increase a dog’s aggression and has not proved to be effective.

Negative reinforcement

This entails withdrawing physical pain when the desired behavior is exhibited. An example of this would be using a shock collar to stop a dog from barking. This is also an unpopular method as it often results in dogs becoming fearful or nervous.

The most popular methods of dog training make use of positive reinforcement and negative punishment. The dog is never subjected to fear or pain and is motivated to please the owner because that has a positive result.

With this method, the dog is rewarded for pleasing behavior and redirected in the case of the undesired behavior. The dog learns that if they do not behave in certain situations then they are removed from those environments.

Positive reinforcements include anything that can satisfy the dog’s physiological or psychological needs such as food treats, playing a game or physical affection. 

Non-associative Learning

This method involves the dog learning new behaviors without reward or punishment. This happens either through habituation or sensitization. An example of habituation would be repeatedly ringing the doorbell and having nobody arrive to deter a dog from constantly barking when the doorbell rings.

Sensitization is the opposite – the dog’s response to a stimulus can become heightened over time. For example, a dog could become more and more nervous about thunderstorms. In this case, one would need to focus on desensitizing the dog and pairing a positive experience with thunderstorms to reduce the anxiety.

Within these philosophies, there are many techniques that have been developed that can be used to train a dog. 

Benefits of Training a Dog

Benefits of Training a Dog

Dog owners generally train their dogs so that they can be better accommodated to their environment. Training a dog also offers mental stimulation, which is essential to keep a dog happy and to prevent destructive and negative behaviors associated with boredom(source).

Training at Home or Away

There are pros and cons to training your dog at home or taking him to a facility. Training at home offers the following advantages:

  • allows you to be more flexible and to work around your own schedule
  • allows you to focus on problem areas for your particular pet
  • allows you to work at your own pace
  • can be preferable if your dog is easily distracted
  • allows you to start with your young puppy, rather than waiting for all vaccinations to be done 
  • lowers the risk of your pet catching any virus from other dogs

Conversely, training at a dog-training facility offers the following advantages:

  • your dog gets the opportunity to socialize and be around other dogs
  • your dog learns to listen to you in new environments where there may be distractions
  • you benefit from the shared learning that comes from a class environment

Dog Behavior Problems

The most common behavior problems are all easier to control if your pet has some obedience training and is able to follow basic commands. Below is a list of the challenges many pet owners face with their dogs.

  • Barking 
  • Chewing
  • Digging
  • Begging
  • Jumping up
  • Separation anxiety
  • Inappropriate wetting or soiling
  • Chasing
  • Biting
  • Aggression

Using Commands to Train your Dog

Dogs that have been taught some basic commands are generally easier to control and easier to be around. The five most common commands are listed below, along with pointers on how to train your four-legged friend to adhere to them.

Use the chart to translate for German commands in case you think that’ll give your training the edge.


This is an essential obedience command and generally, the one most dog owners begin with. To teach your dog to sit, follow the steps below:

  • Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose.
  • Raise your hand, causing the dog’s head to rise and his bottom to drop.
  • Once the dog is sitting, say “Sit” (or “Sitz”) and give him the treat together with plenty of positive attention.


This command is very useful and can help keep your dog safe, allowing you to call him back from any situation. To teach your dog to come, follow the steps below:

  • Ensure your dog is wearing a collar and leash.
  • Lower yourself to the dog’s level and say “come” (or “komm”) while gently tugging the leash towards you.
  • When he reaches you, reward him with a treat and lots of affection.


This command is essential but can be tricky to teach your dog because it is a submissive position, which many dogs do not feel comfortable with. To teach your dog to lay down, follow the steps below:

  • Hold a treat in your closed fist.
  • Allow your dog to sniff it, then move your hand to the floor so that he follows.
  • Slide your hand along the floor, encouraging him to follow his head with his body.
  • Once he’s lying down, say “down” (or “platz”), give him the treat and give him affection.


This command is best taught once your dog has mastered the “sit” command. To train your dog to stay, follow the steps below:

  • First, tell your dog to sit. Then open the palm of your hand and say “stay” (or “bleib”).
  • Take a few steps back and reward him with a treat if he stays.
  • Gradually take more steps and reward him each time he stays.

Leave it

This command can help keep your dog safe when he’s keen to sample something that could be dangerous on the ground. To train your dog to leave an item, follow the steps below:

  • Place a treat in each of your hands.
  • Show your dog one closed fist and say “leave it” (or “lass es”), ignoring him if he tries to get at the treat.
  • Once he gives up then give him the treat from the other hand.
  • Repeat until he moves away from your fist when you say “leave it”.
  • As your dog improves, only give him the treat when he moves away and looks up at you.
  • Over time, you can build on this training until you can eventually leave a treat uncovered on the floor. (source)

Find out what the urban legend is about training dogs in German in this video here:

Final Thoughts

Having a dog can be an incredibly rewarding experience, with the opportunity to create a strong bond. Investing in basic obedience training is essential in getting the best out of your dog and laying the foundation for a happy pet.

There are many methods available to teach your pet, and with the right aptitude and input, the sky’s the limit with what you can teach your pet. There are other languages you may choose to train your dog in, like Dutch.

The German tradition of service dog training has built an impressive platform for creating a disciplined pet.

This level is not necessary for the average family pet, but every dog owner should ensure that their dog is able to follow at least a few basic commands. This will ensure safety and peace of mind for both dogs and their owners, whatever language the commands are issued in.


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