There are many reasons to train your German Shepherd. After all, a well trained dog will reward you with many years of a wonderful friendship. Likewise an untrained, or poorly trained, dog may provide you with as many years of aggravation and frustration. German Shepherds need regular activities that challenge their mind and bodies, so why not use all of the many training opportunities available to bond with your dog and to keep their minds and bodies active?
Many people start out with a basic obedience class with the intention of training their dog to be a good pet. But, once they realize their dogs potential, they may continue on to more advance classes where they are again surprised by the potential in their German Shepherd. With a solid foundation of training, they may try specialty classes, like agility, rally, tracking, or advanced obedience. Many people go even further and compete with their dogs at AKC events.
Competing in AKC Events
There are many activities that you and your German Shepherd can compete in with the AKC. Obedience, rally, tracking, and agility, are the most common performance events, but there are many others. In order to compete in an AKC event, your German Shepherd must be registered with the AKC either as an AKC pure bred through your breeder or in the AKC PAL/ILP program
The AKC, PAL/ILP and You
Many people have discovered the fun of teaming up with their dogs and competing in AKC Events. But, not all of those wonderful canine athletes that you see at these events are registered with the AKC. Some might be enrolled in the AKC's Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP), a program that allows unregistered dogs of registrable breeds to compete in AKC Performance and Companion Events, also specific breeds in the FSS® Program that are eligible for Companion Events.
If you have a purebred dog that is not registered with the AKC and have a desire to see what your dog can do in real competition, a PAL/ILP number is your ticket to the world of AKC events and clubs
Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP): The program that provides purebred dogs a second chance.
There are various reasons why a purebred dog might not be registered. The dog may be the product of an unregistered litter, or have unregistered parents. The dog's papers may have been withheld by its breeder or lost by its owner. Sometimes, it is the dog itself that was "lost." There are many dogs enrolled in the PAL/ILP program after they have been surrendered or abandoned, then adopted by new owners from animal shelters or purebred rescue groups. The PAL/ILP program allows the dog and owner a second chance at discovering the rewards of participating in AKC events.
For more information on this program visit the AKC PAL/ILP page.
AKC Rally is the new dog sport that is taking the nation by storm, a successful stepping stone from the AKC Canine Good Citizen(r) program to the world of obedience or agility. Rally offers both the dogs and handlers an experience that is fun and energizing. The canine team moves at their own pace, very similar to rally-style auto racing. Rally was designed with the traditional pet owner in mind, but it can still be very challenging for those who enjoy higher levels of competition.
A rally course includes 10 to 20 stations, depending on the level. Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience. Communication between handler and dog is encouraged and perfect heel position is not required, but there should be a sense of teamwork between the dog and handler. The main objective of rally is to produce dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs, in a manner that will reflect positively on the sport of rally at all times and under all conditions.
Levels of Competition - The three levels of competition in AKC Rally:
Novice - this is the first level for those just getting started in competition.
• All exercises are performed with the dog on leash.
• There is a requirement of 10-15 stations to complete with no more than five stationary exercises.
• The exercises performed vary from turning 360 degrees to changing paces during the course.
• Exhibitors at this level may clap their hands and pat their legs through the course.
Advanced - this is the second level, which includes more difficult exercises throughout the course.
• All exercises are performed off-leash.
• There is a requirement of 12-17 stations with no more than seven stationary exercises.
• Exercises include a jump as well as calling your dog to the front of you instead of to a heel position.
Excellent - this third and highest level of AKC Rally is the most challenging.
• Exercises are performed off-leash except for the honor exercise.
• There is a requirement of 15-20 stations, with no more than 7 stationary exercises.
• Handlers are only allowed to encourage their dogs verbally. Physical encouragement is not allowed at this level.
• The Excellent-level exercises include backing up three steps, while the dog stays in the heel position and a moving stand, while the handler walks around the dog.
The dogs must earn three qualifying scores (aka "legs") under two different judges in order to receive a rally title. The titles that can be earned are:
• Rally Novice: RN
• Rally Advanced: RA
• Rally Excellent: RE
• Rally Advanced Excellent: RAE
The requirement for the RAE title is that the dog must qualify in both the Advanced B class and the Excellent B class at the same trial. They must do this ten times to get an RAE 1
How do I get started in Rally?
Many AKC clubs conduct a variety of classes and seminars, instructed by experienced trainers who have earned titles and awards in obedience competitions with their own dogs. These people are up-to-date on the latest training techniques. They have experience training different breeds of dogs, mixed breeds and purebreds, and prospective students are usually welcome to observe a class before signing up for a training course.
When you attend a class with your dog, instructors will show you how to train your dog and will expect you to practice at home. The younger the dog, the shorter the practice sessions should be. For the best results, both you and your dog should enjoy frequent short sessions, combined with some play and rewards.
To find AKC clubs in your area that offer training, please visit the AKC Rally Resources page
Brisk - Keenly alive, alert, energetic.
Course Design - A set of signs, previously arranged by the judge, that the dog and handler team will navigate for competition. Each class will have a different course design.
Crowding - A dog that is so close to the handler as to interfere with the handler's freedom of motion.
Gently - With kindness, without harshness or roughness.
Leg - A term that is used frequently for a qualifying score.
Natural - Not artificial; free of affectation; what is customarily expected in the home or public places.
Qualifying Score - Minimum of 70 points out of a possible perfect score of 100.
Station - Location of a sign providing instructions regarding the exercise that is to be performed.
Timing - All dogs will be timed. Times will be used only in the event of ties for a placement.
Walk-through - Handlers are permitted to walk the course, without a dog, prior to the start of the class to plan their strategy. The walk-through gives handlers an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the signs and the course.
The information above has been compiled from the great information on the AKC Rally web page.
With a keen sense of smell – 100,000 times stronger than humans – dogs are often used to find lost people and animals, drugs, avalanche and disaster victims, and even to detect cancer.
AKC Tracking is a canine sport that demonstrates a dog’s natural ability to recognize and follow a scent and is the foundation of canine search and rescue work.
Unlike obedience and agility trials, where dogs respond to the owner’s commands, in tracking a dog is completely in charge, for only he knows how to use his nose to find and follow the track. For many, the greatest pleasure of tracking is the hours spent outside training and interacting with their dogs. The tracking community is known for its camaraderie, and they all share in the excitement of a “pass” and the disappointment of a “fail.”
There is a lot of great information on tracking on the AKC Tracking Website
Getting Started in Tracking Events
AKC tracking events are the competition form of canine search and rescue. These Tracking events provide training for dogs and their handlers to meet some human needs for tracking and finding lost humans or other animals, as well as, demonstrating the extremely high level of scent capability that dogs possess.
We've all seen movies with dogs following the trail of an escapee through swamps. The AKC's Tracking Tests allow dogs to demonstrate their natural ability to recognize and follow human scent. This vigorous outdoor activity is great for canine athletes. Unlike Agility and Obedience events that require a dog to qualify three times, a dog only needs to complete one track successfully to earn each title.
Tracking Dog (TD)
A dog earns a TD by following a track 440 to 500 yards long with three to five changes of direction. The track is laid by a human tracklayer and is "aged" 30 minutes to two hours before the dog begins scenting. The goal is to use the scented track to locate an article left at the end of the trail by the tracklayer. The owner follows the dog on a long leash and can encourage the dog during the tracking test.
Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)
The TDX is earned by following an "older" track (three to five hours) that is also longer (800 to 1,000 yard) and has five to seven directional changes with the additional challenge of human cross tracks.
Variable Surface Tracking (VST)
In the real world, dogs track through urban settings, as well as through wilderness. A VST dog has demonstrated this ability by following a three to five-hour-old track that may take him down a street, through a building and other areas devoid of vegetation.
Champion Tracker (CT)
A dog that has successfully completed all three tracking titles (TD, TDX and VST) earns the prestigious title of Champion Tracker.
Owners who do tracking with their dogs find joy in seeing the dogs at work using their innate scenting skills. If you and your dog like the outdoors, try tracking!
A list of clubs approved to hold Tracking tests can be found in the club search section of the AKC website.
Selecting a training school is an individual matter that depends on your own preferences. A good school will allow, and even expect, you to observe a class or two before signing up. There are several factors to consider when choosing a place to train your German Shepherd dog:
✔︎ Training philosophies and methods
✔︎ Experience and credentials of the trainers
✔︎ Testimonials or accomplishments of other students
✔︎ Availability of private lessons
✔︎ Availability of “Maintenance Programs” or practice groups
Although, as a club, we do not feel comfortable endorsing a particular school because individual people and dogs have different needs, we are happy to provided a partial list of local training schools that many of our members use.
Individual club members are always happy to talk with you about the schools that they use and why they have chosen them.
Dog Sense Unlimited
601-10 Dover road
Rockville, MD 20850
Canine Training Association (CTA)
6826 & 6822 Distribution Drive
Beltsville, MD 20707
Capital Dog Training Club (CDTC)
2758 Garfield Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Catoctin Kennel Club
4016 Rock Hall Road
Point of Rocks, MD 21777-2047
Oriole Dog Training Club
9 Azar Ct.
Halethorpe, MD 21227
Breakaway Action Dogs, INC (B.A.D., INC)
900 East Patrick Street
Frederick, MD 21701
Dog Owners’ Training Club of MD
Carroll County Agricultural Center
706 Agriculture Center Dr
Westminster, MD 21157
Send an email to Gail for more information