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Well, to start, this is what you always wanted and the GSD breed is a wonderfully spirited and intelligent dog which needs direction, rules and boundaries. You mentioned "left to his own devices" a few times and this observation of yours is astute and most likely a huge contributing factor as to the dog's development and present behaviors which are testing your wits. Being completely blunt and honest, you need to step up to the plate and take a very active role in training the dog. GSDs in my opinion are a 2 year project on average and as you have observed, they will train themselves when left to their "own devices". It's time you have the dog operate in accordance to your "own devices". For instance, " Literally just 5 mins ago, I was training Zak outside and playing games with him, then my dad and his friend drive in with the jeep and Zak bolts off and starts barking at the jeep as it's driving towards the trailer......" Why is the dog not under your control or ability to restrain the dog ? You need to be proactive and at least one step ahead of the dog, if not two steps. I would be training in that environment with a either a drag line or long line, so the dog cannot bolt and satisfy his self-indulgence. Obviously, the dog's recall is weak or nonexistent currently and every time the dog breaks command or ignores your commands, you just take a step backwards. The dog learns this and knows it, so why should he act any differently under your current expectations and training methods?

If it was my dog, I'd start from square one and work this dog hard with obedience training for two reasons. One, your dog needs it and two, your dog is coming into full maturity which on its own can be problematic for many, especially with a GSD. Your dog is searching for a way in which it can satisfy these new found "feelings" as it passes into adulthood because it lacks direction. As mentioned earlier, allowing a dog to its own devices at this stage will cause more problems but is a wonderful time to grab the bull by the horns and give this dog what it craves and that is your leadership which will be won by your expectations, training, confidence and decisive attitude.

Set a goal each and every day. Start with the basics and don't budge an inch and then raise the bar once a simple task is accomplished. Every time success is achieved, make it just as obvious as when he fails. You mentioned your dog likes fetch over food treats, this is great. Use the ball or tug toy as the reward along with your praise. Rewards which involve interaction between human and dog such as a quick fetch or tug is many times better than flipping a dog a piece of food.

Also, make your dog earn everything regardless of the insignificance. Your dog wants something than so should you and make sure you get what you want from the dog first before letting the dog have what it wants.

Forget about everybody else who is making your job as the dog's primary trainer more difficult. Just consider it part of the equation as you train, in the long run your dog will be better trained because of the added difficulties you now experience.

1 1/2 years old by no means is too late to train proper behavior in your dog, you just need to get after it and never look back.
 

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There was something I needed to add after rereading my previous post. Working and training with a spirited dog or most any dog while you are playing with the dog is an incredible win-win. GSDs as you know love the physical activity, use that to your advantage. Impulse control training seems to be so easily accomplished when you have the dog's complete attention during certain play activities. Train the dog while you play because the pending "play" reward can be an incredibly powerful tool to get your dog's focus and execution of your commands.
 
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