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Something every person wants to know before adding a german shepherd to their family is whether they are aggressive or not.
Dogs can be one of the best things you do for your family, or it can be an absolute nightmare. Your breed choice has a big impact on this. So..
Are German Shepherds Aggressive:
German shepherds are very loyal and protective but not to the point of unnecessary aggression. Over 300 german shepherd owners said theirs was a good family dog, got along with other dogs and were friendly with strangers. They only become aggressive if they don’t get proper training or socialization.
In this post you’ll discover:
- What real german shepherd owners had to say about german shepherds being kind or aggressive
- 6 reasons why german shepherds would become aggressive
- 5 tips to ensure your german shepherd never has problems with aggression (Tip #4 is the most important!)
- And much more
Let’s jump right in.
Table of Contents
What Real German Shepherd Owners Had To Say About Aggression
The only real way to know if german shepherds are aggressive or not is to ask a bunch of people who own one and hear what they have to say.
If one german shepherd is aggressive that doesn’t necessarily mean they all are.
So, I found a few different surveys that IHeartDogs did which got real german shepherd owners to answer a few questions.
First, would you say that german shepherds are good family dogs?
Second, does your german shepherd get along with other dogs?
And third, is your german shepherd friendly with strangers?
Based on the answers to these questions, as well as the detailed responses some people gave, we can confidently answer whether german shepherds are aggressive or not.
Let’s look at the results for each of these questions.
1. Would you say german shepherds are good family dogs? (472 german shepherd owners answered)
100% of people said yes.
Absolutely no one said they weren’t.
2. Does your german shepherd get along well with other dogs? (369 german shepherd owners answered)
49% of people said yes, very well.
37% of people said they get along okay with other dogs.
14% said their golden retriever doesn’t get along with other dogs.
3. Is your german shepherd friendly with strangers? (470 golden retriever owners answered)
67% of people said yes.
33% of people said no.
A few people gave detailed answers I felt were very helpful that you can find below.
Lin said: “They are affectionate, loyal, loving, compassionate & they listen extremely well. I’ve grown up with German Shepherds & have a rescued Shepherd today. I continue to recommend them to families, single married folks…they are purr-fect for everyone!!! I love German Shepherds!”
David said: “Perfect family dog. They’re loyal and highly intelligent. Very easily trained. They must be socialized as much as you can. This goes for both humans and other dogs. If I could, I’d have two or three of them. Wonderful companions.”
George said: “We have 2 grandchildren, one is 14 years and the other is 11 months. Our Shepherd loves both and guards the 11 month old boy constantly when he is with us. The 14 year old boy and Greg play until one or the other is exhausted, usually the boy. The rest of the family are all loved, strangers do have to be cautious though.”
Lisa said: “He’s fine with most strangers, but there have been a couple of people he has taken an instant dislike to. I think if YOU are okay with someone, then generally your german shepherd will be too.”
My Take On The Survey Results:
The results of the surveys paint a pretty clear picture.
German shepherds are very loyal and protective of their family but can be a little wary of unfamiliar dogs and people.
Which really means when it comes to german shepherds being aggressive, it’s ultimately dependent on how well they’re trained and socialized.
The more exposure they get to unfamiliar dogs, people and places when they’re young, the less likely they are to be aggressive.
Many people think because of what they see on TV or movies that german shepherds are aggressive, but based on what real german shepherd owners had to say, this isn’t the case.
However, as the results show, some german shepherds can be aggressive.
Which means it’s important to know the reasons why a german shepherd would become aggressive to be able to avoid them.
As well as tips on how to ensure they’re lovable, gentle, loyal pups.
6 Reasons Why German Shepherds Will Be Aggressive
1) Lack Of Training
Training is important for much more than simply teaching a german shepherd fun tricks and behaviors.
It helps solidify the bond between them and their owner and demonstrates to them who’s in charge.
Which is absolutely necessary for all dogs.
If they aren’t sure if you’re in charge or they are, they’ll take matters into their own hands.
Which means reacting to many different things attempting to protect their family.
When a german shepherd gets plenty of training they understand that you’re in control and will let them know when you need help.
If you’re calm in a situation and your german shepherd trusts you, they’ll be calm too.
But when training has been absent, it often results in a reactive, aggressive german shepherd.
Related Reading: Are German Shepherds Good Family Dogs? 472 Owners Asked
2) Not Enough New Experiences
Having plenty of new, unique experiences when a german shepherd is a young puppy is super important to prevent them from being aggressive.
In the training world this is called socializing.
It simply means introducing a german shepherd to as many new dogs, people and places as possible when they’re young.
This way they learn that unfamiliar people and dogs are potential friends as opposed to potential threats.
When a german shepherd is isolated for the most part when they’re a puppy it usually results in an overprotective dog that misbehaves around new dogs/people.
Related Reading: Are German Shepherds Good With Cats? (100+ Owners Asked)
If a german shepherd has experienced something traumatic like being attacked by another dog, abuse from a previous owner, or being abandoned they may become aggressive as a form of self-defense.
This is especially common in rescue dogs that have been mistreated or neglected.
They may become fearful of people or other dogs and lash out as a way to protect themselves.
It’s also possible that they become over-attached to you which makes them aggressive.
4) If They’re Unwell
If a german shepherd is feeling unwell for any reason, they may become snippy and irritable.
This can lead to them snapping at people or other dogs without provocation.
Dogs will do the most they possibly can to not show when they’re injured or unwell.
Many think it’s because of their pack instincts and not wanting to appear weak or vulnerable which could get them kicked out of the pack.
This makes them behave aggressively to overcompensate for the pain they’re in.
The aggression can also simply come from wanting to defend themselves if a spot that’s hurting gets touched without being gentle.
Whatever the case may be, if a german shepherd is injured or has an underlying health issue that’s negatively affecting them, they might start behaving aggressively.
Many people don’t realize that hormones can play a role in how aggressive a german shepherd is.
Both males and females experience hormonal changes as they age which can lead to increased aggression.
This is especially common in unneutered males who are testosterone-filled.
They may become more territorial, protective and prone to fighting with other males.
Females may become more dominant and protective of their territory as well when going through a heat cycle.
This is why it’s a good idea to have your german shepherd spayed or neutered to prevent any unnecessary aggression.
6) Unethical Breeder
Last but not least, an unethical breeder can also be to blame for a german shepherd’s aggressive behavior.
Some breeders will purposefully breed dogs that have aggressive tendencies for protection or fighting purposes.
Others may not be as intentional about it, but still end up breeding dogs with genes that lead to aggression.
It’s also possible for some breeders to be less than gentle with their pups which creates aggression from an early age.
Which is why it’s so important to do your research before you get a german shepherd and only buy from a reputable breeder.
Related Reading: Do German Shepherds Shed? 100+ Owners Asked + Tips
5 Tips To Help Make Sure Your German Shepherd Isn’t Aggressive
1) Make Socializing A Priority
As I mentioned before, socializing your german shepherd is one of the most important things you can do to prevent them from becoming aggressive.
This means introducing them to as many different people, dogs and places as possible when they’re young.
From the age of 2-12 months is when you’ll want to give your german shepherd plenty of experiences in new places with new people or animals.
The more friendly experiences they have, the less likely they are to become aggressive in the future.
It’s also a good idea to continue socializing them as they get older since their personalities can change over time.
2) Lots Of Training
Along with socializing, training is another key element in making sure your german shepherd doesn’t become aggressive.
This means teaching them basic commands such as sit, stay and come as well as how to walk nicely on a leash.
It’s also important for teaching them that humans are the pack leaders and they should always listen to you.
This establishes a strong relationship between the two of you and makes them less likely to become aggressive.
Regular training will also keep their minds active which is good for their overall wellbeing.
The less pent up energy they have the less likely they’ll be to act out.
3) Consult With A Professional
Whether you’re thinking about adding a german shepherd to your family or have one already that’s showing signs of aggressiveness, getting help from a professional is never a bad idea.
This could be a vet, dog trainer or behaviorist who will be able to help you better understand what’s going on and how to deal with it.
Raising a well-behaved german shepherd doesn’t always come naturally.
Which is why professional dog behaviorists exist.
4) Don’t Reward Reactivity
Similar to the last tip, when people don’t understand what their actions are saying to their german shepherd, many people accidentally reward aggressive behavior.
For example, if your dog is barking and lunging at another dog while on a walk and you stop walking, pet them, give them a treat or talk to them in a soothing voice, you are rewarding their aggressive behavior.
While it seems like this is the natural thing to do to get them to calm down, it’s only teaching them that their reactive behavior is ‘good’.
Which is why it’s so important not to reward reactivity/aggressive behavior and instead distract them calmly and not cater to them.
5) If Older – Desensitize
If you have an older german shepherd that’s built bad habits of aggression, you’ll need to help desensitize them to their trigger.
This could involve slowly introducing them to the thing they’re afraid or aggressive towards in a controlled environment.
For example, if your dog is afraid of people, have a calm friend come over and sit in a chair while giving them treats for staying calm.
It may take some time but with gradually more exposure to what’s triggering their aggression, the more desensitized they’ll become.
The more exposure they have to what’s bothering them with neutral or positive experiences, the less reactive they’ll be in similar situations.
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