Not every dog is aggressive, and not every dog is calm and snug as a bug. But, are German shepherds aggressive? Can you tell if your Rex is showing signs of aggression? Is it even possible to fight aggression?
You might have heard sometimes that the German Shepherd might be characterized as an aggressive dog breed. Is this true?
Well, the beloved dog breed, the German shepherd, is no stranger in showing signs of aggression. However, this doesn’t mean such behavior is in their nature. To stop it, we have to know what’s causing it.
An aggressive German shepherd could be quite a challenge to live with. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance to learn how to identify and recognize aggression in every form.
5 Most Common Aggressive Behaviors
Aggressive behavior has a different pattern with each dog. The aggression can be exhibited in mood swings or intolerance towards other animals. Some of the most common aggressive behaviors include:
• constant barking even if you say NO
• chewing on the furniture or other belongings
• chasing or barking at other pets living with you
• growling or nipping as you approach to touch him
• growling or barking when you have food
1. Constant barking
The GSD is a very vocal dog and will express his emotions no matter what’s happening or where it is happening. Constant barking can develop into aggressive behavior.
See it from this point of view: when you say STOP and your dog keeps on barking, he’s openly defying your authority and therefore does not respect you as the pack leader.
Such behavior can develop into something even bigger and more dangerous.
Still, some dogs bark when feeling anxious. What you’ll have to do is to learn the difference between an aggressive bark and an anxious bark.
The aggressive barking is always louder and sounds like the dog is confronting you. Don’t worry, the more time you spend with your dog, the better you’ll get to know him.
2. Chewing stuff
Who here loves when their dog chews on their belongings? No one, that’s for sure! Sometimes the chewing happens by mistake.
German shepherds are a very playful and curious breed. It is possible they might mistake your sneaker for a dog toy.
If the dog stops chewing after you ask him to, then it was just an accident.
However, anytime he keeps on doing it, even if you ask him to stop, it’s a sign of aggressive behavior. Growling, barking, and nipping you when you try to take the object away is another sign something’s wrong.
Such behavior should be nipped in the bud before it’s too late.
3. Barking and chasing
A well-trained German shepherd will protect his home, everything, and everyone inside it, including other pets.
But, naturally-aggressive German shepherds will never fully acclimatize to new surroundings. They are dominant dogs, and they will try to establish their dominance in the house, hence the barking and chasing around.
This is quite a dangerous pattern and could result in a fatality. Do something about it before it’s too late and you lose another pet!
4. Growling and nipping as you approach
No nipping and no growling – that’s the rule for a well-behaved GSD. You can’t even imagine what could happen next if you let such behavior pass.
This behavior means he sees you as a threat, and he’s warning you to back off. He doesn’t trust you. If your dog behaves in such a way, you should never leave him with kids. You can’t trust him either.
5. Growling and barking for food
All dogs beg to get something off our plates. Sitting next to you and quietly begging for something is harmless, but barking and growling at you and your full plate isn’t.
Food aggression is the most common kind of hostile behavior. Stop it before it’s too late. Aggression is almost impossible to reverse.
Why Does Aggressive Behavior Happen?
There is no universal answer to why German shepherds show aggression. A lot of factors, including their young age, upbringing, and training, affect it.
Lifestyle factors could be triggers for aggression.
Even the slightest change in everyday habits could cause such behavior. Just imagine suddenly leaving your dog alone for a few hours every day.
He won’t respond well, will he? Keep doing that for a certain period, and the final result would be aggression in its finest form.
Is My Dog Getting Enough Exercise?
This dog breed is among the most active ones and requires a minimum of two hours of exercise daily to use up all the accumulated energy. They are active dogs who need lots of activity.
A visit to the dog park, playing fetch, running, putting on a doggie vest, swimming, chasing them around… These are just some of the activities we suggest you do.
If you’re already doing some of these things, but the dog is still showing aggressive patterns, double the activity!
This factor is among the most common ones, can be diagnosed easily, and it’s easy to solve too!
Boredom Is Dangerous! How Do You Amuse An Intelligent Dog?
The intelligence of a German shepherd is well known and used in forces. They’re the best police dogs out there and love challenges. But, what should you do when they begin to feel unchallenged?
Boredom causes aggressive behavior as much as the next factor.
If your dog was a delight to live with but now is aggressive towards other animals, family members, possessions, etc., then he’s most likely developed aggressive behavior.
The key to solving it? Get him lots of toys, challenges to pass, mind games, mental stimulation, and socialization with other animals and people.
Socialization Is More Important Than You Think!
Many dog owners don’t even realize how important socialization is from an early age. The German shepherd puppy shows signs of intelligence right from the start.
Use that and start working on his relationship with other animals and people IN TIME.
It’s going to be way harder to teach him manners once your wolfie becomes an adult dog.
Problems occur when you adopt an older dog who hasn’t been socialized properly. Such a case might require proper training and a behaviorist to solve the issue.
Socializing the German shepherd dog will control his need for territorial dominance. This was once a guard dog (deep inside, he still is) he would never allow anyone to come near his territory.
Have the training sessions focus on play dates with other puppies, so your german shepherd gets to learn while interacting with the others.
Guard Dog: Is Your German Shepherd Overprotective Of You?
The aggressive behavior isn’t always exhibited towards the dog owner. Sometimes it’s other people who trigger aggression in German shepherds, not you, or a lack of stimulation at home.
Once bred as working dogs or, better yet, herding dogs, the German shepherds will try to protect you at all costs.
Since this is a one-person dog, he could develop an unhealthy attachment to you and only you. That means all the other family members and pets, not to mention visiting friends, are therefore a threat.
The solution to this problem lies in changing the perception of a threat. Either you or a professional trainer should teach which subjects are a threat and which are not.
Is There A Difference Between Aggression And Dominance?
People often mix up aggression with dominance. They are usually wrong.
A dominant dog loves being the center of attention. You’ll know you have one if your dog:
• always wants to outdo other dogs and seeks your attention at all times
• never lets you or another dog win tug of war just because he wants to show his strength
• will look everyone in the eye, but not in an affectionate way
• will mount anyone, no matter if male or female, just to dominate
• will steal food and toys from other dogs
However, an aggressive dog doesn’t want to show he’s a boss, no matter how it appears. Instead, a primal instinct or a learned fear from the past will cause your dog to be an aggressive menace.
It’s all about outsmarting the opponent for dominant dogs, while the aggressive dog finds showing off aggression as a way to vent.
Types Of Aggression
We are aware of 8 different types of aggression:
• fearful aggression
• defensive aggression
• territorial aggression
• predatory aggression
• protective aggression
• frustrated aggression
Possessive aggression is a primal behavior that comes up every time your dog tries to hide his food or bones. It’s simply a way of protecting what’s his, but you shouldn’t let this go overboard.
Fearful aggression occurs when a dog feels threatened and has to defend himself. A cornered animal, with no way out, will react by showing aggression.
Defensive aggression is similar to fearful aggression. The difference between the two is that the defensive dog doesn’t let himself get cornered. He will fight before it gets to that point.
Aggression due to pain is just a reaction to the pain the dog’s experiencing. There’s no deeper reason why; it’s simply the pain that’s keeping them from thinking straight. That’s why your dog might bite you out of nowhere.
Territorial aggression is something German shepherd dogs have many problems with. Many breeds of dogs were used to protect, but none of them were used as much as the German shepherd. It’s in their nature to protect what’s theirs.
Predatory aggression is closely connected to a dog’s prey drive. Ever wondered why some dogs chase cars so vigorously? That’s why! Lunges at the car are instinctive.
Protective aggression can be the same as territorial aggression. However, female german shepherds might exhibit protective aggression, too, when they feel their litter is in danger.
Frustrated aggression occurs when a dog is stopped from doing something they want to do, e.g., interacting with someone.
Can Proper Dog Training Prevent Aggression?
The answer is quite simple: YES.
After all, you’re the one in charge of shaping and molding your dog the way he’s supposed to be.
If you want to succeed, you will have to be consistent in training. The GSD is a very smart dog, and he will notice when you begin to slack off.
Since it’s best to start at puppyhood, make sure you keep a consistent line of training over the months and years to come.
Your German shepherd puppy needs a constant, and that constant is YOU.
Training doesn’t mean disciplining the dog every time he does something wrong. Positive reinforcement training is something much more effective.
So, every time your dog wants something, have him perform an action. Eventually, he will add two and two together and associate that action with getting what he wants, e.g., going for a walk.
Additionally, we also suggest you take a look at our advice on where to surrender an aggressive dog. You may not need this and you might get a solution on your GSD’s aggression signs by yourself, but it is not a bad thing to be informed!
Cracking The Myths: The Top 5 Myths About GSD Aggression
Not a lot of dog breeds are associated with so many myths like our beloved German shepherd. Truth be told, some of them are quite unwarranted.
Let’s see some of the most popular myths and questions about the German shepherd’s aggressive behavior!
1. Are German shepherds aggressive towards their owners?
2. Are German shepherds friendly with children?
3. Are German shepherds good with other dogs?
4. Will my German shepherd become aggressive?
5. Do German shepherds bite a lot?
6. Do German shepherds bite harder than other dogs?
• The German shepherd doesn’t attack his owner any more than a chihuahua, rottweiler, or even a retriever. Many cases have shown that the bite was the result of an accident or human error.
• The American Kennel Club classifies German shepherds as one of the most popular family breeds. They are loyal to death and kind to the little ones. However, only proper training will ensure this.
• Yes and no. German shepherds, especially females, can be irritated by other species. But this isn’t written in stone. Every dog breed can react this way! If you do recognize such behavior, work A LOT on its socialization.
• Actually, German shepherds can be quite calm and relaxed. There’s no proof every GSD will show aggression in any way.
• The American Kennel Club reports less than 2% of dog bites being made by this dog breed. Meaning, the GSD isn’t not much of a biter.
• Keeping in mind their body structure, a GSD does have a strong bite. However, there are some breeds that, surprisingly, bite harder. One example is the Rottweiler.
To sum up, being aggressive isn’t a trait of a single dog breed. Every dog has a different character and reacts differently to outside factors.
Exhibiting aggression is something that should be stopped immediately before it turns into a huge problem.
Once you have an extremely aggressive dog, it will take a lot of time and hard work to get him back on the right path.
To answer the burning question: “Are German Shepherds aggressive?” Let’s just say they might and might not be. What does it depend on? You and your hard work with your Rex, Zeus, or Max.
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