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Aggressive Behavior in German Shepherd Dogs

Updated on August 11, 2010

German Shepherd Breed

Aggressive behavior in German Shepherd dogs can come from many causes. It might be due to a dominance related issue between you and your dog over his environment, or it might be a trigger that was never properly dealt with from when he was a puppy, i.e. an attack by another dog. Whatever it is that is causing your German Shepherd dog’s aggression, however, you need to address it as soon as possible. The results of prolonged aggression can not only be scary, but dangerous if not quickly taken to task.

Aggressive Behavior in German Shepherd Dogs - The Source

German Shepherd Dog aggression can start at a very early age - as young as 6 weeks old. This is a crucial age when a German Shepherd puppies. At this age they should be socialized with other dogs and given the necessary training that keeps them from biting other people. This period of socialization lasts until the German Shepherd dog turns 14 weeks of age and can extend even further beyond that.

This means a couple of things. Firstly, you should never remove a German Shepherd puppy away from its litter before 8 weeks of age. You should also never use harsh discipline with the German Shepherd puppy between 8 and 10 weeks. Also make sure the German Shepherd dog is very gently treated during this time. Hitting, yelling or other harsh punishments at a young age can breed aggressive behavior in German Shepherd dogs over time. Never, ever punish!

The best way to let your dog know that a particular behavior is not tolerated is to do an isolation exercise. Gently grab your dog by the collar and take them to the bathroom or a room where they don't have their doggy bed or eating bowl - somewhere unfamiliar - and leave them there until they calm down. By the way, do this without saying a word or acknowledging them. And act the same when you let them out. You may have to do this a few times.

A German Shepherd dog needs to have been properly socialized with people and other dogs by the time he reaches 14 weeks old to avoid any future aggression issues.

Actual aggression can be triggered by any number of factors. Heredity and genetics are certainly big factors – some breeds can be more aggressive than others – but it is by no means a hard fast rule. Additionally, German Shepherd dogs that have not been neutered or spayed are more prone to have aggressive tendencies - most calm down quite a bit and some not so much after the process has been done.

By far, however, the most important factor in creating aggressive behavior in German Shepherd dogs is their environment. A German Shepherd dog, or any dog for that matter, that has poor living conditions, harsh masters, no socialization, or that has been frightened or attacked by another dog is far more likely to be aggressive as it ages.

Aggression can grow from the need to establish a pack pecking order. Biting, posturing, and other aggressive tendencies are often the result of a dog testing for dominance. You’ll need to establish dominance at a young age and maintain that position throughout your dog’s adolescence to ensure it doesn’t get a chance to take control of the household. Training German Shepherd dogs early on to know who the Alpha Dog is (you and every human) in the household can eliminate many of your dogs behavioral problems, including aggression.

The best way of looking at this is your German Shepherd dog acts aggressive because he feels he needs to protect you and his environment - if he thinks he is the Alpha dog. Everything that threatens his environment or puppies (you and other humans in the household) will cause him to get excited, thus the bark or other aggressive behavior. Therefore, if you let your dog know that you are the one in charge and you are the protector, then your dog won't have the pressure or anxiety of having to protect the pact.

Stopping and Controlling Aggressive Behavior in German Shepherd Dogs

If your German Shepherd dog exhibits aggressive behavior after 14 months of age, when it has reached sexual maturity, especially after it has been altered, you should address the problem immediately. First, as mentioned above, make sure you have established yourself as the pack leader - the Alpha Dog, as mentioned above. Don’t reward your German Shepherd dog for aggressive behavior, even if it is scared (especially in this case).

Train your dog to respond to your commands, control feeding and walking times, and make sure your dog has a strong leader in the house. If you defer to your dog or allow it to take liberties in your home, it will exhibit stronger aggression toward others.

If your German Shepherd dog is defensive-aggressive, they may strike out at a person in fear. These dogs may not have been properly socialized. Keep them away from small children (which they may see as direct threats) and attend a training German Shepherd dog session or seek a behaviorist who can slowly acclimate your dog to a social atmosphere.

Aggressive behavior in German Shepherd dogs is a huge problem that many owners have, but it can be controlled, even as your dog gets older. If your German Shepherd dog's aggression ever advances to violence, consider hiring a professional to intervene before someone gets hurt and your dog is held responsible.

Visit and learn more about this wonderful breed.


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      cat 3 years ago

      Taps keep some treats on you and train her to "drop it" for the treat!!

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      Taps 3 years ago

      My female german shepherd is 7 months old.She is getting aggressive day by day.whenever she is taken for a walk she picks up bones & other syray eatables.If anyone dares to remove it from her mouth she gets really irritated & goes on the verge of biting really hard. Yesterday she bit my hand. It was bleeding profusely.

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      Johnb329 3 years ago

      hi!,I love your writing so much! share we communicate more approximately your post on AOL? I need an expert in this space to resolve my problem. Maybe that's you! Looking forward to peer you. kddfeegceafa

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      lesley 3 years ago

      my german shep is 2 hes a big softy and great wiv other pets kis and strangers,until now my 4 yr old just jumped on him and he snaped leaving a tooth mark on my little boys face,have i concerns now

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      martyn jones 3 years ago

      Hi I've had my german shepherd bitch since birth. She is now 7 years old. Today we were out on a nice family walk with her and our kids and nephew and other family members and for some unknown reason my shepherd bit my nephew in the side and he had to go to hospital for stitches and cleaning out the hole she left in his side. Do you know why she could of just turned around and out of the blue and bit him? Please help I love my girl and I do not want to have her put to sleep.

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      paul johnson 3 years ago

      My 11 mouth old german sherpaed gave birth 1 week ago...............ever since ,my dog started scraching me realy hard although he used to jump ,he never opened his claws but now he does.........what should I do

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      Julia and Diesel 4 years ago

      We adopted a year old german shepherd from a home where he had evidently been the center of attention and boss.

      He was a bit high strung at first but quickly adjusted to life with my husband, 8 year old daughter and myself plus an adult shepherd and a new puppy. We noticed right away he established his dominance over them.

      Recently he snarled and tried to bit our daughter when she tried to get him out of our van. I sent her to the house then I tried to get him out of the van and he came after me. I immediately whipped him.

      Things seemed fine for a few months and then I tried to pull him away from the puppies treats and he jumped in the air in an attempt to bite my face. He snarled and growled when I tried to correct him.

      Should we find him a new home?

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      kaitlyn 4 years ago

      my 2yr old german shepherd collie is aggressive towards male dogs most of the time he is sweet otherwise is this just because he wants to be alpha or is it something else??

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      Cindy S 4 years ago

      My female German Shepherd is 5 yrs old and has never been aggressive toward and one nor our other dogs until now. She was aggressively attacked by a new neighbors dog and now has learned that behavior and is doing it to our other pets!!!! What do we do to stop this!!!!

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      Amy Louise03 5 years ago

      My german shepherd honestly is a great dog, he is large at 8 months he is currently 85 lbs. He isn't aggressive as in the I want to kill you way, but when he plays he gets very rough. I can not seem to break the play biting. He is protective to the point he will sit in between myself and who ever, but he has never been allowed in my bedroom. I have talked to numerous couples who've had the issue of them claimimg their beds and not allowing significant others on the bed.

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      Jenn 6 years ago

      Hi,I've had a similar problem. If I am in bed my dog will growl and bark at ANYONE who approaches, even my boyfriend whom she knows and he sleeps in the same bed. She even bit him in the butt when we were having sex!(have to say that was really funny, she didn't bite hard)

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      abhinavtrivedi87 6 years ago

      hey...i have a 4 months german shepherd...yesterday at night he was sitting at my mother's bed so i asked him to leave the bed and suddenly he started growling at me and grabbing my hand(he ws not actually bitting) but growling,barking hard and grabbing hand....same things he started doin wid my mom when she asked him to leave the bed.....i dont know how to control him and teach him manners dat not to sit at bed....plzzz help meee.....

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      johncastle 7 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks for the comment Zarko. Yes, I agree. Dogs can sense their owner's feeling and behaviors very well and acts accordingly.

    • ZarkoZivkovic profile image

      ZarkoZivkovic 7 years ago from Serbia

      great and very useful Hub :) My father has been keeping German Shepherds for more than 30 years, i grew up with them. if trained from early age with non aggressive methods they are the best friends and protectors on earth, i have witnessed that personally :)

      Wrong environment and bad behavior towards any type of dog will in most cases lead to aggressive behavior. one thing I have learned is that in 99% of cases, dog is a reflection of his owner. So if you are aggressive by nature it is very likely the dog will be as well!