January 12 2020

No, the German shepherd is not an aggressive dog but they should be trained properly.  They are a strong, capable and intelligent with strong instincts to protect and guard due to their breeding. 

Read on for more information on this sometimes misunderstood but very hardworking and smart dog breed.

What is Aggression in Dogs?

Aggression is defined as the act of attacking someone or something in a hostile or violent manner.  Any dog regardless of the breed has the potential to be aggressive, even the gentlest dog can turn aggressive in bad situations.

Examples of aggressive behaviors in dogs can include growling, snapping, snarling, biting, lunging and barking.  Dog owners need to understand what types of aggressive behavior there are, what creates aggression and how to prevent these behaviors.


Types of Aggressive Behavior in Dogs

There are many types of aggressive behavior in dogs including:

  • Leash Aggression
  • Social Aggression
  • Aggression from Injury or Pain
  • Learned Aggression
  • Guarding, Territorial and Protectiveness Aggression
  • Aggression from Fear, Frustration or Stress
  • Predator Instinct Aggression

While the German Shepherd isn’t an aggressive dog, they do have a protective guarding instinct that has the potential to turn aggressive in certain situation so proper training is extremely important. 


What Creates Aggressive Behavior in Dogs?

Multiple situations can create aggressive behavior in dogs.  The dogs' breed background, their environment, their physical, emotional and mental health as well as how the dog is treated can all contribute to aggressive behavior.

It is important to understand that the German shepherd is a protective dog, not an aggressive dog.  This guarding and protecting is an instinct that is part of their breeding.  If they need to protect their family or home, they will.  This protection may involve aggression if they feel it is necessary.

This is one of the reasons they often serve in the military and with law enforcement.  They are reliable and get the job done, efficiently through strength, skill, intelligence, and instinct.

Tips to Prevent Aggressive Behavior in German Shepherds

The tips listed below will help minimize aggression before it begins.


Thoroughly socializing a dog when they are young, and continually reinforcing that socialization through experience shows them how to behave with others.

Exposing the German shepherd very early to a wide variety of humans and creatures, outside their home environment as well as in their home territory will help them learn how to behave around others.

The German shepherds’ protective instincts can sometimes cause problems with strangers in their home territory, by exposing them to this early on they become more accepting.


Training is highly important for every dog.  They need to understand what is expected of them in a variety of situations.

Training for this dog breed is sometimes best done by a professional who understands the breed background.  Whether the owner or a professional train them, they must always know who is in charge.

For those families who intend their German shepherd to serve as a guard dog as well, attack dog training will ensure that the family dog knows when to attack and whom.  This specialized training can be very helpful for this breed.

Keep Them on A Leash

Putting a dog on a leash allows the owner to have control over the dog’s behavior.  A strong leash with good grip that is appropriate for a strong breed like the German shepherd is needed.  Also, leash training should be part of the training program mentioned above.


Body Language

One of the easiest ways to understand a dog is to watch their body language.  Knowing your dog and how they show aggression can help stop aggressive behaviors from escalating.  Paying attention to the dogs’ body cues can teach the owner when a situation needs to be dealt with.

Exercise / Food / Attention / Sleep

The German shepherd is a very large dog that will need ample exercise, proper amounts of good food and water as well as playtime, attention and proper rest to help them behave their best.

german shepherd biking with owner

Environmental Triggers

Some dogs have certain triggers or environmental stressors that can cause aggressive behaviors.  Understanding your dog can go a long way to stopping aggression before it begins.  Such triggers might include loud noises, changes to weather, aggressive behavior from other dogs, etc.  Minimizing their exposure to their unique triggers will prevent aggression.

Final Thoughts

The German shepherd is a strong, capable working dog that serves the citizens of our community as therapy dogs, medical assistance dogs, and seeing-eye dogs.

They are a dog that should be respected not feared, for the many ways they serve our community.  While their instincts are strong, without those instincts they wouldn’t be able to perform as they do.

With proper training, socialization and an owner that can handle their size, the German shepherd can make an amazing family dog.  Protective, loyal, hard-working and loving they are truly a dog you can trust and depend on.


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