An aggressive German Shepherd can be difficult to control because aggression is a serious behavior issue. Learn about your German Shepherd’s aggressive behavior and find out how you can stop your GSD’s aggressive behavior before you and others such as strangers and other dogs get attacked.
Let’s start with some noteworthy FAQs about GSDs aggressive behavior. After that, we’ll give examples of situations where a GSD might attack. Then we’ll move on to the aggression control training and attack-on-command training.
Are German Shepherds aggressive?
Yes; GSDs are generally considered as an aggressive breed but this can be controlled. Some countries and states in the USA enacted Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL). This law bans or regulates ownership of some breeds like GSDs. They decided to enact this law because of attack statistics of certain breeds like the German Shepherd.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 279 deaths of humans in the United States due to dog attacks from 1979 to 1994. CDC based their report on the data from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and media accounts in the NEXIS database. This report also shows three cases of dog-bite-related fatalities (DBRFs). One of the fatalities involved a 2-year-old boy in South Dakota who died because he was attacked by two wolf-German shepherd hybrids.
Experts like the American Kennel Club (AKC), American Veterinary Medical Association, and the National Canine Research Council are not in favor of this legislation because it’s ineffective. Thankfully many public officials decided to repeal this law.
What age does a German Shepherd become aggressive?
GSDs can start becoming aggressive about 6 weeks of age, one of the most critical age in a German Shepherd puppy’s life. To avoid aggressive behavior problems, it’s very important not to separate him from his mother and littermates before 8 weeks of age. He needs the security and sense of belonging that his family gives. Start teaching him bite inhibition to prevent biting problems. It’s also crucial to expand his socialization to other dogs or animals and other people. Remember to be gentle and avoid punishing him harshly.
Are male German Shepherds more aggressive?
Yes; male German Shepherds tend to be more aggressive than their female counterparts. Male GSDs are more aggressive because of their territorial problems and dominant behavior. Compared to a neutered male GSD, an intact male tends to mark his territory more because of his higher testosterone levels.
When do German Shepherds calm down?
Even though German Shepherds are active and energetic, they will normally calm down as they mature and get older. This is a gradual process so you should train them while they’re still young. If your German Shepherd is currently not very calm, find out the reason why he’s not calm and do something about it. Below are some of the possible reasons:
Why are German Shepherds not calm, out of control or aggressive?
- Owner-directed Aggression
GSDs may growl, lift a lip, snarl, snap, or bite to prove they’re in charge of a situation. This occurs when they feel their position is being challenged primarily by their owners or children. For example, This is often the case with children under six years of age. German Shepherds can attack children who behave inappropriately such as interacting with the GSD while the GSD is eating or pulling the GSD’s tail.
- Protective Aggression
A German Shepherd can become aggressive to a stranger because he perceives the stranger as a threat to his owner and his territory. Even though the owner doesn’t consider the stranger as a threat, the German Shepherd can attack the stranger.
- Fear Aggression
A German Shepherd may be aggressive when he is punished or abused by his handler. If you put your GSD away in a closed space, he will feel left behind and scared. This will lead to lack of trust so he will ‘fight’ or be aggressive when he is faced with the same scary situation.
- Dog-to-dog Aggression
Unsocialized GSDs usually show excessive aggression towards other dogs. An unsocialized GSD will struggle in accepting change such as meeting and interacting with other animals like dogs appropriately.
Training is an effective way to make your GSD calm. Experts agree this is better rather than enforcing BSL.
How to Make a German Shepherd Less Aggressive (Aggression Control)
- Establish your alpha role.
Your GSD should recognize you as the pack leader while he’s still young. You have to be a confident and assertive leader. Start teaching your puppy the command or skill “heel” on walks. Make sure he walks directly next to you, not behind or in front of you.
- Socialize your GSD.
Introduce your GSD to your family. Then you can introduce a few friends. After some time, go on for a walk in the park with some people he knows well and a newcomer. Slowly but surely, invite more friends and more newcomers to accompany you and your GSD.
- Provide enough exercise.
Your GSD needs a daily walk, a high-intensity activity, and mental stimulation. Take him running, hiking, skating and biking alongside you. You can also play games, such as Frisbee toss. For his mental stimulation, provide puzzle toys for dogs or play ‘scent and nose games’.
After learning how to control your GSD’s aggressive behavior, there are times you need him to attack on command. This will further strengthen your dominance with GSD.
How to Train a German Shepherd to Attack on Command (Attack Training)
- Teach your German Shepherd basic commands such as stand, stay, sit, stop, etc. When he gets used to these basic commands, you can start advanced commands like ‘attack’.
- First, wear a protective bite sleeve that covers your arms. This will keep you from bite injuries.
- Teach your GSD the word ‘attack’. Tell him to sit then tap his face using the glove on your arm. This will annoy your GSD and he will attack the glove. As soon as he attacks, say the word ‘attack’. Reward him by giving him treats.
- Repeat this process until he understands the word ‘attack’. If he attacks your gloved arms when you say ‘attack’, it means he already knows the command.
- To make sure if he understands the command, stand at a short distance away from your GSD and say ‘attack’. If he attacks your gloved arm, it means you can proceed to the next step. If he doesn’t, go back to step 2.
- Ask someone to pretend as an intruder but first ask him to wear a protective suit. Say ‘attack’ and point your finger to the intruder. If your GSD attacks the intruder, he clearly understands the command. Reward him by giving treats.
- To check if your GSD knows how to apply ‘stop’ in this situation, say ‘stop’ while your GSD is attacking the intruder. If your GSD is familiar with the word ‘stop’, he will follow your command.
- Repeat this process as necessary for mastery. Don’t forget to reward your GSD for a job well done.
We’ve all heard some news about German Shepherds showing aggressive behaviors. While this is unfortunate, GSD aggression can be controlled. Follow the steps above and your GSD won’t have aggression issues.