German Shepherd Temperament

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Since their appearance in the 19th century, German shepherds have had a spot in the top ten most popular dog breeds in America Kennel Club’s rankings.

However, it’s worth remembering that this popularity was only possible due to the German shepherd’s personality. Although it might also have something to do with their past contributions to the nation.

Regardless, we owe it all to Max Von Stephanitz, the one who started the breed. His main focus was their utility, not the German shepherd’s physical traits, good looks, or any of that. This resulted in a straightforward personality. They can be easily understood at that time. For example, we know that German shepherd temperament includes loyalty and obedience.

However, due to the advancement of breeding methods, we can’t say the same today. The temperament of today’s German shepherds is more difficult to perceive. This leads to misunderstandings on the side of owners.

That’s why this article aims to help owners comprehend a German shepherd’s traits and personality.

The best way to start this blog post is by recalling the basic traits that we already know.

The Basic German Shepherd Temperament

Your dog can be characterized by different sets of temperaments. However, some cannot be changed.

The following are the most basic German shepherd temperament that we can say are always present to the breed.

  • Courageous and Fearless: German shepherds are courageous, which can be seen from the heroic deeds of dogs during World War I.
    They are also fearless, except of course when it comes to their trauma. That’s why they are suited to extreme tasks. This is also the reason why they were the perfect dogs for soldiers.
  • Strong and Energetic: German shepherds, are and will always be energetic dogs. However, it’s already given that their stamina might deteriorate as they age.
    Regardless, they are still stronger and more energetic than most breeds. This makes these dogs perfect for fitness-oriented people. After all, both the owner and dog will be energetic and eager to exercise.
  • Protective and Loyal: German shepherds are protective and loyal. Eight German shepherds reportedly performed heroic deeds in America along with their owners.
    However, they can be dominant sometimes. So a strict trainer is suitable for them so they won’t develop poor behavior due to their alpha tendencies.
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These German shepherd traits are pretty basic, even a kid knows about them.

However, as previously said, the advanced breeding method for dogs brought a change in the German shepherd’s personality. This led to several types of temperament.

Different Types of German Shepherd Temperament

There are many cases where a German shepherd’s traits differ. For example, your dog may have different traits than your friend’s.

To give you a better idea, take a look at the following comparisons of German shepherd temperament.

  • Breed Line: In the past, German shepherds were only used as working dogs. However, as they became more and more popular, people saw them as potential high-quality materials for show events.
    In response, breeders created German shepherds in two ways. The first type is the usual, working dogs, while the latest type is what we call “show dogs”.
    • Working Line: Those in the working line are fierce and intense. They possess the basic personality, but they are more hard-headed. 
      They are loyal to a fault. This is the reason why they often become destructive when you leave them alone for some time.
    • Show Line: German shepherds belonging in the show line are much more soft-tempered than those in the working line.
      They are more family-oriented and elegant than working dogs. However, they may be too sophisticated for owners that want simple dogs.
      Since they are solely for dog shows, the German shepherd’s physical traits in this breed line are more refined.
  • Gender: Just like with the breed line, German shepherd temperament may also differ according to the dog’s gender.
    1. Male: Male German shepherds are the fierce type. They tend to become aggressive when their territory is threatened. You can say they are the type that tends to be territorial.
    2. Female: Female German shepherds are gentler than males. However, they can also be threatened, especially when a stranger tries to approach their offspring. After all, it’s only natural for a mother to think this way.
  • German shepherds as herding dogs: Lastly, it’s worth noting that the basic personality doesn’t apply to other animals.
    As herding dogs, German shepherds can be aggressive towards cats and other animals. However, when exposed to other dogs and animals at a young age, they can grow as loving dogs, regardless of their species.
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These factors affect a German shepherd’s temperament. While some may assume that they can’t do anything about it, you actually can.

For example, as show dogs, German shepherds may be trained by a professional to act like one. This training occurs before their adoption.

However, you can still teach them how to act more like a family dog. If you do this immediately after adopting them, you might have a chance of changing their personality.

Regardless, dogs can easily be influenced in their early days. This takes us to the next topic. This is where you’ll know how to influence a dog’s temperament.

Pointers for Handling German Shepherd Temperament Problems

German shepherds are sometimes difficult to deal with. We know that much.

That’s precisely why you should prepare for various problems that may arise from their behavior.

The following are common problems that you’ll encounter. Nevertheless, you don’t have to worry because we’ll discuss how to handle them.

Puppy Mill

The popularity of German shepherds spawned ill intentions of breeders.

Some of them are now only after the profits. This drove them to rely on unethical breeding methods. As a result, puppy mills were created, where canines are bred poorly.

It is therefore recommended that you first meet the parents of the German shepherd puppy. This will help you learn of the German shepherd’s traits.


German shepherds are highly trainable. They can learn different things, including proper behavior. Not only can they learn a simple task after only 5 repetitions, but they will also listen to your command most of the time.

It is up to the owner how they’ll train their German shepherd. It is, however, recommended that a German shepherd be taken to an expert trainer.

Professional trainers can help your dog become socially adept. This is because they are more knowledgeable about a German shepherd’s personality.


German shepherds that are not properly accustomed to social activities often tend to be the ill-tempered ones.

For example, those that have not many interactions with others are the type that barks at strangers without second thoughts or run towards other animals with a leash on.

In short, socialization is connected to a German shepherd’s traits. And the owner is responsible for helping with their socialization skills. 

While it’s great to have a solution for a problem, it’s also important to look for prevention. So the next topic talks about how you can prevent behavior problems from arising.

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Common Triggers to a Poor German Shepherd Temperament

A German shepherd’s temperament makes them great family dogs. We already know this.

Regardless, you need to make sure that you are careful with their behavior. Otherwise, you might promote bad behavior, as if it’s normal for them to act like that.

So here we look at some situations that trigger a German shepherd’s poor behavior and how you can avoid them.

  • Teasing between dogs and children will encourage rough treatment. It is therefore recommended that you consult your children, if you have any, to be gentle when handling a dog.
  • Mealtime is a sacred time, at least for a German shepherd. That’s why interfering with a dog’s mealtime often leads to aggression. So don’t fall into the temptations of teasing, or even hugging, your dog while he’s eating.
  • It’s only natural to punish your dog for poor behavior. Still, remember that severe punishment can lead to a dog’s aggression to the owner. Make sure you hold back in punishing your German shepherd.

If your dog shows signs of poor behavior, make sure you take them to a professional trainer. An expert may have an answer to how you can revert your dog to its normal personality.

Also, remember that this should be done as soon as possible. Getting used to bad behavior will only lead to further problems for you and your German shepherd.


German shepherds are courageous, energetic, and protective. I’m sure we all know about this. However, we never considered if there is more into it.

That’s why we discussed the types of German shepherd temperament. According to how they were bred, their personality may differ.

The breeding method can also cause some problems to a German shepherd’s personality. Fortunately, we talked about the solutions for each of them.

Finally, instead of solving the problem once it shows up, we tackled how to prevent problems before it happens.

At the end of the day, you learned many things about a German shepherd’s temperament. So I’m sure that you can now handle them easily and hopefully, you can raise a German shepherd into a truly good boy.

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