There are many causes of aggressive behavior in German Shepherds. It might be due to a dominance related issue between you and the dog, or it might be a trigger that was never properly dealt with from puppyhood – such as an attack by another dog. Whatever it is that is causing your German Shepherd’s aggression, you need to address it as soon as possible. The results of prolonged aggression can be not only scary, but dangerous if not quickly taken to task.
German Shepherds are intelligent dogs that are very strong and athletic; they are used for guard dogs, police dogs, drug- and bomb-detection dogs, therapy dogs and loving family pets. German Shepherd owners need to know what they’re doing with such a strong breed of dog. Unfortunately many owners get a German Shepherd without having done their homework first. This is often where the problems start, and very sad, mixed-up, and often aggressive German Shepherds are at times abandoned.
The Source of Aggressive Behavior in German Shepherds
Dog aggression can start as young as 6 weeks of age, a crucial age when a German Shepherd puppy 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 dog turns 14 weeks of age and can extend even further beyond that.
This means several things. First, never take a puppy away from its litter before 8 weeks of age. Never use harsh discipline with the puppy between 8 and 10 weeks and make sure the dog is very gently treated in that time. Hitting, yelling or other harsh punishments at a young age can breed aggressive behavior in German Shepherds over time.
A German Shepherd like other breeds of dog needs to have been properly socialized with people and other dogs by the time he reached 14 weeks. This socialization will avoid any future aggression issues.
Actual aggression can be triggered by any number of factors. Heredity and genetics are certainly factors – some breeds can be more aggressive than others – but it is by no means a hard fast rule. Additionally, dogs that have not been neutered or spayed are more prone to aggressive tendencies.
By far, however, the most important factor in creating aggressive behavior in German Shepherds is their environment. A German Shepherd 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, snapping, growling, posturing, and fighting with other dogs is often the result of a German Shepherd testing for dominance. You’ll need to establish dominance at a young age and maintain that position throughout the dog’s adolescence to ensure it doesn’t get a chance to take control of the household. If you do not take on this leadership role, then your German Shepherd will.
Stopping and Controlling Aggressive Behavior in Dogs
If your German Shepherd shows aggressive behavior after 14 months of age, when it has reached sexual maturity, you must address the problem immediately. First, make sure you have established yourself as the pack leader. Never reward your German Shepherd for aggressive behavior, even if he is scared.
Train your German Shepherd to respond to your commands, control feeding and walking times, and make sure that you are the pack leader in the household. If you allow your German Shepherd is to take liberties in your home, it will exhibit stronger aggression toward others.
If your German Shepherd 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 session or behaviorist who can slowly acclimate the dog to a social atmosphere.
A little tip is if your German Shepherd’s aggressive behavior advances to violence, consider hiring a professional to help out, before someone gets hurt and your dog is held responsible.
Most importantly DO NOT ignore aggressive behavior in German Shepherds, it can be controlled, even when the dog is older.
Some Basics of Aggression Training
Make sure you train your German Shepherd from an early age. Older GermanShepherds can still be successfully trained, but it takes more time and effort to first ‘untrain’ them of any undesirable habits already acquired.
- Your German Shepherd must recognize that you are the alpha dog (Pack leader). Make sure you’re acting like an alpha from the very first day that he joins your household. If you don’t, then you may experience resistance at first when trying to assume that role.
- Never use humiliation, hitting, abuse or rough corrections when dealing with aggressive behavior.
- When he’s behaving calmly, reward him with praise, pats, and a food treat.
- Always reward good behavior during training. This is called positive reinforcement training, and recognizes that most dogs – especially intelligent ones like German Shepherds – respond very well to encouragement and rewards. Harsh corrections such as loud angry voices, hitting or humiliation results in the dog ‘switching off’ and not being able to learn.
- Make sure that all the family members understand the alpha status, on dog psychology, and dog communication.
- It is important that all family members take a part in prevent him from becoming a one-man dog.
- Training should begin at an early age. There is no ‘minimum age’ for a German Shepherd to begin obedience training. The sooner the better Start with the basic commands like ‘sit’ as soon as you get your German Shepherd puppy. Also start with house training as soon as you can.
- As mentioned above socialization is absolutely mandatory for this breed. ALL dogs need to be socialized, but especially guarding breeds like German Shepherds. A lack of socialization is THE primary reason that dogs become aggressive. Enrol him in puppy school as soon as he’s had his vaccinations and make sure he meets plenty of people and dogs throughout his life.
- Make sure your German Shepherd gets enough exercise: lack of exercise is one of the main causes of aggressive behavior in German Shepherds. They are VERY active dogs and need a lot of vigorous exercise each day. Take him running, hiking, running alongside you when you ride your bike and play several active games, such as fetching a stick or ball, with him. At the VERY LEAST he should be getting a 45 minute, vigorous power-walk every day. Remember a German Shepherd is a great family pet to help keep you very fit.
- German Shepherds should be kept on a lead in public places. If your German Shepherd is exhibiting signs of aggression, this is of utmost importance, even in areas where other dogs are running free. A muzzle may also be necessary
- Special obedience classes for aggressive dogs available and may be well worthwhile looking into if you feel that you need some professional help from the experts.
- It is important to have your German Shepherd well trained. It will pay off during danger times, such as if your German Shepherd was to get into a fight. You would then be able to break the build-up of tension at the beginning of a dog fight with a ‘Come ‘ or ‘Leave it!’.
Please remember that your German Shepherd needs exercise, leadership, training, and affection to be a healthy, loving, and balanced pet.