German Shepherds are highly resilient and loyal dogs but they can also be stubborn and aggressive. As, this dog breed can get massive, if their aggressive tendencies are properly triggered, they can do serious harm to a person which is why making sure the dog does not get to that point ever is crucial.
So, here is how to to train your German Shepherd to not be aggressive:
- Use Positive reinforcement training to teach obedience commands and polite behavior
- Shower with attention and affection only when your German Shepherd behaves politely
- Do not ever punish your German Shepherd
- Take the dog outside and show the unknown world
- Make the dog interact with other dogs such as the dogs at the dog park
- Exercise your German Shepherd sufficiently
- Do not leave the dog at home alone
- Avoid the dog from being exposed to triggers of aggression if you have identified them already
- Use control management tools to take control of the dog and show your dominance
- Make an environment that does not make the dog feel stressed or unsafe
One thing to keep in mind is that when your German Shepherd is still a puppy, it will be difficult to train it. Nonetheless, there will be a low chance the dog will get aggressive tendencies later on when it is fully grown.
On the other hand, if your German Shepherd is already a full grown bad-boy , it will be quite easy to train it since mature dogs do not easily get distracted. However, it might take a bit more time to lessen the dog’s aggression if it already has started being aggressive.
So, regardless whether the dog is aggressive or not, it is optimal to train a German Shepherd puppy from a young age. In fact, you can start training the puppy when it is as young as 6 or 7 weeks old. Just start gradually with really simple obedience commands.
So that it will help you to shape the dog into whatever type of behavior you want it to have in future.
Aim to teach personality traits such as being interactive, loyal, obedient and polite which would be the best to make a well-mannered German Shepherd.
With that said, I will explain the 10 step guide in depth.
So Here they are:
01 – Use Positive reinforcement training to teach the dog obedience commands
Positive reinforcement training is a training method used to motivate the dog to obey and listen to you by giving it rewards such as treats, toys and praise.
You can use this method to first train your German Shepherd to obey basic commands such as Sit, Up, Down, Come, Rise and Jump. Then, you can teach the dog the Commands Silent and Speak where you can tell the dog to either stop barking or start barking.
By training basic commands, you can get the control of the dog. You see, German Shepherds are pack-animals and you being in control means the dog thinks of you as its Alpha that it should listen to.
Thus, whenever the dog shows aggressive tendencies, you can easily handle the dog’s hostility by calling out its name and giving a command to comply while showing a treat in your hand.
After that, instead of being aggressive, your German Shepherd spontaneously does what you say because doing so means, receiving a reward.
Not only that, you can use positive reinforcement training to reward the desired-behavior too.
You see, when you give a reward to the dog when it only acts friendly and sweet and not aggressive and stubborn, the dog will understand that in order to get rewards, its only option is behaving politely.
So, gradually, the aggression coming from the dog will decrease.
02 – Shower with attention and affection only when your German Shepherd behaves politely
You see, sometimes a German Shepherd might act aggressively or hyperactively to get your attention. So, the more attention you pay to the dog’s ill-behavior, the more aggression it will show because it simply gets the dog what it wants “your attention”.
But if you act like you are not even noticing the aggression, the dog will get the hint that acting aggressively will not result in getting reactions out of you. Therefore, the doggo will try the opposite of being aggressive which is being polite.
And now that your GS is being nice to you, you can give the dog all the attention and cuddles you want. This will only prove more to the dog that being sweet and polite is the only way to get your attention and love.
Alright. since the GS gets what it wants now, it will keep on behaving friendly and well-mannered.
03 – Do not ever punish your German Shepherd
The last thing you should do to your German Shepherd when it is being aggressive is punishing it. You see, If you punish the dog, their aggression can only get worse to a point where the dog would consider you an enemy/threat.
You may think punishing is right because that will help the dog learn good behavior and therefore, it is good for the wellbeing of the dog. NO, you are quite incorrect.
You see, your GS will not see punishments the same way you see them. The dog will see them as rather torture or abuse. So what happens when a German Shepherd realizes someone is going to hurt them? Well, it will get defensive and likely attack the foe.
So, do not punish your German Shepherd in any way that will hurt the dog physically or mentally.
04 – Take the dog outside and show the unknown world
A major reason for a German Shepherd to be hostile towards something or someone is when the dog does not know or understand whatever they are seeing.
Often times, German Shepherds would automatically consider anything that they are not familiar with, as threats. So, in nature, these dogs treat threats with a lot of aggression and hostility.
This is why I encourage you to familiarize the dog with the environment outside of its human family and home. Make sure the dog sees people of different colors and sizes, dogs from different breeds, buildings and even-crowded-places in public.
Thus, the dog will understand what is friendly-behavior and what is not.
And the more your German Shepherd sees these unfamiliar things, the more it considers them as normal and friendly. Therefore, it will stop being aggressive towards them.
05 – Do not leave the dog alone at home
Leaving a German Shepherd alone at home can make it feel many negative emotions such as stress, loneliness, frustration and separation-anxiety
Such negative emotions are one of the most predominant causes of aggression in dogs. So, just leave at least one family member at home when you are not at home.
06 – Make your German Shepherd interact with other dogs
This is similar to the 5th one. German Shepherds are pack-animals that need other dogs to bond with. So when a GS never gets to be friends with or just interact with other dogs, it gets frustrated, stressed and lonely.
So when a dog of this breed is having such negative emotions, it usually start acting out of ordinary due to behavioral changes. These changes can be aggression, loss of appetite and desire to wander off or stay hidden.
For example, if the dog is normally calm and loving, it will become hyperactive and aggressive until its bad emotions go away.
So a great way for a dog with such emotions to get stabilized is to have interactions with other dogs. The feeling of being in a pack and having friends will help the dog relieve those emotions.
Therefore, it is important to have regular visits to places where your Shepherd can meet friends such as the dog park or even your friends’ houses where there are dogs.
07 – Exercise the dog Sufficiently
German Shepherds are strong and athletic dogs that have a lot of energy. So, they require plenty of exercise to spend that energy on. So that these dogs can feel happy and healthy.
But when a German Shepherd does not do enough exercise, there will be nothing for its energy to be spent on and therefore, the dog gets extremely energetic and hyper.
So, when a German Shepherd is having such mental and physical states, there is a higher chance it will get angry or aggressive.
Plus, if the dog happens to attack a person, it would be of a greater damage since the dog will put a lot more energy into its attacks.
Nevertheless, if you ensure the dog does enough exercise to spend its stored fuel, that means there is no energy left for the dog to spend on being aggressive and hyper.
Basically, in other words, exercising can help a German Shepherd release its built-up aggression and hyperactivity.
How much exercise is optimal?
- Minimum of two hours of exercise is optimal.
- however, if the dog is naturally very bouncy and energetic, then, two and half hours of activity is good.
- In contrast, if the dog is super calm and easy-going, then one and half hours of exercise would be better.
What are great activities to exercise a German Shepherds
- Going on walks
- playing in the backyard such as Tug of war, fetch and hide and seek
- Bringing the dog with you on hikes and camping trips
- Accompanying yourself with the dog when you are Jogging and running
- Swimming (As GSDs are not naturally good swimmers, firstly, train the dog to swim and then, it will become a great swimmer)
- hide and seek with rewards (Hide a reward somewhere in the yard or the house and let the dog run around and find it itself. Of course, for this exercise, training is required)
08 – Avoid the dog from being exposed to triggers of aggression if you have identified them already
In order to avoid triggers of aggression you of course, firstly must identify them. So, examining the dog 24/7 until you find out the causes to its ill-behavior is the way to go.
A person can be a trigger:
- Maybe, the mailman being a stranger, wears a specific uniform that triggers the dog’s aggression. So, if you notice this, make sure the dog does not get accesses to go near the mailman person.
Situations can be triggers:
- When you leave the dog at home, it can worsen the dog’s aggression due to negative emotions
- Maybe, the dog is suffering from a sickness and because of the pain, the dog easily gets angry
- The dog is not satisfied with the amount of foods or the type of foods it eats
- Using aggression to guard its toys when you or anyone else go near them
- If other people are around the dog when it eats, that also could make the dog feel threatened to protect its foods
Now you see, if you can examine the dog’s behaver and try to track when the dog gets aggressive or changes its behavior, you can easily identify these triggers.
Let me explain further with the help of one of the above examples:
if the dog only gets aggressive while it eats or after it eats, that could mean either the dog is trying to be protective of its foods or it is not satiated with the amount or the type of foods it eats.
In that case, do not let other family members or anyone else go near the dog while it eats and try giving a bit more of foods or change the dog-food brand, it eats (This especially could happen if you changed the food brand recently. So the dog is showing its disapproval through aggression).
However, when the dog is triggered to be aggressive, it firstly shows signs such as body language,
- Keeping ears erected
- Posture of standing tall
- Growling and snapping
- Constant barking in a lower-range
- Staring at you for long
- Holding the tail high
- Showing its teeth
09 – Use control management tools to take control of the dog and show your Dominance
A German Shepherd’s aggression can lead to harming a person in no time which is why tools to avoid that is important. So, using the required equipment is the best when considering safety of you and everybody else.
These tools are specially essential when you bring the dog out to public places where there is a higher risk that a person could get hurt by your aggressive doggo.
Note: when I mentioned going to public places in other steps of these 10 step guide, I did not specifically mention these tools under each step but remember it is a must to use one of these control management tools to eliminate any unwanted events.
So, tools such as a head halter and a muzzle are the most suitable.
However, if you do not have such a tool to ensure the dog will not bite a person or harm them in anyway, it will lead you to feeling unsure and nervous.
And keep in mind that your German Shepherd can easily pick up on your behavioral changes since you are its family.
So, since your GS is aware that you are nervous and stressed, it will make the dog also feel stressed and unsafe. Next, the Shepherd will get defensive with aggression.
You see, it is a matter of showing your dog that you are its friend and the dominant party that it should listen to and can rely on.
But if you do not show assertiveness to hint the dog that you are the boss and that you are not nervous, the dog’s pack bonding instincts will kick in and consider you a beta and not the alpha.
So what happens next?
Well, the dog will not obey you and its aggression towards you and everyone else will get worse. If this happens in a public place such as the dog park, you almost just can not prevent the dog from injuring a person or another dog.
BUT with equipment such as a head halter or a muzzle, you can control the dog and avoid a crazy situation where your doggo attempts to injure or bite someone.
So definitely, purchase some control management tools.
10 –Make an environment that does not make the dog feel stressed or unsafe
When a German Shepherd starts living in a new environment, it first studies it and its surroundings to ensure it is a safe place. Gradually, the dog adapts to its environment and becomes familiar with everything.
Once the dog knows its habitat well, it starts to feel safe and secure which leads to making that environment its territory and home.
However, any changes to that environment can directly affect the dog and its behavior.
Therefore, such changes can result in aggression, excessive barking, howling, barely eating or not eating at all and escape or hiding behavior.
- You moved into a new place. That means it probably has a great impact on the dog.
- One/some of your family members moved out and no longer live with you.
- Sometimes, wearing a leash can hurt the dog’s neck and cause hindrance to breathing
- In that case, try putting a harness on the dog since it does not put a greater pressure on the neck.
- There is a new person that started living in your house.
- Until the dog gets familiar with that person, expect some hostility.
- You have been keeping the dog in a cage or a crate for too long.
- This can obviously make the dog go on berserker mode.
- My personal opinion is to not put the dog in a cage ever because it probably makes the dog feel unsafe and abused.
- Just imagine somebody keeping you in a cage for too long. You will get frustrated with so much anger
What causes a German Shepherd’s aggression?
Factors such as particular people and situations along with a lack of obedience training can cause a German Shepherd to get aggressive. Aggression is basically a dog’s reaction to its negative emotions. You see, whenever the dog feels threated by a person or a situation, it gets defensive by being hostile to protect itself but part of this behavior also comes from the dog’s instincts to protect its human family too. So, it becomes extremely territorial and possessive with aggressive outbursts.
Note: Pain can be a predominant casue of a dog’s aggression. If you feel your German Shepherd’s aggressive tendencies are geting too severe, I highly recommend you to bring the dog to the vet and do a full examination to check whether the dog is suffering from a sickness or an injury.
At what age do German Shepherds start getting aggressive tendencies?
A German Shepherd gets aggressive tendencies when it is around three to six months old. However, this is just the beginning. During the adolescent phase from 6 months old to 2 or 3 years old, aggressive outbursts can get more repetitive as the dog goes through sexual maturity and hormonal changes.
Can a German Shepherd permanently stop being aggressive?
No, aggression in Germen Shepherds can never be fully stopped but as these dogs age, their aggression can lessen a bit. When a GS is around 5 to 7 years old, it will start calming down but do not expect the dog to be an complete even-tempered dog. It will not happen as being aggressive is in the genes of these dogs.
It is safe to say that many things can trigger a German Shepherd to be aggressive. However, what you do to deal with the dog’s ill-behavior solely determines whether the dog will calm down or go on an attack mode.
Solutions such as training, good socialization and guidance can ultimately shape a dog to be an amazing and well-behaved dog.
Nonetheless, you still have to make sure your German Shepherd does not get exposed to triggers of aggression because the tendency to get aggressive will never go away. It is in this dog breed’s genes.
Lastly, all I have to say is that raise the dog with a lot of affection and cuddles along with proper training.
Featured image credit: Photo by Max Kleinen on Unsplash