Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
German Shepherds are best known for their guard dog qualities and faultless attacking skills.
This poses an important question for many GSD owners: Can German Shepherds attack their owners? This article has everything you want to know on this subject.
German Shepherds are no more likely to attack their owner than any other breed. Although GSDs are capable of attacking, it does not mean they will turn on their owner.
- Raising a German Shepherd responsibly will result in a friendly, sociable, and gentle temperament.
Do German Shepherds Turn On Their Owners?
Although German Shepherds have the ability to attack, it doesn’t make them more likely to turn on their owners.
In fact, German Shepherds are the second most intelligent dog breed making them highly trainable, attentive, and responsive to their owner’s command. This makes it even more unlikely that a GSD would turn on their owner as they’re focused on obeying them.
The truth is that a well-treated, trained, and loved German Shepherd will be as soppy and friendly as any other breed out there.
What Could Cause a GSD To Attack Their Owner?
To not sugarcoat anything, it’s true that in the past, German Shepherds have attacked their owners…
But why did this happen?
In nearly all instances of this happening, it was found that there had been some foul play on behalf of the owner or a previous owner.
A German Shepherd that has received punitive training or is subject to physical abuse, verbal abuse, violence, or aggression is more likely to attack an owner out of fear. This will be the same for any breed.
Where Does Canine Aggression Come From?
Aggression in dogs typically falls into two categories:
- Trained Aggression (aggression by design)
- Fearfulness (aggression through anxiety/nerves/fight or flight)
⭐ Trained Aggression:
For Germans Shepherds, aggression can be something that is trained and used as a functional skill. Like for those that work as army dogs, police dogs, or professional guard dogs. Aggression that is taught in a responsible way, would result in a highly obedient and responsive GSD with the utmost respect and loyalty to their trainer.
The second source of aggression is fear. Fearfulness is the most common source of aggressive and reactive behavior in all dogs. And if a German Shepherd is raised in such a way that they come to fear their owner, other dogs, or strangers, it could lead to an attack if they themselves are feeling vulnerable or fearful.
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German Shepherds Are Protective Over Their Owners
Additional food for thought is that German Shepherds are naturally protective over their owners. Which pretty much negates the chances of them attack their owner.
Most German Shepherds act as family pets, not guard dogs. And even those GSDs will still have a natural instinctive tendency to protect their owner and their property.
In fact, it can be said that German Shepherds are so loyal and devoted to their owners they would put themselves in harm’s way to protect them.
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German Shepherds Must Be Raised Responsibly
Due to the fact that German Shepherds are physically capable of causing harm. It’s incredibly important that they are raised responsibly.
“If you play with fire, you’ll get burned” seems to be a very appropriate quote for this section.
Punitive Training vs Positive Reinforcement Training
- Punitive training is based on punishing the dog whenever they get something wrong.
- Positive reinforcement training involves only rewarding when they get something right and positively encouraging the behavior you want more of.
⭐ Punitive Training:
Unfortunately, GSDs due to their capabilities, attract many unsavory characters that are not fit for owning a dog. It’s these kinds of owners that use punitive training methods and abuse their GSDs in order to gain some kind of “control” over their purposefully-made aggressive guard dog. This is playing with fire.
⭐ Positive Reinforcement Training:
In complete contrast, positive reinforcement involves no punishment and is by far the best way to raise an obedient, intelligent, friendly, and calm dog (whatever the breed).
Positive reinforcement teaches German Shepherds that they are rewarded and praised when they follow commands and show appropriate behavior. And as GSDs have such a strong desire to appease, gaining their owner’s approval is everything to them. Making this by far the best strategy to train a GSD.
Popular read: When Do German Shepherds Calm Down?
German Shepherds Need Stimulating
Another essential part of raising a calm and well-behaved German Shepherd is ensuring they are sufficiently stimulated. Both physically and mentally.
GSDs have a strong desire to be put to work both physically and mentally. And so this needs to be facilitated by the owner. Without enough stimulation, a GSD can become frustrated, disobedient, and even destructive.
Adequate forms of daily exercise like running, agility training, hiking, and chasing their ball for at least around 2 hours per day (for healthy adults) is the goal.
In addition to this, mental stimulation must be given every day in the form of training, nose-work games, using interactive puzzle toys, or socializing with other dogs.
Socialization Is Extremely Important
Socialization is another crucial part to raising a friendly and approachable German Shepherd.
Socializing your GSD involves actively meeting new dogs and strangers on a frequent basis right from puppyhood.
⭐ Why socialization is so important:
● By consistently engaging with new dogs and strangers, it teaches your German Shepherd not to FEAR them. And as I explained previously, fearfulness is a driving force behind aggression. Frequent exposure to strangers and dogs will keep your GSD feeling confident, calm, and friendly.
● Socialization will also teach your German Shepherd how to behave appropriately around new dogs and people. The greater the experience, the better the behavior. This is why it’s crucial to start as young as possible (from 7 weeks) to start developing their social skills.
And this isn’t just for better behavior towards other dogs either. The more people your German Shepherd meets and greets, the more approachable and friendly he will be in general.
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My Personal Thoughts
Having owned a German Shepherd myself for 13 years, and making friends with countless other GSD owners, there has never been a single discussion of a German Shepherd attacking or turning on their owner or family.
German Shepherds are some of the kindest, friendliest, and most sensible dogs I have ever come into contact with.
You could count the times on one hand where my German Shepherd, named Gena, ever showed even a hint of aggression in the 13 years she was with us.
Remember, the simple truth is that ANY breed can be aggressive under the wrong circumstances.
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