Are German Shepherds Aggressive? – Unraveling the Truth

German Shepherds are a popular breed of dog that has been known for their intelligence, loyalty, and protectiveness. 

However, there is a common misconception that these sweet furrballs are an aggressive breed.

While it is true that they can exhibit aggressive behavior, it does not mean that they are inherently aggressive.

In fact, according to the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS), German Shepherds have an overall pass rate of 85%, which means they have a stable temperament and are not naturally aggressive.

The test involves exposing dogs to different stimuli and observing their reactions to determine if they can handle stressful situations without aggression.

So why do people think GSDs are an aggressive breed?

One reason may be due to their history as police dogs and guard dogs.

These roles require them to be protective and alert, which can sometimes be interpreted as aggression towards strangers.

Additionally, there have been cases where poorly trained or mistreated German Shepherds have exhibited aggression.

It’s important to note that any breed of dog can exhibit aggression if not properly trained or socialized.

All dogs should receive proper training at a young age in obedience with other people and animals.

Additionally, owners should provide plenty of opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom-induced misbehavior.

While some individual GSDs may exhibit aggressive behavior due to poor training or genetics, the breed as a whole should not be considered inherently aggressive.

With proper training and socialization, German Shepherds make great family pets and loyal dogs.

Table of Contents

Why can German Shepherds become aggressive?

Many people wonder why German Shepherds are so aggressive, and there are several reasons for this.

Firstly, it is important to note that not all German Shepherds are inherently aggressive. 

Just like any other breed, a dog’s temperament is influenced by genetics and environment.

However, German Shepherds were bred to be working dogs and have strong protective instincts.

They were originally used to guard flocks of sheep in Germany in the late 1800s.

But… what is the root cause? Why do German Shepherds become aggressive in the first place?

Here are top 5 reasons:

They feel like there’s a threat

As we said before, German Shepherds were bred to be working dogs and have strong protective instincts.

So when they feel like there’s a threat nearby – they tend to get nervous and aggressive.

They feel threatened or scared

Additionally, these dogs can become aggressive if they feel threatened or scared.

This can happen if they are not properly socialized as puppies or if they experience trauma or abuse.

Poor breeding practices

Another reason why GSDs may exhibit aggression is due to poor breeding practices.

Some breeders focus on physical traits rather than temperament when breeding their dogs, which can lead to aggression issues down the line.

Poor socialization

Furthermore, owners who do not train or socialize their German Shepherds properly can also contribute to aggression problems.

If a dog is not taught proper boundaries or obedience commands from an early age, they may resort to aggression as a way of asserting dominance or protecting themselves.

There are several reasons why German Shepherds may exhibit aggression.

While some of these factors may be outside of an owner’s control (such as genetics), it is important for owners to properly train and socialize their dogs in order to prevent any potential aggression issues from developing later on in life.

Can german shepherds be dangerous?

The short answer is yes, German Shepherds can be dangerous, but it’s important to understand that this applies to any dog breed. It’s not fair to single out German Shepherds as inherently dangerous.

Like any other dog, their behavior is influenced by various factors such as genetics, training, socialization, and environment.

German Shepherds have a strong protective instinct, which, if not properly managed, can lead to unwanted behaviors.

However, with the right training, socialization, and responsible ownership, these potential dangers can be minimized or even eliminated.

Will German Shepherds Attack Their Owners?

German Shepherds are known for their loyalty and protective instincts towards their owners. 

However, there have been instances where a German Shepherd attacks their owner or a member of the household.

But, why would a dog that’s supposed to be loyal attack its owner?

These dogs can attack their owners if they feel threatened or if they perceive something as a threat.

This could be as simple as an unfamiliar person trying to pet them or someone entering the house that they don’t recognize.

Again, I can’t stress this enough – It’s important to remember that German Shepherds were originally bred for herding and guarding livestock, so guarding instincts are in their nature.

Another reason why these dogs may attack their owners is due to lack of training and socialization.

If the dog has not been taught how to properly interact with people or other animals, it may become anxious or aggressive in certain situations.

Sometimes medical conditions can also cause aggression in dogs.

Painful conditions like arthritis or dental problems can make dogs irritable and more likely to lash out.

While it’s not common for these dogs to attack their owners without provocation, there have been cases where aggression is caused by genetic factors.

Some breeders may not properly screen potential breeding pairs for aggressive tendencies, which can result in offspring with dangerous temperaments.

It’s important for dog owners to be aware of the signs of aggression in their dogs and take necessary steps to prevent any attacks from occurring.

This includes proper training and socialization from an early age, regular exercise and mental stimulation, and seeking medical attention if any behavioral changes are observed.

While it is rare for a well-trained and socialized German Shepherd to attack its owner without provocation, it’s important for owners to understand the potential causes of aggression so they can take steps to prevent any incidents from occurring.

With proper training and care, these dogs can make excellent companions who will be loyal and protective of their owners.

At What Age Does a German Shepherd Start Guarding?

German shepherds are known for their guarding instincts.

However, the age at which they start developing these instincts varies from one puppy to another.

Some German shepherd puppies may begin displaying guarding behaviors as early as 12 weeks of age, while others may not do so until they are over six months old.

There are several factors that can determine when a German shepherd starts guarding.

Genetics is the most obvious factor, with dogs from working lines typically starting earlier than those from show lines.

The dog’s upbringing and environment also play significant roles in shaping its behavior.

Dogs that receive proper socialization and training from a young age are more likely to develop good behavior patterns than those that don’t.

When a puppy is around six months old, it starts exhibiting more adult-like behaviors.

This period marks the onset of many fear phases where your dog may show some insecurity or nervousness about new situations or people.

It is also the time when most dogs start showing territorial tendencies such as barking at strangers approaching their home.

It’s important to note that not all German shepherds will develop strong guarding instincts, and that’s okay too!

But if you want your dog to be protective, it’s crucial to begin training them at an early age. 

Starting basic obedience training when your puppy is between eight and ten weeks old can help lay the foundation for more advanced training down the line.

There is no set age for when a German shepherd starts guarding, but many dogs start showing signs of protective behavior between three to six months old.

Patience and consistent training from an early age can help shape your dog into an outstanding guardian if you desire this type of behavior in your furry friend.

Are German Shepherds More Aggressive Than Other Dog Breeds?

The aggressiveness of a dog breed cannot be generalized, and German Shepherds are no exception.

While they have a reputation for being protective, their overall temperament depends on various factors.

Proper breeding, early socialization, and consistent training are crucial in shaping a German Shepherd’s behavior.

When raised in a loving and structured environment, German Shepherds can exhibit loyalty and obedience towards their family and may even excel in roles such as service or therapy dogs. 

However, isolated or neglected German Shepherds may display signs of aggression due to fear or insecurity.

Do German Shepherds bite more than other breeds?

It’s a common misconception that these dogs bite more than other breeds.

However, it’s important to note that any breed has the potential to bite if not properly trained and socialized.

These dogs were initially bred for their loyalty, intelligence, and protective instincts which makes them excellent guard dogs.

They are trained to be alert and protect their owners when necessary. However, this does not mean that they are naturally aggressive or prone to biting.

In fact, according to a study conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), German shepherds were ranked 11th on the list of breeds most likely to bite.

The same study found that small breeds such as Chihuahuas and Dachshunds were more likely to bite than larger breeds like German shepherds.

Common German Shepherds’ aggressive behavior

In this section, we’ll explore some of the common aggressive behaviors that German Shepherds display. 

Barking and growling

German Shepherds have a wide range of vocalizations, and each bark can convey a distinct message.

When feeling aggressive, their barks might be deep, fierce, and powerful.

This type of bark is often accompanied by a strong posture, with the head held high, ears erect, and tail up or curled.

It’s their way of letting the perceived threat know that they’re prepared to take action if necessary.

Showing teeth

Showing teeth is a clear indication of a German Shepherd’s intent to intimidate or defend itself. 

It is a visual display of their aggression, signaling their readiness to protect their territory, loved ones, or themselves.

When a German Shepherd bares its teeth, it is a stern warning that they are prepared to escalate the situation if necessary.

It’s important to recognize that when dog shows their teeth, their body language also plays a crucial role in understanding their state of mind.

Their stance tends to be stiff and rigid, with raised hackles (hair standing on end) along their back

These physical changes reinforce their aggressive intentions and can be seen as a clear sign to back off and respect their boundaries.

Lunging and snapping

Lunging and snapping are actions that German Shepherds take when they feel threatened or perceive a potential threat.

It’s crucial to recognize that these behaviors are a strong indication that the dog wants to establish space and protect themselves or their territory.

Therefore, it is essential to handle the situation with caution and prioritize everyone’s safety.

When a German Shepherd lunges, it involves a sudden and forward movement toward the perceived threat.

This action is often accompanied by a low, deep growl and an intense focus on the target. 

The lunging motion can be swift and powerful, as GSDs are naturally agile and strong dogs.

It’s important to note that lunging does not always result in physical contact, but it is a clear sign of their aggressive intent.

Snapping, on the other hand, involves the dog quickly and forcefully snapping its jaws in the direction of the perceived threat.

This action can be quite alarming, as German Shepherds have strong jaws and sharp teeth. 

Snapping is a defensive behavior aimed at deterring the threat and establishing boundaries.

It’s significant to understand that when these dogs are lunging and snapping, their body language is equally important to consider.

Their stance often becomes more alert and tense, with raised hackles along their back, signaling heightened arousal. 

Additionally, their ears might be pinned back, and their tail held rigidly.

These physical signs further demonstrate their aggressive state.

Stiff body posture

A stiff body posture in a German Shepherd is a clear indication of their heightened arousal and readiness to defend themselves or their territory.

This display is meant to convey a serious warning to any potential threat or perceived danger.

It is crucial to pay attention to this body language as it can help determine the dog’s state of mind and intent.

When a dog displays a stiff body posture, their muscles often become tense and rigid.

Their head is typically raised, and their gaze is intense and focused.

Their body becomes stiff and unyielding, indicating their preparedness to react rapidly and forcefully if needed.

In addition to the rigidity of their body, other physical cues should also be considered.

One such cue is the position of their tail.

A German Shepherd exhibiting aggression may hold their tail high and stiff, or it may be held straight out from their body.

These tail positions demonstrate their assertiveness and alertness in the given situation.

Furthermore, their ears may be upright or slightly forward, indicating a state of heightened attentiveness.

This contributes to their ability to quickly perceive any potential threats or changes in their environment.

Together, these physical attributes create a formidable and imposing appearance, intended to discourage any further aggression towards them.

It’s important to recognize that a stiff body posture is not always indicative of aggression. 

German Shepherds may also display this behavior when they are fearful, anxious, or uncertain. 

Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate the overall context and body language of the dog to fully understand their state of mind.

Raised hackles

Raised hackles, also known as piloerection, refers to the hair along a dog’s back becoming visibly raised.

This response in dogs is often associated with heightened arousal or perceived threat, which triggers their aggression.

It is essential to recognize and understand the significance of this physical display.

When GSDs hackles are raised, it is an outward manifestation of its internal emotional state.

The dog’s fur stands on the end along its back, creating a ridge-like appearance.

This response is involuntary and occurs due to the contraction of tiny muscles attached to the hair follicles, causing the fur to elevate.

The raised hackles serve multiple purposes.

Firstly, they make the German Shepherd appear visually larger and more intimidating, potentially deterring adversaries or threats.

This physical transformation aims to establish a clear message: “Back off.”

Secondly, the raised hackles increase their sensitivity to touch and other sensory inputs, further enhancing their ability to assess potential danger.

It’s important to note that raised hackles alone do not necessarily indicate aggression.

Dogs may also exhibit this physiological response when they are fearful, anxious, excited, or even during moments of intense focus.

Therefore, it is crucial to consider the accompanying body language and overall context to accurately interpret the dog’s emotional state.

Circling or herding

Circling or herding in an aggressive German Shepherd can be a display of their natural instinct to control or corral a perceived threat. 

This behavior is rooted in their working breed heritage, as German Shepherds were historically bred for herding livestock.

When they feel threatened or provoked, this innate instinct can manifest in their aggressive response.

During circling or herding behavior, a GSD may move in a circular pattern around the target, attempting to control its movement.

This behavior can be seen as a way for the dog to establish dominance and assert control over the situation.

The intent behind this behavior is often to intimidate and prompt the target to comply with the dog’s perceived authority.

In addition to circling, these dogs may also display herding behavior by using nudges or body blocks to manipulate the target’s movements.

This can involve the dog physically bumping or pushing against the person or animal in an attempt to steer or redirect their actions.

The intention is to regain control and assert dominance through physical manipulation.

It’s important to note that circling or herding behavior in an aggressive German Shepherd is different from their normal herding instincts.

In aggression, this behavior is often driven by a sense of threat or the need to protect their territory or loved ones.

It is essential to differentiate between aggressive herding behavior and proper utilization of their herding instincts in a controlled and non-threatening manner.

How to Stop German Shepherd Aggression

If you have a German Shepherd that is showing signs of aggression, there are several things you can do to stop it.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand why your dog is behaving aggressively.

Identifying the root cause of the aggression can help you take appropriate measures to address it.

That being said – training is an essential part of stopping dog aggression.

This breed requires consistent and ongoing training throughout its lifespan to ensure they behave appropriately.

Enrolling your dog in obedience classes can be beneficial as they will learn basic commands like sit, stay, come, and so on.

A well-trained dog is less likely to exhibit aggression.

Socialization is another critical aspect of stopping German Shepherd aggression.

Dogs that are not properly socialized tend to become fearful and aggressive toward other dogs or people.

You should expose your dog to different situations from an early age so that they get used to being around people, children, other pets, noises, and so on.

It’s also crucial to identify triggers that cause aggression in your dog. 

Once you have identified these triggers, try desensitizing your dog by slowly exposing them to what makes them feel uncomfortable or anxious while giving them positive reinforcement for good behavior.

If training and socialization don’t work in stopping the aggression, seeking professional help from a veterinarian or a certified animal behaviorist may be necessary.

Remember – it’s your responsibility to make sure your pet is happy and heathy.

They can evaluate your dog’s behavior and provide more specific advice based on their experience.

Preventing German Shepherd Aggression

Preventing aggression in GSDs is an important part of training these dogs.

By teaching them how to interact with people and other animals, you can help ensure that they don’t become aggressive in the future.

Here are some tips for preventing aggression in your German Shepherd

1. Socialization

One of the best things you can do to prevent aggression in your German Shepherd is to socialize them from an early age.

This means exposing them to different people, places, and situations so that they become comfortable and confident around others.

2. Positive Reinforcement

Using positive reinforcement techniques – treats, praise, and playtime can help reinforce good behavior and discourage bad behavior in your German Shepherd.

This will help make training a more enjoyable experience for both you and your dog.

3. Consistency

Consistency is key when it comes to preventing aggression in your German Shepherd.

You need to set clear boundaries and expectations for your dog and be consistent with enforcing them.

4. Supervision

It’s best to supervise your German Shepherd at all times, especially when they’re interacting with other animals or people outside of the family unit.

5. Training Classes

Enrolling your German Shepherd in obedience classes or other training programs can help reinforce good behavior while also providing an opportunity for socialization with other dogs. 

While these tips can be helpful for preventing aggression in your German Shepherd, it’s also important to keep in mind that every dog is unique and may require different approaches when it comes to training and socialization.

Always consult with a professional trainer or behaviorist if you’re unsure about how best to train or manage your dog’s behavior.

6. Visit a vet

While it’s not that common, the reason why your dog is misbehaving may be from an underlying health issue.

That’s why it’s always best to visit a vet, even preventively, to make sure everything is okay with your GSD.

Remember – the security of your home is at stake.

By taking a proactive approach towards preventing aggression, you can ensure that your German Shepherd is a happy, healthy member of the family who gets along well with everyone around them!

Frequently Asked Questions

Now lets go over some of the most common questions people have about German Shepherd aggression.

  1. Are German Shepherds on the aggressive list?

    According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), German Shepherds are not listed as an inherently aggressive breed. In fact, the AKC states that German Shepherds can be “aloof towards strangers, but not necessarily aggressive.” 

  2. Is German Shepherd friendly?

    While some may perceive them as intimidating or aggressive, the truth is that German Shepherds can be incredibly friendly and social creatures. In fact, with proper training and socialization, German Shepherds can be excellent family pets and loyal companions.

  3. Are German Shepherd Puppies Aggressive?

    No, German Shepherd puppies are not inherently aggressive. However, like any other breed, their behavior can be influenced by various factors such as socialization, training, and genetics. Proper early socialization and training are essential for raising well-behaved and balanced German Shepherd puppies.


The question of whether or not German Shepherds are aggressive is complex and cannot be answered with a simple yes or no.

While the breed does have a predisposition towards certain types of aggressive behavior, such as guarding and protectiveness, these qualities can be managed and controlled through proper training and socialization.

It is important to remember that each individual dog has its own personality and temperament, regardless of breed.

Some GSDs may be naturally more docile and friendly, while others may require extra attention to prevent aggressive behavior.

If you are considering adopting a German Shepherd, it is important to do your research first.

It’s always best to consult with experts in the breed, such as veterinarians or trainers, to learn more about their needs and tendencies.

Remember, your dog doesn’t have to be sick to visit a vet. It’s always good to make 100% sure so you can keep your home safe.

Consider your own lifestyle and whether you have the time, resources, and commitment required to properly care for a large dog.

Ultimately, with proper training and socialization, GSDs can make excellent companions for individuals or families who are willing to put in the effort.

If you do choose to adopt one of these remarkable dogs, remember that responsible ownership means keeping them safe and happy while respecting their natural instincts.

Thanks for reading this article through and good luck with your GSD.

I have been fortunate to have German Shepherds as my beloved companions for the past decade. I trained , cared for them, and formed an unbreakable bond with each fluffy butt that I came across. Inspired by my profound love for German Shepherds, I decided to start a website dedicated solely to these magnificent dogs
Zara Hawkins

Leave a Comment