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As a breed that is perhaps most well known for their work in the police force and the military, German Shepherds have a reputation for being strong and intimidating animals. They are not naturally aggressive or dangerous dogs, but are German Shepherds protective?
As with many herding breeds, German Shepherds have a strong protective instinct – they are very loyal animals that will put their lives on the line for the people that they love. With training, they make for very effective guard dogs and service animals, but their inherent defensive nature is likely to be present even with no training at all.
This article will go into detail about where German Shepherds’ instinct to protect comes from, what you should expect and look out for when it comes to defensive behavior, and more important information that will help you to understand why the GSD is possibly the most famous protective breed in the world.
Why Are German Shepherds Protective?
There are many inherent traits and characteristics in dog breeds that can make them more likely to defend and protect others, and they usually result from their breeding background. German Shepherds are part of a category of dog breeds known as the Herding Group because they were originally bred to guard and herd animals like sheep.
To work effectively as sheepdogs, these breeds needed to be able to obey commands readily and reliably, analyze potential dangers, and even fight off threats if they were to appear. There are many different herding dogs, but the German Shepherd, in particular, was developed for its energy, intelligence, and loyalty. These are dogs that can not only recognize threatening situations but respond to them wisely.
Other sheepdogs, like collies, may be highly inclined to herd and control animals but less likely to fight off an attacker or a dangerous animal. German Shepherds rarely run out of energy and their size and stamina mean they are a force to be reckoned with when you are on the wrong side of them.
What Makes German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs?
If you are looking for a dog that will make your home feel safer and more protected, a German Shepherd is going to be a very good choice. It is no coincidence that many “Beware of the Dog” signs use their likeness. There are many reasons why GSDs are such good guard dogs.
- They Can Recognise Threats. German Shepherds are very good at identifying when something potentially dangerous may be about to occur and they will let their presence be known to intruders.
- They Can Be Intimidating. Even though they are sweet-natured and loving most of the time, GSDs are big dogs, and they can be intimidating when they want to be.
- They Are Loyal. German Shepherds form very strong bonds with their families, and they will do anything they can to make sure that the people they love are safe.
- They Are Very Trainable. Because they are intelligent and responsive, good training goes a long way with German Shepherds so you can make sure that their protective nature is expressed in a safe and healthy way.
- They Are Very Energetic. GSDs don’t tire easily, and they always have the energy to respond to potential danger.
Are German Shepherds Protective Without Training?
GSDs become very loyal to their owners very quickly, and their desire to protect will generally be present with or without training. In many ways, this means that effective training is even more important because protective behaviors can be unsafe for your dog or others if they manifest in the wrong ways.
For any dog to work safely and effectively as a guard animal, they need to be properly trained and socialized, and they need to feel secure and loved. A German Shepherd will likely defend you with its life, which is a big responsibility. Using an animal solely as a threat or as some kind of weapon is not only highly unethical and inhumane but incredibly dangerous.
How Do German Shepherds Protect Their Owners?
A well-trained and properly socialized German Shepherd will use their size and their voice to warn others, and will only show physical aggression if it is absolutely necessary. GSDs will growl or bark and get into a defensive stance if they notice threatening behavior or become aware of the presence of an intruder.
If a German Shepherd is poorly trained and their protective nature is improperly encouraged, they can become more hostile too readily. They may snap at strangers, lunge forwards when they are on their leash, or even bite people who get too close.
The ability of a German Shepherd to physically ward off a threat is part of what makes them great protectors, but it shouldn’t be a common response. If they feel a sense of security and trust with their owners, you will hopefully never have to see your German Shepherd use their physical strength.
Is the Protective Nature of German Shepherds Easy to Train?
German Shepherds are famously one of the easiest dog breeds to train effectively, and they love to learn. They are ranked as the 3rd smartest breed of dog in the world for obedience and working intelligence, and a small amount of patience with your instruction will go a long way.
GSDs take to commands readily and they are very emotionally intelligent, so they are very responsive to their owners’ needs. You often need to be careful not to become complacent when you’re training a German Shepherd because they can almost make the process too easy for you!
What You Should Do During Training
- Positive reinforcement. All effective training is centered around positive reinforcement. Praise treats, and rewards will tell your dog that they are doing the right thing, which is important in normal moments throughout the day as well as when they are responding to commands.
- Remain consistent. If you want to make sure that your GSD understands healthy protective behavior and what behavior may be dangerous, you need to be consistent with what you are rewarding and encouraging. German Shepherds are always learning from your responses, so you need to stay clear in what lessons you are teaching.
- Socialization. To make sure that your GSD doesn’t feel threatened in the presence of other dogs and people, you need to safely introduce them to new people and animals from an early age.
- Develop independence. GSDs need to know that they can feel safe on their own and that they don’t need to be constantly by your side. Try not to smother your dog or they may develop a dependence on you that can manifest in anxiety and overprotectiveness.
What You Should Not Do During Training
- Physical punishment. Physical punishment is not only immoral, but it is also ineffective. Your dog should respect and love you, not be frightened of you. They will often interpret punishment as an attack out of unwarranted anger, so it will just teach them that you can be irrational and dangerous.
- Encourage aggression. If your behavior is aggressive and threatening, your dog will respond in the same way. German Shepherds are naturally level-headed and rational animals, which is the kind of behavior that you should encourage by exhibiting it yourself.
- Encourage barking. It is easy to accidentally teach an intelligent dog the wrong lessons by responding too quickly to certain behaviors. If you rush to your GSD every time they make noise, they are likely to think of it as the right thing to do in many different situations.
Are German Shepherds Dangerous Dogs?
By their nature, GSDs are naturally even-tempered, compassionate, and intelligent. Anyone who has owned one will tell you that they are lovers, not fighters. They spend the vast majority of their time wanting affection and cuddles, and they are not quick to anger.
When they want to protect and defend themselves or their owners, however, German Shepherds can be physically intimidating, but that does not mean that they are dangerous. All dogs should be well socialized, effectively trained, and raised with love to make sure that they are not a risk to themselves or others.
It could be said that there are no such things as dangerous dogs, only dangerous owners. A German Shepherd can be aggressive and cause harm if they are not raised properly, but this is also true of almost any animal. GSDs are, however, larger and more physically powerful than many other breeds so irresponsibility can be a big risk.
The Verdict: Are German Shepherds Protective?
So, are German Shepherds protective? The answer is yes – very much so! This is a beneficial and healthy trait that derives from their intelligence, loyalty, and desire to defend others. GSDs make for great guard dogs and loving members of the family, that will put their lives on the line for the people that they love.
This protective nature is also a big responsibility for an owner. To keep your dog safe, and the people and animals that they interact with, you need to make sure that they are not encouraged to be aggressive or feel overly threatened.
German Shepherds are wonderful dogs that are incredibly rewarding to raise. You can feel very safe with your GSD by your side, but make sure that they feel safe by yours as well.