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Are German Shepherds Stubborn?

Are German Shepherds Stubborn?

German Shepherds have a reputation for being stubborn. Their high intelligence and independent nature can sometimes lead them into conflicts with their owners, causing behaviors that are interpreted as ‘stubbornness’.

German Shepherds are inclined to be stubborn if not properly trained or if they feel strongly about something, but a German Shepherd is more inclined to work with you than be stubborn if they’ve developed strong bonds and been properly socialized and trained.

This article explores answers to the question ‘Are German Shepherds Stubborn?’, reasons they can be stubborn, and ways to deal with any stubborn behaviors that occur.

Are German Shepherds Stubborn?

There are a number of reasons that German Shepherds display signs of stubbornness. Most of them relate back to the fact that German Shepherds are highly intelligent and independent dogs, though sometimes inconsistent or improper training methods can contribute to the problem.

Personality Reasons for Stubbornness

Personality can be part of the reason for stubbornness or misbehavior.  Some of the reasons for stubbornness include:

Intelligence: German Shepherds are smart. They were originally bred as working dogs and herding dogs. They often respond to the instincts of their breeding and are intelligent enough to challenge an owner if they feel strongly enough about the matter.

Independence: German Shepherds are extremely independent. Like cats and extremely independent people, they don’t like being told what to do.

That’s not to say they won’t obey commands. They just need a lot of training and the right approach to convince them to do so.

Protectiveness: German Shepherds are both loyal and highly protective. Sometimes, that protective streak can get the better of them. Protectiveness can turn into aggression, or the appearance of aggression if it isn’t properly channeled and controlled.

Confidence and Bonding Issues: Sometimes, a German Shepherd can have issues during its puppy years that influence it later in life. Overprotective owners, improper treatment, or even a sibling relationship with another dog, can make them more inclined to stubbornness.

Overprotective owners can incline a German Shepherd to laziness, whereas neglectful or harsh owners can make them unwilling to act for fear of punishment.

A German Shepherd with a sibling, or a sibling relationship with another dog, may not form strong bonds with the humans in their family, which may make them stubborn or anxious. The strong bonds they form with a sibling dog may keep them from responding properly to a human companion.

Training Issues That May Influence Stubbornness

If a German Shepherd’s training isn’t handled properly, they may become stubborn and unwilling to behave. If you’re working with a German Shepherd, watch out for these things, and avoid them if possible.

Unclear Expectations: German Shepherds prefer to have clear boundaries and expectations laid out for them. If the rules aren’t clear or change frequently, your German Shepherd may refuse to listen. If they aren’t regularly enforced, or enforced properly, your German Shepherd may start being stubborn.

Delayed Training: The temperament of a German Shepherd lends itself to forming strong opinions, so the earlier you start training, the more receptive your German Shepherd will be to learning the boundaries you want to lay down for them.

If possible, start their training when they’re puppies. If you start training them at an older age, then you want to remember that it may take longer to encourage them around to your way of thinking.

Inconsistent Training: Even if you start young and have clear expectations if you don’t keep up a routine, your German Shepherd may become stubborn and uncooperative. 

German Shepherds like a consistent pattern of behavior, so if you don’t work with them regularly, they may be reluctant to work with you.

Rough Training or Negative Enforcement: German Shepherds, as a rule, don’t do well with negative enforcement. Training them through punishment for misbehaviors is less likely to get good results, and may result in stubborn refusal to obey.

German Shepherds also don’t tend to like rough treatment. A heavy hand will make them either stubborn or unhappy.

Not Enough Exercise, Interaction, or Stimulation: German Shepherds are active and energetic dogs. They like plenty of social interactions, especially with their owners.

A German Shepherd who isn’t getting enough attention or playtime may act out and become stubborn. If your German Shepherd is acting stubborn, they may just want to spend more time with you, or need more exercise and mental stimulation.

What Are Stubborn Behaviors German Shepherds Exhibit?

Some stubborn behaviors are obvious. Refusal to obey orders or shutting down and refusing to show any signs of attention are both signs of a stubborn German Shepherd.

Other behaviors may come across as misbehaviors, when they’re actually signs of stubbornness and acting out. These behaviors include:

  • Barking obsessively, or at all hours
  • Jumping at people, or showing signs of aggression
  • Chewing on things inside the house
  • Going to the bathroom in inappropriate places, such as in the house

All of these may be signs that your German Shepherd is feeling stubborn and needs some attention or encouragement.

If these are signs of stubbornness or unhappiness – which is likely – then you’ll need to approach it the right way to coax them out of their stubborn mindset.

How Do I Deal With A Stubborn German Shepherd?

If your German Shepherd is showing signs of stubbornness, there are a few techniques you can apply to coax them out of their determined mindset. Given their independent and intelligent personalities, you’ll want to try persuasion, rather than forceful techniques.

The best method is to start teaching them when they’re young. When that’s not possible, experts recommend the following tips for coaxing a stubborn German Shepherd to loosen up.

Make Sure You GIve Firm, Clear Commands:

German Shepherds may be stubborn and independent, but they’re also intelligent. As long as you’re giving them clear direction, they’re generally able to pick it up.

Being firm, but not overly stern or critical, lets them know you’re serious.

Over time, as their connection with you grows, they’re more likely to listen and follow your commands if they’re given in clear, firm terms.

Be Consistent: Consistency is key. Try to maintain a routine with your German Shepherd.

Stubbornness can manifest when there’s not enough structure in your German Shepherd’s life. German Shepherds were bred as working dogs who followed certain patterns of behavior.

Maintaining a general pattern of routines, with regular mealtimes, playtimes, and training will help coax your German Shepherd into being less stubborn, as they get used to the patterns and routines of their life with you.

Use Positive Reinforcement: German Shepherds thrive with positive reinforcement training techniques. They don’t react well to scolding or punishments, which tend to make them dig in their heels.

Give them plenty of praise when they behave well, or when they follow commands. Reward good behavior with treats or extra attention.

German Shepherds do best in a positive, encouraging environment.

Mix The Training Techniques: Because German Shepherds are intelligent dogs, they can get bored. They do like routine, but within that routine, they like some variation.

Incorporate different techniques or commands in your training process and routine. For example, you might work on obedience training, but spend one-day doing commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ and another working on tricks.

If you’re not sure about different training techniques or you’re looking for ideas, talk with a professional. Ask for advice from someone experienced for things they would recommend for motivating your German Shepherd to be more cooperative.

Make Sure They Get Plenty of Exercise and Entertainment: German Shepherds are active and energetic dogs. They were bred for working and herding, and the energy and instincts remain, even in the most sedate of family life.

German Shepherds get bored without plenty of stimulation. They need plenty of physical exercise and mental engagement.

Toys they can interact with are a good idea. So is plenty of time outdoors and playing.

German Shepherds need plenty of space. They may be less stubborn and more responsive if they have a yard to play and run around in.

If you don’t have a big yard, then taking them on long walks or to a park where they can burn their excess energy is a good idea.

Give Them Plenty of Attention: German Shepherds tend to bond strongly with their humans. If they’re feeling like they aren’t getting enough attention, they may react by being stubborn and unresponsive.

If your German Shepherd seems to be getting stubborn or disobedient, try giving them some extra attention and affection to see if they’re feeling neglected.

More bonding time is always beneficial, especially with a German Shepherd.

Are All German Shepherds Inclined to Be Stubborn?

German Shepherds, like any other breed, vary in individual temperament. Some may be incredibly strong-willed and independent, whereas some may be more calm and sociable.

A German Shepherd that’s been well-socialized and trained from a young age is far less likely to be stubborn. Early influences can be the difference between a stubborn dog and a quieter one.

German Shepherds, especially ones raised in a family home, can be very stubborn if it involves protecting the members of their family. They can also be very patient with members of their family, especially younger children.

When you’re wondering ‘Are German Shepherds Stubborn’, you need to consider the environment and the factors involved.