The German Shepherd has been known as a proficient working dog, and they have also been regarded as excellent guide dogs. On the other hand, German Shepherds are also incredibly loving, loyal companions. Given these two varying degrees of how German Shepherds can be raised, you might wonder; are German Shepherds territorial?
German Shepherds can act territorial if they feel like they need to protect themselves, their home, or their families. They have those inbred instincts within them that can come to the surface in certain situations. With adequate training, with professional intervention, if required, you can help control those natural instincts for territoriality.
German Shepherds are very intelligent and are well-behaved, picking up commands and training protocols very quickly. That said, implementing proper training and socialization, coupled with understanding how territoriality manifests, is the best way to keep their territorial tendencies at bay.
Are German Shepherds Territorial?
Part of the way German Shepherds were raised was to be able to show aggression when necessary. They still have those instincts within them, but that doesn’t mean they are dangerous dogs. In fact, they will typically only allow those instincts to come through when they are working, as they are specifically trained to be tough and defensive.
It’s also good to note that German Shepherds aren’t prone to acting territorial often as their main form of aggression. Furthermore, German Shepherds won’t usually act out in a negative way unless they feel threatened or provoked. Bringing them to a safe space and keeping their environment free of anyone or anything that may provoke them is ideal to avoid this.
Why Dogs Get Territorial
It’s completely natural for dogs to want to protect their territory. Before dogs became domesticated, they had to be territorial if they wanted to protect their space and their family. Even though they have learned to trust their pet parents to keep them safe, those instincts haven’t been completely forgotten.
Acting aggressively towards property, home, or family can also be a fear response that is triggered by past experiences. If your pup was moved throughout different homes frequently before coming home to you, has been attacked by another animal, or has to compete with another territorial animal, their immediate response might be to become territorial.
Signs Of Territorial Behavior
Recognizing when your German Shepherd is becoming territorial is the only way you’re going to be able to curb the behavior before it gets out of control. One common sign many dog owners will see is their pup barking out of the window when they see someone approaching their home. They may also simply bark at passers-by or people walking their own dogs.
While it’s not common with German Shepherds, some dogs will mark their territory within their home by urinating on someone. This is because they are transferring their scent onto their property, which tells other dogs that it’s their space or their thing.
Chances are, your German Shepherd won’t do this unless there are other animals in the home and they are trying to adjust to the new presence.
Just as your German Shepherd might bark at people coming near your home, they could also do the same when they enter your home. If the person entering your home comes at your German Shepherd too quickly, this could cause them to become aggressive, which is not ideal.
Territorial Behavior And Guarding
As mentioned, German Shepherds might feel prone to protecting your home. This isn’t primarily because they feel territorial, but rather because they want to guard your family and their domain. Their propensity for guarding can be mitigated by implementing a couple of strategies.
One method that has proven successful to help stop this behavior is to make sure you are the first at the door when someone comes over. When your dog runs over to it and barks, gently tell them no, and guide them away from the door to a designated spot, show them a treat, and wait until they come to that spot, sit, and stop barking.
When they obey, give them the treat, tell them to be good, and to stay. Then, answer the door and continue as usual. Do this each time someone comes, and even have a family member help practice by going to the door and knocking or ringing the bell outside.
This will let them know that when someone comes over, you are the one to answer, and you will only let safe people come inside.
Territorial Behavior And Strangers
You don’t have to stop being social with people in your home when you bring over a German Shepherd. For the most part, German Shepherds may not even care when people stop by, as they are happy to have more people to give them pets. If your German Shepherd is wary of others entering your home, it might be because they feel territorial.
A strategy to aid in socializing your German Shepherd with strangers is to start by having them outside, on a leash, and having your friend walk by and toss a treat at them. They will associate that person with good things. Continue this for some time, then see if your pup will take it from their hand.
Once this is successful, let the guest come inside, tossing your dog a treat. They can then try to hand them a treat. Let your German Shepherd sniff out the person, and bring them away if they start to bark or get defensive. Also, let your German Shepherd decide when they want to start letting your guest pet them.
You might not have to do this with every single guest, and you might not have to space this type of training out over a long period of time. See how your German Shepherd responds to this type of training and move up a step when they get comfortable. Just be sure to stay consistent, and go at your dog’s pace.
How To Avoid Territorial Tendencies
German Shepherds, like any dog, still need to be trained. They don’t need to be trained to be protective, or even stand guard. They just need to be trained to behave. There is no need to try and make them guard dogs, especially if you’re not a professional. You want to socialize your German Shepherd so they can understand that not everyone is a threat to their space.
You want to avoid playing into that side of these dogs. They can be hard to handle if you’re not trained to deal with powerful dogs that are in work or defense mode. Additionally, if you try to pull out their territorial behavior in an effort to make them guard dogs, they might not be able to differentiate between who or what you need to be protected from.
Once they learn that you want them to be territorial, it can be really hard to teach them to act the opposite way. Thus, when you implement proper training protocols, you need to stay consistent and not back down.
You should also know that when you are uncomfortable or wary of people, your German Shepherd is going to pick up on that. Even when you train them not to be territorial or aggressive, they will still pick up on your fears and will protect you should there come a time that you need it.
Socialization To Avoid Territorial Behavior
Most dogs need to be socialized starting when they are puppies. The same is true for a German Shepherd in order to avoid them acting out in a territorial manner. You also have to remain calm and patient, so your German Shepherd knows to act the same way.
Your German Shepherd also needs to learn that you are the boss. This can be managed without being rude to your pup. Teaching them that no means they should stop the unwanted behavior in a firm tone that isn’t yelling will show you that you expect them to respect you. Don’t punish when mistakes are made; reward when they do well, instead.
When bringing a German Shepherd somewhere public where they might interact with others, keep them on a leash at all times. It’s also best not to take them somewhere that dogs will roam free either, in case one of those dogs runs up to yours and startles them. The more your German Shepherd is exposed to other animals safely, the more they will realize that they can coexist.
You don’t need to be overly worried that your German Shepherd will create problems for you due to their territorial nature; you just need to be aware that they have the potential to behave in that way if they feel the need to. There are ways to stop any territorial tendencies before they become full-blown habits.
There’s no guarantee what instinctual behaviors your German Shepherd will have developed until you bring them home and get to know them. Are German Shepherds territorial? Sometimes, but they are also sweet, loyal, intelligent, and obedient.