We hear a lot about aggression in dogs and one of the breeds that often gets mentioned is the German Shepherd. It’s important to note that aggression in the German Shepherd is not breed specific – it is not a typical characteristic of the German Shepherd and is more likely related to poor training, lack of socialization and not dealing with the dominant personality of the German Shepherd. If you notice any signs of aggression in your dog, it is important to address them as soon as you can. Prolonged unaddressed aggression can become scary, out of control and dangerous.
The German Shepherd breed is an intelligent, athletic, and strong breed. This is why they are used as police dogs, bomb detection, guard dogs, therapy dogs and family pets. This is a strong breed both physically and mentally. The problems start when owners do not recognize these characteristics and they land up with a mixed up, aggressive German Shepherd.
Did you know German Shepherd aggression can start when your puppy is only 6 weeks old? This is a very important time for your puppy as he learns to socialize with other dogs. They learn during this time skills that stop them from biting humans. This period lasts until they are 14 weeks old. This is one of the key reasons why your puppy should never be taken away from the litter before it is 8 weeks old.
You should never use any harsh forms of discipline on a puppy between 8 to 10 weeks of age. Of course, harsh discipline is never recommended but it is even more unforgiving at this young age. Harsh punishment of your dog, including yelling, can lead to your German Shepherd becoming aggressive over time. This applies to all breeds not just the German Shepherd.
There are a number of factors that can trigger German Shepherd aggression:
- Lack of socialization – By 14 weeks a German Shepherd puppy should be socialized around people to avoid aggression later. Continue with regular socialization around other dogs and people.
- Heredity and genetics can definitely play a role so always check bloodlines before you make your purchase.
- Not being spayed or neutered can increase aggression.
- Poor living conditions.
- A harsh or mean master
- Being attacked or scared by another dog can cause aggression at any age.
- The need to establish pack order leads to biting, nipping, growling, and aggressive behaviors.
- Establishing dominance when the pack leader is weak.
Once your German Shepherd has reached sexual maturity (14 months) any signs of aggression need to be immediately addressed. The very first thing you need to do is ensure you are seen as pack leader by your dog. From young, you should have been working at establishing yourself as pack leader, but it is never too late, so start now if you believe that is an issue.
You should never reward for aggressive behavior even when you think that your dog is scared. Petting your dog, telling them it’s okay those are rewards and you need to stop. If your German Shepherd tends to strike out in fear then you need to address those fear issues and begin to desensitize your dog. You should keep your dog away from young children who they can see as a threat.
It is important that you begin to work with your German Shepherd the minute you see signs of aggression, using firm correction. If you are unsure how to proceed then hire a dog expert to help you. The sooner you correct the behavior the sooner you can relax.