If you’ve got an aggressive german shepherd puppy, then you may be wondering whether it’s normal, what the signs are, the causes, treatments and most importantly whether you should worry or not. In this article, all of that is going to be explained.
So keep reading to find out everything you need to know.
Is Aggression In A German Shepherd Puppy Normal?
The first question that’s worth asking is whether aggression in a german shepherd puppy is normal. And, to be honest, a certain level of aggression is normal during your pup’s growth, and a lot of the time the aggression will only be play aggression.
As well as this, there may be behavioral issues that you have to work through with your dog too. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to follow a good training program!
What Are The Signs Of An Aggressive German Shepherd Puppy?
Here are some of the common signs you may notice in an aggressive german shepherd puppy. If you do notice these signs then it’s important to address the issue. While your pup might not do much harm now, as they get older, they’ll be able to do some serious damage.
And remember, one of these signs alone may not be a sign of an aggressive puppy. The more signs there are the more likely it is that your puppy is aggressive.
Snarling, Growling, & Barking
Any sort of audio signals such as snarling growling and barking can be a sign that your german shepherd is acting aggressively. However, this can also happen when they’re playing. So you should read the situation before jumping to any conclusions.
Be especially careful of deep growling that is prolonged, such as when your pup has a toy they don’t want you to have. This can normally be a sign that worse things are to come.
Biting Or Lunging
Another sign of aggression is biting, or snapping the air to try and bite you, and lunging at you. These are all extremely serious signs of aggression and should not be taken lightly.
However, once again, apart from actually biting down on you, they may not be being aggressive, but too rough during play.
A Stiff Posture
If your pup is dead still as you approach them or try to do something then this is another clear sign of aggression. They will look on edge and like they’re ready to lunge at you the moment you get to close. They may also be snarling and showing you their teeth as well.
Be cautious when you’re approaching a dog that’s acting like this, as it’s a clear warning sign that you should stay away from them.
It Only Occurs During Certain Situations
Lastly, it’s much more likely to be aggression when it only occurs in certain situations. For example, if you get near them while they’re trying to eat, or if you try to take a toy away from them.
Fortunately, with this kind of aggression, once you know the cause, you can normally find a solution to stopping it.
How To Tell If Your German Shepherd Puppy Is Playing Or Being Aggressive
It can also be hard to tell whether your German shepherd is playing or being aggressive. As they’re growing up they may be a little bit rougher than they should be, as well as not understanding social etiquette properly yet.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can differentiate between the types of behavior they’re displaying. Here are some of the things to look for.
When puppies or dogs play, they often bow and wait for you to start playing before they pounce. If you’re not sure what this looks like it’s when they press their chest to the floor and stick their bum in the air.
If you notice this when they’re being “aggressive” then the chances are they just don’t know how rough they’re being. In the early days, they’re not going to have bite inhibition (when they know how hard to bite things), so they may end up biting you too hard.
(Find out how to calm down a german shepherd puppy)
Growling When You’re Playing
Not all growling is bad, some growling is merely play growling. For example, my dogs always growl when they’re playing tug of war, but they’re not doing it in an aggressive way. The way to tell if the growling is aggressive or not is to see what the rest of their body is doing.
If they’re wagging their tail, jumping around, or bowing, then the chances are that they’re not growling in a malicious way.
Nipping And Biting
Fortunately, nipping and biting isn’t always a sign of aggression. It can also be another sign that your german shepherd pup is trying to play.
For example, if your pup is always trying to nip at your ankles or feet when you’re walking, or moving them, they may just be playing. After all, they’re herding dogs, and this instinctively built into them to get their herd to move.
(Find out more about what to do if your german shepherd puppy is biting and nipping.)
What Causes Aggression In German Shepherd Puppies?
To begin teaching your german shepherd pup to stop being aggressive, the first thing you need to do is figure out why they’re being aggressive. There are a lot of different reasons, and each reason may be slightly unique to your pup.
Here are some of the most common causes of aggression in german shepherds.
German shepherd puppy aggression can often be status related (when they’re trying to assert their dominance). As natural-born leaders, it’s in their nature to try and become top dog in any situation.
And as they’re growing, they may challenge you as the top dog. This doesn’t mean that you should respond with punishment or showing them you’re the ‘alpha’. In fact, this can often exacerbate the problem.
Instead, it’s much more effective to reward them for good behavior and train them to listen to your commands in a healthy and positive way.
Often pain can be a cause of aggression, and it’s not really your pups fault. If you’re touching a sensitive area on them, then they’ll instinctively act aggressively to prevent you from doing it anymore.
Normally this could just be growling or snapping, but if you keep hurting them then they may end up biting you.
If you think that your pup is in pain then you should take them to the vets ASAP. They’ll be able to figure out what’s wrong and treat it. A lot of problems can escalate quickly if they’re not dealt with promptly
Sometimes your german shepherd pup may be acting aggressively because they’re scared. The thing they’re scared of maybe completely illogical, or maybe you’ve done something that causes them fear.
And unlike us, they can’t explain what’s scaring them, they can only try to protect themselves when they feel threatened.
You have to remember, that we all have a fight or flight response. And in your house, your pup probably isn’t going to be able to get away from what’s scaring them, so the only thing left to do is fight.
Possessive Aggression/Resource Guarding
Another extremely common reason your pup might be showing aggression is that they’re being possessive or resource guarding. This is most common around their favorite toy, during dinner time, or if you’re giving them a treat.
When one of my dogs was a pup, she used to do it over bones until we trained her. However, while you should always be cautious, extra precautions should be taken with children around a puppy who’s resource guarding.
Unfortunately, children can often try and take things from your dog when they’re showing signs of aggression which could end up with one of them getting bitten.
Aggression could also be predatory in nature. German Shepherds are herders, but also like to hunt prey. If they notice someone moving too quickly (especially children that are screaming), then they may chase them.
On a smaller scale, this also occurs when you move your hands or feet too quickly, and it’s the reason they may nip your ankles or bite your trousers.
While you may think this is cute. Predatory aggression can be dangerous especially as your pup gets older and more powerful. You should never encourage predatory aggression no matter how cute it is, but instead, teach your pup how to behave properly.
While territorial aggression generally happens in older dogs it can still happen in puppies. Territorial aggression is when someone enters what your pup considers their space. It’s normally aimed at a stranger that’s in ‘their’ territory, however, sometimes they may act aggressively towards family as well.
German shepherds are a lot more likely to show signs of territorial aggression than other breeds, after all, they are commonly used as guard dogs.
While hormonal aggression is a lot more common in male german shepherd pups, it can still occur in females.
During adolescence, male german shepherds are going to have high amounts of testosterone in their body, as you can probably guess this is going to increase their chances of being aggressive.
One way you can lower the chance of aggression is by neutering your pup. However, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Neutering them does increase the chance of them suffering from certain diseases while reducing the chances of them suffering from others.
If you want to know more then check out this article about neutering your german shepherd!
Sometimes aggression can start when you have more than one dog in your home. If your puppy thinks there’s a rivalry then they may act aggressive to gain more of your attention. This is more common when you buy more than one dog at a time (ideally, you should wait two years between dogs)
Leash aggression only occurs when your pup is on the leash, and it’s because they feel restricted. Once again this comes down to their fight or flight. Unable to flee from perceived danger, the only thing they have left to do is fight.
This can show by growling or barking every time they see something they don’t like, or by them turning their aggression to the leash itself.
If your german shepherd is a puppy, then at some point they’re going to start teething. So if you notice them biting a lot more, don’t assume it’s aggression right away, as they could just be trying to find relief for their teeth.
However, during teething, they could be a little bit more cranky which means they’re more likely to snap.
Genetics And Temperament
Sometimes, just like with people, some german shepherds are just more aggressive than others. This can actually be more common in german shepherds who are often bred to retain some aggressive traits as a necessity, and it’s one of the reasons it’s even more important to be training your pup properly.
Lastly, certain diseases and neurological conditions could be causing your german shepherd pup to be aggressive. However, the chances of this are happening are quite small. And as always if you’re not sure why your german shepherd is being aggressive, then it’s always best to take them to the vets to see if they can help you figure out the issue.
How Do You Stop German Shepherd Puppy Aggression?
Fortunately, if you want to stop your german shepherd puppies aggression then there are plenty of different methods you can try. Remember, you should pick the method depending on what’s causing the aggression in the first place though. Otherwise, you may not get the best results.
Here are some of the best ways to stop your pup’s aggression!
Speak To Your Vet
The first thing you should do when your german shepherd pup is acting aggressive is to consult with your vet. They’ll be able to find out if there’s any underlying reasons that are causing the aggression as well as giving you the best advice on how to stop it.
If your pup is in pain or has other issues, then they’re also going to be able to spot this and recommend treatment.
Train Them Properly
One of the best things you can do, not just to stop aggression, but to raise a happy obedient pup is to train them. Training doesn’t have to be grueling. In fact, if you have the right training program it’s going to be fun for both you and your pup!
The training program I highly recommend has to be Brain Training For Dogs! It’s based on positive reinforcement instead of punishment, so your dog will enjoy it as much as you!
You can check out a full review here.
Praise Them When They’re Good
It’s easy to shout or punish your puppy when they’re doing something wrong. But how often do you praise them when they’re doing something good?
If your puppy is sitting patiently, playing nicely by themselves, or just generally remaining calm, give them lots of praise and affection. Over time they’ll begin to associate their calm behavior with positive feelings, and they’ll want to be calm more often!
Give Them Lots Of Exercise
German shepherds are naturally energetic, so you need to make sure that you’re giving your puppy enough exercise.
If you’re not sure how long you should walk your german shepherd puppy for then there’s a simple rule. For every month old they are, take them out for 5 minutes. So if they’re 4 months old take them out for an hour.
When you can’t walk your puppy, then make sure you’re spending lots of time playing with them to tire them out. If they’re not getting tired out, then bad behavior like aggression is much more likely to occur.
Give Them Mental Stimulation
As well as exercising them, they’re also going to need mental stimulation. This is another reason that it’s so important to train them. However, mental stimulation doesn’t just have to come from training.
I use a KONG with my dogs and they absolutely love it. You just fill it up with food and your pup will spend hours of their day trying to get the food back out.
If your puppy is being aggressive after they’ve played, then it can be a good idea to distract them to get them to stop. For example, every time my dog was a little bit aggressive, I’d ask her to go and find me a toy.
Dogs can only do one thing at a time, so by giving her a task, I was stopping her from wanting to act aggressively. It’s a simple tactic, but it can be highly effective.
As well as distracting them, another great tactic is to interrupt them. The best way to interrupt them is to do something that startles them which will immediately get them to stop.
For example, I clap my hands really loud and say “Ah”. However, some people also have success rattling a can full of coins. Any noise will do, it just has to be sudden and sharp.
Oftentimes this interruption is enough to stop aggressive behavior in puppies.
One of the most important things you can do for any dog is to socialize them. And the earlier you can socialize them the better. When you socialize them with other dogs, they’ll learn the right and wrong way to act.
And this is also true with everything else. The more stimulus they’re exposed to as they’re growing, the more equipped they’ll be to handle it.
You can read this article to find out more about socialising your german shepherd puppy.
Put Them In Time Out
Another very effective method is to put your dog in time out when they’re acting too aggressive. Next time, they do something you don’t like, just take them into another room and close the door. Leave them for 5-10 minutes and let them back in.
After doing this, they’ll soon learn that aggression doesn’t give them a reward, in fact it does the opposite, they stop having fun.
Once the time is up, let them back in with you. If they’re quiet and sit down instead of being aggressive, then give them lots of praise.
Remember, this isn’t punishment, you can let them have toys to play with so they can calm down.
Lastly, you can also just ignore them or walk away when they’re being aggressive. However, once again this only works with play aggression. This is one of the ways their litter would let them know they’ve taken the play too far. And you can do the same.
Next time they’re aggressive, just get up and walk away from them. Don’t give them any attention for a minute. If you give them attention and they start acting aggressive again, once again, just ignore them.
Doing this let’s them know what will reward them and what won’t and they’ll begin to act accordingly.
What Should You Avoid Doing?
Here are a few of the things you’re definitely going to want to avoid doing. In fact, if you do any of the things below, then you’re only going to make the problem much worse. Which is something you definitely don’t want with german shepherds.
Don’t Hit Them
You should never under any cirumstances hit your german shepherd. When you do this you’re going to make the problem so much worse. Even if the behavior stops initially, they’re going to lose trust in you and maybe even fear you.
This fear and mistrust can grow inside them and cause all sorts of negative emotions. If you hit your dog you may only end up amplifying their aggression in the long run.
Don’t Use Spray/Shock Collars
Another common method people use to try and train their dogs are spray or shock collars. However, the results you get from these are often questionable. And above all, they’re not nice for your pup either. Remember, positive reinforcement is better than punishment.
Don’t Shout At Them
It can be very easy to shout at your dog when you’re trying to get them to stop doing something. However, dogs will reciprocate your emotions. If you’re shouting and screaming, then they’re going to get amped up as well.
They may end up barking and growling or becoming more excitable.
Avoid Dangerous Situations
And most importantly, don’t put your german shepherd puppy in any situations that could end up dangerous. If you know they’re not well behaved at certain times then don’t put them in a position where they could snap
You should speak to a vet or professional behaviourist, who will help you work through the issues first.
Don’t Play Rough Games
You should also avoid rough housing with your pup and playing tug of war with them etc. While it’s a lot of fun, it’s only going to make them feel that being aggressive is okay. For the meanwhile you should stop playing these games with your pup until they act appropriately.
Now you know all the reasons that your german shepherd pup may be acting aggressively. While most of the time it may just be over-excitability as a puppy, there are times when aggression is more serious.
The most important thing you can do is speak to a vet or pet behaviourist to help sort out the issues.
And remember, there are a lot of reasons that can cause aggression in german shepherds, but also a lot of solutions!
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