Are german shepherds aggressive to humans? After all, they’re big dogs, so you can imagine the damage they’d cause if they every bit someone.
In this article, you’re going to find out when german shepherds can be aggressive to humans, why it happens, and most importantly, the best ways to stop it.
So Are German Shepherds Aggressive To Humans?
There are times german shepherds will be aggressive to humans, but this mainly depends on the dog and the circumstances. There are also some german shepherds that will never act aggressively towards people too.
So whether your german shepherd is going to be aggressive or not all depends on the individual.
Luckily, there are ways you can train aggression towards people out of a german shepherd. But, even if you do train it out of them, you’ll always need to remain cautious.
Aggression is often a sign that your dog is in a situation they don’t like. So even if they’re not showing aggression anymore, it doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling uncomfortable.
What Causes Aggression Towards Humans In German Shepherds?
If you’re trying to stop aggressive behavior towards humans, you should first try and figure out what’s causing it.
Luckily, you don’t have to try and figure it out yourself. Here are the most common reasons aggression may occur towards humans.
Not Enough Exercise
This is more of an indirect reason, however, if your german shepherd isn’t getting enough exercise, then the chances of them being aggressive are going to increase.
German shepherds are active dogs and they should be getting at least an hour of exercise every day. If they’re not getting enough exercise, they’re likely to become agitated, frustrated and of course aggressive.
If you can’t take them for a walk, make sure that you’re playing with them, and remember the importance of letting them off the leash.
It’s also important to make sure your german shepherd gets lots of time outside as well. They’re not meant to be cooped up inside all day.
They’re Becoming Territorial
Another common reason german shepherds become aggressive towards people is for territorial reasons.
In a lot of cases, they’re going to see their house, garden, streets they walk on, and even you as territory.
Territorial aggression is more common in german shepherds as they’re naturally used as guard dogs and herding dogs.
They’re Overly Protective
As well as being territorial they could be overly protective. Being a herding dog, it’s in their genes to be protective of their herd. If you haven’t trained them properly, they may begin to think of you and your family as their herd. (Find out all the pros and cons of keeping a german shepherd.)
Any stranger that approaches you will be seen as a threat they’ll need to scare off.
This can also happen when your german shepherd has puppies. At this point, she may even see you as a threat and act aggressively to keep you away.
When They Feel Like They’re Being Dominated
Once again this goes back to the fact they’re used to being in charge as herding dogs. In a german shepherds head, they are the leader, so if they feel like you’re in charge they’re not going to like it.
You may think that the best course of action, in this case, is to prove you’re the alpha through force. When actually, in most cases, the best choice is to use positive reinforcement to train your german shepherd.
Another common reason for aggression towards people is when they’re bored. This is similar to when they’re not being exercised enough.
If there’s no stimulus in the house for them such as toys then they’re going to become extremely bored.
And if they’re bored they’ll quickly become agitated, stressed and frustrated which can cause them to become aggressive.
So this aggression is most likely due to the fact they want attention from you or stimulus.
They may also be resource guarding. When they have a toy or food they don’t want anyone else to have, they can act extremely aggressive to stop people from getting it.
If you notice your german shepherd growling at your family when they try to take something from them, then the chances are they’re resource guarding.
They’re Scared Or Fearful
Another common reason for aggression towards humans is when they’re scared. If they’ve been in a situation before where they’ve been hurt, then they may act aggressively to avoid it again.
The reason for the aggression or what they’re scared of may not make sense to you, however, to them it does.
This can be even more common in german shepherds that have been rescued. In a lot of cases, they may have experienced negative situations that have stuck with them.
This sort of aggression can also appear more defensive as well. In a lot of cases, there will be subtle signs that they’re scared that slowly build up and build up.
For example, they may lower their heads and be wary of you before growling or barking.
If you do notice that they’re scared, make sure you figure out how to calm them down.
They Haven’t Been Socialised Properly
Socializing dogs is an extremely important part of their upbringing. If they haven’t been socialized then they won’t know how to react around new people OR new dogs.
If your german shepherd is still young, this is the best time to introduce them to lots of new people. The more they’re socialized as puppies, the less likely it is they will be aggressive to people as they get older.
Have you ever noticed that your german shepherd is fine meeting people when they’re off the leash, however, when they’re on a leash they’ll act aggressively.
This is called leash reactivity and it’s common in all dogs. When you keep your german shepherd on a leash, you’re making them act in a way that isn’t normal.
For example, when a dog greets another dog or person, in the wild, they’d approach from the side. However, when they’re kept on a leash they have no choice but to approach head-on. To them, this is very aggressive.
Because they feel like they’re in an aggressive position, their body language will change to match it, and this is when they’ll become aggressive on their leash.
It’s also the reason why you’ll notice them being the friendliest dog in the world when they’re not on their leash.
They’re Restricted In Other Ways
It’s not just when they’re on their leash they can feel restricted. If your german shepherd can see something but can’t get to it, then they’re going to feel restricted again. A prime example of this is when they look out of the window.
This restriction is going to cause them to act aggressively as they’re going to be getting more and more frustrated.
This can also show itself in overexcitable dogs as well.
They’re In Pain
Another reason german shepherds can show aggression is when they’re in pain. If your german shepherd’s aggression seems out of character, then you should check them over to see if they’re hurt.
Normally, if they are, they’ll only act aggressively when you’re near the area that hurts. If you do notice some sort of injury or you think they’re ill, then make sure you take them to the vets as soon as you can.
There’s also an increased chance of aggression from german shepherds that come from puppy mills. Because they haven’t been socialized properly, they’re more likely to act aggressively towards other people and animals.
It’s also far more likely that temperament and behavior haven’t been taking into consideration by these breeders. Instead, they’re just trying to sell as many puppies as they can, as fast as possible.
As well as this, there’s a much higher chance they’ve been mistreated so they’re more likely to have an instilled fear of people in them.
In some circumstances, aggression towards german shepherds is simply because of their genetics. Just like some people are naturally more aggressive to others, the same can be true with dogs.
Lastly, they may act aggressively in a predatory way. If there’s a child in the house that’s running around screaming, then it’s going to spark their predatory nature.
When this happens they can act extremely aggressively towards the child, and in some cases, they may even bite them.
How Can You Stop Aggression Towards People In Your German Shepherd?
If your germans shepherd is showing aggressive behavior towards people, then you need to control it as soon as possible. Before reading any further, the first thing you should do is consult a vet or a dog behavior expert to make sure nothing is wrong.
Once you’ve done that, however, here are some great ways to stop a german shepherd being aggressive to humans.
See A Vet
Oftentimes, seeing a vet is going to be the best thing you can do for a german shepherd. If the aggression is being caused by something, then your vet is going to be able to find out what it is.
Remember, pain can often bring about aggression in dogs, but it doesn’t end there. Some conditions of the brain can also cause aggression as well.
Consult A Professional
If your vet can’t do anything, then your next step is to consult a professional. They’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what’s causing your german shepherds aggression, and how to train them effectively.
You can normally find professionals by searching online or consulting with your vet.
After seeing a professional, the next best thing you can do is find a suitable training program to get for them. There are so many to choose from, however, I’d have to recommend Brain Training For Dogs.
It’s a training program that uses positive reinforcement to instill good behavior in your german shepherd! In fact, more and more people are finding that positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment when they’re training their dog.
This is perfect for german shepherds that are only showing small signs of aggression, and when vets and professionals don’t think it’s anything serious.
Socialize Them Early
If your german shepherd is still a puppy, now is the perfect time to socialize them. The more socialized they are, the less likely they are to be aggressive later on.
German shepherds are naturally dominant dogs, so if you don’t teach them early on not to be dominant, they’ll often end up being aggressive.
When you’re introducing them to new people, make sure you’re doing it in a positive way. The more positive experiences they have early on, the less likely they are to be aggressive.
(Find out more about socializing your german shepherd.)
Plan For Situations
If you know your german shepherd is going to be aggressive when you first get started you’re going to need to plan for situations.
If they’re aggressive around children, you should keep them separated by closing a door or using a stairgate.
When they get aggressive around strangers entering your home, you could try keeping them on a leash when you’re training them.
Whatever, your plan, just make sure you’ve thought through situations.
And lastly, remember, in extreme cases of aggression, especially around children, you may have to consider rehoming them.
(What to do when your german shepherd is growling at your family.)
Although it’s a last resort, you may want to consider medication. Medication can help to keep your german shepherd calm and lessen his aggressive tendencies.
If you’re going to use medication, make sure you talk to your vet first, they’ll be able to give you a range of different choices as well as talking you through your options.
Normally medication is a temporary solution. If your german shepherd is being aggressive due to fear, it will calm them down enough for you to train them.
What If Your German Shepherd Has Already Bitten Someone?
If your german shepherd has already bitten someone then that’s a serious cause for concern. At this point, you’re going to need to seek the advice of a vet IMMEDIATELY.
An aggressive german shepherd can be extremely dangerous, and if they’ve bitten once, there’s always the increased risk that they’ll bite again.
So before doing anything else make sure you talk to your vet.
In the meantime, you should make sure you keep all guests away from your german shepherd. If it’s you he’s bitten you should try to stay calm around them, and keep them calm until you’ve been to a vet.
If necessary, keep your distance from them until this is done.
Can You Ever Cure An Aggressive German Shepherd?
If your german shepherd is aggressive, there’s never going to be a complete cure. Training them is going to help you manage the situation, however, there’s always going to be the risk of aggression.
After all, just like humans, dogs have a range of complex emotions. The only difference is, they’re not able to express emotions like we are.
Fortunately, though, aggression can normally be managed, and your vet will be able to help you manage it.
What Should You Avoid Doing?
Here are some of the things you’re definitely going to want to avoid doing if your german shepherd is being aggressive towards people.
If you do any of these, then chances are you’re going to make the problem a lot worse, and the aggression could turn to biting.
Avoid Hitting Them
You should never hit your dog, or hurt them in any way. When you punish your german shepherd in this way, you’re not going to teach them to stop. You’re only going to teach them to mistrust you and fear you.
If they were only mildly aggressive before, hitting them will likely cause them to become much more aggressive and potentially cause them to bite someone.
Don’t Use Shock/Spray Collars
When disciplining dogs, some people recommend using shock collars or spray collars. However, a lot of the time they aren’t effective.
And not only are they not effective, but sometimes they can confuse your german shepherd. Your dog may connect the spray with behavior different from the one you’re punishing them for.
Try Not To Encourage The Behavior
You may think that you would never encourage aggressive behavior. However, some people do it without realizing. If your dog is acting aggressively you may give them a biscuit to calm them down and make them more approachable.
However, by doing this you’re encouraging the behavior, and they’ll begin to learn that when they act aggressively they end up getting rewarded.
As you can see, there’s a lot to take in here, and treating aggression in german shepherds isn’t easy. If you notice aggression you should always consult your vet or a behavior specialist.
Here are a few of the main points you should remember.
- Your german shepherd may become aggressive if they’re not getting enough exercise, they’re territorial, they’re overly protective, they feel like they’re being dominated, they’re bored, they’re resource guarding, they’re scared, they haven’t been socialized properly, they’re leash reactive, they’re restricted, they’re in pain, they’ve had their predatory aggression triggered, they were raised in a puppy mill, and because of genetics.
- The best way to stop aggression in german shepherds is to talk to a vet and behavioral therapist. If they’ve given you the all-clear you can use a training program such as Brain Training For Dogs.
- As well as this you should socialize them early, plan for situations, and consider medication as a last resort.
- If someone has been bitten, make sure you keep your german shepherd away from people until you’ve seen a vet.
- Aggression can never be cured, however, it can be managed
- You should avoid hitting, using a spray collar and rewarding aggression.
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