German Shepherd Growling At Family – Best Guide On What To Do

If your German shepherd is growling at your family, then there’s definitely cause to be concerned. While growling and other forms of aggression are some of the most common behavioral problems in all dogs, it’s a lot more dangerous in german shepherds.

After all, would you rather be bitten by a chihuahua or a german shepherd?

So, keep reading to find out why your german shepherd is growling at your family! As well as the necessary steps and precautions you’ll need to take.

Why Is Your German Shepherd Growling At Your Family?

There is a range of different reasons that can cause your german shepherd to growl at your family. And while some of the reasons may only exist in your dog’s mind, to them it’s still very serious.

So before you can figure out ways to reduce the chances of growling at your family, you’ll need to uncover the reason behind growling.

Some of the most common reasons are listed below.

They Weren’t Socialised Properly

One common reason for growling not just at family members, but people, in general, is when a dog hasn’t been socialized properly. When they haven’t been socialized properly, then they may not realize how to act around people.

After all, in the wild growling is a perfectly natural response to certain stimuli, but it doesn’t fit in the home.

Find out more about socializing your german shepherd.)

Past Traumas

Another reason that is especially common is past traumas. The family member your german shepherd is growling at could be reminding them of someone abusive in their past.

Maybe it’s the height, the clothes they wear, or a certain hairstyle. Whatever it is, it could be causing fear which then triggers aggression.

When I first got my rescue dog she used to growl at men who were bald and men who wore shorts. Over time, she lost her fear of them, but every once in a while she’ll still growl.

Problems With Body Handling

Once again if your german shepherd has past traumas or hasn’t been socialised they may growl at body handling. Perhaps you have a child who’s being too rough, and they have no other way of letting them know.

Resource Guarding

Resource guarding occurs when someone tries to take something from your german shepherd. And it could be anything, such as their dinner, a toy or a treat.

Whatever it is, the moment they think it’s about to be taken they’ll begin to growl. And it doesn’t have to be anything they need either. It can be something completely useless, like a shoe.

If your german shepherd is resource guarding, it’s because they feel like they NEED whatever their hoarding for their survival. It’s a very primal urge but you should never make them feel bad for it, as it’s normal behavior.

Location Guarding

Similar to resource guarding your german shepherd may also be location guarding. If they growl at someone when you try to move them from a certain place, then this is most likely what it is.

Whether it’s the sofa, their dog bed or an area near their food, if they are location guarding you should avoid moving them and tell family members to stay away until the problem has been fixed.

Location guarding can often result in bites if it’s not handled properly.

They’re Asleep

Sometimes your german shepherd may begin to growl when they’re woken up. This can often be due to fear, and being disoriented. Maybe one of your family members has a habit of jolting them awake when they’re trying to sleep which could result in growling.

They’re Having Fun

Growling isn’t all bad. Sometimes your german shepherd may be growling at a family member when they’re having fun. If you notice the growling only happens when they’re playing tug of war or something similar then you probably have nothing to worry about.

This kind of behavior is perfectly natural. However, if you are worried it’s always best to speak to a vet or dog behaviorist.

Sick Or In Pain

Lastly, your german shepherd may be sick or in pain. When they’re this state they’re more likely to end up growling as a means to protect themselves from any harm imagined or real.


Other Symptoms Of Aggression

If your dog is growling then there are often other symptoms associated with the aggressive behavior. You should also look for the following:

  • Snarling
  • Rigidness
  • Lunging
  • Averting Their Eyes
  • Barking
  • Baring Their Teeth
  • Nipping
  • Biting And Shaking
  • Biting And Tearing Skin
  • Quick Repeated Bites
  • Mouthing

If any of these symptoms occur then you have serious aggression on your hands.

If your german shepherd bites in anyway then you need to seek professional help immediately as it can quickly become dangerous and even fatal.

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The Two Things You Should Do Before Training

If your german shepherd is growling at your family, then you’ll need to do whatever you can to get it to stop. The two most important things to do are:

Consult A Vet

If your German shepherd is growling at members of your family then you should talk to your vet as soon as possible. The growling may be being caused by a physical injury as well as a whole range of medical issues.

Senior german shepherds may also become a little bit senile which could cause aggression, confusion, and disorientation resulting in aggression.

You should also make sure any medication your german shepherd is on isn’t causing the growling. If you notice the growling starting after you started administering medication then this may be the cause.

Find A Professional Dog Behavior Expert

If your vet says it’s definitely just a behavior issue and nothing else the next step is to consult a behavior expert. Behavior experts will come up with a plan tailored to your german shepherd. If you don’t have the right plan then you could end up making things worse.

Experts can also help you decide whether your german shepherd is too dangerous to be allowed around people as well when it may be time to get them euthanized (although, this is rare if it’s just growling).

How To Stop A German Shepherd Growling At Your Family

Now that you’ve gotten the most important parts out of the way, you’ll learn some of the most common ways to stop a german shepherd from growling at your family. Remember, you should only train them when you’ve consulted your vet or a dog behavior expert.

Counter Conditioning

Counter conditioning works by changing negative ideas in your german shepherds head into positives. So situations when they begin to growl, will be turned into situations they enjoy so much they won’t want to growl anymore.

Depending on the situation in there’ll be different ways to counter condition your german shepherd. For example, if your German shepherd growls at a family member, then you’ll need to get them to slowly spend more time with each other.

Keep your German shepherd on a leash and keep them away from the person, and make sure no matter what, the person doesn’t react. Keep doing this every day and over time your german shepherd will become more accustomed to them!

Or if your dog is growling at someone who’s trying to take their food, you can try getting that person to add more food to their bowl when they’re eating. This shows the dog that when they let them close, they get rewarded. However, if they growl then don’t reward them.

You may need to think of your own methods for counter conditioning depending on the problem your german shepherd has!

Remove Triggers In The Beginning

If your german shepherd is growling and seems like they may snap (especially around children), you should try removing any triggers that could be causing this behavior.

For example, if they growl when people go near their dog bowl, then remove the dog bowl any time they aren’t eating.

This may sound counterproductive, but in the early days, it’s the best way to avoid unnecessary injury.


Sadly, just like humans, dogs can have anxiety and other problems. The anxiety can often result in growling, aggression, etc. If you think your dog’s aggression is being caused by anxiety then one solution is medication.

Medication is going to help keep your dog nice and calm. Not only is this safer for any family members you have, but your dog will also feel happier.

Change The Environment

Have you tried changing the environment around your dog? If your german shepherd is only growling at one member of your family, then perhaps they’re making them anxious.

Perhaps the family member your dog growls at appears aggressive or frightens them. Or maybe, there’s not enough stability and routine in your german shepherd’s life and they’re acting out!

By giving them routine and thinking about your actions, it could stop your german shepherd from growling.

What To Do When A German Shepherd Is Growling At A Child

If your german shepherd is growling at a child you need to get the child away from them ASAP. While you may think they won’t bite, you can never be certain with any animal, and there’s no point in risking it.

It’s not uncommon that your german shepherd will growl at a child because children often act in ways that can frighten them.

For example, hugging them, grabbing them, running at them and screeching are scary to some dogs. And unfortunately, children love to do it.

If you notice your child doing it then you should teach them more suitable ways to interact with your dog. Most dog bites are normally to children, and in most cases, they can be prevented by educating a child on how to interact with a dog properly.

While teaching your children how to act is important, it’s also important to teach your german shepherd how to act.

Teaching them to “come” or “go to bed” can be used effectively. “Come” can get your dog to come to you so you can keep an eye on the children. And “go to bed” can be used to get your german shepherd to move out of your child’s vicinity. (however, any place away from your children will work.)

And lastly, if you notice your german shepherd growling at a child you should make sure they’re cordoned off so they can’t come into contact with each other. And if your german shepherd does growl, don’t punish them. They’re only showing they’re not comfortable with the situation and it needs to stop quickly.

How Do You Prevent Further Aggression From Your German Shepherd?

While growling in itself is scary, it’s normally a warning sign. If your german shepherd is growling you need to act quickly before the aggression escalates. To prevent anything more sinister happening do the following.

  • The first thing you should do if you know your german shepherd growls is to find out their triggers. When you know what’s triggering them to be aggressive you should avoid it happening again.
  • In the beginning, it might also be a good idea to keep them in a muzzle. While it’s not the best for them, it will keep your family safe. Remember, muzzling your dog is a temporary solution until you can modify their behavior.

What Should You Never Do?

While there are lots of great things you can do when your german shepherd is growling at family, there are also some things that you should definitely avoid. If you do any of the following, not only are you not going to help the situation, but you could make it worse.

Never Hit Them

You should never hit a dog anyway, but under these circumstances, it could be even worse. Your dog is growling because they feel threatened. If you hit them, then you’re only going to reinforce their fear. And the chances of them snapping are a lot more likely.

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Don’t Show Them You’re The ‘Alpha Dog’

Another common mistake people make is they think they need to show their dog that they’re the alpha. The only problem is dogs rarely growl and snap for dominance and status. In most cases, they’re doing it because they feel uncomfortable. By intimidating them you’re only going to make them feel more uncomfortable and anxious.

Avoid Shock Collars

Some people also think it’s a good idea to use shock collars, or other collars designed to inhibit bad behavior. However, in most cases, they don’t work and can even make things worse.

For example, your german shepherd may associate the shock with something completely different. So they’ll stop doing a behavior that’s good and a negative behavior could be reinforced.

Will Your German Shepherd Ever Be Cured Of Growling

While you may be able to teach your german shepherd to stop growling, there’s always going to be a level of inherent aggression you should be wary of.

No matter how much you love your dog, you should never trust them 100%, and always have a level of caution when they’re around a family member who makes them growl.

That being said, you can teach them to exhibit their feelings of aggression, anxiety, and fear in a better way, and in a lot of cases, the issue can stop completely.

So it all depends on the individual.

Best Training For German Shepherds

If you haven’t trained your german shepherd properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether they’re growling at your family, you, or even barking and biting, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally not have to worry about leaving your dog around your family. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them, will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT. 

And the best part is it also has a 60-day money-back guarantee! So there’s no reason not to give Brain Training For Dogs a try!

So if you’re tired of your dog’s bad behavior, or how they react around other people and pooches, then give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

(You can also check out a full review here, to learn exactly what the course has to offer!)


A german shepherd growling at members of your family can be scary. However, in a lot of cases, it won’t go any further than that. With that being said, you should always take caution and start training them immediately. If not, something worse could happen.

Here are some of the main points to remember:

  • Your german shepherd may be growling at family members due to poor socialization, past traumas, problems with body handling, resource guarding, location guarding, because they’re sick, because they’re having fun, or because they’ve been startled.
  • As well as growling they may exhibit other symptoms of aggression.
  • Before trying to train your german shepherd make sure you consult a vet and find a dog behavior expert.
  • Some great methods to stop a german shepherd growling at your family include counter conditioning, removing triggers, medications, and changing the environment.
  • If your german shepherd is growling at a child make sure you remove the child from danger immediately. Also, begin teaching your children how to act properly with your dog.
  • Make sure you never hit your german shepherd, use a shock collar or try to show them you’re the alpha.
  • While german shepherds can’t ever have their aggression cured, you can reduce the chances of growling and violent behavior.
  • If you haven’t already you should check out Brain Training For Dogs. It’s a great way to train your dog out of all of their behavioral issues!

If you liked this article or have anymore questions make sure you leave them in the comments below! Otherwise, have a great day!

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