Reasons German Shepherds Attack Small Dogs (Ways To Stop It)

Has your German Shepherd attacked a small dog? Maybe another one of your dogs, or a dog that they saw outside. If so, you’ve found the right article. In this article, not only will you find out the reasons why German Shepherds attack smaller dogs, but you’ll also learn what to do if it happens again, and most importantly, how to stop it!

What Should You Do If Your German Shepherd Attacks A Smaller Dog?

If your German shepherd attacks a small dog again, according to the PDSA, you should do the following:

  • Maintain your composure. If you become irritated, your dog may become more concerned.
  • From a safe distance, distract your dog. Avoid establishing direct eye contact or yelling at your dog, since this might make them more aggressive. If you can, call them away or use their favourite toy to divert their attention. If you have a leash or a big coat, you can use it to distract your dog long enough for the other dog to flee (by throwing it over them), and then you can bring them under control. Hopefully, the owner of the other dog will try to get their dog out of the situation as well.
  • Leash them when you can. When you do this, be cautious since they may still be highly aroused, and you don’t want to get bitten. It’s possible that a slip lead is safer (you can make one with a normal lead by putting the end of the lead through the handle to make a loop). If you can’t get a lead on their collar or over their head, try slipping a slip lead under their stomach, right in front of their rear legs. Maintain your composure and move them somewhere where they won’t be able to see the other dog and can relax.

What Are The Common Signs Your German Shepherd Is About To Attack?

Fortunately, if you learn your German Shepherd’s body language, it will help you spot behavior that could show they’re about to attack again. Some common behavior to look for include:

  • The body becomes stiff
  • Pulling on their lead toward another dog
  • Showing their teeth and snarling
  • Growling
  • A focused stare on their target.
  • Raised shackles on their back.

Why Did Your German Shepherd Attack A Smaller Dog?

If your German shepherd attacked a smaller dog, then you may be asking yourself why it happened in the first place.

Poor Socialization

If your German shepherd was never socialized properly, then this may be the reason they attacked another dog. Without interacting with other dogs as they grow, they may find it hard to read other dogs’ body language. Meaning they don’t know what’s a threat or not and how to act appropriately.

Strong Prey Drive

There’s a reason German Shepherds make such good police dogs and guard dogs. And that’s because they have an exceptionally high prey drive. If they see something moving the way a prey animal would (such as a small dog), it could trigger their prey drive.


Perhaps your German Shepherd attacked the smaller dog because they were being territorial. If they felt like the smaller dog was a threat to their territory, you or them, then they may have attacked to protect what they thought was theirs.

Not Enough Exercise/Boredom

If you’ve kept your German Shepherd cooped up all day, then they may be extremely bored or energetic. Over time, this can turn to frustration which they’ll take out on other dogs. Remember, German shepherds are incredibly active breeds, so you need to make sure they’re getting at least 2 hours of exercise a day.

They Became Too Excited

When German Shepherds play, they can become extremely excited and highly aroused. When this happens, harmful playing can suddenly set off their prey drive, especially if a smaller dog triggers it.

On the other hand, if the other dog becomes too excited, then your German Shepherd may have lashed out to get them to calm down.

Health Problems

If your German shepherd is normally kind and peaceful but suddenly lashes out, then it could be a health problem that hasn’t been diagnosed yet. For example, if your German Shepherd is in pain, or they feel sick, they’ll be a lot quicker to snap in a bid to defend themselves.


Lastly, your German Shepherd may have attacked in an attempt to assert dominance over the other dog. You may also notice that your German Shepherd was displaying other dominant behaviors before the attack, such as becoming unresponsive to you and trying to put themselves in a higher position.

Border Collie, German Shepherd and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever walking in autumn park

How To Prevent Your German Shepherd Attacking Small Dogs Again

Depending on the severity of the attack, there are things you can do to prevent your German shepherd from attacking again. Such as:

Seeking Advice From A Vet

If your German shepherd has already attacked and you have successfully removed them from the situation, the first thing you should do is seek the advice of a veterinarian or a professional. They’ll be able to provide you with sound advice on what to do next based on your German Shepherd’s particular circumstances.

Create Positive Associations

You may also use small dogs to form positive connections in your German Shepherd’s mind. To achieve this, start with little rewards and work your way up. Start by praising them for not responding aggressively when they see a dog. Then when approaching a dog without being hostile, then going past a dog, and so on. Over time you’ll start to build a permanent positive association with your German Shepherd.

Desensitization Training

Desensitization training is another excellent option. To achieve this, let your German Shepherd view other dogs from a distance, but not close enough for them to attack, and reward them when they behave appropriately. Once they’ve become used to it, gradually move the dog closer and closer until they’re comfortable around other dogs.

A Decent Training Program

Training your German shepherd is another excellent alternative, regardless of whether or not they’re attacking another dog. Positive reinforcement is one of the best methods since it rewards good behavior rather than penalizing poor behavior, which is more successful and strengthens your relationship with your dog.

Muzzle Them

Unfortunately, sometimes for the safety of your dog and the dogs around them, the best thing you can do is muzzle them. You can pick muzzles pretty cheap off Amazon. Just make sure you’re not leaving them on your German Shepherd for too many hours in the day.

How To Prevent A German Shepherd Attacking A Small Dog In Your House?

You may be wondering what you should do if you own a small dog, and you’re scared your German Shepherd is going to attack them. Fortunately, as well as the points listed above, you can also try the following.

Always Feed Them Separately

If your German shepherd is known to resource guard, the worst thing you can do is feed them with a smaller dog. When it comes to dinner time, make sure you’re keeping your German Shepherd and other pups completely separated.

Always Supervise Their Play

You should also make sure you’re always supervising their playtime. Don’t leave them with toys as the German Shepherd may get possessive and try to take a toy by force.

Make Sure You’re Giving Them Both Enough Attention

Small dogs are cute, but you want to make sure you’re not starving your German Shepherd of attention. When your dogs are around, make sure you’re paying them both an equal amount of attention.

Separate Them If You Have To

Lastly, you may need to separate them permanently if you have to. You use stairgates to keep them separate from each other or keep them in separate rooms where the aggression will be unable to continue.

What Should You Avoid Doing?

As well as all the things listed above that can make sure your German Shepherd doesn’t attack another dog, there are also some things you definitely want to avoid doing as well.

Never Hit Them

You should never under any circumstances hit your dog unless it’s absolutely vital. If you do, not only are you going to build resentment in them towards you, but if they’re attacking another dog, they may end up turning and attacking you instead.

Don’t Shout Or Make Eye Contact

If you’re shouting or making direct eye contact with your golden retriever, you may end up stirring them into more of a frenzy and make the situation a lot worse. Instead, try to distract them as best you can.

Don’t Let Them Off The Leash In Unfamiliar Places

If your German shepherd has previously attacked another dog, only allow them off the leash in places you are familiar with. And even then, you should keep them muzzled just in case.

You’ll always know where your dog is if you need to recall them.

Don’t Become Complacent

You should constantly be aware of and on the lookout for other dogs so that you can quickly recall your golden retriever if something goes wrong. This is beneficial in two ways, as it reduces the likelihood of an unknown dog approaching your golden retriever and vice versa.

Can German Shepherds Get Along With Small Dogs?

Generally speaking, it’s entirely possible for German Shepherds to get along with small dogs, especially if they’ve been socialized properly. However, when you are choosing which dogs to pair them with, you don’t want a dog that’s extremely excitable to active such as Jack Russells or fox Terriers, as they may end up triggering a German Shepherd’s prey drive.

Want To Train Your German Shepherd With Peace Of Mind?

If you haven’t trained your dog properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether it’s barking at night or other bad behaviors, 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, that 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 be able to trust your dog completely and never worry whether they’ll be naughty or not. 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!)


As you can see, just because your German Shepherd attacked a smaller dog doesn’t mean you need to give up on them just yet. If you stay responsible as an owner, you can make sure the same occurrence doesn’t happen again. And remember, the moment your German Shepherd attacks another dog, you should take them straight to the vet to find out what the best course of action is for their particular situation.

If you liked this article, make sure you check out the rest of the website. Otherwise, have a great day!