Are German Shepherds Aggressive – A Full Breakdown!

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“Let’s go, Sam!”

The titular character Robert Neville played convincingly by Will Smith, assertively calls over his German Shepherd Sam in the 2007 film “I am Legend”. As the setting sun heralds the threat of the Darkseekers’ arrival, Robert finds himself unable to walk after suffering from a snare trap. He drags himself towards his vehicle but his canine barks and poises herself ready against a group of infected dogs.

Helpless and without a weapon, Robert is inches away from his vehicle when the dogs attack. Sam aggressively engages one of them as Robert manages to secure his weapon to defend himself. A stressful scuffle ensues that sees Sam seemingly overcome. As Robert struggles to fend off his enemy, it would appear he is down to his final moments. As his enemy is about ready to deliver a lethal bite, Sam pounces on the enemy. Though bruised, battered, and with almost nothing left, Sam saved Robert and gave him an opening to grab his pistol and shoot the infected dead.

Sam is an accurate depiction of what German Shepherds are. These are aggressive canines but for good reasons. Loyal to a fault, German shepherds will defend and protect their masters in the face of a significant threat. This breed makes for wonderful pets because of their loyal, courageous, and intelligent nature.

However, many people tend to mistakenly focus on the negative and perceive aggression as something harmful. On the contrary, all the strengths of a German shepherd can be cultivated to produce one of the most valuable pet dogs you will have the privilege of ever owning.

Here we’ll be detailing some important information and considerations to answer your questions “Are German shepherds aggressive?”. By the end of this article, you’ll be well-informed as to what this wonderful canine has to offer.

Origins Of The German Shepherd

Many attribute the notion that German shepherds are aggressive dogs due to their ubiquitous use as police dogs. However, that was not their original purpose.

As their names suggest, German shepherds were originally bred as sheepdogs. In the 18th century, a German cavalry officer by the name of Captain Max von Stephanitz set out to breed the quintessential herding dog. After much efforts across many years, the final product was the Deutsche Shäferhund, or German Shepherd on common Western terms.

With a strong physicality, formidable intelligence, and easy trainability, these dogs functioned well as herding dogs for flocks of animals. In Germany, they were frequently used to herd sheep and became effective protective dogs against would-be predators.

By the time the wars came around, the armies looked to the German shepherds for their potential utility in the battlefield. Due to their high trainability, the German Shepherd was used for various tasks during the wars. They were brought along during patrol runs to smell out wounded soldiers or enemies. They were used as messenger dogs to take messages across distances.

At the end of the wars, many Americans had stumbled upon the German Shepherds and were astounded by their great utility. This prompted them to bring these dogs to the west which paved the way for its rise in prominence over the next several years.

German Shepherd Key Characteristics

The German Shepherd is the second most popular dog in America today and for good reason. These are robustly athletic canines. They are physical specimens in and of themselves compared to other breeds.

These characteristics lend themselves well for physical-intensive activities such as seek and chase tasks or even for functioning as guard dogs. That’s why they are commonly referred to as working dogs.

This physical characteristic is frequently coupled to its propensity for aggressive behavior. German shepherds can be territorial and dominant. Channeled correctly, this positions them as great guard dogs or protection dogs for the well-meaning trainer.

These dogs can be easily trained. German shepherd dogs are a trainer’s delight due to their intelligence and easy trainability. Owing to these characteristics, this dog has been trained for use in various settings to excellent results.

Are German shepherds aggressive to humans?

There’s no denying the aggressive nature of German shepherds. But, with proper training and behavior modifications, their aggression can be channeled in a way that is safe and desirable for their use as pets.

Due to their loyal natures, German shepherds are strongly attached to their guardians or masters. The key for potential owners is to start them early.

It is important to establish and assert your authority over these dogs. This type of dog tends to adhere to pack hierarchy, meaning they submit the alpha of the pack. As the owner, you need to make sure to establish yourself as the alpha. Successfully doing this is the key to overcoming their aggressive behaviors.

With a confident and assertive approach, you are in a good position to guide and direct the training of your dog. Its aggression can be focused on other things in order to take the threat away from you or other humans within the vicinity of the dog.

What age does a German shepherd become aggressive?

Because it’s in their nature, this dog will start showing its aggression early on its life cycle. Eight weeks of age is a critical time when the german shepherds start to develop this behavior. Any well-meaning pet owner or trainer will want to keep the puppy with his mother and siblings up until this point in time.

This crucial time period is the perfect opportunity for breeders or potential owners to cultivate a more calm and collected demeanor in german shepherd pups. Before separating them from their family, its important to dedicate those early together as it creates a sense of security in the pup. Frequent interactions with other pups of same age help train bite inhibition among growing German shepherd pups. This works dividends towards taming aggressive behaviors compared to pups that are taken away earlier from their litter.

The importance of feeling safe as a pup also contributes to moderating the aggressive tendencies of pups. Pups who grow in a harsh and punitive environment are more likely to present with aggressive behavior later on. In this regard, dog aggression is a characteristic dependent as much on nurture as it is on nature. Owners need to adopt and patient and understanding approach with growing German shepherds until they come to maturity for more stringent training techniques.

Overall, a large part of aggressive behavior in German shepherds depends upon the environment they are in and the treatment of their early owners. Ensuring that the dog is nurtured with its family as a pup and that its early owners treat it with patience and understanding, it’s aggressive behaviors will less likely be a problem when it matures.

Why do German shepherds attack their owners?

So it’s no surprise then that when proper rearing and nurturing techniques have been thrown out the window in raising German Shepherd pups, these dogs grow to become aggressive. This is not the dog’s fault and it rests solely on the treatment rendered by owners early on.

There can be many reasons why the dog may display aggressive behaviors to their owners. A lot of it centers around the dog having to deal with stressful or negative situations. Let’s look at the different situations in which this can happen.

Firstly, a dog may respond aggressively to its owner out of fear. In the face on an abusive owner, a German Shepherd can act aggressively in an attempt to protect itself. With the loss of a trusting relationship with its owner, this dog may revert to aggression for fear of being placed in a situation where he is left behind or neglected. With the threat of experiencing that again, a dog may respond aggressively in order to avoid it.

Secondly, the German shepherd may act aggressively through barking at or biting their owners in an attempt to establish dominance. As previously mentioned, their dominant natures coupled with the pack hierarchy tendencies position them as confident dogs. This is the reason why owners need to establish themselves early on as the “alpha” of the dog. If your authority is left unchecked, a dog may growl, bark, or bite to prove that they are in authority over you.

Thirdly, aggression may come out of a lack of socialization. It’s important to expose the dog to other dogs and humans in order to cultivate a level of sociability within the pet. The ability to adapt to change is cultivated in a more exposed dog over a dog who’s kept from meeting other dogs or persons. This may result in excessive aggression toward others which the dog perceives as threats. It can backfire on the owner to his own harm.

Are German shepherds a good family dog?

It’s very clear that the aggression of German shepherds stems from poor training and rearing techniques. All things considered, the German shepherd shines as a great example of a loyal, alert, and friendly dog to well-meaning owners and guardians. That makes them a good option for a family dog.

German shepherds adjust well into a healthy family unit. This is especially true for families that engage in frequent lively activities as the German shepherd can and will participate to its enjoyment as well. It is, after all, essential for the overall health of the dog to engage in strenuous physical activities on a regular basis.

In that regard, you will want for nothing in terms of activities with your very own German Shepherd. Whether it’s running, swimming, or hiking, this dog will keep up with you. Its strong physicality and abundant energies will more than suffice for any activity you throw its way.

What makes these dogs more endearing is their ability for fierce loyalty to their owners or family. They are considered one of the most loyal breeds so make sure you take care of them. If properly cared for, they will develop a great respect for their owners and will strive to protect them at all costs. Like Sam from I am Legend, a loyal German shepherd will dedicate themselves to your utmost safety and protection in their expression of love and loyalty for you.

Once it’s been with your family for a significant time, you’ll start to realize how friendly companions they are. Frequently, people are concerned about the safety around German Shepherd’s relationship with children. Provided a German Shepherd is raised properly, you will find they can be calm and kind around children and serve as perfect companions. They will even be such reliable protectors should the need arise.

General Tips for Training your German Shepherd

The trick to keeping a German Shepherd from being aggressive is intentional training. Owners must understand that it’s the little things that we take for granted that matter to the healthy upbringing of this dog.

Here are just a few tips to consider to make sure your dog is calm and collected and not likely to become aggressive:

  • Establish yourself as the pack leader. Become assertive early on in order to reliably keep the dog in check.
  • Provide ample opportunities to socialize. Whether it is with other dogs or humans, introducing a constantly changing environment teaches the dog to adapt and keeps the aggressive nature in check.
  • Walk your dog daily or have it engage in high-intensity physical activity. With its abundant energy levels, German shepherds need a healthy outlet for all of that instead of it channeled towards aggression. With enough exercise, you’ll be improving your dog’s overall health.
  • Encourage mentally stimulating activities. Challenge the intelligence of your dog through puzzle toys and dog scent games every other day. This provides a different focus to temper its aggressive tendencies.


Suffice to say, German Shepherds, are astounding dogs for anyone looking for a loyal, reliable, and courageous pet. With the proper perspective and approach, a German Shepherd’s aggression is an invaluable strength in its nature. He just might be the ideal pet for that added warmth, comfort, and security in your home.