On the subject of high-maintenance dogs, the German Shepherd might not be among the first breeds…
The GSD’s size, stance, and drive can make them seem incredibly intimidating. Their roles in security and law enforcement further make them look frightening to people who don’t have a lot of experience with them. But in actuality, are German Shepherds friendly?
So, Are German Shepherds Friendly?
German Shepherds can be friendly, and in fact, they generally are. Nevertheless, the demeanor of GSDs differs between each individual dog.
Although their pedigree has plenty to do with their personality, the friendliness of German Shepherds is mostly the result of proper upbringing and socialization.
Are German Shepherds Friendly to Strangers?
German Shepherds can be friendly to strangers as long as they are taught to be. Ideally, they would be socialized as puppies to be around people and animals other than those they live with. That way, they don’t develop any fears or guardedness around new people and pets as they grow older.
Nevertheless, their protective nature can sometimes make them more wary of strangers than other non-working breeds. They will also be ready to protect you, your home, or your family from any stranger they might perceive as a threat.
Normally, the place where the stranger is encountered will dictate how friendly your German Shepherd will be. Usually they will be friendlier away from their home. Their home is their terrority, so they are more likely to be protective if a stranger shows up on the doorstep.
Why German Shepherds May Not Be Friendly
Like any other dog breed, individual German Shepherds can be aloof or could even become aggressive. It is not necessarily in their nature to be unfriendly, but certain factors can enable them to develop certain unfriendly behaviors. This generally happens because of the following:
They need proper socialization
Fear is one of the most common reasons for dogs to become ill-mannered. Like other breeds, GSDs can develop fears and anxieties about things they aren’t familiar with, so it’s essential to give them a wide variety of experiences while they’re still young and their size and power hasn’t yet grown to be menacing.
For a well-rounded and well-mannered dog, expose them to different places, people, and animals as early as you can. That way, they become comfortable in different situations and learn early on that there’s nothing to fear.
They’re naturally protective and territorial
GSDs tend to have a protective instinct that makes them defensive of their home and family members. If they perceive something or someone as a threat, their tendency is to do what they can to drive it away.
Although many people see this as a positive trait, your dog still needs to be trained on how to control that instinct. Otherwise, the lack of control over their protective instincts might lead to trouble in certain situations.
They’re stressed or fearful
GSDs can develop fear from many things, but it usually stems from either past experiences or a lack of confidence.
When poorly socialized, dogs don’t have enough confidence to take new things in stride. They tend to feel scared or stressed enough that they forget their manners or act strangely in an attempt to cope with their anxiety.
They’ve gone through some bad experiences
Abuse and similarly awful experiences can make dogs become wary of humans or certain situations. Depending on what they’ve gone through, they might lash out and display some unfriendly behaviors when they feel scared.
Some German Shepherds can even become aggressive because of these experiences. GSDs who have been through bad experiences aren’t always hopeless, many times they can be trained to become well-mannered companions, but they will require the leadership of an experienced handler and tons of patience.
They don’t feel well
German Shepherds don’t typically complain of their aches and pains, but feeling unwell can affect their personality. It’s not unheard of for humans to discover that their dog is ill only after an untoward incident or observing some strange behavior.
If your dog is not normally unfriendly but starts to become unsociable or even hostile, the first step is always to have them checked by a veterinarian. There’s a good chance they’re acting out because of some underlying pain or discomfort.
Their personality just isn’t friendly
Just like humans, dogs have individual personalities. Although many GSDs are gentle and sweet-natured, others are naturally aloof or even unfriendly.
Not everything can be trained and honed, and some people just have to accept that their GSDs aren’t as friendly as others’. As long as their unfriendliness doesn’t pose a threat to you or others, you can chalk it up to their unique personality and accept them as they are.
If you are selecting a German Shepherd puppy you can usually tell how friendly the pup is by the way they interact with you, look for things like coming up to you immediately without hesitation, licking you, and wanting to play.
How to Help Your German Shepherd to Be More Friendly
Despite the influence of genes and ancestry, most German Shepherds aren’t unfriendly by nature. Here are some things you can do to encourage the development of a good personality and proper manners:
Start young with socialization
Exposing your German Shepherd to as many people and places as you can while they’re still young, grows a confident dog that is less likely to lash out due to fear of strange experiences.
This also gives you a chance to correct unwanted behaviors when necessary and doing so while they’re young helps them develop good manners at an early age.
Even if you get your GSD as an adult, you can still socialize them. Just know that you might need to take things more slowly and possibly get some guidance from an experienced trainer.
Give them proper training
As mentioned above, training is a huge part of how your German Shepherd develops over time. Teaching your German Shepherd at least basic obedience commands not only helps develop their manners but also helps them become more confident over time.
Consequently, confident dogs are more self-assured and less anxious, so they’re generally friendlier then unconfident dogs.
Provide a structured routine
Since they’re working dogs, German Shepherds develop their best behaviors when they have structure. Try to develop a routine that will help them know what to expect and how to behave at all times.
Be consistent with your cues and try to give them a job. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, just something that will let them use their natural canine abilities. Generally, mental exercises work should work very well.
Offer firm but rewarding leadership
German Shepherds are smart, strong-willed dogs, and they will quickly learn what you will let them get away with and take advantage. Most German Shepherds need someone who is firm and consistent in training so they aren’t confused about what is expected of them.
GSD’s are looking for someone to take the lead! If you don’t take the lead, trust me, your dog will!
Additionally, as you train your dog and spend time together, your dog will learn to trust you and believe that you have everything under control. So, if they do become fearful or anxious, they’ll turn to you for protection and leadership rather than lash out.
German Shepherds can be one of the friendliest, most sweet-natured dogs you can have. They can be open to having strangers around but still be able to protect you from a threatening presence.