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German Shepherds are one of the preferred breeds for guarding flocks, property, and people. In most cases, they are trained extensively for these roles. However, many people wonder are German Shepherds protective naturally or do they need to be trained to bring out their protective side.
This article will take a deep dive into a German Shepherd’s protective nature and how you can tell if your German Shepherd is likely to protect you if needed.
Are German Shepherds Protective?
Yes, German Shepherds are known for their protective instincts. However, the lengths to which they will go to defend their homes and protect their families will depend on the personality of each individual dog, how they’ve been raised, and the strength of the bond they have developed.
Will My German Shepherd Protect Me Without Training?
Any German Shepherd you have developed a bond with will likely be protective over you even if they have not received any specialized training to do so.
Whether they are working dogs or companion dogs, protectiveness is something that is in their nature and not necessarily learned. In fact, training GSDs for protective work only involves honing and directing their innate guarding abilities. It is not about teaching them how to be protective in the first place.
Even without formal training, German Shepherds have the intelligence necessary to identify potential threats to their domain or family. They also have the courage and confidence to ward off those threats and even physically engage them if they deem it necessary.
Lastly, they are known to develop deep bonds with their keepers, for whom they have a strong sense of loyalty and desire to protect.
Why Are German Shepherds Naturally Protective?
The first German Shepherd Dogs were herders and served to protect their flocks. They worked alongside their keepers for long hours and looked to them for practically all their needs. Accordingly, they also developed strong bonds and protective instincts over their handlers.
Loyalty and protectiveness were among the critical characteristics selected for breeding and developing the German Shepherd breed. This selective breeding is the reason why these dogs excel in security and defense, most especially in personal protection, the military, and police work.
The GSD’s protectiveness over their keepers is also a self-preservation instinct. They are naturally inclined to guard the source of their most prized resources—not only food and shelter but also love and affection.
Appreciation for and the instinct to preserve the good in their lives is also the reason why neglected or abused dogs are often more protective of their new, nurturing owners.
At What Age Do German Shepherds Start Guarding?
Guarding instincts tend to manifest early in German Shepherd puppies. However, it begins to become apparent at around 6 months when they begin their adolescent stage.
This is the time when they develop their own identity and personality. They also start to have a good sense of their territory, their place in the household, and their relationships with the various people in their lives.
Over time, GSDs develop a sense of loyalty and instinct to protect the people they perceive to offer the most value in their lives. They understand the way they are treated and reciprocate not only with affection but also with protection.
Are All German Shepherds Protective?
All dogs are naturally protective to a certain degree, and German Shepherds are no different. However, not all GSDs are actually suited for protection.
Individual dogs should be evaluated for guarding traits, which should be honed and directed properly. Additionally, these dogs are only likely to defend people, animals, and things they value.
Thus, if you expect them to protect you and your home, make sure you treat them well enough to see you as a valuable resource.
How Can I Tell If My German Shepherd Is Protective?
Should the need arise, you can be confident that your German Shepherd will protect you if they display the following behaviors:
They stay close
Whenever you’re around, your German Shepherd will prefer to sit nearby or stay within your vicinity. They will also position themselves in front of you when you interact with strange people.
They are alert
Protective GSDs are always vigilant in your presence. German Shepherds are watchful and tend to inspect their territory for strange occurrences. They will also communicate the presence of potential threats by barking.
They ward off threats
Barking is not only a way to let you know they think something is wrong. Protective German Shepherds will also bark to keep potential threats from approaching. They may also lunge and growl when they think an unwanted presence is getting too close to you.
They’re emotionally attached
A German Shepherd’s instinct to protect you won’t just be apparent in their tendency to guard as they will only be protective of you if they have an emotional connection with you. Your protective German Shepherd will be affectionate.
You’ll also notice that they’re in tune with your emotions. They know when you’re calm and will likewise sense when you feel upset or threatened.
Can This Protective Instinct Be Dangerous?
Although formal personal protection training is not always necessary, dogs should have the socialization necessary to observe situations and judge whether defense is needed. Otherwise, their protectiveness could be a liability.
Your German Shepherd’s protective instincts can be dangerous if they are unnecessarily aggressive or are unresponsive to commands. They also jeopardize your safety if they are unable to correctly identify threats.
For example, they might become hostile to other members of the family or welcome guests. The lack of guidance on how to use their natural abilities might ultimately lead to behavioral issues.
How Do You Hone a GSD’s Protective Instincts?
Unless they are expected to work in guarding roles, German Shepherds need not get specialized protection training. To hone and enable them to use their protective instincts properly, all they really need is obedience training and proper socialization.
Obedience training involves your dog’s ability to follow basic commands like come and stay. But apart from knowing the commands, this involves establishing a means to effectively communicate with each other.
Developing this communication is important so that your dog listens and obeys even in unfamiliar situations. This will ensure that you’re in tune with one another should you ever need protection from your GSD.
Socialization is just as important. Your German Shepherd needs to be exposed to different surroundings, people, and animals.
This is how they will understand what good interactions are like and what behaviors are appropriate. In time, this is also how they will learn what makes you uncomfortable and fearful.
At home, it is also important to expose them to guests. Allow them to be familiar with what it’s like when other people are welcomed. That gives them the knowledge they need to identify an unwanted visitor.
Even as companion dogs, GSDs are known to guard their homes and protect their families. However, not all will excel in this role. Some might need more specialized training while others might not be suited for protective work at all.
Nevertheless, their guarding instincts combined with their loyalty and ability to develop strong bonds are typically enough to give you a reasonable sense of protection when you have a GSD at home.