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German Shepherd Behavior Problems

German Shepherd Behavior Problems (Explained)

German Shepherds can be one of the best breeds of dogs to own. They are exceptionally smart, filled to the brim with personality, and incredibly affectionate to people they love. As with any other breed, GSDs can quickly develop bad manners when they’re not kept in check.

If you’re looking to welcome a German Shepherd into your life, you need to be aware of possible behavior problems and address them before your dog gets too difficult to control.

German Shepherd Behavior Problems

German Shepherds tend to develop behavior problems when their needs are being met either mental or physical.  Some of the most common German Shepherd behavior problems are jumping, destructiveness, OCD, hyperactivity, separation anxiety, excess barking and whining, mouthiness, dominance, and defensive aggression.

Common German Shepherd Behavior Problems

German Shepherds are among the top 5 breeds found in animal shelters. This is not because they are inherently problematic dogs but because it takes a compatible lifestyle and handling style to enjoy the best traits of the breed.

If a GSD owner doesn’t have the ability to meet their physical and intellectual needs, they’re likely to develop these common behavioral problems:

Defensive Aggression

German Shepherds are not naturally aggressive. However, GSDs are instinctively protective of their family and defensive of their home. When not directed properly, this positive trait could easily turn into aggression.

They might also develop resource guarding issues where they aggressively keep people or other animals away from their “treasures,” which might include food, toys, or their humans.


Dominance can emerge as disobedience or assertiveness towards humans or other animals. Being confident and headstrong dogs, German Shepherds might try to assert themselves and see what they can get away with.

It’s critical to nip this behavior in the bud by training them to be respectful and obedient to your commands.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety in German Shepherds can lead to destructive behavior when you’re away. This could stem from their protectiveness (and not being able to protect you when you’re gone) or something else entirely, like trauma from a previous home or never having been left alone as a puppy.

While GSDs are naturally clingy to their humans, distress from being separated must be address through methodical training.


German Shepherds are naturally mouthy. They use their mouths to interact with the world. Additionally, as puppies, German Shepherds are prone to nipping and play biting as that would be how they interact with their littermates.

German Shepherd Play Biting

However, it’s critical to wean them off this behavior at a young age as it could be unsafe when they grow larger and more powerful.

Excessive Barking

German Shepherds are generally very vocal. And because they are so large, their bark tends to be quite thunderous.

Generally, they will bark because they want to communicate something, like alerting you to the presence of a stranger or because they sense a threat.

However, they could also develop the bad behavior of barking excessively due to boredom or getting attention. Don’t respond to unnecessary barks so that you don’t reinforce this behavior.

Examples of GSD Behavior Problems

GSD behavioral issues are not exclusive to the breed. Nevertheless, you need to be aware of them as well as how to manage them.

Here are different ways to address German Shepherd behavior problems that might develop without proper training, handling, and socialization:


Like barking, whining is a means for dogs to communicate. Unfortunately, GSDs tend to whine excessively. This is a loud, high-pitched noise that could become aggravating when left unchecked.

You can’t expect your German Shepherd to stop whining completely. However, you can keep it at a minimum through proper reinforcement.

Ignore them when they’re whining and then reward them with what they want as soon as they settle down.


German Shepherds are working dogs developed in the fields where they worked long hours and ran great distances. So, if you keep them as a household companion, you’ll need to find other ways to burn up their excess energy.

Otherwise, they’ll find ways to release this energy on their own, and it likely won’t be in ways that are favorable to you.


German Shepherd destructiveness is related to hyperactivity. If they don’t get to burn up their energy, they’ll direct it towards other activities. Often, this can include chewing, digging, and destroying things at home.

Giving them ample mental and physical stimulation will help address this. Additionally, you can redirect their chewing to things of their own.


Dogs often jump up at you as a means of greeting you excitedly. However, when you have an 80-pound dog, this isn’t the safest greeting. Try to address this at puppyhood by redirecting the behavior.

For example, teach them to sit in front of you. Ignore them and gently push them off when they jump on you, and only fuss over them and give them attention when they sit.

After a few tries, they’ll understand that sitting and not jumping is what will get them what they want.


Like humans, dogs can develop obsessive-compulsive disorders. Unfortunately, some GSD lines have this genetic predisposition. This can emerge as unwanted behaviors like excessive licking, pacing, or chewing.

Often, this can be addressed by deterring behaviors (ex., distracting them or redirecting to another activity), but it’s always best to treat these conditions under the supervision of an experienced veterinarian or behaviorist.

In more extreme cases, medication may be needed to treat OCD in dogs.

Urine Marking

Urine marking is common among male German Shepherds. It is a means to communicate with other dogs and typically a way to claim their territory.

Even properly housetrained dogs will sometimes do this indoors, especially when there are other male dogs at home. If you’re not keen on breeding your dog, the best solution to urine marking is to get them neutered.

Fear-Based Reactivity

When a dog isn’t socialized properly, they develop fears of their environment. They lack the confidence to be out in the world and might act out when presented with unfamiliar experiences.

To avoid this, it’s crucial that you socialize your dog as early as you can and help them feel calm and confident no matter where they are.

6-Month-Old German Shepherd Behavior

Think of the 6-month mark as the time your dog hits adolescence. Reaching sexual maturity will make them more prone to mood swings and scent marking (males).

Additionally, this is the time when your puppy is most likely to develop stronger responses to strangers and might play more roughly with other dogs.

Six months up to the time they reach about one year old is a critical time in their puppyhood where they will learn to be bolder and independent. They might try getting away with not following commands, but don’t give in!

It is a critical time for you to teach them proper manners while also enabling them to develop their own personality and confidence.

1-Year-Old German Shepherd Behavior

By 1 year old, your German Shepherd will have grown to about 85% of their final size. It’s critical that they have already outgrown certain puppy behaviors that would be unsafe at this size. This includes jumping and play biting.

Even so, GSDs might also develop new behavior issues at this stage, and most of them stem from having excessive energy and drive. Hyperactivity could lead to destructive behaviors, as indoor zoomies become a regular occurrence as well as chewing on things that aren’t theirs.

To mitigate these issues, make sure you give them plenty of opportunities to exercise as well as stimulate their mental faculties.

How to Avoid German Shepherds With Behavior Problems

Knowing that German Shepherds are consistently among the top 3 most popular breeds to own, they are undeniably incredible companions.

Here are a few things that can help you make sure you don’t end up with a GSD with behavioral issues:

Reputable Breeder

It’s not always possible to determine the breeder and pedigree of a German Shepherd, especially if you’re adopting one from a shelter. But if you can, select a breeder with responsible practices and has a reputation for producing healthy and confident dogs.


Start socialization as early as you can. Expose your pup to all sorts of experiences so that they may build their confidence and interact properly with their environment. Make sure they know how to engage with other people and animals.


Throughout their puppyhood and sometimes even beyond, your GSD will test how you respond to disobedience. It’s critical that you stay consistent with your training and reinforcing only good behavior.


Too much energy leads to boredom and the development of bad behaviors. Make sure you give your GSD plenty of exercise so that they can expend the excess energy they have in productive ways.

Additionally, they need opportunities to use their intelligence and natural canine abilities through mental exercises.

Final Thoughts

All breeds have dogs with behavioral problems. However, such issues are much more of a concern with large dogs like German Shepherds. Nevertheless, if you’re able to socialize your dog, provide firm leadership, and give them the mental and physical stimulation they require, a GSD can be the sweetest, well-mannered family dog you can have.

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