German Shepherds are natural herders. In fact, the reason why this breed was first discovered was…
Socialization is a critical part of having a well-mannered pet. It is also an important part of raising a happy dog. Although dogs generally have the same socialization requirements, working dogs like GSDs might need extra care and attention simply because they grow to be larger animals with stronger personalities.
So what’s the best way to go about it? How should you socialize a German Shepherd?
How to Socialize Your German Shepherd
The best way to socialize your German Shepherd is to give them many different types of experiences as early as possible. Expose them to different sounds, textures, situations, and environments. You should also give them opportunities to interact positively with different people and other animals.
Why Socialization Is Important For Your Dog
German Shepherds are friendly, confident, and good-natured dogs, but only if they’re properly socialized. Otherwise, they could grow up to be fearful and incessantly suspicious of unfamiliar things in their environment.
Such dogs will not only be unhappy and constantly anxious but could also develop fear-based aggression.
Unsocialized German Shepherds are unenjoyable, difficult to care for, and possibly unsafe to own. Remember that GSDs grow up to be large and powerful dogs. They could cause serious harm if their lack of socialization causes them to behave improperly or lash out.
Having a properly socialized GSD means being able to bring them places without fear of hurting others. You can trust them to tolerate guests and be friendly with other dogs and animals.
Additionally, socialized dogs are unafraid of the vet or being handled by professional groomers. Ultimately, socialization allows you to have an enjoyable, fuss-free companion.
When Should I Start Socializing My German Shepherd Puppy?
Puppy socialization is most critical within their first six months of life and is most impactful around the 3-month mark. Nevertheless, adult GSDs that lack early socialization aren’t hopeless.
With proper handling and careful exposure to different experiences, they can still undoubtedly learn how to enjoy and interact with their surroundings.
So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re getting a puppy from a breeder or are adopting an adult from your local shelter. The best time to start socialization is as soon as you take them home.
Just make sure they’ve completed their vaccinations to make sure they’re protected from preventable canine diseases.
Examples Of Ways To Socialize Your GSD
Socialization generally involves teaching your dog that there’s nothing in the world they should be afraid of. That means giving them many opportunities to have positive experiences with their environment.
Here are some of the most impactful things you can do to raise a socialized pup:
Take them to different places
Giving your puppy the opportunity to have positive experiences in different environments enables them to avoid developing fears of the unfamiliar.
When taking them to different places, try to also expose their paws to different textures like tile, soil, grass, metal grates, and concrete.
Expose them to different situations
Take your puppies on car rides and let them walk through crowds and places with plenty of traffic. Expose them to different types of loud noises and walk them beside bikes, cars, motorcycles, and scooters.
Try to make every experience a positive one so that they understand that everything is just a normal part of life.
Attend training classes
Enrolling in a puppy foundations class enables you to learn the best ways to raise your German Shepherd. But it also gives you the additional benefit of being in close contact with other pet owners and their dogs.
It’s a good way to expose your pup to many different canine personalities and learn to approach each of them properly.
Involve different people
A properly socialized dog knows how to respond to the presence of people. They know when it’s appropriate to welcome them, tolerate their presence, or do their best to scare them away.
The only way they can master this is to involve different people in their socialization and let them learn through experience.
Introduce them to different animals
By interacting and having fun with other animals, they learn to behave properly around them. At the very least, they understand that there’s nothing to be threatened by and so will tolerate their presence.
How to Socialize an Older German Shepherd
An older German Shepherd will have already accumulated negative experiences and developed their own ways to cope with fear and anxiety. They may already have dislikes and preferences that would be challenging to change.
Nevertheless, socializing an adult GSD is not at all impossible.
The most crucial step of socializing an older German Shepherd is to gain their trust. They need to respect you and understand that they can look to you for leadership.
The only way to accomplish this is to spend some time with them, develop a relationship, and enable them to associate you with positive experiences.
Once you’ve gained your GSD’s trust, you can proceed with socialization just as if they were still a puppy.
You just have to ensure you have better control (due to their size and strength) and have the patience to progress slowly so as not to overwhelm them with experiences they were previously wary of.
German Shepherd Socialization Problems
Lack of socialization is the most common reason why German Shepherds develop behavioral problems. Here are some issues you might experience with an unsocialized GSD:
Fear-based aggression is one of the most severe consequences of not socializing your German Shepherd. They are uneasy in many situations and respond through defensive aggression. This might include snarling, lunging, charging, and biting.
German Shepherds have a tendency to bark excessively, especially when they’re wary of what’s going on around them. So when they lack positive experiences with their environment, they tend to bark more frequently in an effort to scare their perceived threats away.
Anxious and nervous dogs tend to be more destructive. To cope with stress, they develop unwanted habits like chewing on things that aren’t theirs. They could also develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors like digging or nipping at themselves.
German Shepherds are naturally alert and protective. But when they’re fearful and anxious, this trait could go overboard and cause them to become hyperalert.
This leads to a dog that is unable to turn off, is unceasingly vigilant, and seems to be constantly stressed.
Nervous dogs are prone to developing separation anxiety for two reasons: (1) they’re afraid to be alone and (2) they are hyper-protective of you and can’t defend you if you’re away.
Either way, separation anxiety can develop into a serious behavioral issue that significantly affects your dog’s happiness and general well-being.
The main goal of socializing your German Shepherd is to have a safe, well-adjusted, and pleasurable companion. Socialization also enables them to be happy and confident dogs that engage positively with their environment, other people, and other animals.
If you want to learn more about raising a properly socialized, happy, and well-mannered German Shepherd, check out these 10 tips for successful GSD training.