German shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. They are loyal, courageous, and intelligent dogs that can do a variety of tasks. GSDs have long been used as police and military dogs because they’re so well-suited for work with people. But what about other animals? Are German shepherds good with other dogs?
Are German shepherds Good with Other Dogs?
Most studies have consistently listed German shepherd dogs as the most aggressive in one way or another. This means, in general, the German shepherd breed does not get along well with other dogs and may attack them. However, this behavior can be lessened when the dog gets proper training and socialization.
The amount of work and energy that you need to pour into your dog as they go through training will depend on each dog’s individual personality and behavior. Just like humans, different dogs in the same breed can have different personalities.
Some dogs may be more outgoing, while others might be more reserved. So approach each new situation with a dog by considering your German shepherd’s behavior and temperament first. This will help you devise a proper training and socialization plan for your German shepherd puppy (or adult German shepherd).
Signs of Aggression to Watch For
German shepherd owners should watch for signs of aggression in their dogs. These are often subtle and may not be immediately apparent, but they can offer clues to a developing problem.
The following are signs of aggression to watch for, whether they do this with a new dog at the dog park or a dog at the same home.
- Aggressive growling at other dogs
- Holding his tail low and stiff instead of wagging it normally while greeting another dog.
- Raising of hackles, flat back, and stiff body posture in your German shepherd when they see another dog.
- Showing their teeth, baring their teeth, or raising a lip.
- Flicking their tongue in and out of their mouth in a mock snarl or warning growl.
- Stiffening of the hind legs and a crouching posture with tail up
- Barking aggressively at other dogs. The dog may also attempt to chase other dogs away.
- Staring at other dogs with intense aggression in their eyes.
- Lunging at another dog.
Why Do German Shepherds Show Aggression Toward Other Dogs?
1. Natural Breed Traits
Considering the long history of guarding work that these dogs were bred to do, this isn’t surprising that most German shepherds are naturally protective and territorial of their space.
When it comes to other dogs, the guarding and protective instinct is a double-edged sword when GSDs perceive another dog as a threat. On the one hand, the instinct to protect their territory and owners can cause your German shepherd dog to act as bodyguards for their families.
On the other hand, these instincts can manifest in a dog that is territorial when it comes to guarding food or possessions against other dogs. This means your German shepherd may not hesitate to attack humans or animals that they perceive as a threat to either themselves or their family.
2. Lack of Socialization
Socializing German shepherd puppies from a young age can greatly reduce the chances of dog aggression developing later in life.
If they’re not exposed to other dogs or animals frequently, even if they are friendly, your shepherd may get the wrong notion that other dogs are a threat to them.
To socialize your German shepherd puppy, you can simply take them to a dog park or other area where you can meet and socialize with other dogs and their owners.
It’s also good to make arrangements for your German shepherd to play with other friendly, well-socialized groups of dogs on a regular basis, for example, by enrolling them in obedience classes.
This allows them to be around other dogs in a controlled situation so that they can learn how to interact positively with the dog or dogs.
3. Fear Issues
Another reason why German shepherds may show aggression is that they are simply afraid of another pet or animal.
If your German shepherd is the more shy, reserved type and meets an assertive breed of dog at a park, for example, they might be intimidated by their behavior and try to defend themselves in whatever way they can.
You can help your shepherd overcome their fears by desensitizing them and bringing them into positive situations with other dogs or animals.
4. Asserting Dominance
Dogs in the wild will fight to assert themselves as the leader of their pack. If your German shepherd is a natural-born leader or more dominant than the other dogs, they may try to establish their dominance by attacking another dog that challenges them.
If you have a dominant German shepherd, it is all the more reason you must socialize them from a very young age and train them on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in your household so that they know how to behave towards other dogs.
5. Resource Guarding
German shepherds can become extremely territorial when it comes to food, or anything else they feel is their property, including their space.
If a dog enters the area that your shepherd claims as theirs, they may become aggressive over the perceived intrusion. Even if you have trained them not to act like this around other dogs, if they feel threatened and don’t know how to react, they may resort to attacking another dog entering their space.
6. Bad Experience
If your German shepherd has been attacked by another dog in the past, they may not have forgotten about the incident and may react more aggressively when confronted with a similar situation.
Even if their owners have taught them that they shouldn’t react in the same way, they may feel compelled to defend themselves again or lash out at another dog that comes too close.
7. Health Issues
If you have a German shepherd that has never been violent towards another dog but has recently started displaying this behavior, it could be because of any number of reasons related to their health.
Pain or illness can make your dog irritable and aggressive, and they may decide to lash out at another animal. If your German shepherd seems lethargic, for example, it is possible that something is seriously wrong with them.
The only way to know for sure what the problem is would be to take them to a vet and have them thoroughly checked out.
8. Stressed Out
If your German shepherd is under a lot of stress around other dogs, they will naturally become more aggressive in an attempt to assert themselves or let out the steam.
This could be because of anything from a change in their environment to you getting ready for work, and they’re not allowed outside.
Stress can make them lash out in a lot of different ways, and there are ways you can alleviate this kind of behavior, but the only way to do that is to identify what’s causing their stress and deal with it accordingly.
If your shepherd doesn’t get enough attention and exercise, they may get bored. When a dog is bored, they will often try to express their frustration in any way that they can, which may include acting aggressively.
10. Male Competition
As with most animals, male German shepherds have an instinct to want to dominate members of their own sex and will often show this by acting aggressively towards other male dogs when they are in the presence of a female dog.
How to Stop My German Shepherd from Being Aggressive Toward Other Dogs?
1. Socialize Them Early
You have to socialize your German shepherd puppy from the moment you bring them home. If they’re not exposed to other dogs (and eventually other people and animals) while they are still young, it will be much more difficult for them to interact with these things when they get older and feel threatened or challenged.
Adult German shepherds that have never been exposed to different environments and other dogs are much more likely to act aggressively towards these things than puppies that are very early on in the socialization process.
Socialization can begin when the puppy is just a few weeks old. Take them to different places and expose them to a wide variety of stimuli so that they are comfortable with new situations and other animals later in life. You can also enroll them in a socialization class if you have the time and the money to do so.
2. Arrange Meets-up With Well Behaved Dogs
Puppies learn a lot from “play dates” with other dogs that are well-behaved. You can arrange for your puppy to spend time with well-behaved adult dogs in a controlled environment, for example, through a class or a meet-up in the park that other dog owners are also attending.
3. Observe and Monitor Your Dog’s Behavior
The behavior that leads to aggressive actions is often apparent before it becomes a problem.
You can help your dog stop being aggressive towards other dogs by figuring out when they are becoming uncomfortable or stressed around them. Monitor their body language, figure out what makes them feel threatened, and address those feelings directly.
4. Teach Them to Control Their Aggressive Behavior
Your German shepherd isn’t likely to spontaneously stop acting aggressively towards other dogs without some training, so make sure that you teach them what is and is not appropriate behavior around others. Be consistent in your discipline techniques when they act inappropriately so that they learn what is and is not acceptable.
The most important thing to remember here is that you know how to discipline your dog. Don’t yell or hit your dog, and don’t punish them when they are not displaying aggressive behavior. Instead, reward them when they are behaving well and discipline them by ignoring them or removing them from the situation when they don’t behave well, not by physical means.
You want your GSD to associate negative behavior with negative consequences, not positive behavior with positive ones.
5. Give Them a Job
Dogs like German shepherds generally thrive on having jobs to do. If you have a yard, let them exercise themselves by patrolling it and keeping an eye out for intruders.
If you don’t have a lot of land, take advantage of your dog’s natural ability as a guardian animal by training them to protect your home and family without becoming aggressive or destructive. Don’t leave them alone for long periods of time without exercise or a job to do, as this can make them frustrated and more likely to exhibit bad behavior.
Also read: 25 Best Jobs for German Shepherds at Home
6. Ask for Help from a Professional Dog Trainer
If you adopt an adult German shepherd and they have already begun acting aggressively towards other dogs, it’s likely that they have some history of being aggressive in the past.
If this is true for your German shepherd, ask about professional dog training classes in your area that can help you teach them to curb their aggressive behavior. When the problem is as severe as this, professional help is more appropriate than trying to do it all on your own.
7. Apply Desensitization Training
In the case of an older dog, you can apply a method of training known as “desensitization” to try and help your dog overcome their fear towards other dogs. The process involves exposing your dog to a stimulus that makes them feel uncomfortable in small doses so that they begin to react less negatively over time.
This method can be applied to any fearful or aggressive behavior, and it is recommended as the first step in treating these issues.
8. Give a Good Example
Dogs will more likely follow your example than your words, especially when they are puppies.
Make sure that you don’t act aggressively towards others, even if you are provoked yourself. Your dog is more likely to follow your lead and react aggressively in situations like this if you do not make it clear from the beginning that this behavior is unacceptable.
9. Take Your Dog to The Vet
It might be helpful to see if there are any underlying medical causes that you can deal with. You should take your German shepherd to the vet for a check-up and get a full physical exam done on them before trying to work out behavior issues if you have not already done so.