The German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. They are highly intelligent, loyal, and protective, which makes them excellent working dogs. German Shepherds have a long history of being used as police dogs, military dogs, service dogs, and guard dogs. But are they truly protection dogs?
Let’s take a closer look at the German Shepherd breed and their protective instincts.
A Brief History of German Shepherds
The German Shepherd breed originated in Germany in the late 1800s. A German cavalry officer named Captain Max von Stephanitz was focused on creating the ideal herding dog and started breeding dogs with intelligence, strength, and tracking abilities. The results were dogs that excel at protecting and watching over their human partners.
German Shepherds quickly became popular as military and police dogs. Their strength, courage, intelligence, and obedience made them perfectly suited for these roles. During World War I and World War II, German Shepherds served as Red Cross rescue dogs, messengers, supply carriers, and personal guard dogs.
Today, German Shepherds continue to serve around the world as police K-9s, military working dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, and loyal family guardians. Their versatility and protective instincts are unmatched.
The Protective Nature of German Shepherds
German Shepherds have strong guarding and defensive instincts that have been bred into them over generations. Here are some of their key protective traits:
- Courage – German Shepherds are extremely brave dogs. They will put themselves in harm’s way and go into protection mode if they sense a threat.
- Intelligence – Their smarts allow them to assess situations and determine when and how to react. They can think independently.
- Loyalty – German Shepherds form strong bonds with their owners and territory. Their loyalty makes them devoted to protecting their loved ones.
- Alertness – With their high energy and focus, German Shepherds are always on high alert, watching their environment intently. This allows them to pick up on threats early.
- Confidence – German Shepherds are confident in confronting intruders or dangers. They don’t usually back down from a threat.
- Protectiveness – German Shepherds have a strong guarding instinct and take their job of watching over their family seriously. Their suspicion of strangers combined with protectiveness makes them excellent deterrents to intruders.
These traits mean that German Shepherds are always on guard and ready to defend their family and home when needed. Their fierce bark and imposing size alone are enough to deter potential intruders in many cases.
Are German Shepherds Considered Protection Dogs?
So with their protective personalities, are German Shepherds true protection dogs? It depends on the individual dog’s training and genetics.
While the breed itself tends to be naturally protective, this does not automatically make every German Shepherd an ideal protection dog or guard dog. Formal training is required to hone their skills and make sure their protective instincts are properly directed.
True protection dogs undergo extensive specific training by professionals to teach them when and how to use force against a human when necessary. Without structured protection training, a German Shepherd may simply be a watchful and alert family guardian.
Here are some key factors that separate trained protection dogs from regular watchdogs:
- Controlled aggression – Protection dogs are taught to listen to their handler’s commands about when to engage a threat with controlled force or aggression. Untrained dogs may simply react aggressively in fear.
- Obedience – Strict obedience allows a protection dog to heed commands even in high stress situations. Good obedience is critical to avoid accidents and liability issues.
- Security commands – Professional protection dogs know specific commands that direct them to engage/attack, guard, defend, stop, and release on command. These trained behaviors are critical.
- Confidence building – Protection dog training uses confidence boosting drills and exercises so the dog can manage confrontations without fear or anxiety leading to overreactions.
- Situational awareness – Trained protection dogs can assess threats and modify their reactions based on the situation. Their alertness helps them respond appropriately.
So while German Shepherds have excellent natural instincts to work with, training is the key to developing a true protection dog that will follow commands even in intense circumstances. Genetics play a role too, with some German Shepherd bloodlines being better suited to protection work than others.
Are German Shepherds Good Family Protection Dogs?
The loyal and protective nature of German Shepherds makes them excellent family guardians. When properly trained and socialized, they can adapt very well to home life and are vigilant watchdogs.
Here are some benefits of German Shepherds as family protection dogs:
- They form strong bonds with family members, especially children. This loyalty extends to other household pets too.
- Their size and intimidating appearance can deter intruders from even attempting to enter the home.
- They have a deep, loud bark that will alert families to anything suspicious.
- Their intelligence allows them to distinguish between real threats and non-issues, like the mailman.
- They will bravely place themselves between their family and an intruder or danger. Their bite force is strong.
- With training, they can learn to only respond aggressively on command, avoiding liability issues.
- They have high energy and stamina to patrol properties and respond quickly when needed.
- Their acute sense of hearing and smell helps detect threats before humans realize they are there.
Proper socialization is essential for family German Shepherds to minimize overprotective tendencies. Well-adjusted German Shepherds recognize normal behaviors and strangers versus true threats around the home.
German Shepherd owners should be prepared to invest time into training, exercise, and socializing their dog to keep behaviors appropriate for family living. But their versatility makes them one of the top choices as family guard dogs if developed properly.
Considerations When Getting a German Shepherd Protection Dog
If you want a professionally trained German Shepherd protection dog, there are some important factors to keep in mind:
- Cost – Successfully trained protection dogs can cost $15,000 USD or more from reputable breeders and trainers. More affordable options may lack credentials.
- Time investment – To properly maintain their training, plan to invest substantial time into consistently reinforcing commands, socializing them, and keeping their skills sharp with professional help.
- Living conditions – Protection dogs require secure outdoor areas for exercise and potty needs, as well as climate-controlled housing. They need adequate space indoors as well.
- Insurance – Liability insurance is essential in case the protection dog accidentally injures someone despite training. Homeowner’s insurance may also be impacted.
- Local laws – Some areas prohibit certain protection dog breeds or set requirements for handling them in public, so check local ordinances.
- Family preparedness – All family members must be prepared to uphold training protocols and safely handle a powerful protection dog. Extensive commitment is required.
While protection-trained German Shepherds can be costly and demanding, many families find their loyalty and protective presence worthwhile for home security. They can be phenomenal family guardians.
FAQs about German Shepherds as Protection Dogs
For those considering a German Shepherd as a protection dog, here are some common questions:
Are male or female German Shepherds better protection dogs?
Either male or female German Shepherds can make excellent protection dogs. Females may have a slight edge as they tend to be more independent, territorial, quick to react, and serious when responding to perceived threats. However, many male German Shepherds also exhibit strong protective instincts, courage, and trainability. The individual dog’s genetics and training are the most critical factors, beyond gender alone.
At what age does a German Shepherd’s protection instincts fully develop?
German Shepherds’ natural protective tendencies will start to emerge around 18-24 months as they mature. However, their full potential as protection dogs will only be realized through special training, which usually begins around 1.5-2 years old once their fundamentals are well-established. Training then continues throughout adulthood.
Are German Shepherds good for first-time dog owners?
German Shepherds are generally not recommended for first-time dog owners. Their intelligence and high exercise needs can be demanding without experience. They require extensive training and socialization as puppies to nurture their protective qualities for controlled use. An experienced owner is best equipped to manage their protective nature appropriately.
Can German Shepherds be aggressive toward family members?
With proper socialization and training, German Shepherds should not show unwarranted aggression towards family, including children. However, neglectful or irresponsible training can lead to overprotectiveness which may cause a German Shepherd to react inappropriately to normal family interactions. Their instincts must be properly channeled.
At what age should German Shepherd protection training begin?
Reputable protection dog programs will not start intense protection training until the German Shepherd is at least 18-24 months old and has mastered basic obedience. This ensures they are mentally and physically capable of handling the demands of protection work. Starting too young could lead to fear-based reactivity issues.
German Shepherds can make excellent protection dogs for families or individuals looking for a loyal guardian. When bred well and thoroughly trained, their intelligence, courage, strength, and protective instincts are unrivaled. No breed is perfect, however, and individual traits will vary.
Potential owners must fully commit to the demands of owning a protection dog, including proper handling, extensive training reinforcement, exercise, and socialization. With the right upbringing, a German Shepherd protection dog can become a treasured companion that helps keep their people safe from harm. Their devotion and bravery set them apart as exceptional protectors.