German Shepherd Dogs: Does the GSD Deserve to be Labeled Aggressive?

The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is often labeled an “aggressive” breed, even warranting some insurance companies to increase the premium on your house. Is the breed being treated fairly, or are they the result of bad parenting?

The German Shepherd – A Breed Apart

A German Shepherd’s bond with his master can rival that of a mother and child. GSDs are intensely loyal and decidedly protective. Stanley Coran in his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, rates the GSD third in intelligence for all breeds. Born to work, this agile dog absolutely craves stimulation. In addition, being exceedingly territorial, he will protect his home and hearth fiercely.

Similar to an intelligent teenager left to his own devices, the German Shepherd will act out. Boredom and isolation equals trouble. Of all the breeds that need socialization, training & time, the GSD is number one. It is also not the breed of dog to bring home on a whim. Whether adopting or purchasing, research into the nature and needs of this breed is essential. A lack of knowledge has tripped up many newcomers who do not realize that a German Shepherd is simply unlike any other dog. This breed yearns for interaction and will not thrive if left alone for long periods of time.

Negatives of the GSD Breed

GSDs can be vocal and are often whiny. Highly sensitive, they voice their opinion readily. A good vacuum cleaner is a necessity, as courtesy of a double-coat; Shepherds shed year round. A downy undercoat is “blown” twice a year, whilst the coarse top coat or guard hair, sheds continuously. It is a highly effective coat for cold weather, water and snow. Along with an excellent nose they excel as search and rescue, or cadaver dogs.

Energetic, Shepherds require plenty of exercise. Relishing adventures and challenges, they need both to maintain a healthy mindset. It is this, alongside their biological herding instincts or “drive,” that makes them much sought after for security and police work.

The Shepherd & Socialization

Socialization is an absolute must for the GSD from the day they are born and beyond. A lack of socialization is the number one key factor for aggression in this breed. Being protective and territorial is ingrained in their psyche and unless socialized thoroughly, everything is acknowledged as a threat. It is crucial that during their critical learning period, (between 3-13 weeks, but roughly averaging 6-8 weeks), they be introduced to different and varied situations on a daily basis. A good breeder will begin this process early and recommend that it continues for life.

Training the German Shepherd – A Lifelong Pursuit

Enrolling the GSD in a basic obedience class is an excellent start to what should be a lifetime of training. Widen his experiences by including all family members. Children are excellent at games and should be included in the training to establish hierarchy. A German Shepherd will only ever have one true master, but he will readily accept family members into his “pack.”

Given time, training and socialization, a GSD purchased from a reputable breeder can be the most loyal, attentive, willing, obedient, protective and more importantly, friendly companion there is.