If you ask most people to think of a loyal dog - chances are the German Shepherd will come to their mind. Not only is the breed extremely loyal, it is also very intelligent and loving. It comes as no surprise that the German Shepherd breed is a popular one among families, as well as the police force. German Shepherds are one of the best guarding breeds out there and will often protect their own till their very last breath. While with proper care and training most dogs can become loyal too, is there more to it with German Shepherds? What makes these dedicated companions so loyal?
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The Root of the Behavior
As with any breed, a dog’s temperament and personality traits are molded mainly by how they are raised, socialized, and trained. However, dogs’ genes, breed, background, and the purpose that they were bred for will factor into their natural instincts and behavior. German Shepherds were originally bred as working dogs, with their main mission to obey their owner and serve a purpose. The four-legged companions are also naturally incredibly smart, ranking 3rd on the list of the most intelligent dogs in the world. The combination of intelligence and instinctual willingness to learn makes them the perfect dogs to train and assign a mission to, thus resulting in a lot of loyal German Shepherds in the world! They are obedient and work hard to please their owners. Since German Shepherds have a naturally stable temperament and bond really well with their two-legged pack members, they are easier to train and conditioned to protect their own. This is why the breed is so commonly seen working in public services whether it be in the police or military task force, or helping people with disabilities, for example, through being guide dogs for those who are visually impaired.
German Shepherds, as their name implies, were also bred to herd sheep and protect the flock against any and all potential threats. They actually consider smaller farm animals as their pack members and get very protective of them. Though most breeds need care and exercise to be healthy and happy, this working breed also needs a mission or a purpose. These incredible dogs will always try to do their best to make their pack leader (you!) happy but they do need help in figuring out how to accomplish that. Therefore, training at an early age is important, as well as giving your pooch a lot of attention and building your bond. Always making sure that you are clear about your intentions and commands will also increase the chances of your four-legged buddy showing his loyalty in the ways you approve.
Encouraging the Behavior
Though in general loyalty should be encouraged, pet owners should be cautious of what type of behavior they praise, as some German Shepherds have a tendency to become overly protective. The key to a healthy level of protection is correctly identifying the signs of loyalty and the way your pooch exhibits it to avoid accidentally encouraging over-protectiveness. A loyal and protective dog will guard their owner when a threat is present but will remain calm and non-aggressive at all other times. For example, if you are taking a stroll in the park and your German Shepherd quietly steps in front of you as another curious or unfamiliar dog or person approaches - that is protection. As soon as the two of you are passed, he will go from “alert” to “at rest." If your dog is well trained, at no point in this encounter will your pooch pull on his leash, growl, or try to attack the other dog or person.
A dog that reacts with snarls or pulling any time it sees anyone in the distance is not a protective dog. It’s a dog looking for trouble that is overly protective and aggressive. You should never encourage your dog to growl unless there is a need to do so - such as an actual threat. If your dog exhibits any of the above-mentioned behavior it is time for you to book an appointment with a professional dog trainer who will help you socialize and train your pooch before his behavior becomes a bigger problem. Being honest about your dog’s behavior and needs, as well as actively working to curb any unwanted behavior when necessary can prevent other people or dogs from getting physically harmed (as well as lawsuits from being filed).
Other Solutions and Considerations
While due to their breeding and predisposition German Shepherds are more likely to be loyal, like all dogs, they need to be taught how to properly display their loyalty. Training, socialization, and dedication will allow you to raise a healthy, happy, and loyal dog. Begin by taking your puppy to the park where he can meet all kinds of other breeds and get used to their presence. Remember to remain calm as, thanks to their sense of smell, dogs can feel your energy and can tell if you are feeling nervous. They can interpret your feelings as fear and mirror them, which increases the chances of aggression and an overall bad experience for both of you. In case you have concerns about your dog’s behavior, remember that you can always contact a professional for guidance and support.
Though German Shepherds seem predisposed to it, all dogs can become loyal with the proper training and care. If you are looking for an active breed that is relatively easy to train (and very eager), that will always stand by your side and do his best to please you - a German Shepherd will make a great addition to your family!