How to Train a German Shepherd to Not be Aggressive

Medium
2-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

There is no doubt that he has a fierce exterior. However, for the most part, your German Shepherd is calm, gentle and loving inside. Unfortunately, though, he does have moments where he lives up to his German Shepherd characteristics when he’s overly protective. You’ve caught him barking and even trying to bite other pets and strangers. You’re fed up with worrying when new people come over to the house. 

Training your Shepherd not to be aggressive will alleviate that concern. It will also reduce the chances of him causing harm to someone else. The result of which is that he may need to be put down. His aggression could also get him into a fight with another pet, which could lead to pricey vet bills. Training him not to be aggressive will also mean you can stop fitting him in a muzzle whenever you leave the house.

Defining Tasks

Training a German Shepherd not to be aggressive can be challenging. The first thing to do is identify what is causing the aggression in the first place. You can then go about tackling the underlying problem. Training will need to consist of socialization with other pets and people. You will also need to use obedience commands to increase your control. Some deterrence measures may also be required to prevent his aggression developing further.

If he’s a puppy he should be a fast learner and receptive to training. This means you could see results in just a couple of weeks. However, if he’s older and this habit has developed over many years, then you may need a number of months and the help of your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

Getting Started

Before you get to work, you will need to get a few bits together. A water spray bottle and deterrence collar will be needed for one method. You will also need treats and toys for incentives and rewards.

Set aside 15 minutes each day for training over the next few weeks, and be ready with a confident and positive attitude. The more consistently you train, the sooner you will see results.

The Deterrence Method

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Most Recommended
9 Votes
Step
1
Privacy
This is particularly important if your German Shepherd is a puppy. He must have a safe space he can escape to. Just like humans, dogs can get frustrated and want some time alone. So make sure his crate or bed is his safe space.
Step
2
Water spray bottle
Whenever he gets aggressive, barks or growls, go over and give a spray of water near his face. This will quickly get him associating being aggressive with negative consequences.
Step
3
Deterrence collar
They are available both online and in local stores. A remote control allows you to give your dog spray of citronella if he needs to be deterred from biting. Use this consistently and he will soon think better of being aggressive.
Step
4
Don’t wind him up
It’s important you don’t get him too worked up when you’re playing games, such as tug of war. It’s also crucial that young children don’t tease him too much. You need him to remain relatively calm.
Step
5
Don’t laugh it off
It’s vital everyone in the house reacts in the same way. If one of you laughs or shakes it off, he will be confused by the rest of training. So sit everyone down and ensure all are on board.
Recommend training method?

The Introductions Method

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Effective
5 Votes
Step
1
Obedience classes
Sign him up to group obedience classes from an early age as possible. This will help socialize him with other pets and people. Here will learn what sort of behavior is and isn’t acceptable.
Step
2
Basic commands
Teach him ‘down’, ‘stay’ and other useful obedience commands. This will increase your control and reinforce your position as pack leader. All of which should limit his aggression and make him more submissive.
Step
3
Stand ahead
If your German Shepherd is in front of you when you meet other people and pets, he will think it is his job to protect you. However, if you are in front, he will relax and believe it is your job. This will prevent initial aggression when strangers approach and reinforces you as his leader.
Step
4
Keep it short
When he does meet new people and pets, stay close to him and watch his behavior. If you see his tail drop or he starts to get tense, ask them to step back. You need to respect his boundaries.
Step
5
Reward
Give him verbal praise and the odd treat for as long as he remains calm when he meets strangers. This positive reinforcement will help him associate being calm with positive consequences.
Recommend training method?

The Routine Method

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5 Votes
Step
1
Increase his exercise
He’s a big dog, he will need lots of exercise. His biting may be a result of pent up energy. So take him out for an extra or longer walk. Playing games as you go will also tire him out. A tired dog is a calm and gentle dog.
Step
2
Tug of war
If he does start getting aggressive, it can help to pull out a toy and play tug of war. Directing his aggression down a safe avenue will help show him where aggressive behavior can be released.
Step
3
Cold shoulder
If tug of war doesn’t seem to catch his attention when he turns aggressive, you may want to give him the cold shoulder. If his aggression is attention seeking behavior, simply turning away and ignoring him could show him this will not get him what he wants.
Step
4
Encouragement
You also need to constantly reward him for calm play. Relax and stroke him, while giving him the odd treat and verbal praise. He needs to start associating calm behavior with positive consequences.
Step
5
Never punish him
German Shepherds are big, strong and capable of doing serious harm. So do not anger him by punishing him when he is aggressive. This may only worsen the problem. German Shepherds respond best to positive reinforcement.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Mari
German Shepherd
12 Months
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Question
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Mari
German Shepherd
12 Months

My dog has become aggressive and wants to dominate. She has a lot of leisure Time running around the property with her sister with whom she has started the bullying with. I spend as much quality time as I we both dogs and give them the same amount love affection and attention. I treat them equally and I punish accordingly. I'm not sure if tying her up because she's become dominant towards your sister is helping or worsening her situation.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1106 Dog owners recommended

Hello Monica, Generally when one family dog is bullying the other both dogs overall respect for the human needs to be built, so the human is making and enforcing rules for the dogs at home, instead of the dogs trying to make and enforce the rules for one another; this means that they do need to spend time around each other carefully, but it should be when you are there to work with them and teach what's acceptable, starting with individually teaching each dog commands like Leave It, Out (leave the area), Quiet, Come, Place, Down, ect...so when they are then together and one is bothering the other, you can tell that dog Leave It. When they are apart I would keep them separate, but tying one out while the other is loose in the same area could lead to the tied up dog being teased and frustrated, so fencing the dogs in two different areas, rotating who is crated inside, or keeping one inside and the other outside are often less problematic ways to separate until the behavior with each other improves. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kaila
german shepard
4 Months
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Question
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Kaila
german shepard
4 Months

When I take her for a walk she grabs leash aggressively and then very aggressively starts jumping up, snarling and growling while trying to bite me. I've had many puppies and this does not feel like normal puppy biting to me.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1106 Dog owners recommended

Hello Debbie, It sounds like pup might be reacting out of defense drive. Some dogs will shut down or retreat when they feel pressure or threatened (think about a puppy who is just introduced to the leash and pulls away with all their might and wiggles to get free, or the pup who freezes), but a dog with a strong defense drive will often react to pressure or a perceived threat by challenging and moving toward the threat - in this case attacking the leash pup doesn't like. I would work on desensitizing punp to the leash so pup will relax more with it on. You may need to do so with a chew proof leash since pup is likely to chew it. Check out the article I have linked below. I would start with just the Drag method, then after pup is okay with the leash during that method, use the Pressure method to help pup learn how you want them to respond to being restrained or feeling pressure on the leash. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash I would also find a private trainer who has a lot of experience with breeds who tend to have strong defense drives, as a training resource from time to time in general. You may find you need to train with some different methods and attitude/approach than what worked for your previous dogs. When looking for a trainer, look for a trainer who has experience with breeds that are known for Police, Military, Schlutzhund, IPO, Guard dog, and Personal Protection work. Those jobs are often filled with dogs who also have a strong defense drive, because that defense drive helps the dog succeed in those jobs. You want a trainer who knows how to train those types of dogs, even if their training is mostly just obedience training and not specialized in those things now. Best of luck, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Trinity
German Shepherd
6 Years
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Question
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Trinity
German Shepherd
6 Years

My German Shepherd is 6 and until the last 1 to 2 yrs she was very social and friendly. Now she is animal aggressive and I can't even go to t9he dog park without a muzzle which makes us both sad and miserable. Help please

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1106 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kathleen, First, I would avoid the dog park right now. Even though pup is muzzled and safe for others, the highly arousing and overwhelming environment of a dog park with so many new dogs is likely making pup's behavior and emotional state about other dogs worse. Instead, pup needs to be desensitized to other dogs, to where pup sees them as boring, pup learns to be in a calm and more thinking mindset, instead of in fight or flight around them, and pup trusts and respects you and your instruction enough to let you handle situations pup would otherwise react to. Check out Thomas Davis and Jeff Gellman online. I recommend finding a training group that has at least two trainers and access to a lot of different dogs, so situations can be set up where you can desensitize pup to the same dog over and over and over again in a calm, structured way, utilizing pup's obedience like heel to keep pup thinking and focused on you and calm while you do so, utilizing things like distance to keep pup out of fight or flight and be able to change pup's emotional response to the dog, and be able to switch to a new dog once pup is great with the first one, to help generalize the training to dogs in general, and not just a couple dogs, through practicing the process with multiple dogs, one at a time. Look for a trainer who specifically has experience with dog aggression and reactivity. Not all trainers work with aggression often and have the right tools or experience to help, so ask questions and look into their previous client referrals and reviews. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Spike
German Shepherd
3 Years
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Question
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Spike
German Shepherd
3 Years

hes very aggressive i have never owned a dog like this ,hes very loving to people he knows and our neighbors and pets but the minute a stranger walks by hes out of control

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1106 Dog owners recommended

Hello Michael, Pup may be acting possessive of you, which is a form of resource guarding people from others, like not wanting another person to go near a favorite toy - but instead it's people they are keeping others away from. I highly recommend working with a trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression in person for this issue. Look for a trainer who works with a team of trainers, so that there are multiple people to practice the training around who are "strangers" to pup and know how to interact safely with aggressive dogs. This process typically involves things like gently building pup's overall respect, trust, and listening with you to that pup doesn't think they own you and so that their behavior is easier to manage and so that they feel more secure and can defer to your leadership when in situations that make them uncomfortable. It also tends to involve gradually desensitizing pup to people, one at a time, with safety measures like a back tie leash or basket muzzle in place (introduced gradually ahead of time using treats so it's not just associated with the training and stressful), starting with people being further away at first, and working on pup's obedience with you around the people in the background to help pup remain calm and not get overly aroused and fixated on the other person. This can sometimes also involve interrupting pup's aroused state, but that should only be done under the guidance of the trainer and with proper safety measures in place, because with any aggression there is always the risk of the dog redirecting their aggression to whoever is closest when stressed. Check out trainers like Thomas Davis and Jeff Gellman online to learn more. I don't recommend training this on your own because of the need to resources like the training staff to be able to safely practice the training around without putting others in danger, the additional safety measures like a basket muzzle, and the specific ways pup should be trained to avoid a redirected bite that could happen from being up close without safety measures while pup is aroused. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Max
German Shepherd
1 Year
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Question
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Max
German Shepherd
1 Year

Max is usually good but will occasionally lash out and bit my teens. They do not provoke him. What do we do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1106 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amanda, If the attacks seem unprovoked, I suspect this is actually a symptom of a bigger issue related to pup being possessive, lacking respect for the humans in the home, or lacking trust. I would hire a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression, who will come to your home to evaluate pup in the environment where the attacks tend to happen, who also comes well recommended by their previous clients for their work with aggression. This will probably require a trainer who utilizes a lot of structure and boundaries to build respect in the way they train. I would start though by desensitizing pup to wearing a basket muzzle for the safety of your family. To introduce the muzzle, first place it on the ground and sprinkle his meal kibble around it. Do this until he is comfortable eating around it. Next, when he is comfortable with it being on the floor with food, hold it up and reward him with a piece of kibble every time he touches or sniffs it in your hand. Feed him his whole meal this way. Practice this until he is comfortable touching it. Next, hold a treat inside of it through the muzzle's holes, so that he has to poke his face into it to get the treat. As he gets comfortable doing that, gradually hold the treat further down into the muzzle, so that he has to poke his face all the way into the muzzle to get the treat. Practice until he is comfortable having his face in it. Next, feed several treats in a row through the muzzle's holes while he holds his face in the muzzle for longer. Practice this until he can hold his face in it for at least ten seconds while being fed treats. Next, when he can hold his face in the muzzle for ten seconds while remaining calm, while his face is in the muzzle move the muzzle's buckles together briefly, then feed him a treat through the muzzle. Practice this until he is not bothered by the buckles moving back and forth. Next, while he is wearing the muzzle buckle it and unbuckle it briefly, then feed a treat. As he gets comfortable with this step, gradually keep the muzzle buckled for longer and longer while feeding treats through the muzzle occasionally. Next, gradually increase how long he wears the muzzle for and decrease how often you give him a treat, until he can calmly wear the muzzle for at least an hour without receiving treats more than two treats during that hour. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Success
Archie
German Shepherd
10 Months

My German Shepherd is a male and has always been a sweetie yo everyone. But for the past month or two he has been growling at my older Yorkie every once in a while and sometimes when we try to take away something he gets possessive and growls but we do end up getting it. But for the past 3 days he has growled at my Yorkie and the neighbors dog. He gets over them and just growls and i pull him away by his collar. Tonight he has kinda scared me because i went to go let my dogs in and he was chewing on something by the door and my little one went close to him and he started growling. I did what i did the other times and grabbed his collar but then he started to jump at him and bite him. I know your not suppose to get in the middle of fights but it was and instinct to grab him. I did hat let my other dog inside and left him outside. I don't know what to do and i ove him to much to send him away.

3 years, 6 months ago
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