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
8 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
4 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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4 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
Udo
German Shepherd
17 Months
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Question
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Udo
German Shepherd
17 Months

Sometimes when I go to the road side , he keeps barking on bikes and car

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sunny, There are a few reasons for a dog barking on a walk. Pup may be nervous and fearful, in which case the underlying lack of confidence and fearful association with the moving objects needs to be addressed. This is generally done using counter conditioning. Check out the video I have linked below for how to do that. I would start with bikes by recruiting a friend to ride, since cars require more caution. Be sure that with your leash and collar/harness set up that pup cannot get away from you and chase after the vehicles. If they can, I recommend a different set up of tools. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY7JrteQBOQ Another reason for the barking is pup becoming overly aroused, which is generally addressed with structured obedience to help pup learn self-control and to condition a calmer response, and respect building for you. Check out the following resources for commands and structure to work on with pup. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Reactive dog - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY8s_MlqDNE Severely aggressive dog – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfiDe0GNnLQ&t=259s A third reason why pup may be barking would simply be that pup find the act of barking itself fun. Barking is a self-rewarding behavior due the chemicals released in a dog's brain while they bark, that can make the dog feel a certain way and feed into even more barking. When pup is barking for the fun of barking and getting aroused, I recommend interrupting the barking, while rewarding quiet instead. First, you need a way to communicate with him so I suggest teaching the Quiet command from the Quiet method in the article I have linked below - don't expect this alone to work but it will be part of the puzzle for what I will suggest next. Regardless of which reason pup is barking, I would actually teach pup Quiet in general, simply to increase the communication between you and pup. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Next, once pup understands what Quiet means you will choose an interrupter - neither too harsh nor ineffective. A Pet Convincer is one example of an interrupter. A pet convincer is a small canister of pressurized, unscented air that you can spray a quick puff of at the dog's side to surprise them enough to help them calm back down. (Don't use citronella and avoid spraying in the face!). In situations where you know pup will bark or is already barking (catch them before they bark if you can), command "Quiet". If they obey, reward with a treat and very calm praise. If they bark anyway or continue to bark, say "Ah Ah" firmly but calmly and give a brief correction. Repeat the correction each time they bark until you get a brief pause in the barking. When they pause, praise and reward then. The combination of communication, correction, and rewarding - with the "Ah Ah" and praise to mark their good and bad behavior with the right timing, is very important. Once pup is calmer in general after the initial training, practice exposing him a lot to the things that trigger the barking normally (make a list - even if it's long). Whenever he DOESN'T bark around something that he normally would have, calmly praise and reward him to continue the desensitization process. Also, check out this video on increase impulse control around cars, for dogs who have a strong chase instinct. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buaZctWLWR0 Depending on whether pup is just barking or is hard to control on the leash, if pup is physically difficult to control and stay safe on the leash around cars and bikes, you may also find you need to work in person with a professional trainer to teach pup impulse control around the cars and how to Leave It. This might need to involve the use of a strong long tether, where pup is tethered to something secure other than you, and a remote training collar, to allow you to train around cars while keeping you and pup safe. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Linsey
German Shepherd
1 Year
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Question
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Linsey
German Shepherd
1 Year

Hi
My dogs name is knight and the problems I'm facing with knight is when we our on walks he will constantly bark at people and dogs. I had an accident with knight when he was six months old I was using a long training lead he run off I went after him and got my foot caught in the training lead I fell hit my head and was knocked out and ended up in hospital. Meanwhile this left my daughters having to take knight home while I was at the hospital. Since then all he does is bark I would say aggressively at people other dogs due to coronavirus I have not been able to socialize him .Before all lockdowns when he was a pup I used to have my daughters friends over to stay and he was fine no problems. And now I'm just stuck I don't know what to do .

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Linsey, Unfortunately the suspicion of others, barking, and aggression because of a lack of socialization during lockdown has been a common occurrence with dogs your dog's age. I recommend working with a professional training group that specializes in behavior issues like aggression and fear, has a team of trainers so that there are enough people for pup to be counter conditioned around a variety of people who know how to do so in a controlled setting, who have access to other well mannered dogs to also use for counter conditioning practice, and comes well recommended by their previous clients for similar training needs. Check out Thomas Davis from the canine educator on Youtube. He is a trainer who specializes in aggression and behavior issues. He has a large number of videos where you can learn more about aggression, especially aggression related to fear and suspiciousness and a lack of confidence (which I suspect are at least part of what's present in his case). To be able to train safely and have the resources needed, I would work in person with a trainer in this case though. They can also better evaluate if the aggression is fear based or if there are other things like possessiveness present that need to be addressed too. Safety should always be a consideration. Pup can be desensitized to wearing a basket muzzle if needed, using treats ahead of time to gradually get him used to it. I recommend basket muzzles over other types because pup can still open his mouth while wearing it to take treats through the holes and be more comfortable. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sheru
Cross breed of German shep
2 Years
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Question
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Sheru
Cross breed of German shep
2 Years

He is a abandoned dog. I took him 3 months ago . He becomes very aggressive while feeding him . He bites me 3 times.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, I would have pup on a back tie leash in your feeding area before you ever bring food out, so pup can't reach you while feeding and training to stop the bites through proper safety measures. I would also hire a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to come to your home to work in person with you for this level of aggression. Pup likely needs their overall trust and respect for you build through generally having pup earn everything they want in life by obeying a command like Sit before you give them something - such as a pet, toy toss, treat, walk, ect...As well as some commands to help manage and build respect and trust taught - like Sit, Down, Leave It, Out (leave the area), kennel (go to crate), Drop It, Wait, ect... I would desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle gradually using food rewards before starting the obedience training and having pup work for what they want, since pup may bite any time you ask them to do something new or something they don't feel like doing, if there is general aggression towards you present. I would also address the specific feeding behavior, building trust around food while pup is on a back tie leash and can't get to you to bite them. You will need a trainers help to do this safely in my opinion. I would have pup's bowl on a leash so you can pull it away without getting to close while pup is tethered. I would feed pup their meals in portions, so you are giving small amounts several times. It would look something like, give 1/5 the meal to pup once they are not behaving aggressively, without getting too close just in case. While pup is eating sit far enough away pup isn't acting tense around you. Toss treats that a lot better than pup's current food at pup's food bowl when pup relaxed with your presence in the room. After pup finishes the first portion, once the bowl is empty, toss a treat away from the bowl where pup can reach it, to get pup to move away from the bowl. Say Out while you do this, then reel the bowl on the rope back to you. Place the next food portion in it and return to pup carefully using something other than your arm to push it toward pup once pup is not behaving aggressively. Repeat the treat tosses during the meal. Do this until you have fed the entire meal that way in portions. As pup improves, gradually sit closer to pup while they eat and you toss treats. Only toss treats for good responses. Depending on the specifics of why pup is guarding the food, you may also need to use low level remote collar corrections to interrupt aggressive responses toward you, while at the same time staying far enough away that the aggressive responses are rare, and focusing mostly on rewarding the calm, tolerant responses to have pup associate you being near the food with good things to continue to build trust. Resource guarding is often related to both a lack of trust and a lack of respect. Sometimes the dog has a strong food drive that's part of the reason they guard. Sometimes a dog has experienced with neglect or interactions with people pestering them while eating that caused food aggression, and sometimes their is a lack of respect for the owner and so pup simply doesn't want the person near something they view as their own. Because of the frequency of the bites and the possible need for low level remote collar training, I don't recommend doing this on your own. Be sure your trainer has a lot of experience with aggression and counter conditioning, and comes well recommended by their previous clients for aggression work. An example of another aggression case with some safety measures like a back tie leash you can see. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgmRRYK1Z6A Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
jack
German Shepherd
2 Years
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Question
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jack
German Shepherd
2 Years

Jack is very aggressive and over protective. Hes super hard to take on walks because he tries to attack everything and anything that moves. Also, very clumsy, always chasing random lights that move and knocking everything over.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gianna, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression in your case. I would find someone who has experience with obsessive compulsive behavior, possessiveness, and fear. Ideally the trainer would also work with a staff or team of trainers, so that you have the resources to counter condition pup to a lot of different "strangers" -i.e. the other trainers on staff. As well as well mannered dogs that the training can be practiced around. I would also desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle so that you can train more safely and do more in training. Here an example of an aggressive dog who is aggressive and reactive. I would highly recommend working in person with a training group due to the resources needed with these cases and the bite risk with such aggression. A good training group should be taking safety measures while training to keep everyone involved safe too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tiHairtYUc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8juiJ-Hq8dI Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Darcy
German Shepherd
8 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Darcy
German Shepherd
8 Years

When it’s time to go out for a walk. She gets really aggressive and starts jumping, biting, barks and really hyper active like jumping on the furniture and all over me the owner and principal care What can I do to change this behaviour and make her calmer. I have tried Ignoring her and calming her but nothing works

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tracie, I would work on commands in general that build impulse control. I would also make walks very structured and boring for a while - they should be structured heeling walks, in one area, like a cul-de-sac, yard, or field, so you can practice the structured obedience without constant new sights and smells. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Check out channels like James Penrith and his intermediate obedience training. https://www.youtube.com/user/taketheleadvideo I suspect pup is getting overly aroused in anticipation of the walk. The main goals if that's the case should be increased obedience and building pup's impulse control/self-control skills, and making the walk itself a calmer, more structured experience so pup doesn't get so worked up to begin with in anticipation. Depending on whether pup is gently mouthing or causing harm with bites, you may also need to introduce a basket muzzle before you can do any of this safely. This is often done over a couple of weeks gradually, so that pup is not afraid of the muzle, unless pup is completely comfortable with the muzzle initially, like the dog in the video below. 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.

2 years, 10 months ago
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