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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7 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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3 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.
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The Routine Method

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3 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 and Success Stories

Question
Tiger
German Shepherd
2 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
Tiger
German Shepherd
2 Years

I take him to park for 15 minutes every day to play with ball. What I usually do is throw the ball really far and I told him to sit then when he did that, I start throw the ball and he will start run to get the ball. But the issue is that I can't control or hold him properly when it comes to people and dogs. Those are main concerns that I have. For example, I walk with him on way to park, and when people come past us, I told him to sit and wait then when people about to go past us and he just starting barking at them, t was struggle to hold him back but when it will be more difficult when there are dogs. I just want to sort it out soon as possible because I just want him to be friendly to people and dogs. When I have guests come over and I put him outside because he will barking at them and possibly bite them but I don't know so I just want him to stay inside and comfortable than staying outside until the guest leave. Also I have issue to feeding him, I use bowl with dog food and I use spoon to feed him but if I put the food in the bowl and let him eat but he won't eat it from the bowl. That I have same issues with my other older dog. Let me know what I need to do to teach them or what can I stop them being aggressive over people and dogs as soon as possible as you can.

P.S. Tiger is the second dog that I have and I have currently older dog and she is mother of Tiger, her name is Zena and she is only 4 year old
Thank you.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
689 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sara, For the picky eating, I suggest giving each dog no more than 45 minutes to eat from their bowl, then if they are not actively eating, put the food away. At first, I would feed breakfast, lunch and dinner, to give them an extra opportunity to eat, while they are learning to eat more quickly. Once they are doing well, you can try removing the lunch meal. In many cases a dog won't eat breakfast or lunch at first, but as they realize the food is taken up and have opportunity to get hungry again leading up to lunch and dinner, they are more likely to begin eating what's given to them at meal times. Some dogs also simply aren't hungry until later in the day and prefer to eat a little bit in the morning and most of their daily food ration in the evening - if you find a pup is doing that with the new schedule, that should be fine as long as they eat extra in the evening to make up for overall calorie need - you can begin feeding less in the morning if so and give extra at night, so it equals the same amount of food in a day overall- if you have any concern for pup's health, like if they tend to get low blood sugar, speak with your vet and defer to them though - I am not a vet. When you feed them, place their food for the next day into baggies with freeze dried kibble toppers crushed into powder. Shake the food and powder together and let it sit like that in the bag overnight to flavor the kibble. The next day feed the dogs their food out of that. As pups adjust to eating out of a bowl, you can gradually decrease the amount of powder in the kibble over a couple of weeks time. For the aggression, I highly recommend working in person with a trainer. Look for a training group that specializes in behavior issues like aggression. You need someone who works with a team of trainers - to practice desensitizing pups to a variety of people who know how to do so. You also need a training group that has access to other well behaved dogs to desensitize pups to. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Vader
GSD
1 Year
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Question
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Vader
GSD
1 Year

Food aggression and I can’t bathe him without him trying to bark, growl, bite.

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Question
Thor
German Shepherd
4 Months
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Question
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Thor
German Shepherd
4 Months

How should I train him home with proper love and care?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
689 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dhanashri, I recommend reading Ian Dunbar's free PDF e-book "AFTER You Get Your Puppy" I have linked below. He has a lot of advice on socialization to prevent future behavior issues. ww.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Zoro
German Shepherd
2 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Zoro
German Shepherd
2 Months

She is in a phase where she bites a lot and before sleeping she will get aggressive and bite.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Here is information on nipping/biting. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

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Question
Teddy
Black German shepherd
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Teddy
Black German shepherd
1 Year

Extremely aggressive... will not allow ANYONE around us, including animals and people

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell his fear. First we reduce his fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” The steps below can be applied towards both humans and other dogs. Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make his concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at her (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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Training Success Stories

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.

1 year, 11 months ago
Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd