Keeping Your German Shepherd’s Aggression in Control

Keeping Your German Shepherd’s Aggression in Control


It is often worrying for dog owners if they notice their German Shepherd’s aggression. Aggression in your German Shepherd can be categorized into many different types, however, in most cases, it is caused by the fear of something.

Resource guarding, as the term suggests, refers to a dog displaying aggressive behavior during times in which he fears of losing a valuable resource such as food or even the attention of their owner. Many inexperienced dog owner may not notice this, but your German Shepherd learns resource guarding as a puppy whenever an owner backs away from a resource based on a growl or a guarding behavior. Whenever this happens, your dog learns that the behavior works, so he would just do it every time he needs to guard a resource. To learn more about how German Shepherds learn, read more about positive reinforcement training.

In addition, aggression in your German Shepherd is often based in the lack of socialization. Since your dog does not know how to behave around other dogs, he becomes intimidated and as a result, uses “attack” (in the form of aggression) as a form of defence. This leads most dog training experts to believe that signs of aggression in your dog shows that your dog does not know what to do during that moment, rather than wanting to fight. As such, it is very important to socialize your dog as early as possible. The Animal Humane Society has a comprehensive article on how to socialize your dog.

Similarly, aggression towards people is often a result of having fear of the person. This aggression can also be attributed to general fear towards the situation the dog is in. An example which is often used to illustrate this is a dog in the kennels that shows his teeth through the bars because of feelings of fear and confusion.

To recognize what causes the display of aggression behavior in a dog is an important skill to have as dog owners. The body language of your dog will change noticeably whenever this happens:

  • The dog will focus on the stimulant (the thing that he’s intimidated of)
  • In an attempt to ignore the stimulant, the dog may yawn or try to leave the situation.
  • If this does not take place, the dog will then change his posture, shift his bodyweight, his hackles may raise and he may growl.
  • Growling that doesn’t lead to the removal of the fear causes the dog to eventually show his teeth.
  • If growling and showing his teeth doesn’t work, he may snap at the air between him and the stimulant.
  • The next thing that could happen if the dog can’t flee or if the threat is not removed is he will start biting.

I want to stress how important it is to determine the factors that trigger your German Shepherd’s aggression. Only by knowing these factor(s) can you start help train your German Shepherd to control his aggression. In addition to that, also consider working with your veterinarian in trying to diagnose your dog’s aggressive behavior. Some dogs show signs of aggression because they are in pain or discomfort. This can be due to a variety of medical conditions or complications such as orthopedic problems, thyroid abnormality and cognitive dysfunction to name a few.

Implementing steps to control your German Shepherd’s aggression not only requires the right technique and strategy, but also an immense amount patience. Of course, the right technique and strategy is determined by the factor that triggers the aggression behavior in your dog. Utilizing the wrong technique and strategy will most likely backfire and have detrimental effects to your dog. As aggression can be a complex and tricky behavior to diagnose and control if you’re an inexperienced dog owner, you can work with professional dog behavior experts. The Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, CAAB or ACAAB and the veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) are individuals that you should seek out whenever your dog has an aggression behavior you can’t control.

Lastly, you can think of aggression as a habit that your German Shepherd displays whenever there is a trigger which elicits feelings of fear, intimidation, pain and/or discomfort. Figuring out what these triggers are is winning half of the battle in “curing” your German Shepherd’s aggression. However, like many habits, it can be difficult for your dog to NOT fall back into displaying aggressive behaviors when triggered by specific factors. Therefore, dog owners of aggressive dogs should always be on the alert to look out for factors that triggers aggressive behaviors to prevent such behaviors.


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