If your German Shepherd keeps cowering then you’re probably wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd cowers and what you can do about it.
So, why does my German Shepherd cower? Possible reasons are that someone mistreated it, it’s unsure of its environment, previous owners neglected it, illness or injury, being aggressive towards it or that it is still very young.
There are a number of things that you can consider when trying to understand why your German Shepherd cowers. Depending on the cause, there are also a number of things that you can do about it.
Why your German Shepherd cowers
Each of the different reasons that your German Shepherd does it will likely come with a number of clues.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons that your German Shepherd might cower and the signs to look for.
Someone mistreated it
The cause could be that someone has been mistreating it.
This would be more likely if your German Shepherd is adopted. It could also be the case that there is someone that is still mistreating it. If there is someone that is still mistreating it then it would be likely that it would get nervous when they are around.
However, if it does seem to get anxious when a certain person is around it could also be the case that it just doesn’t trust them yet. This would be more likely if it has not had many interactions with that person yet.
It’s unsure of its environment
The reason that your German Shepherd has been cowering could be that it is in a new environment.
This would be more likely if you recently bought it as a puppy or if you just adopted it from a shelter. It could also be the case if you recently moved home but you have had your German Shepherd for a while now.
In this case, it is likely that your German Shepherd will become less scared as time passes. However, you can speed the process up by spending more time walking it, playing with it and being around it calmly.
Previous owners neglected it
The cause of your German Shepherd being afraid of you could be that it was mistreated by previous owners.
This would be more likely if it is not just cowering around you and it also cowers when other people are around as well.
In this case, it is also likely that your German Shepherd will become less nervous over time. You can speed the process up by being around it, exercising it and playing with it.
Illness or injury
The reason that it has been cowering could be that it has gotten ill or injured. This would be more likely if it started to cower suddenly or if it started right after something happened that would cause it to become ill or injured.
If you think that illness or injury might be the cause then the best option for you would be to take it to a vet.
You are aggressive or emotional around it
If you were aggressive towards your German Shepherd then this could be why it is now cowering when you are around. This would be more likely to be the reason if it started cowering when you are around at around the same time that you were aggressive towards it.
If this is the case, then it would help to stop being aggressive towards it, to be calmer around your German Shepherd and to use positive reinforcement training instead of punishing it.
Related post: How to tell if your German Shepherd loves you
It is still young
If your German Shepherd is still only a few months old then it could be the case that it is nervous due to being a puppy still.
In this case, it would be likely that it will start to cower less as it gets older. However, you can speed up the process by spending more time around it and giving it lots of attention.
Related post: Why is my German Shepherd frightened all the time?
Things to consider
Before getting your German Shepherd to stop cowering it would help to have a good idea as to why it is happening. Below, I will mention a few particularly helpful things that you can consider.
If your German Shepherd always seems to cower
Considering whether or not it only cowers at certain times would likely help a lot.
If it only seems to cower at certain times then it would be likely that it has something to do with what is going on around it at that time.
If it always seems to get afraid of things then it would make it more likely that it has something to do with being mistreated when younger or not being able to socialize when it was younger.
When it started doing it
It would help to consider the timing of when your German Shepherd started to cower. If it started to cower suddenly and it isn’t normally afraid then it would be more likely to be due to being aggressive to it, illness or injury.
However, there might be other causes of it starting to cower suddenly. It would help to consider what else happened at around the same time that it started to get scared.
Things that you could consider would include:
- If you moved home
- If someone else was mean to it
- If you stepped on its tail
Who is around when it cowers
Considering who is around when it gets afraid would likely help a lot in determining why it does it.
If it seems to cower when certain people are around then it would be a sign that it has been mistreated. However, it could also be a sign that it was mistreated by someone else when it was younger and it is less trusting of people as a result.
How to get your German Shepherd to stop cowering
Below, I will show you some ways to get your German Shepherd to stop cowering and to gain more confidence.
You can look at the book Training Your German Shepherd on Amazon to get more tips about how you can train your GSD.
Be calm around your German Shepherd
German Shepherds are very responsive to their owner’s emotions. If you get emotional or aggressive around your German Shepherd then it will usually cause it to react itself.
When you are around your German Shepherd it would help to be calm with it and to avoid getting overly emotional or aggressive.
Give it exercise and play with it
One way to get your German Shepherd to become more comfortable would be to play with it and to exercise it.
You can play with it by playing tug of war, training it or playing fetch with it. Some ways to exercise it would be to walk it or to teach it to swim. Generally, it is recommended that a German Shepherd get at least an hour of exercise daily.
Reward it when it does not cower
The next thing to try is positive reinforcement training which is where you reward it for behaving in a way that you want it to.
To use positive reinforcement training to get your German Shepherd to stop cowering you would reward it with treats just before it starts to cower. Then, if it starts to cower, you would stop giving it treats until it starts to show signs of not cowering.
Avoid rewarding the cowering
If your method of getting your German Shepherd to be less scared is to give it things that it likes then it is likely that it has learned that being scared results in it getting things that it wants. This could have reinforced the behavior.
Instead, you could try to reward it before it becomes scared and then wait for it to stop being scared and reward it again.
Avoid physical punishment
If you punish or reward your German Shepherd when it shows signs of cowering you might be reinforcing the behavior.
Instead, it would be better to avoid reacting when it does things that you don’t like and to use positive reinforcement training techniques instead of punishing it.
Get help from a vet
If you are unsure of why your German Shepherd is cowering it would help to get the expert advice of a vet. This will also help to rule out the possibility that it is cowering due to illness or injury.
This post contains affiliate links. Germanshepherdsowner may be paid a commission from the companies mentioned in this post. This has no effect on the price you pay and we are very grateful for any support.
Most Recommended For German Shepherds
Best German Shepherd Training Program
Our favorite: The Dunbar Academy Training Program. If you want a happy and obedient German Shepherd, this is one of the best online dog training programs available right now. You can get the first month free using This link
Best Fresh Dog Food
Best German Shepherd Guide
Our favorite: The German Shepherd Handbook (on Amazon) - Shows you all you need to know to keep your GSD happy, healthy and well-behaved.