If your German Shepherd has been growling at other dogs, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might be doing it and what you can do about it.
So, why does my German Shepherd growl at other dogs? Possible reasons are that it didn’t socialize with other dogs as a puppy, was mistreated by another dog in the past, it’s being protective or that it is being dominant.
There are a number of things that you can consider when trying to understand why your German Shepherd growls at other dogs. Depending on the cause there are also a number of things that you can do about it.
Why your German Shepherd growls at other dogs
Each of the different reasons that your German Shepherd growls at other dogs will likely come with a number of clues.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might growl at other dogs and the signs to look for.
It didn’t socialize with them as a puppy
German Shepherds will, naturally, explore their environment a lot as puppies and it is when they will learn about the world. Not getting a lot of exposure to other dogs when it was younger could be why yours growls at other dogs. This is because it might see them as a threat.
In this case, desensitization training would likely work well which is discussed a few sections below.
It was mistreated
It could be the case that it growls at other dogs because it was mistreated by them in the past. This would be more likely if you know that another dog attacked it when it was a puppy or if you adopted it from a shelter.
German Shepherds are known for being very protective dogs and they are often used as guard dogs for that reason. The cause of your German Shepherd growling at other dogs could be that it is being protective.
This would be more likely to be the reason if it also growls at people that it does not know, at times, as well. It would also be more likely if it growls more at dogs that it is unfamiliar with especially when at home or around your property.
It could also be the case that your German Shepherd is being overly dominating.
If this is the case then it would be likely that your German Shepherd is trying to assert its dominance over the other dogs.
Signs that this might be the reason would include your German Shepherd displaying other dominant behaviors such as trying to position itself in higher positions than you or being unresponsive to your command (although that could also be a lack of training).
In this case, it would be helpful to train it as much as you can starting with the basics such as to sit or stay.
Things to consider
Before getting your German Shepherd to stop growling at other dogs it would help to have a better understanding of what might be causing it.
When it first started to growl at other dogs
It would also help to consider when your German Shepherd first started to growl at other dogs.
If it has always seemed to growl at other dogs then it would be more likely that it didn’t get to interact with other dogs enough as a puppy.
If it started recently then it would make it more likely that something such as being mistreated by another dog or being territorial is causing it.
When it does it
The times that your German Shepherd does and does not growl at them would also be something to consider.
If it only growls at small dogs then it would be more likely to due to it having a strong prey drive. I have written more about why your German Shepherd might not get along with small dogs here.
Whereas, if it seems to be that it only growls in certain locations then it might be due to feeling insecure in that location for some reason.
How to get your German Shepherd to stop growling at other dogs
There are a number of things that you can do to get your German Shepherd to stop growling at other dogs that I will mention below.
You can look at the book Training Your German Shepherd on Amazon to get more tips about how you can train your GSD.
Train it to associate other dogs with rewards
One option you have is to train your German Shepherd to stop growling at other dogs with the use of positive reinforcement training. This is where you train your German Shepherd to learn that it will get things that it wants when other dogs are around and it does not growl. This will help get your German Shepherd to have positive feelings towards other dogs.
One way to do this is to use the “open bar” technique where you give your German Shepherd positive attention and a treat when other dogs are near. The positive attention and treat should stop when the other dog goes away or when your German Shepherd starts growling.
It would also help if the treat is a special treat that you only give to your German Shepherd when other dogs are around.
You can also try “shaping” where you reward your German Shepherd for making small steps towards being well behaved.
You would start by rewarding it for not growling when it sees other dogs and then you would gradually build up to rewarding it for playing with other dogs without growling.
When you’re doing this you will want to reward your German Shepherd for being well behaved before it has a chance to growl so avoid making large jumps in what you ask of it.
For example, if you start out by rewarding it for being well behaved at a distance then don’t close the gap between you and the other dog too quickly.
Instead, do so gradually so that your German Shepherd can make small steps without being poorly behaved or growling. This can be difficult to do if you just have one German Shepherd so you could get a friend with a dog to help you out.
You can watch the video below for more advice it talks about barking but you can apply the same principles for growling.
Desensitize it to other dogs
Another thing that you can do is to use desensitization training where other dogs are presented at a sufficiently large distance so that it doesn’t have a chance to give a negative reaction and to start growling.
You’ll then reward it for not growling and then gradually lower the distance. When it does give a negative reaction or growl increase the distance until it stops and then
Making sure that your German Shepherd gets used to being around other dogs would be a particularly important thing to do if it is a puppy.
Train it to listen to your command
It would also help to train your German Shepherd to listen to your command when you tell it what to do. Doing this will make it much easier to control your German Shepherd when it starts misbehaving or growling.
Get help from a dog behaviorist
If you can’t get your German Shepherd to stop growling at other dogs or it becomes very aggressive then it would help to get the help of a dog behaviorist in your area.
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Our favorite: The Dunbar Academy Training Program. If you want a happy and obedient dog, this is one of the best online dog training programs available right now.
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Our favorite: The German Shepherd Handbook - Shows you all you need to know to keep your GSD happy, healthy and well-behaved.