This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd is always so protective of you and what you can do about it.
So, why is my German Shepherd so protective of me? Possible reasons are that it did not socialize much as a puppy, the behavior has been inadvertently rewarded or that it is naturally protective of its territory.
There are a number of things that you can consider when trying to figure out why your German Shepherd is so protective of you. Depending on the cause there are also a number of things that you can do about it.
Why your German Shepherd is so protective of you
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 why your German Shepherd might be so protective of you and the signs to look for.
It thinks you’re in danger
The reason that it is so protective of you could be that it thinks you are in danger. This would be more likely if it does it when you are talking to people that it has not met before, when someone else is on your property or if it does it when someone touches you.
In this case, it would help to train it to listen to your command, to train it using positive reinforcement training and to avoid negative reinforcement. Each of which will be discussed below.
It was mistreated when younger
It could be the case that it was mistreated when it was a puppy and it has caused it to be untrusting of people. This would be more likely if it was adopted from a shelter. In this case, it would help to train your German Shepherd to positively associate other people or dogs with rewards.
German Shepherds are naturally a very protective breed and they are used in law enforcement for this reason. The reason that your German Shepherd is protective of you is likely to have some influence from its nature.
With that being said, even so, it will be possible for you to get your German Shepherd to be better behaved around other people and dogs by training it. I will show you some things that you can do below.
It has been rewarded
The reason that it gets very protective when other people or dogs are around could be that you have inadvertently been rewarding it. This would be more likely if your method of getting it to stop is to give it more attention or even treats. Instead, it would be better to avoid rewarding it and to train it to have a positive association with other people.
It didn’t socialize much from an early age
When German Shepherds are puppies they will naturally explore the world a lot and learn about what they should and should not trust. If your German Shepherd did not get much exposure to other people and dogs as a puppy then it might never have learned that they can usually be trusted.
Things to consider
Before trying to get your German Shepherd to be less protective around friendly people and dogs it would help to get a better understanding of what is causing it. Below, I will mention a couple of particularly helpful things that you can consider.
When it does it
It would help to consider when and where your German Shepherd becomes more protective.
It is normal for a German Shepherd to be more protective when someone it does not know is in its home.
Whereas, if it does it when you are walking past other people on walks then it would be a more serious issue and something that will be necessary to stop.
When it first started doing it
It would also help to consider when it first started behaving that way. If it was not always very protective but it suddenly started to be then it could be that someone mistreated it or you inadvertently rewarded the behavior.
How to get your German Shepherd to stop being so protective
There are a number of things that you can do to get your German Shepherd to be less protective when you don’t want it to be that I will mention below.
Train it to associate other people and dogs with rewards
One option you have is to make 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 and people are around and it does not become aggressive towards them. This will help get your German Shepherd to have positive feelings towards other dogs and people.
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 people and dogs are near. The positive attention and treat should stop when the other dog or person goes away or when your German Shepherd starts being protective.
It would also help if the treat is a special treat that you only give to your German Shepherd when other dogs and people 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 people 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 become aggressive 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 or person too quickly.
Instead, do so gradually so that your German Shepherd can make small steps without being poorly behaved.
You can watch the video below for more advice on how to do it.
Train it to listen to your command
Another option you have is to train your German Shepherd to respond to your command when you say things like “stay” or “down.”
Once you have taught your German Shepherd to do these things you’ll want to tell it to “stay” or go “down” before it gets the chance to become protective.
This is why it’s important to stay calm in these situations so that you can monitor your German Shepherd for signs that it is about to become defensive or aggressive. Once you’ve done that give it the chance to calm down and then reward it with a special treat for doing so.
It will also help to get your German Shepherd used to following your command which will make it easier in getting it to follow your instructions when it is full of energy.
The nice thing about this option is that you don’t need to be around other people or dogs to do it. Instead, you can do it whenever you see other dogs or people when you’re walking your German Shepherd.
Avoid negative reinforcement
While positive reinforcement training can be highly effective it can also work against you if you reward your GSD when it does things that you don’t want it to. Instead, it would help to avoid rewarding it when it misbehaves as much as possible.
Get help from a dog behaviorist
If you are still unsure why your German Shepherd becomes so protective or you can’t get it to stop then one option you have is to get help from a dog behaviorist. By doing so you will be able to get expert help tailored to your specific German Shepherd.
If you would like learn everything that you need to know about how to have a happy, healthy and well-behaved German Shepherd, take a look at the German Shepherd Handbook