If your German Shepherd is aggressive towards other dogs then it will be something that you’ll want to stop as soon as possible. This post will help you to figure out why your German Shepherd does it and how to stop it.
So, why is your German Shepherd aggressive towards other dogs? The most common reason is a lack of exposure to other dogs as a puppy since this is when they would normally learn how to interact with other dogs. Other reasons include dominance, overly enthusiastic play or protecting its territory or owner.
And, how do you get your German Shepherd to stop being aggressive to other dogs? You can teach your German Shepherd to positively associate other dogs with rewards, desensitize your German Shepherd to other dogs over time, reward small steps toward good behavior with “shaping”, or you could enroll your German Shepherd in a “growl class.”
Teaching your German Shepherd to be well behaved around other dogs can be difficult when you only have one dog. But, there are actually a lot of things that you can still do. The best method will depend on the cause of your German Shepherd’s aggression.
Why your German Shepherd is aggressive to other dogs
There are a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might be behaving in this way. It’s important to take the time to try to figure out why your German Shepherd might be behaving this way since it will make getting it to stop a lot easier.
A lack of exposure to other dogs
The most common reason is that your German shepherd did not get enough exposure to other dogs as a puppy.
When German Shepherds are puppies they would normally get to interact with their littermates on a daily basis. This would allow them to learn that other dogs will not attack them, that they are friends and it also teaches them how to control their bite.
If your German Shepherd didn’t get to do that then it will still have it in its nature to be cautious of other dogs.
Another possible reason could be that you have an overly dominant German Shepherd.
If this is the case then it could be that your German Shepherd is trying to assert its dominance over the other dogs. Signs that this could 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).
Overly enthusiastic play
It could also be that your German Shepherd gets overly excited around other dogs.
When this happens it can cause German Shepherds to display aggressive behavior like biting or growling. Regardless this is still something that you should try to stop. I will mention ways that you can do so in the section below.
Protecting territory or owner
It could also be that your German Shepherd is trying to protect you or its territory from other dogs. This will likely stem from a lack of socializing with other dogs from an early age but other signs would include separation anxiety.
Related post: How to tell if your German Shepherd loves you
How to get your German Shepherd to stop being aggressive
It can be difficult to stop dog aggression once it starts but there are a number of things that you can do that I’ll mention below.
You can look at the book Training Your German Shepherd on Amazon to get more tips on how you can train your GSD.
Teach your dog to positively associate other dogs with rewards
One option you have is to train your German Shepherd to stop the bad behavior by using positive reinforcement training. This is where you teach your German Shepherd that it will get things that it wants when other dogs are around. This will help to get your German Shepherd to have positive feelings toward other dogs.
One way to do this is to try the “open bar” technique where you give your German Shepherd positive attention and a treat when you see other dogs on a walk. The positive attention and treat should stop when the other dog goes away.
The treat should also be a special treat that you only give to your German Shepherd when other dogs are around. You might think that doing this would reinforce bad behavior but behaviorists argue that it creates a strong positive association with other dogs that overrides the bad behavior.
You can also try “shaping” where you reward your dog for making small steps towards being well behaved.
You would start by rewarding it for not reacting when it sees other dogs and then you would gradually build up to rewarding it for playing with other dogs.
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 too quickly.
Instead, do so gradually so that your German Shepherd can make small steps without being poorly behaved. 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.
Try desensitization training
One option is to try 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.
You’ll then reward it for doing so and then gradually lower the distance. When it does give a negative reaction, increase the distance until it stops and then
Train it to listen to your command
One 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 aggressive.
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 aggressive. Once you’ve done that give it the chance to calm down and then reward it with a special treat for doing so.
The nice thing about this option is that you don’t need to get the help of a friend that has a dog to do it. Instead, you can do it whenever you see other dogs when you’re walking it.
Try a “growl” class
One option you have is to use a “Growl” class where they teach dogs to behave with other dogs. The benefit of doing this is that you’ll be able to get help from a dog behaviorist who has experience with these matters. It’s also ideal for when you can’t get the help of friends. It will also be nice to interact with other dog owners that are having the same issue.
Take it to vet or dog behaviorist
If the above still hasn’t been enough for you then you could consider taking your German Shepherd to get help from an animal behaviorist.
By doing this you’ll be able to get tailored advice and assistance for your German Shepherd from someone that has a lot of experience with the matter. You should also consider taking it to the vet to make sure there is nothing wrong with it that is causing the behavior.
Things to consider
Avoid punishment. It doesn’t change how dogs feel about other dogs and can also cause other problems. If you punish your German Shepherd after the event then it might think that it’s being punished for being quiet.
It’s recommended that you stay calm so that you can focus on the triggers of your dog’s aggression. By getting anxious you will reinforce its instinct to be cautious of other dogs.
Avoid allowing the bad behavior to get reinforced to do this prevent the dog aggression as quickly as possible by diverting its attention. This can be done with other training exercises, by using a body block by moving your German Shepherd away, or it can be lured away with treats. It’s important to stop the behavior as soon as possible and preferably before it even has the chance to start acting aggressive.
Be patient. Getting your German Shepherd to stop acting aggressively to other dogs is not something that you will be able to fix straight away. Instead, it will require a consistent and sustained effort on your part.
You should take comfort in the fact that this is something that is not uncommon but it’s also something that many other dog owners have been able to cure in the past so there is no reason why you can’t do it too.
Why is my German Shepherd aggressive towards guests? This is likely to be because it is trying to protect its property and its owner. To prevent this it’s important to expose your German Shepherd to other people from an early age.
Another thing that you can do is to train your German Shepherd to stop the behavior by having a friend go to the front door and then to reward your German Shepherd for not being aggressive.
Once you can stop it being aggressive to people at the door you can stop it when the person steps foot into the room and then you can build it up to allowing the other person to interact with it.
You should also consider getting the help of an animal behaviorist in these circumstances.
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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.