Are German Shepherds Dangerous?

German Shepherds’ reputations change constantly. They have been on both sides of the spectrum—beloved and feared. But what’s true? Are German Shepherds as dangerous as some believe?

Nov 28, 2023bySara Payne
are german shepherds dangerous

A properly trained and socialized German Shepherd dog (GSD) is not dangerous and can be the perfect family pet. However, they’re not for everyone. For instance, German Shepherds have a lot of energy, so they wouldn’t be ideal in a laid-back household. Also, like other dog breeds, they need proper socialization and training.

Getting any pet requires time and research. Here’s some information on German Shepherds, so you can decide if it’s the right breed for you.

Each German Shepherd Has Its Own Temperament

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German Shepherds’ personalities, like all dogs, vary based on the individual. Most GSDs have a reputation as being loyal and loving pets. However, through the years, their reputation has changed. At their inception, Europeans bred German Shepherds to be shepherding dogs. Breeders selected pups who had good endurance, instincts, and protectiveness.

These dogs became popular quickly in the late 1800s, and soon, the breed spread beyond Germany. World War I their popularity soared. These canines were great war dogs and after the war, many of them became household pets and movie stars.

However, their introduction to the U.S. made them popular dogs as guards to gangsters and bootleggers in the early 20th century. Their reputation also took a turn when the dog became associated with the Third Reich.

However, with the passage of time, German Shepherds herded their way back into people’s hearts. By the 1990s, the breed was back to being popular. As of 2022, German Shepherds were the 4th most popular dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club.

German Shepherd Traits That Could Be Dangerous

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German Shepherds are beloved for their intelligence and loyalty, but certain traits can pose potential dangers if not properly managed. Here’s what to know:

German Shepherds Are Fiercely Protective

German Shepherds are extremely protective dogs. Once they form a bond with a human or a family, they will devote themselves to keeping their “pack” safe. Many people consider this a positive trait and often adopt GSDs for this very reason.

However, their protectiveness can have a negative side, as well. Sometimes, German Shepherds can be overly protective, becoming aggressive to strangers or anyone outside its family unit. Also, German Shepherds may become jealous if their favorite human shows any other animal or person affection, which can be problematic.

You must socialize your GSD and train them properly early in their lives to discourage these behaviors. Otherwise, you could find yourself dealing with some common (and also serious) dog behavioral problems.

GSDs Constantly Burst with Energy

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

This dog breed is full of energy. Energy and endurance are key traits for a dog who spends their time chasing after, herding, and protecting livestock. So, as one can imagine, confining a German Shepherd to a 500-square-foot apartment could quickly cause problems. Without an outlet, a GSD may resort to chewing baseboards, ripping up couches––anything to remain stimulated.

Here’s some good news. GSDs make great pets for runners, as these canines need lots of exercise. German Shepherds are the athletes of the dog world, requiring at least two hours of exercise daily. This makes them great candidates for breed-specific sports, like agility and simulation herding.

German Shepherds Can Outsmart Their Owners

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Not only do GSDs need lots of exercise, but they also need lots of mental simulation. That’s why so many German Shepherds have jobs, like serving as police dogs or competing in breed-specific sporting events. They need puzzles to solve and tasks to complete. If they don’t have enough mental stimulation, they may try to find their own puzzles to get into, which often results in mischief.

Even if you only plan to have your German Shepherd as a house pet, you can train them to complete tasks around the house such as closing doors, turning off lights, or bringing you items. Here’s a good place to start with five easy-to-learn tricks.

German Shepherds Love Being Top Dog

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German Shepherds are bred to have dominating personalities. How would they herd livestock otherwise? While a German Shepherd might be totally devoted to its owner, it might try “pushing around” other dogs in the household, especially if they’re smaller.

It is important to always supervise German Shepherds around new people, pets, and young children. Even if they are good-natured, German Shepherds have sharp teeth! A playful nip could easily break the skin and lead to an infection––the last thing anyone wants to deal with.

How to Tell Whether a Dog Is Dangerous

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Whether a German Shepherd is dangerous depends on the individual dog. Just like each person has their own personality, the same applies to canines. But how can you know whether a dog is dangerous or could inflict a nasty injury?

Some signs that that a dog, German Shepherd or not, is reactive include:

  • The dog bares its teeth. If a dog bares its teeth, it’s not smiling; it’s putting up its fists (metaphorically speaking, of course). It’s like the dog is saying, “Don’t come any closer!”
  • The dog snarls and barks. A barking dog isn’t necessarily an aggressive one. However, if a dog is showing its teeth, snarling, and barking, this is a sign to back off.
  • The whites show around the dogs’ eyes. A dog with a vacant stare is content. A dog that shows the whites of its eyes shows heightened arousal, meaning it could pose a threat.

It’s best to exercise caution when meeting any dog. As noted, it’s also a good idea to introduce small children and animals slowly when bringing a new dog home.

German Shepherds: A Favored Breed

german shepherd attentive
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Most German Shepherds by nature are not aggressive. Yet, as with any dog, potential owners should do their research first. If not properly socialized, trained, or stimulated, a GSD may resort to behaviors that some may find undesirable.

If you are considering bring a German Shepherd home, consider its size, exercise needs, and herding instinct. If you live an active lifestyle and want an athletic companion, the German Shepherd could be the right choice for you!

Sara Payne
bySara Payne

Sara is a mother of two and a high school English teacher who rediscovered her love of writing during the pandemic. She has 5 rescue cats: Neville and Luna, who are white cats with black and grey spots, and Ginny, Blue, and Fairy, who are calicos. Besides taking care of humans and fur babies, Sara enjoys gardening, crafting, and spending time in nature.