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Are German Shepherds Friendly: Only an Owner Will Know!

The German Shepherds’ wolf ancestors remain distant and unfriendly. Although it’s also no secret that German Shepherds still look like wolves, where does this leave the German Shepherd in terms of friendliness?

German Shepherds are friendly with people, other dogs, and pets in general as long as they’re exposed to them respectively at a young age. Unsocialized GSDs raised in isolation can be guarded and distant, making them seem unfriendly. Regardless, they are affectionate towards their owner and family.

In this article, we will look at the four contributors to a German Shepherd’s friendliness so that you’ll be able to ensure that your dog is slightly more social. We’ll also cover the German Shepherds friendliness towards:

  • Kids
  • Strangers
  • Other dogs
  • Cats

Finally, we will wrap up this short post with a primer on training your German Shepherd to be more friendly.

A GSD playing with a Corgi. Are German Shepherds Friendly?

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But first, you must understand the causes of your dog’s social (and asocial behavior). Let’s get started!

Are German Shepherds Friendly?

According to scientific evidence, dogs have some DNA that suggests they are genetically inclined to be friendly and sociable. They can also have different reasons for being friendly, ranging from instinctive social intuition to trained people skills. German Shepherds lie in the middle of this spectrum.

Let me explain…

German Shepherds are friendly as they are somewhat naturally inclined towards being social but require early exposure to confidently socialize with people, other dogs, and cats. This is due to their innate traits of protectiveness and loyalty, which originate from their sheep herding days.

With the basics covered, let’s look at specific contributors to their extroversion.

German Shepherds are Intelligent

If you’ve read my post on German Shepherd intelligence, you would know that social skills emerge from intellect. Take the example of humans, where one can have an IQ low enough to make them socially dysfunctional. This shows that intelligence is required for friendliness and socializing.

Fortunately for German Shepherd owners, they are among the smartest dogs and are ranked third for intelligence in the book The Intelligence of Dogs by the canine psychologist Stanley Coren.

GSDs Attract Positive Attention

Again, we must begin with the example of humans. It is hard to be friendly and socially competent if you don’t receive positive feedback on your attempts at striking a conversation. The same applies to dogs; when a dog tries to socialize and is shunned or met with caution, he too becomes guarded and distant. 

German Shepherd puppies exposed to humans receive enough positive attention to build an open view and non-threatening body language towards people. Whenever they try to socialize with humans, their non-threatening demeanor inspires more friendliness.

German Shepherds are Affectionate

While their bite-force and offensive abilities can make certain misinformed people disproportionately cautious of German Shepherds, these dogs are incredibly affectionate and friendly towards people they categorize as belonging to their “in-group.” 

Even aggressive actions of a German Shepherd can emerge from a protective perspective. As long as a German Shepherd doesn’t believe that he must protect his owner from people in general, he will be open to being friendly with others.

German Shepherd puppy with a parakeet sat on its back. Are German Shepherds Friendly?

German Shepherds are Emotionally Intuitive

Finally, we must talk about emotional intelligence, which only an owner can truly understand. German Shepherds are as smart as a 2-year-old child. But when it comes to processing emotions, they seem to be far more mature. They can make excellent therapy dogs for this reason. 

Their emotional maturity allows them to tap into the person’s state in front of them. If the individual has malevolent intent or is too nervous, the dog’s energy will match the subject’s. 

But if people around the dog are friendly first, the German Shepherd will be equally friendly, if not more social than the subjects. Again, this can have a flipside where getting off on the wrong foot can lead to the GSD being not-so-friendly.

German Shepherds and Friendliness: What to Expect

No man is an island, so the saying goes. No matter how introverted you are, you need family and friends. Even in the absence of those, you will likely take your dog for walks in places where there are kids, strangers, other dogs, and even cats. So, how safe is each introduction?

This section covers what you can expect in each context.

Are German Shepherds Kid Friendly?

German Shepherds are kid-friendly and will bond well with the family children due to their loyal, protective, and affectionate nature. They are a great playmate for energetic kids. However, proper socializing and training are essential to ensure the dog is friendly to all family members.

Nonetheless, kids do not default to caution, which prevents a GSD from being stand-offish. But since kids aren’t as cautious, they can unintentionally agitate a big dog and get hurt in the process, which is why you must never leave a child alone with a German Shepherd.

Do you want to know more about GSDs and kids? Check out this detailed article, 5 Reasons Why German Shepherds Are Good With Kids.

Are German Shepherds Friendly to Strangers?

German Shepherds are friendly to strangers only if they’ve been sufficiently socialized and recognize that the stranger is not a threat. If the stranger is unfriendly and enters the dog’s territory or threatens his owner, GSDs have a natural protective instinct making them great guard dogs.

Early exposure to strangers alongside timely treats on sight can help build positive associations and social openness.

So, what do I mean by this?

German Shepherds are standoffish and suspicious of strangers, especially on their turf. However, if you communicate to your dog that the stranger is friendly and welcome, he will never forget a face and will always be accepted at future visits.

If I have a first-time visitor to my home who is a stranger to my German Shepherd, I will remain calm and confident and let Willow know that the stranger is not a threat by reassuring her, telling her “GOOD GIRL,” and giving her treats.

Are German Shepherds Friendly with Other Dogs

So, you already have another canine friend at home and are thinking about getting a German Shepherd. Or you may already own a GSD and are contemplating adding another doggo to your family. In both cases, you’ll want to know if German Shepherds are friendly with other dogs?

German Shepherds are friendly with other dogs if they encounter them when growing up and are socialized. They can also be friendly to other dogs added to the family once they recognize they are not a threat or they may display natural guarding and territorial instincts.

You should always choose a dog of the opposite gender to prevent same-gender aggression. Occasional dominance fighting can occur as an instinctive way of sorting out who is the boss.

You can learn more about this in my article, Will Two Female German Shepherds Get Along?

This study of the development of social structure also found that German Shepherd puppies that were most exploratory also ranked greatest for competitive dominance during the primary socialization period.

A GSD sat next to a cat. Are German Shepherds Friendly With Other Cats?

Are German Shepherds Friendly With Cats?

As a pet lover, you may want to know if German Shepherds are friendly with cats.

German Shepherds are friendly with cats, but only if raised with them. They can become best friends. However, the GSD won’t be too friendly if a cat is later introduced to the family. As a herding breed, the dog’s strong prey drive will kick in, and he will want to herd (chase) the cat.

Bear in mind that these are generalizations as all dogs have different personalities, just like humans. Nonetheless, most cats can live safely with German Shepherds if they are socialized as a puppy and trained to leave the cat alone.

Training a German Shepherd to be Friendly – The 5 Steps

To train a German Shepherd to be friendly, you must expose him to others while he is young, reward him for being cooperative or neutral, and encourage him to explore. It is crucial to start right away, especially if your GSD is older, because socializing a dog at an advanced age can be challenging.

  • Start early – You can start socializing your German Shepherd puppy as soon as you get him. Even when he cannot walk to a dog park if not fully vaccinated, you can carry him past one to familiarize him with other dogs and people.
     
  • Encourage exploring – German Shepherds’ minds are malleable, and if you allow (and even encourage) your puppy to explore the house, you will have a very curious GSD. Curious dogs are rarely asocial.
     
  • Avoid negative associations – While you’re busy exposing your German Shepherd to other dogs, you have to also ensure that he is protected from negative experiences. Shield your GSD from aggressive dogs, humans with nervous energy, and extremely loud noises.
     
  • Build positive associations – Whenever your German Shepherd spots another dog or human at a distance, give him a treat. When dogs are far enough away, he is unlikely to snap at them yet will notice them. Upon associating reward with seeing another dog and staying calm, your GSD will start repeating this behavior.
     
  • Stay consistent – No matter how friendly your German Shepherd is, if you isolate him long enough, he will start being socially awkward. So make sure to keep visiting dog parks arranging doggy dates.

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Final Thoughts

German Shepherds are big dogs, which is why many potential new owners might wonder if they are a menace. If you raise a GSD puppy, you have the option to make him social (by exposing him to positive social experiences) or to make him asocial.

As long as the German Shepherd is familiar with people, dogs, and cats at a young age, he will not be on edge when seeing them in the street. But a GSD raised in isolation will be protective of his owner and might snap at strangers or other animals.

Regardless of his attitude towards others, a German Shepherd is always friendly towards his owner and his owner’s family.

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