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Are German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs? (And How to Train Them)

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world and for good reason. They are ideal family dogs and are used for a variety of roles. But are German Shepherds good guard dogs?

German Shepherds are excellent guard dogs due to their natural protective instincts, courage, loyalty, intelligence, and quick response to threats. They are highly trainable, and their size and strength make them an effective deterrent to intruders, making them ideal for guarding homes and businesses.

In this article, we will explore the unique characteristics of German Shepherds that make them such effective guard dogs and why they are a top choice for homeowners, business owners, and law enforcement agencies.

You will also learn how to train a German Shepherd to be a good guard dog.

Two German Shepherds behind a gate guarding a house. Are German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs?

Are German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs?

For Warehouses

A working line German Shepherd can be a great watchdog for a warehouse or any business that houses valuable items you do not want trespassers accessing. However, such a German Shepherd wouldn’t be raised as a family dog and would be socialized within the context where his friendliness would rely on taking friendliness cues from a uniform. 

Because German Shepherds can distinguish people based on appearance, creating an association of fondness with those wearing a specific uniform while teaching caution against anyone who is not in uniform is possible. This makes the breed suitable for factories and businesses that stockpile material in warehouses.

Suppose you’re reading this post as a factory owner. In that case, you need to look no further than the German Shepherds’ use in the military and police forces: they have proven to be excellent companions to people in uniforms.

As a former Police Officer, I can certainly vouch for that. I’ve witnessed the fantastic loyalty between handler and dog on many occasions.

Your warehouse will be safe from anyone not in your business or team’s uniform. 

For Mansions

Aside from the breeds’ ability to develop a sense of normal around a specific uniform, they also have a very intimidating look. This is true for darker-colored and sable GSDs. Opting for a DDR German Shepherd for a mansion is advisable because the dog’s look neutralizes the house’s look. 

Mansions signal opulence to potential intruders, whereas a fierce-looking German Shepherd bred by a ruthless military program and habituation signals consequence to the same potential intruders. As a result, people who might be initially encouraged to break in are soon discouraged.

More importantly, even the ones who end up following through on their bad intentions have to be content with the incredible competence of DDR German Shepherds.

For Families

Earlier, we discussed cultivating friendliness with a specific uniform. German Shepherds can get even more specific with who they see as belonging to their in-group. As a result, they can become loyal to a handful of individuals with repeated exposure. Their social intelligence also allows them to notice family dynamics across species. 

Combining their social dynamic detection with their ability to spread a wider net of loyalty results in the perfect family guard. Even show line German Shepherds can see you and your family as the “in” group. 

Almost any type of German Shepherd, if adopted as a young pup, can become a great family guard with the proper training and socialization.

Watch These Two GSDs Protect Their Property From An Intruder…

Now that you know how German Shepherds can guard warehouses manned by uniformed personnel, semi-empty mansions, and family homes, let’s further explore the reasons.

What Makes a GSD a Great Family Guard Dog?

I know through my audience insights that most people reading this post are looking for German Shepherds as guard dogs to guard their families. They want a hybrid between a good family dog and an excellent guard. Here’s what makes GSDs great family watchdogs.

They are Kid-friendly

German Shepherds are kid-friendly if they’re socialized right at a young age. Once a German Shepherd is familiar with your child, he will not only be well-behaved around him but will even be protective of him. Do you want to know more about GSDs and kids? Check out this detailed article, 5 Reasons Why German Shepherds Are Good With Kids.

Still, it is advisable not to leave your child alone with a German Shepherd because you don’t know what the child might do to trigger the dog into defensive mode, such as pulling the tail. In the absence of such instances, a German Shepherd is protective of the child.

They are Affectionate to Your Family

German Shepherds are affectionate to the people they are loyal to. This guarding comes from compassion instead of the jealous possessiveness that informs asocial dogs’ guarding duties. Leaving an affectionate guard to protect your family is preferable because doing so will not put your family on edge. 

The last thing you want is to have a dog around whom your family has to walk on eggshells. German Shepherds, when socialized properly, will show affection to your family and make them feel protected instead of nervous.

They Have Strong Protective Instincts

German Shepherds are protective because the desire to preserve and secure has been bred into them across the span of the breed’s formation. Initially used to protect and herd sheep, they would stand up to fanged predators to protect their flock. 

Black German Shepherd Guarding

When coupled with their selective affection, these protective instincts make them the perfect family watchdog. Even if you are a German Shepherd’s primary caretaker, he will be protective of your family in your absence.

They are Intelligent and Competent

German Shepherds are intelligent in task adoption, which means you can teach them to understand and execute repeated processes. They can also be programmed to react a certain way to specific stimuli. This predictability makes them great for service, and they have been reliable for patrolling, tracking, and guarding.

A dog good enough for the military is competent enough for a home.

Learn More About The German Shepherd In This Video…

Things To Keep In Mind Before Getting a GSD as a Guard Dog 

While the above paints a picture where getting a German Shepherd to guard your family is a no-brainer, you’re not likely to get a puppy if you need a family guard right away.

And adopting a grown dog leads to a different experience. Yes, an adult German Shepherd can still be an excellent option for protecting your family. However, you need to be mindful of a few things.

Asocial Behavior With Other Dogs

German Shepherds are not good with other dogs if they haven’t been taught to be friendly at a younger age. Acquiring a grown GSD means you risk bringing home a Shepherd Dog who won’t get along with your neighbor’s dog or even pets you already have at home.

To offset this, you can simply ask the seller or rescue center if the German Shepherd has been socialized with other dogs. If not, you should ask for a demonstration of how he behaves at a dog park. Any family guard dog should display restraint at a dog park.

They Need Lots of Exercise

German Shepherds are easy to take care of if you are an active person. But if long walks and stimulating playtimes aren’t your thing, you might end up with an agitated dog with lots of pent-up energy and consequent frustration.

To avoid this, you have to either hire a dog walker or accept the fact that you’ll need to engage with and exercise your German Shepherd every day. Most GSDs require around two hours of daily exercise over a couple of sessions.

A German Shepherd Guarding his property. German Shepherd Guarding

They Shed – A Lot!

When you have a family dog, more than one individual claims ownership. And while that is great when it comes to potential exercise partners, it is riskier for allergies. If you are a large family, the odds of one of you having seasonal allergies are higher.

German Shepherds are not hypoallergenic because they have fur and they constantly shed. They also undergo seasonal shedding in the fall and spring when they will change or “blow” their undercoat, ready for the change of season ahead.

That said, almost no dog is hypoallergenic as the presence of fur can trigger particle allergies. You could always consider the best German Shepherd mix for your situation, such as a Shepadoodle, as the Poodle is a low shedding breed and still maintains intelligence, loyalty, and protectiveness traits.

How To Train a German Shepherd To Be a Guard Dog

Familiarize Him With “Safe” People

Before you teach your German Shepherd to be alert or suspicious of any person or stimulus, you need to teach him who the safe people are. That’s because a dog is naturally protective and skeptical of threats and should be trained to be social. 

While I have an entire post dedicated to socializing a German Shepherd, the gist of it is to familiarize your doggo with the “normal” through lots of exposure. When he has good experiences in the presence of certain people over a long period, he will no longer be anxious or see them as a threat.

Teach Him to “Bark” or “SPEAK” on Command

Teach your German Shepherd to bark and be a good watchdog by announcing strangers who come to your home.

To do this, when your dog naturally starts barking, use the term “BARK” so he starts associating the two as all canines learn by association. Of course, you’ll need to follow this with a treat. Usually, the treat itself will silence the dog.

You don’t want to anchor the commands for barking and silencing simultaneously, as confusing the two will make it impossible for your GSD to learn how to be a good guard.

So, initially, you’ll have to resign to the fact that your German Shepherd will start barking, then hear “BARK,” and continue until he pleases. And he will be given a treat for his troubles. You can then progress to giving the command just before your dog barks.

Only after your German Shepherd can start barking on command are you ready to anchor a command for silence. 

But before we explore that, here’s a pro-tip:

Use a word that isn’t a common verb. While “BARK” is the most straightforward and popular command, it will be inconvenient when someone uses the word in regular conversation. If a friend asks, “does he bark a lot?” they will receive a demonstration.

Some trainers advise changing the “BARK” command to a “SPEAK” command – this is what I prefer.

World of Dogz

Ultimately, the word you choose as an anchor depends on your preference.

Train Him To Be Calm on Cue – The “QUIET” Command

After you have taught your German Shepherd to bark on command, it is time to start associating a word with a brake on barking. Again, the process is similar: you let your dog take the lead on an action and anchor a word to the situation. 

In this instance, you’ll command your German Shepherd to bark, but instead of rewarding him right away, you’ll wait for him to stop barking. If you give him a treat before he is quiet, he will stop barking because he must eat. And because you reward the barking, he won’t be able to register the reward as a consequence of anything but barking. 

It is also crucial not to train your German Shepherd to be “QUIET” on command if the barking association is weak. That’s because you’re not going to reward him for barking while you’re teaching him to be “QUIET” on command.

If the association for the “BARK” command is weak, the dog will no longer respond to it. Ensure he has thoroughly mastered the “BARK” command first. You don’t want to shift the anchor or reward expectation from the “BARK” command to the “QUIET” command.

Wait for your dog to start barking spontaneously, and then wait until he stops. At that precise moment – use the word “QUIET,” and reward him with a treat.

Professional trainers get surgical with this and pay attention to the gradual slowing in the dog’s barks. Usually, this slowdown occurs when the German Shepherd is about to stop barking. By saying “QUIET” as the dog slows down a little, the trainer plants the stopping command in a way that overlaps with the dog’s own decision to stop. 

If you can spot the slowdown and utter the command, a German Shepherd will get the association within a couple of weeks. On the other hand, if you wait for your dog to stop and utter the command at the immediate silence afterward, it might take a little longer before he understands the link.

Watch How To Teach “SPEAK” and “QUIET” In This Video…

Either way, by building and rewarding the association, you’ll be able to take the lead and soon utter the “QUIET” command to stop your German Shepherd from barking. This command can also be anchored with a different word of your choice.

Control His Threat Threshold

With the first two steps building the foundation for you to train your dog to bark on command, you can now pick what you consider unnatural for the area your German Shepherd will guard and teach him to bark at it. 

This will turn your dog into an organic alarm for strange circumstances. The perk here is that, unlike standard burglar alarms, this one has sharp teeth and a high-psi bite force. That is also why you must train your German Shepherd to be a good guard as an observer and not a defender.

Guard dogs perform best from a distance. When you train your German Shepherd to bark upon observation, you allow him to sound the alarm without feeling anxious or fearful.

Start by making a list of the noticeable indicators of a suspicious instance. For instance, if your backyard fence is small and you believe one way for people to break in is by jumping over the fence, you can have different people climb over it and have the dog bark. 

A German Shepherd guarding his property. German Shepherd Dog Guarding

To be more specific, you’ll need to have your German Shepherd on a harness and a long leash to avoid harming people who are helping demonstrate the threat. Please, do not use any family members for this training as it might confuse your best friend.

When the helper jumps over the fence, command your German Shepherd to bark. After he barks for 2 minutes, instruct him to be silent and give him plenty of treats. Repeatedly practice this process a few times a day and use different helpers.

Given that a GSD can take a week to learn to bark upon noticing a specific indicator, it is reasonable to assume that your German Shepherd can become a reasonably competent guard dog with one month of dedicated training.

Potential Drawbacks Of GSDs As Guard Dogs

There’s no doubt that GSDs can act as perfect guard dogs and protect their owners at all times. Whether you’ve bought one for your mansion or field, it’s essential to note potential drawbacks of having them as guard dogs in the long run.

The primary drawback is an increased aggression towards strangers. Even if you’ve your known circle coming to your place, you can still notice aggression in your dog because he is trained to act that way. As a result, the temperament fixes in that form and the degree of socialization is limited.

Another drawback is an increased need for physical and mental stimulation. As they guard quite a large space in general, they require high energies for which they need regular stimulation. Otherwise, they get easily bored. As a result, it’s essential to check if you can offer necessary support to stimulate and engage them continuously.

The final drawback is the increased likelihood of health concerns. As their joints get excessively strained due to regular use, they’re prone to health conditions like hip dysplasia. In this case, you should set a routine to control the wear and tear.

FAQs About German Shepherd Guard Dogs

Are White German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs?

White German Shepherds are good guard dogs just like standard color German Shepherds. Their color does not affect their behavior, particularly their intelligence, bravery, strength, loyalty, or protective instincts. They have entirely the same characteristics as all varieties of the breed.

Are German Shepherd Mixes Good Guard Dogs?

German Shepherd mixes are good guard dogs if you train them right. The best German Shepherd hybrid for maximum threat aversion is the King Shepherd. Although bred for a calmer temperament, these dogs are much larger than purebred German Shepherds and can make even the boldest intruders reconsider.

Key Takeaways

If you plan on getting a German Shepherd as a family guard dog, I recommend you get a puppy and train him to be social while educating him on the kinds of stimuli he must bark in response to. The older the dog you get, the harder it is to train him, although it is possible, with lots of patience and discipline.

Here are the key takeaways of the article:

  • German Shepherds are natural guard dogs and can be watchdogs for warehouses, unoccupied properties, and family homes.
  • German Shepherds can be trained to bark upon observation of anomalies.
  • GSDs are loyal and compassionate to their owners and their families due to their original breeding purpose.

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Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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