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Can a German Shepherd Have Two Masters? Only an Owner Will Know!

Written By: Sharon Waddington

Last Updated:

German Shepherds are one of the most intelligent, loyal, protective, and brave dog breeds in the world. They are also known for having an intense bond with their master. But what about the other members of the household? Can a German Shepherd have two masters?

A German Shepherd can’t have two masters as they will choose only one special person to be their master. That doesn’t mean he won’t obey other family members or show them loyalty and affection, but he will distinguish his master from the other “pack members,” and this person will be his favorite.

Unfortunately, your family will have no say in who the German Shepherd chooses to be the master, even if both of you are equally involved in caring for and training the dog. To help with this, I’ll show you how you can strengthen your bond with your dog if you are not the chosen master.

This article will also explore why a German Shepherd can’t have two masters (they are known as one-person dogs), how they choose who will be their master in multi-person households, and give some examples of how the German Shepherd will often choose a favorite person in the household for different activities.

To learn why German Shepherds can’t have two masters and loads more, read on!

A Young German Shepherd running. Can a German Shepherd Have Two Masters?

Do German Shepherds Attach to One Person?

German Shepherds attach to one owner more than other members of the same family but this won’t be determined straight away. Puppies will usually form their strongest bond with whoever they choose as their true master within the first 6 months.

Just like you can’t make someone fall in love with you, you can’t make your German Shepherd choose you as the one person they will attach to. Dogs are similar to humans in many ways and this review of canine-human behaviors identified that they are more human-like than any other species, but it’s still impossible to make them choose you as their master.

I remember collecting my German Shepherd pup from the breeder as if it were yesterday. “You do know that she will choose one of you to be the master?” he said. “But as long as you are both firm with her from the outset, she will bond with you both in her own special way.”

I have never forgotten those words and looking back, they were so very true. Within the next few months, it was clear to see that the pup had chosen her master – and it wasn’t me, but my partner!

My German Shepherd is so devoted to him she will follow him everywhere, even to the bathroom! When he is out of the house, she will wait patiently gazing out of the window until he comes home. When he finally arrives home she will go crazy, crawling on her belly in excitement! Don’t get me wrong, she will lovingly greet me too, but not in the same way as she greets her master.

Even though most dogs will gravitate towards one person in the family more than others, it doesn’t mean they will ignore or disrespect others. They will still be loyal to multiple household people as long as they are cared for and their needs met.

Are there any differences between male and female German Shepherds? Can a female German Shepherd have two masters?

As male GSDs tend to be more dominant than females, I’m often asked whether a female German Shepherd can have two masters, however, the answer remains the same in that the dog, male or female, will still attach to one person.

If you are contemplating getting your first dog and don’t know which sex to choose, check out this article; Male vs. Female German Shepherd: Which Should You Get?

Why Do German Shepherds Choose One Master?

To learn why German Shepherds are one-person dogs and choose one master with whom they build an extra special connection, we need to first look back at their history and their temperament.

German Shepherds were specially bred in the late 1800s to herd sheep. The breed’s founder, Max von Stephanitz, wanted to create the ideal working dog with traits such as strength, stamina, loyalty, bravery, trainability, and dedication. The result was a highly protective and intelligent herding dog.

The early German Shepherd worked with their master in the fields during the day and slept by his side at night. The dog would be constantly with his owner, protecting both him and the flock from danger and predators. They were truly dedicated to their work and were inseparable from their owner. These traits remain with them to this very day.

Nowadays, German Shepherds are used as police and military dogs due to their keen sense of smell, their ability to work regardless of distractions, and their expertise in forming an intense bond with their handler. This is especially important in these roles, along with trust and communication, as one day their lives may depend on it.

A soldier abseiling with a German Shepherd. German Shepherd Military Dog
“Hey! It’s cool, I trust you!”

The breed is also used as a guard dog, in protection work, as therapy dogs, and as guide dogs due to their many positive traits.

How Do German Shepherds Choose Their Master?

German Shepherds choose their true master depending on who has the biggest role in the dog’s early socialization and who presents themselves as the best “pack leader.”

They will form a stronger bond with the person who spends more time training them, exercising them, playing with them, feeding them, bathing, and grooming them. The most important one of these is training as this proves to your dog that you are a confident and fair leader.

Even though both of you will probably share these tasks during early puppyhood, inevitably, one person will eventually spend more time with the dog.

German Shepherds are also known for being very affectionate and they will choose the one person that mostly reciprocates their affection. This study showed that when dogs are pet and cuddled, they release oxytocin, a hormone associated with not only happiness but social bonding.

In my case, I was working 24/7 shifts as a Police Officer and although I cared for and loved my German Shepherd as much as my partner, I was unable to offer any routine in her daily activities and dogs need and thrive off routine.

It is also important to know that it’s not just puppies that will choose one person to be their master, but also adolescent or adult German Shepherds adopted or rescued from an animal shelter.

Do German Shepherds Have a Favorite Person?

Although German Shepherds can’t have two masters, they will often choose a favorite person to do certain activities with. So sometimes, a dog’s favorite person is not always their master.

A German Shepherd will bond with each member of the family in different ways.

I’ve described how a German Shepherd will follow their master everywhere, even to the bathroom! But sometimes even their master just isn’t good enough! Let me explain.

Even though I’m not the true master in my German Shepherd’s world, every evening she chooses me to have her last playtime with her. She will also only allow me to give her her favorite bedtime biscuits!

Without fail, when she is ready to play, usually around 8 pm, she will sit down in front of me and give me the German Shepherd stare. She will continue this behavior which escalates to a bark if I tease her and ignore her for a few seconds, until I start to play one of her favorite games with her, such as tug-o-war.

I like to think that in her own little way, she does have two masters, but I know my partner will always be her overall favorite.

Master vs. Favorite Person

For a German Shepherd, it isn’t mandatory for the master and the favorite person to be the same. Sometimes, they link the master for training and enrichment activities, while the favorite person is associated with love and fun.

Nevertheless, it’s possible for both to be the same person depending on the degree of socialization and perception of the German Shepherd about you.

How to Strengthen the Bond with Your German Shepherd

There are many ways you can strengthen the bond with your German Shepherd if you are not the chosen one. Although he will always be a one-person dog, it’s important to remember that your GSD loves and respects you in his own unique way.

German Shepherd Puppy with a Stick

Here are some suggestions on how to strengthen the bond with your German Shepherd:

  • Training is a very effective way to bond. Use reward-based training from 8-weeks old and start with the basics. Here’s my full guide on how to train a German Shepherd to help you with this. You can then progress with tricks, agility, or Shutzhund. GSDs love having a job to do. Don’t use loud noises when you train your German Shepherd.
  • Socialization. Puppies need to experience all kinds of situations, not just other people and animals. Help to expose your pup to many different experiences whilst he explores his new world.
  • Establish more routine if possible as dogs love routine. A typical day might be early exercise, playing, feeding, crating, exercise upon returning, grooming, feeding, playing, etc. Your GSD will soon get to learn his routine.
  • Communication. Learn how to read your German Shepherd’s body language so that you can communicate with him better. Get to know what he is feeling, when he is anxious or stressed or when he is relaxed and happy. This builds trust and better bonding. For example, if your German Shepherd’s hackles suddenly raise, look at the bigger picture and what is happening around him, so you can anticipate what he is feeling.
  • Spend more family time together and let your dog know that it’s okay for him to be shared. Provide genuine love and care during these fun times together.
  • Spend more one-to-one time together. Identify your dog’s favorite activity and make it fun and long-lasting. Alternatively, try different activities with your GSD. Go on a car journey together and explore new and exciting places.
  • Be part of your German Shepherds’ feeding routine and offer high-value treats for good behavior and when training. This can be quite a difficult one as most GSDs are not food orientated, but you can try this tactic.

If your German Shepherd has undergone a traumatic past and you’ve just adopted him/her, remember to prioritize communication over the rest. Spend as much time as possible and offer reassurance. This can automatically elevate the bond in no time.

Final Thoughts

Although you now know that a German Shepherd can’t have two masters, I think it’s important to remember that no matter whom he chooses to be his boss, he will still respect, obey, protect, and enjoy time with the other members of the household.

German Shepherds are extremely affectionate and will be loving companions to all their family members, especially if they take the time to grow their bond with him.

Photo of author

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.