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Can German Shepherds Kill? (a Human, Fox, Deer, Snake, & More)!

Last Updated: February 11, 2024

German Shepherds, admired for their intelligence and strength, have raised concerns about their potential danger. Can they kill?

With a bite force of 238 PSI, German Shepherds can kill as they are capable of crushing bones and severing arteries. They can also threaten smaller animals due to their agility and speed.

However, their natural roles in guarding and herding make intentional killing unlikely without a strong motive. Individual traits and training significantly influence their behavior and aggression levels.

This article explores the scenarios under which German Shepherds might kill, considering their unique characteristics and training impact.

An aggressive German Shepherd showing his teeth.

Exploring the Killing Capacity of German Shepherds

Known for their agility and strength, German Shepherd dogs can threaten smaller wildlife, such as foxes and snakes, and may engage in dangerous confrontations with other dogs.

Most critically, we assess the circumstances under which a German Shepherd might become dangerous to humans and explore their potential to cause fatal harm.


Deaths from dog attacks are pretty rare, but they can happen. In 27 years between 1979-2005, there was an average of 19 human fatalities by dogs in the US.

Some breeds have killed humans more than others, but does this include the German Shepherd?

A German Shepherd can kill a human and has been known to kill with their bites in rare situations. They are large, strong dogs having a strong bite force of 238 PSI (pounds per square inch) that can crush human bones, and their large, sharp canines can easily cut into human arteries, causing fatalities.

They also have quicker reflexes and superior fighting instincts to most humans.

More recent data from the 16 years between 2005-2020 evidenced that dogs killed 568 Americans, an average of 35.5 a year.

However, this could be explained due to the general increase in the canine population. Pit Bulls (380) and Rottweilers (51) accounted for 76% (431) of these deaths.

There is proof that owners of dangerous dogs are much more likely to be convicted of violent crimes, which could explain the Pit Bull’s disproportionate rate of fatal attacks.

One case in 2019 involved an 11-year-old German Shepherd mix that killed an 8-month-old child while her mother slept. She was found intoxicated at the scene and was subsequently charged with felony child abuse.

Aggressive German Shepherd showing teeth

The second case involved the death of an 88-year-old female who was mauled by her neighbor’s dogs.

The latest statistics reveal 46 US deaths were caused by dogs in 2020. Of these, two were caused by the German Shepherd breed.

In 2020, a sleeping newborn was killed by a German Shepherd mix in Virginia as the child’s parents slept. The 8-year-old dog had not been previously aggressive, and it was unclear why it attacked the 2-month-old.

The second fatality in 2020 occurred in Minnesota and involved a 14-year-old boy killed by a German Shepherd imported from Poland for breeding purposes.

Given the various circumstances surrounding various attacks, research into lethal encounters between canines and humans has proved extremely controversial.

There are many likely factors involved in fatal dog attacks, such as the dogs’ size, number, and nutritional status; the dogs’ previous violent interactions with people; the victim’s age, size, health, and behavior; and the lack of other humans in the area.

Some working German Shepherds are trained in aggression, such as police, protection, and military dogs. As a former Police Officer, I’ve witnessed dogs trained to attack on many occasions, showing their hostility.

Let’s just say I know which side of the law I’d rather be on! But ultimately, these clever dogs are trained to hold or subdue their target on command.

Related: Are German Shepherds Stronger Than Humans?


I often see a fox in the woods at the back of the house. Well, most of the time, my German Shepherd will pick up the fox’s strong scent, and when I look over the fence, I will catch a glimpse of it scurrying away!

But, although foxes are now common in urban areas, what would happen if a fox came face to face with a German Shepherd? Can German Shepherds kill a fox?

A German Shepherd can kill a fox due to its superior size and strong bite force. Foxes tend to be cautious of anything bigger than themselves.

Although they hunt for meat, they scare easily and will not usually attack an adult German Shepherd – unless they protect their young.

There may be an odd occasion where a starving fox might encroach onto the premises and try to steal a dog’s food, but generally, they will keep away.

Foxes are smart, but German Shepherds are smarter and very protective of their territory and family!

They will not want to be insulted by a fox foraging for their food. It would only be natural animal instinct for a GSD to chase off a fox on his property or even kill it if the fox happened to attack first.

There have been a few reports in the media where a fox has entered a yard and attacked small puppies or dogs, but they are more likely to go for smaller animals, such as chickens or rabbits.

Foxes out during the day are no cause for alarm, but you shouldn’t leave small pets unprotected at night.


A German Shepherd and a Rottweiler next to each other

German Shepherds are incredibly protective over their loved ones, and they may push themselves to the limit to defend their caregivers.

The degree to which they fight and harm the Rottweiler will depend on the situation’s context and the fight’s motive. So, can a German Shepherd kill a Rottweiler? 

A German Shepherd may kill a Rottweiler as a last resort if it is the only way to defend its loved ones. But, trained dogs usually draw the line before death is imminent, and a German Shepherd would suffer severe injuries due to the Rottweiler’s powerful bite.

Even though Rottweilers exhibit more aggression to strangers and German Shepherds are typically aloof with strangers than aggressive,

German Shepherds still pack a punch. GSDs are generally friendly towards other dogs unless they defend their family or territory.  

Still, when comparing physical attributes, German Shepherds are more agile and faster than Rottweilers. But Rottweilers have a powerful force behind their bite, which would leave a German Shepherd severely injured.

Running Rottweiler on fields

A Rottweiler’s bite force measures 328 PSI compared to a German Shepherd’s 238 PSI. So, depending on the training and traits of each unique dog, a GSD may not survive either.

In addition to pure bite force, we could also consider who is the strongest. Check out this cool article on the topic to get your answer: Is a German Shepherd Stronger Than a Rottweiler?

While it is technically possible for a German Shepherd to kill a Rottweiler, the odds of this happening are pretty slim.

They are loveable and empathetic, and their temperament would likely prevent them from intentionally killing another dog.

German Shepherds may draw the line after the Rottweiler has been defeated or has sustained injuries, making it incapable of continuing the fight or endangering loved ones. 

Watch This Strong German Shepherd Test a Strong Rottweiler…


German Shepherds were initially bred for herding, guarding livestock, and protecting others from wild animals such as wolves and coyotes.

They were not bred for hunting but commonly accompanied and assisted hunters on trips. So, can a German Shepherd kill a deer? 

German Shepherds typically cannot kill a mature deer, and deer may kill dogs in some situations, such as an aggressive buck or a defensive doe caring for her young.

But if a GSD is trained in hunting from a young age, its speed, agility, strength, and wit can allow it to kill a baby deer.

Still, whether or not a German Shepherd could kill a deer will depend on the unique dog.

Most are not adept with hunting, but many display strong prey drive and hunter’s instincts from a very young age, making some potentially suitable for hunting dogs.

Training that involves luring and tracking can encourage hunting skills. 

Deer eating grass

The breed has inherent traits that make them great hunting companions, such as their obedience, soft mouths suitable for carrying prey to their owners, and sharp hearing skills suitable for noting movement.

These traits align with their original breeding purposes, making them more likely to act as pointer dogs, retrievers, flushers, and assistants than hunting and killing the deer themselves. 

It’s always recommended to work as a team if your German Shepherd is a trained hunter, as letting them hunt solo is dangerous for them, regardless of their wit and skill.

Contrary to popular belief, this docile and graceful creature can be incredibly dangerous.

Although deer commonly flee at the sight of a predator, in some cases can be fatal for dogs. Aggressive bucks and defensive doe caring for their young may attack and kill a German Shepherd. 


Although German Shepherds are less likely to attack and intentionally kill larger animals or dogs, there is a gray area concerning smaller animals and reptiles.

Still, facing a snake may be harmless or deadly for a dog, depending on the snake. So, can a German Shepherd kill a snake?

German Shepherds can kill a snake if seen as a threat to loved ones, especially if the dog has strong hunting instincts. Occasionally, they may unintentionally kill a snake by playing with them. However, they generally leave harmless and small snakes alone or inform owners of their presence.

How a German Shepherd would handle a snake’s encounter will strongly depend on training, the snake, and its context.

Since they pride themselves on their ability to protect and guard their owners, the dog’s behavior will rely on the best way to ensure their safety in such cases. 

German Shepherds generally do not kill snakes unless they have a solid reason.

Owners with harmless garden snakes have noted that their dogs become curious by sniffing and watching them but generally leave them alone once no threat is detected. 

Some dogs choose to note the snake’s location and inform their owner of its presence, after which the owner would take action accordingly.

Even a few are freaked out by snakes and run away from them, while many German Shepherds may unintentionally kill a small snake while playing with it.

However, the few dogs with inherent hunter instincts or are trained in hunting from a young age may choose small snakes and reptiles for target practice.

They can chase snakes around, track them, and kill them within seconds once their paws are on them. If it’s noticed that the snake is a threat or is plotting against their humans by hiding under cars ready to strike, the dog may kill it as soon as possible.


Two Dobermans Playing on grass

I’ve already answered that a German Shepherd could kill a Rottweiler in the right circumstances. But there’s another strong and muscular breed, the Doberman Pinscher, that also originated in Germany.

How would these two breeds fare in a fight or flight situation? Can a German Shepherd kill a Doberman?

It would be difficult to say whether a German Shepherd could kill a Doberman as both are strong, muscular breeds that can be aggressive in certain situations, especially when defending themselves.

Although the GSD has a slightly stronger bite force of 238 PSI than the Doberman’s 229, it could go either way.

I’m certainly not approving of any dog fighting; in fact, it’s just the opposite. Anyone who breeds dogs for fighting has something seriously wrong with them, as it is barbaric and definitely not a sport.

However, either breed would be the victor in an acute stress response. If a German Shepherd were trained in aggression and apprehension, such as police, military, or protection, then I’m sure he’d put up a damn good fight.

He also has the advantage of his thick double coat to protect against the Doberman’s bite.

However, the Doberman is sleek, athletic, and packed with power. Along with his high intelligence, this breed is no softy, so they are often used as guard dogs. We’ve all seen movies with the drug lord’s mansion being protected by a few Dobermans!

So, what’s the bottom line?

The winner of a fight between a German Shepherd and a Doberman would come down to the individual dog, not the breed’s traits in general.


Two Wolves standing next to each other

If you live in an area populated with wolves, sometimes you may notice they come quite near to your yard. Wolves usually hunt in packs, but occasionally they will hunt alone.

So, if a hungry lone wolf came close to your property to hunt or your dog was out alone and encountered a wolf, you may be wondering who would win a fight. Can a German Shepherd kill a wolf?

A German Shepherd can not kill a wolf. A hungry lone wolf separated from its pack can easily kill a GSD as they are considerably larger and have strong jaws with a much stronger bite force and sharp teeth.

When protecting itself, a large wolf can bite down with over 1,200 PSI compared to the GSD’s 238 PSI.

Although there are many myths about dog bite force, it is not contested that the wolf has a strong bite force. Additionally, some wolf species are considerably larger and have powerful long legs and bodies built for stamina.

They are intelligent and can run up to 40 mph during a hunting chase. You can read more about the differences between a German Shepherd and a wolf.

When hunting, wolves use their sharp teeth to grab, wound, and kill prey.

Their strong, powerful physique allows them to kill sizeable hoofed prey such as elk, moose, deer, sheep, goats, etc., and they have been known to kill small cattle when they have strayed close to farming communities.

They will, of course, also hunt smaller animals such as birds, hares, beavers, moles, etc.

I found this interesting thread from a popular German Shepherd forum, Wolf vs. Dog: What Will Happen? You can read first-hand experiences of people with their dogs and wolf encounters.

Most will say that when they’ve faced a lone wolf while out in the wild with their dogs, the wolf is generally initially inquisitive but will usually go on its way, vanishing into the distance.

We must also remember the history of the first German Shepherds bred to herd and protect sheep and other livestock from prey such as wolves and coyotes.

They clearly did a pretty good job protecting the sheep from wolf attacks and alerting the farmer to imminent danger!

But wait, let me tell you something.

Although we should respect the wolf as a powerful predator, it seems a lone wolf would only hunt and kill a German Shepherd if it had become separated from its pack, was starved, and needed to survive.

To Learn More About Wolves – Check Out This Cool Video…


Moving on from wolves, discussing their relative, the coyote seems only logical. Although very closely related, the coyote and wolf have many differences.

Coyotes are seen more in urban areas as they will come closer to humans to find food.

Coyotes are smaller, have a higher-pitched bark, and eat an omnivorous diet compared to the carnivorous wolf.

But how would a coyote fare in a fight with a German Shepherd? Could a German Shepherd kill a coyote?

A German Shepherd can kill a coyote because he has a stronger bite, build, and size. Although coyotes are more nimble and athletic, they are comparatively weaker. In a confrontation, the protective and territorial nature of the GSD means he will guard his family to the death if needed.

However, there are many scenarios to consider, and you would need to consider the age of the German Shepherd, its health, and its bloodline.

For example, strong working line German Shepherds bred to work and protect will have different abilities than urban show line GSDs raised as companions.

A show-line German Shepherd might not fare too well against a disturbed pack of coyotes who would fiercely protect their young.

Nonetheless, usually, coyotes escape after incurring serious injuries fighting German Shepherds. GSDs don’t need to be trained to fight coyotes, as their protective instincts are sufficient.

You can read more about this topic here: German Shepherd vs. Coyote: Who Would Win?

Remember, the German Shepherd doesn’t use strategy or tactics to kill a coyote. They just use their bite strength to break the mammal’s bones.

Watch This German Shepherd Save Its Friend From a Coyote…


As we’ve already discussed Rottweilers and Dobermans, it would only be fair to talk about Pitbulls. Also seen as one of the toughest breeds, the Pitbull has been on the back end of much criticism and controversy in recent years.

Initially bred for blood sports such as bear and bull-baiting, Pitbulls were trained to attack and incapacitate the animal. They were preferred due to their large, strong jaws and muscular shoulders and necks.

Thankfully, the “sport” was prohibited in the early 1800s. However, this led to people fighting the dogs as it was easier to hide from the authorities.

Whatever your view of the modern Pitbull, have you ever wondered how they would fare in a fight with a German Shepherd? As stated above, not for one minute am I supporting any dog fighting. In fact just the opposite.

Pitbull Barking

However, considering both breeds’ history, size, and strength, what would happen if an untrained and unsocialized Pitbull and GSD came together and decided to fight? Who would win?

So, can a German Shepherd kill a Pitbull?

A German Shepherd can kill a Pitbull. Although Pitbulls are strong and muscular, the GSD is typically bigger, stronger, and more intelligent.

With little difference in their bite strength and both dogs aiming for the throat, GSDs have extra protection around their neck due to their thick double fur compared to the Pitbull’s thin coat.

Without favoring the German Shepherd too much, there are a lot of variables to take into account. The loyalty of the German Shepherd when protecting his family is a force to be reckoned with.

Nonetheless, if the Pitbull happens to catch the GSD off guard and pounces first, the Pitbull might come out on top, considering its original breeding purpose.


Bobcats have a small number of predators. They may be killed or preyed upon by multiple larger predators in an inter-species fight. Cougars and gray wolves can kill adult bobcats. But what about a dog? Can a German Shepherd kill a bobcat?

A German Shepherd can kill a bobcat as its size and muscle strength far outweigh even the largest bobcat.

However, a bobcat will put up a good fight as they are much more savage than any wild cat. They are fast, agile, and have sharp claws and teeth, and a GSD would not be unscathed.

In general, it is not in the bobcats’ nature to attack dogs, especially large dogs. Being roughly twice the size of a housecat, they prefer to hunt rabbits, chickens, birds, snakes, and squirrels.

Nonetheless, there have been rare instances where rabies-infected bobcats have attacked dogs.

In 2017, a man was walking his German Shepherd in Arizona when a bobcat attacked it. A passer-by stopped to help but received a nasty bite to his hand. It turned out the bobcat had been suffering from rabies.

This unfortunate bobcat was clearly sick, and rabies was likely to be the cause of the aggression. It’s also unusual to find them out in the middle of the afternoon as they are generally nocturnal.

They are not aggressive but are curious and elusive and rarely spotted by humans.

Check Out This Bobcat Attack on a GSD…

Final Thoughts

While the German Shepherd breed can kill, this is only carried out in scarce situations. They are people-oriented, loving, and obedient to their owners. They will do anything to protect them. Always ensure your dog is trained from a young age to channel their instincts and protect them from harmful situations. 

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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