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Will A German Shepherd Attack Its Owner?

If you’ve always wanted a German Shepherd, you might get lost in daydreams about having the best time playing with your majestic dog. Though loyal and domesticated, a part of you knows that a German Shepherd is still one of the closest living descendants of wolves, and you may wonder about the breed’s instinct to attack. So, will a German Shepherd attack its owner?

A German Shepherd rarely attacks its owner. A GSD raised in a family socialized with humans, and other dogs does not attack its owner without being provoked or seriously threatened. Sometimes pent-up energy can make a GSD aggressive towards its owner if the dog is not stimulated.

In this post, you will discover the best practices for minimizing German Shepherd aggression and ensuring that your dog does not attack you. You will also learn the key signs you must be on the lookout for with a potential GSD attack.

But first, let’s explore further the possibility of a German Shepherd attacking its owner.

A GSD lying down. Will a German Shepherd Attack Its Owner?

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German Shepherds and the Likelihood of an Attack

German Shepherds are excellent family dogs if they’re acquired early and appropriately socialized.

Their size deters those who intend to break and enter even when the German Shepherd is not specifically trained to be a guard dog.

But this intimidating look can sometimes scare a potential owner as well. German Shepherds attack their owners extremely infrequently when one or more of the following conditions are met:

1. The German Shepherd has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

When adopting a German Shepherd from a shelter, you must be careful in examing the dog’s history. If the dog’s previous owner was abusive, or if the dog was neglected, it might have trust issues and not feel safe around a new owner.

While it is okay, and even positive, to adopt a rescue, one must be prudent and patient. It takes time to forge a bond of trust with an abandoned dog, and you must put that time in before you can engage in behavior that is even mildly annoying to the dog.

2. The German Shepherd is Threatened

Another instance where the German Shepherd might attack its owner or show aggression to family members is when the dog feels threatened or is attacked. From taking a dog’s puppies to replacing its food bowl, plenty of actions that owners view as harmless might trigger the German Shepherd into defense mode.

Chief among these is physical punishment, which I never condone. If someone attacks a German Shepherd, he might attack them. And I won’t say they don’t deserve it!

Studies have shown that using aversive punishment techniques such as physical force, yelling, using the “alpha roll,” and rubbing your dog’s nose in his dirt only makes a dog aggressive through fear.

3. The German Shepherd is Startled

GSDs can get startled if you behave unpredictably or in a way that accidentally hurts them. Anything from opening a door when the dog is on the other side to unintentionally stepping on its paw can result in a primal response. This behavior is entirely natural.

The GSD is immediately remorseful if it snaps at its owner in such circumstances and the consequences are rarely harsher than loud, aggressive barking or jaw snapping without catching anything. Still, you must be careful not to startle your dog or accidentally hurt him.

Aggressive German Shepherd

4. The German Shepherd is Aggressive

Finally, the most ambiguous and confusing condition when a German Shepherd’s owner might get attacked is if their dog feels on edge. German Shepherds can be aggressive if left unchecked, and this aggression can translate into a physical attack.

If you feel like your dog “just isn’t acting right,” check these signs, as they may be the precursor to an attack:

What Makes a German Shepherd Aggressive? (Bonus: Prevention/Solution Table)

German Shepherds can be aggressive for various reasons, including (but not limited to) sexual frustration, lack of exercise, and chronic pain.

There are ways to ensure your German Shepherd doesn’t become too aggressive. The table below covers possible solutions (or prevention tips) for GSD aggression:

German Shepherd Aggression TypePrevention Method/Solution
Sexual frustration/HeatSpay/neuter the dog
Excess energy1-hour walk, twice per day
Chronic painVeterinary visit
Competitiveness with other petsCreate physical barriers and slowly bring the dog closer while rewarding it for not getting aggressive
GSD aggression

How Can You Reduce German Shepherd Aggression?

As mentioned above, there are different ways to prevent a German Shepherd from getting aggressive. But don’t worry; you don’t have to execute all these prevention tips as a new owner. You can do one thing to reduce aggression: socialize your German Shepherd properly.

To do this, get him to interact with other adults, children, other dogs, and other pets and expose him to many different places, noises, smells, and situations. As long as the GSD learns not to feel threatened in your presence or around other dogs, or people, he will not get aggressive.

“Without socialization, your GSD simply does not know how to behave around people and other dogs.”

World of Dogz

Aside from timely socializing, spaying is one of the best things you can do to keep your dog from getting aggressive. Puberty can also make the German Shepherd aggressive as it doesn’t understand what is happening but can notice something changing internally.

A confused dog is an aggressive dog, but it will find peace in your company and understand that it will be alright if it trusts you.

German Shepherd Lying Down

How to Be Safe Around a German Shepherd?

You can be safe around a German Shepherd by connecting with him early. When a GSD bonds with you, he almost imprints on you and starts treating you like a parent. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee this type of trust from a German Shepherd you get as an adult.

But if the German Shepherd has been socialized in his previous household, he is not likely to attack you. In other words, the best thing you can do to avoid getting attacked by a German Shepherd is to acquire a dog you are sure won’t attack you.

Recap: Do German Shepherds Attack Their Owners?

German Shepherds do not attack their owners unless they feel threatened. Any dog’s threat perception can be skewed by past experiences, trauma, and pent-up energy.

Consider getting a German Shepherd while it is a puppy, socialize it well (so it doesn’t perceive threats when it is safe), and exercise it regularly to avoid aggressive behavior.

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