Training an Aggressive German Shepherd

A German Shepherd dog wearing a collar and a halter.
Boredom, pain, and lack of socialization or proper training can all result in a dog behaving aggressively. Trying to decide the cause of aggression is the place to start working on a solution. This is a page about training an aggressive German Shepherd.


Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

January 19, 2020

I have one year old male German Shepherd. Over the last two months he has become very aggressive. 2 weeks ago he bit my son. On consulting the doctor he said getting him sterilized will calm him down, but somehow I'm not satisfied.

Is there any other way out?

Training an Aggressive German Shepherd - dog in coat lying on a deck


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January 19, 20200 found this helpful
Best Answer

Your dog appears to be healthy. How old is the son? Maybe the dog doesn't like children or the noise he makes or being pestered. Maybe the dog is an ALPHA dog trying to enforce dominance over your son. Was your son near the dog while it was eating? That's food aggression and the dog will need to be in a confined area away from others until its done eating. I could go on and on to the possibilities, but the problem is, the dog is being aggressive to your son to the extent of biting. You are seeking a way to eliminate further aggressive/biting patterns and smart to do so. Let me suggest to you that you buy your dog a wire mesh muzzle to wear around children and other pets and yourselves too. If a dog bites once, it will repeat. It's better to be safe than sorry. Your dog needs a lot of time for going on long walks, runs, etc., to get pent up energy released. They are not like a smaller lap dog who tires quickly from playtime. IF you cannot get the dog to stop this behavior, consider donating it to the police for training purposes and will be a service dog.


If the dog bites someone and calls the police and animal shelter, you could be facing fines, another venue for titling the dog Dangerous and requiring insurance on the dog if you keep it and anybody you give/sell the dog to must be warned it is labeled as such. This dog can create a lot of negative events in order to keep others safe and create more expenses. The dog will be required to be confined to not more than a 4 ft. strong leash. IF the dog should escape, at least with a wire mesh muzzle on, it will not be able to bite anyone or another's pet. From your concern about this issue I strongly feel you want to do all within your power to stop this dog's poor behavior. It's a serious matter when a dog bites. Do further research online about this breed to discern whether you have it in you to live with the dog and if you care to work with the dog a lot more. Educate yourself as much as you can and then you'll make a decision what you want/need to do. I hope you soon make a decision.


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January 20, 20200 found this helpful
Best Answer

If you allow the dog to continue this behavior it can only get worse over time. Maybe you dog was smelling a female in heat and this is one reason he turned aggressive towards your son. If you are not planning on breeding the dog to make money I would really consider what the vet said and have him fixed.


This will curve his behavior but once a dog bits and tastes blood it is said the dog will do it again. Other than this you may need to invest a sum of money to take the dog to obedience school.


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January 20, 20200 found this helpful
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If you choose not to neuter this dog you need to have him evaluated by a professional trainer who works with aggressive dogs. A trainer may be able to offer you more options for living with an aggressive dog. You want to get the dog evaluated and have good programs in place to keep him from getting into further trouble. I would have him neutered immediately. Be very careful until you have him evaluated and in a safe environment.


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January 20, 20200 found this helpful
Best Answer

Neutering may help with the aggression. It will also help prevent many canaine cancers. If you are intending to breed the dog and he has a clean bill of health, ask your vet for a reference for a trainer who specializes in the breed and interaction with children.


If your son is old enough to participate in the training, he needs to be involved. All family members need to offer consistent behavior and reactions.

Dogs love to please and unless there is something unusual happening, aggressive behavior can be trained out of a dog with lots of positive reinforcement, work, and consistency.

Post back with an update! Prayers for easy solutions.

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March 3, 2009

I bought a German Shepherd puppy 2 years ago for my daughter's 8th grade graduation present. Just yesterday, Rocky, started to growl at her. I quickly made attempts to correct the dog saying, " no, no growling". I returned him to his crate for time outs. He continues to do it and the last time he showed his teeth. I have had shepherds for years and never seen this happen. If anyone has ideas on how to correct this please let me know. Thank you and have a wonderful day.

Thomas from Chicago


March 5, 20091 found this helpful
Best Answer

Shepherds are very intelligent dogs but there are a lot of misconceptions in these posts.

It's not the breed; it's the owners. Shepherds, Rottis and pit bulls are all fine dogs. They are more easily trained to fight because of their extreme devotion to people. They will do what it takes to please their owner.


The owner has to be a confident leader. The owner controls the dog. The type of collar has nothing to do with it.

However, while you are retraining your dog; be careful. Use a collar and harness with separate leashes if that's what it takes for you to feel comfortable when you start the process. You can't be a calm, assertive confident leader if you're constantly worried about the dog breaking a little plastic collar clip.

Proper grooming with daily brushing, biweekly nail trimming and frequent baths cannot be ignored. It should take a vet trip to find out that your dog has a sore spot. You should find those things a day or two after they happen.

Dogs don't just "snap". There are LOTS of signs before that but most people do not know enough about dog behavior to recognize them.


There is no way to fool a dog. If you aren't confident; they know it and it forces them to become the leader even if they never would have naturally sought to be a pack leader.

The only way to gain confidence is by doing. All the posts where dogs don't listen to their owners, destroy their home, growl or nip at family members ALL tell you that the owner's have inadvertantly forced their dogs to behave as a pack leader because they do not.

Trying to love a dog into a desired behaviour is like trying to spoil a child into good behaviour.

Dogs need TONS and TONS of exercise. At least 1 1/2 hours a day MINIMUM. Bored dogs are destructive dogs. Tired dogs are happy dogs and they sleep. There is no substitute. Get your running shoes on!

To again confidence; you may have to adjust your schedule. Take to dog for a 45 minute brisk walk/jogging session early and late before most people are out but not when it's too isolated beacuse you want to get a little exposure to the things that prompt bad behaviour in your dog. Then you can calmly and assertively move the dog along and gain your confidence.

Pick a few places where dogs are fenced in and start by walking you dog on the opposite side of the street. The second you see the dog start to focus on the other dog or passerby; give a sharp noise and continue as you were going. The second you stop worrying about other dogs and people; the dog behaves as you want.

Gradually, you'll get the dog where you want them to be. Bringing along family members who are fearful of the dog will in turn help them get over their fears and let the dog know that the people are the leaders. Then finally, the dog can relax.

Also, look out for places you can let the dog get a good run while still being fenced in. I've used a fenced in area at a closed school early in the morning for this while rehabbing dogs from problem owners.

Dogs that are too protective with strangers can also be trained. You have to make them keep a respectful distance from the front door while still allowing them to bark when the bell rings. You have to quietly, boldly walk and make them yield and move back. All these things require repetition but they really work. Praise and treats come after the dog has behaved as desired.

Corrections are immediate and usually non-verbal. I say "Hay" if I need to speak at all but everyone has their own little cue. Crating dogs is not the answer. That makes the problem escalate especially if the dog is anxious or nervous.

Dogs must also learn to give up whatever they have to the leader. I use "drop" as a command for that and the dog is immediately rewarded with treats. Never move in to take something from the dog's mouth because pack leaders do not do that - followers try that.

It can take a lot of time to train a drop command because you have to watch the dog until they are about to drop the object of their own accord. You have to command "drop" right before the object falls out of their mouth and then offer praise/treats for the action. It doesn't usually take many repeats for this to be learned but you have to be consistant and willing to wait and watch for the right times to give the command.

Keep the dogs off all furniture. Dogs associate height with position in their pack. They should have their own bed. Use treats to make the bed a positive thing and reward when the dog goes to the bed.

Keep the dog out of the room whenever you are eating. No treats from your food ever! Again, dog pack leaders eat alone and have respect from their followers. When a dog comes in to get food from you, they are showing they have no respect for you.

We all love to cuddle with our dogs but never should they be sleeping on you or resting on you in any way. To a dog, putting their head across your lap means they are claiming ownership of you instead of the other way around. You can and should give affection when they are behaving as you want - calmly and quietly.

One last thing, whenever you see loose roaming dogs; do not panic. Calmly back up, while still facing them, to see what they are doing. If the dogs have fixated on you; run only if you are very close to a safe place like your house door or a car. Otherwise calmy and smoothly, fold your arms over your chest and turn sideways; ignoring the dog. Boring objects are not targets.

Do not make direct eye contact as that is a challenge. Do not yell and scream as that will only incite the dogs to come to you

Always be safe. I bike a lot and keep a pepper spray bottle in one of my bike sacks. I can also use my tire pump as a small weapon if needed.

Most aggression is from fearful dogs. Once the dog is confident and protected; they have no fear and no aggression. For that, they need a confident leader who sets rules and enforces them.

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December 23, 2018

My German Shepherd bitch is now 4 years old. She was the most calm, loving friendly dog to (people and dogs) up until she had pups a year ago. She no longer has the pups and lives with my Staff who is friendly and they do get along.

However my Shepherd is now aggressive to all other dogs! Except when she visits her pups. She screams when we walk her on the lead or on car journeys? And she is aggressive to every other dog at the park. We haven't changed our behaviour or training so why has she changed? Any advice on how to tackle this? As I feel like we have tried everything!


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December 23, 20180 found this helpful

I would consult the vet. There could be a hormonal reason why she is behaving aggressively and the vet could treat it


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December 24, 20180 found this helpful

Any changes in behavior, especially something so extreme, should be checked out by a vet.

If she gets a clean bill of health, you may want to talk to the vet to find a good dog whisperer (trainer) who can give her a brief refresher in good citizenship. We had to do this once when we introduced a new dog to the house and our old gal regressed. It worked with one session. The vet gave us the best person in Pgh and she was amazing. If you live near western PA, I can see if she is still around as this was about 8 years ago.

Wishing you all the best! Prayers for your fur baby!


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December 24, 20180 found this helpful

This does sound hormonal to me. If she hasnt been spayed it may be time to consider that.


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December 25, 20180 found this helpful

Just like women and pregnancy, behaviors can change (hormones). I would recommend going to the vet and getting her examined.

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5 Archives

ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

March 3, 2009

I have a 4 year old male German shepherd, we got him when he was 13 weeks old when my husband came back from Iraq. We moved a lot with him and he had to get use to many different places. When we moved to Oklahoma he was 3 years old, and that's when the problem with him started. He got very aggressive toward everyone, he bit my daughter when she was trying to grab his collar to let him out, and I know she is afraid of him a little.

Well we just found out that we have to move again due the military to Germany, and I really want to take the dog with me. All the dog trainers I have been to have turned me away, so last week I went with him to a K9 training center. As soon as we got out of the car he wanted to attack the K9 officer. The officer told me to hold up the leash and that's when my German shepherd attacked me. He bit me in my shoulder and arm, I was in shock and at that moment afraid of my own dog. The officer said there will be no hope for him, that the best thing would be to put him down.

I really don't want to do that because I love him so much even though I'm afraid of him now. If anyone could give me some advise on what to do, and if anyone knows of a rescue that takes aggressive German shepherds I would really be thankful.

Monika from Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Update: I found a home for my German Shepherd. The K9 academy took him, the officer said he can be saved and he has high hopes for him. I am very happy.


Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior


Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

Make sure he is neutered first of all, and then talk to your vet about medication to put the dog on for aggressive behavior and then maybe the trainers can even have a look at your dog. No trainer wants to lose a limb to train a dog. If not find a veterinary behaviorist. They will know the combination of medical and physical therapy to help your dog improve if that is possible. (04/08/2008)

By Candy

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

I love animals as much as the next animal lover but I think if he is that aggressive and has turned on you and your family, what's gonna happen if it bites a kid or another person or gets out? Just yesterday my kids friend's dog Sadie, bit another animal (a small yorkie), tearing into its flesh. It is part Shepard. The same dog who 2 months ago, when I came to the door to get my son, bit me through my jeans and tore a gash in my leg.

I still have a gaping hole that is healing, I think these people are nuts. They have kids there all the time, and this dog is a loose cannon. I think there is only so much you can do, and if a trainer is telling you that, you should listen. It's tough believe me, when we made our big move we had to put our 2 border collies up for adoption. Finding a good home was like saying I had to choose between my kids, but we had to do it. You don't forget but it does get easier! This is a lawsuit waiting to happen! (04/09/2008)

By Kim

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

This animal has turned on you and your child! Why would you wanna give it a chance to do it again or make it a more serious injury? I am sorry, I do speak first hand. I forgot to mention in my other post we lived on a farm and the way we met our neighbors is that we had gone bike riding. My son was 5, yes 5, at the time when all of a sudden a pack of these peoples pit bulls ran out and started to lunge at my son. I was doing everything in my power to get that dog to come towards me. I will never forget that feeling, as he grabbed onto my son's leg and tried to pull him off his bike.

The feeling of fear and imagine as I am standing there begging and screaming for help, the owner comes out and I have to plead for help. My son's leg was a mess, puncture wounds everywhere. I don't wanna ever think what would have happened, if he grabbed him off the bike. This dog was literally attached as we were trying to ride away, wouldn't let go now as I am standing there. Their children, 3 of them under 5, are telling me how this dog attacked his sister and bit her in her head and face and how he bit the other little boy in the leg. I was outraged. I asked how can you keep dogs like that when you have children and he's attacked them! I have a dog and if it ever did that it would be gone period. Believe me I became aware of the dog warden real well.

I was on a mission to get these dogs taken away and then the other one, I made sure was put down. We went through a lot of aggravation. They are lucky I never sued them for the trauma and scars! Anyone who keeps an aggressive dog better be prepared for what comes your way, and until you live through it, with your child or a loved one, don't preach to me about never too late! One day it just might be too late! (04/09/2008)

By Kim

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

I have trained now aggressive dogs for 30 years, and what I'm reading doesn't sound to me that he is hopeless. The dog attacked you, cause he was confused, different place different people, and for that k9 trainer to say to pull on leash, that's just plain nuts. He was asking for that attack to happen if he was so prof. he would of never asked you to do that. That dog has a future, he still can be helped and you are doing the right thing, not putting him down. I will e-mail you my info, I will take a look at the dog. Your dog looks beautiful, he looks very well kept up, you did a great job with him, sorry you had to suffer for someone elses mistake. (04/09/2008)

By Damarion

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

A dog doesn't become aggressive on his own. He becomes aggressive because he has not received proper exercise, stimulation, attention, etc. One has to be a responsible dog owner before acquiring any pet, especially a powerful dog like a German Shepherd.

I have a one year old female, and her needs are the priority in my household. She gets attention and exercise every single day without fail, and she has been well socialized with other dogs and people since the age of 8 weeks.
She lives with two other dogs and they also receive attention and exercise every day.

I don't believe a dog cannot be rehabilitated unless it's been trained as a fighting dog. A pet that has turned aggressive can be retrained and can become a good and submissive pet, even an aggressive German Shepherd, etc.
It is utterly foolish to not spay or neuter a dog no matter how much you would like to duplicate said dog.
A careless or lazy pet owner is asking for trouble and they will surely get it, and a good dog will be the one to pay the price. It's so sad to hear of a dog turning aggressive. German Shepherds are super bright and can be stubborn. They will sometimes test you like a child. Good luck! (04/09/2008)

By Nan Corpe

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

Your dog is in the right place. He sounds like a great candidate for police training or personal protection training.
Some animals don't acclimate very well to new and strange places. Your daughter should have never grabbed the dog's collar and you should tell her not to ever do that again to any dog. Once your dog sensed that his pack leader was weak and fearful, your dog 'used' that to his advantage. HE became the pack leader.
I'm happy that he is in great hands. (04/13/2008)

By sandra johnson

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

(submitted via email)

Hi, Does your GSD still dislike strangers coming into your house? Were you able to train him to stop? Our 8 month old GSD also dislikes strangers and we are also in the process of training. Is there hope?
Thank you!

Debbie (11/03/2008)

By Jess

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

I wrote on 2/29/08 regarding my German Shepherd, Caesar. About how he would become aggressive whenever he grabbed something. Well I spent even more time with him and he is now a very obedient and loving pet. Yet he tends to be a bit overprotective when it comes to kids, if a stranger approaches he won't attack but will stand in front of the kids and growl at the stranger. Caesar has mellowed very much. I love my dog. (11/03/2008)

By E.B.

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

I rescued a male German Sheppard one year ago. It is my understanding that someone found him wandering, crying and shaking during a terrible storm. It is obvious he had been traveling for some time, because the vet suggested flies had been eating on the tips of his ears and he weighed only 72 LBS, his pads and claws were rough and split and he was covered in fleas and ticks.

I do not have his medical history or any personal information about him. I do not even know his age. He used to get along well with other dogs, but now when a dog or people step on my property or come to the door, he becomes very aggressive and barks like a crazy dog until I stop him. It is obvious that he had been very well trained as he is very obedient when he receives a command from me. He was quite timid when I first got him as I assumed it was because he had just been neutered...?

He sometimes nips on heels, ankles and tushes when guests are visiting. Also, he acts as the pack leader near the children, so I now put him away whenever we have visitors. Is there any way I can get my GS to stop his aggressive behavior? He is wonderful and extremely protective of me. I love him so much! Please help! Thanks!

By Ruth

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

Hi. I don't know how old this thread of discussion is, but I need to say something very important. There is NO way you can compare the senseless, manic aggression of pit bulls with the behavior of German shepherds. In my country, pit bulls are regularly in the news for mauling and killing people. Not so German shepherds. Pit bulls are a terrible breed and, I believe, illegal in some countries.

On the other hand, German shepherds are intelligent, protective and respond beautifully to a relationship of trust, bonding, consistency in training and positive reinforcement. Mentioning 'pit bull' and 'German shepherd' in the same context is completely misinformed. The two breeds are worlds apart. (11/11/2008)

By Mia

Aggressive German Shepherd Behavior

I bought a Sheppard puppy 2yrs ago for my daughter's 8th grade present. Just today he started to growl at her. I quickly tried to tell him no, no growl. He repeated and the last time, showed his teeth.

What can I do to get him to stop this? He has been nothing but loving before this and only does it to her. Also she recently was hired 3 weeks ago to potty train a puppy, the puppy has stayed with us. Is this part of why this is happening? And what exercise can we do to correct the problem? Please help, we just love him (ROCKY). Please email me tnewby AT (02/24/2009)

By Family of 4 with rocky


April 8, 2008
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