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German Shepherd Temperament Traits and Common Behaviour Problems

German Shepherd Temperament
German Shepherd Temperament traits make them popular family protectors and working dogs. But this intelligence & energy can also lead to bad behaviour problems such as

Throughout the world, there are only a handful of dog breeds that can be characterised as loyal, highly intelligent, courageous, and affectionate. One of these dog breeds is the German Shepherd.

Through its long history, the German Shepherd has proven itself to be an excellent companion and hard-working dog due to its superior intelligence and highly-energetic nature.

german shepherd family dog

In this guide, we will talk about the German Shepherd temperament and discuss some common behavioural issues seen in the breed.

German Shepherd Temperament and Personality Traits

german shepherd behaviour

German Shepherds, or GSDs, are intelligent, versatile, and faithful dogs. They are inherently blessed with many personality characteristics that make them excel in everything they do.

The breed is popular throughout the world. In Australia, it was the 5th most popular dog breed in 2019, while in the United States, it was the 4th most popular dog breed in 2021-22.

Highly Skilled and Super Smart

The German Shepherd temperament can be described as versatile and faithful. Their superior intelligence has made them invaluable in many fields, including the military, police work, and as all-around farm dogs. They even help people with special needs and are excellent service dogs for people who need constant attention or are handicapped.

Their skills are not just limited to military, police, and therapy work. These smart dogs even work in the movies! A dog named Rin Tin Tin featured in many movies and TV shows, was played by several different German Shepherds over the years. He even received thousands of letters in fanmail each week!

We cannot forget the breed’s contribution during the World Trade Centre attacks in September 2001. These faithful and loyal dogs risked their lives to help find missing people from the debris of the twin towers. 

Excellent Watch Dogs

German Shepherd temperament intelligent

The German Shepherd temperament makes them an excellent watchdog. They have an alert nature and super-sharp senses. Their powerful sense of hearing combined with a naturally suspicious nature makes them reliable guard dogs and watchdogs. They make the ideal protection dogs for families and property, as they are naturally wary of strangers.

However, this wary and suspicious nature can also be a hindrance. One of the main “behavioural” problems in the breed is their suspicious nature which can lead to reactivity, which might not be suitable for those looking for a friendly dog.

High-Energy Dogs

The German shepherd temperament makes them highly energetic dogs. If you consider their working history and origins, you’ll find that they were bred for working purposes – mainly to guard flocks of sheep.

Since they worked all day, they were naturally shaped to be high-energy dogs that need plenty of exercise and activities to keep them engaged. 

It is important for potential GSD owners to note this aspect of the dog’s personality. If your GSD does not get enough attention, exercise, and mental stimulation, it is bound to get bored. Do not be surprised if this boredom manifests in the form of chewing and excessive barking. A GSD’s loud barking can even drive your neighbours up the wall!

Despite these traits, German Shepherds are amazing dogs that are sure to make awesome pets. With proper puppy training, early socialisation, and lots of exercise and attention, they will stand by you through thick and thin.

german shepherd guard dog

Compatibility With Other Pets

Socialised and well-trained German Shepherds get along beautifully with other dogs and even cats! This dog can easily share their home and territory with other animals. It just depends on how and where they were raised. If you buy your German Shepherd from a reputable breeder, they will ensure the early enrichment of your puppy. 

This involves raising the puppy with other dogs, cats, etc. A GSD raised with chickens will generally not chase them!

Compatibility With Kids

Most German shepherds, particularly females, have an inherent understanding of the vulnerability of young kids. Even if they have no prior experience with children, they might allow toddlers to handle their toys and balls without snatching, snapping, growling, or showing aggression.

Naturally, you must socialise your German Shepherd with children from puppyhood. You must also teach your kids to respect your dog and never hit it, pull its tail, or do things that could trigger the pet.

Common Behaviour Problems in German Shepherds

best guard dogs for families

Like any dog breed, the German Shepherd temperament can predispose them to certain behavioural issues. An understanding of these issues can prepare dog owners to address these problems and nip them in the bud. This is crucial for a harmonious relationship with your GSD:

Aggression

Since the German Shepherd temperament is extremely loyal and territorial, they may display aggression in the form of barking, biting, growling, snapping, etc., especially towards strangers. 

Proper training and early socialisation can help prevent these behaviours. Your dog will also need plenty of ongoing obedience training, (which should ideally begin once the puppy is 7-8 weeks old.)

german shepherd temperament with other dogs

Separation Anxiety

The German Shepherd temperament can make them prone to anxiety if left alone for prolonged periods. They tend to bark, urinate indoors, or destroy furniture and bedding.

Gradual desensitisation, crate training, and providing plenty of mental and physical stimulation can help alleviate separation anxiety in GSDs.

Excessive Barking

best family guard dogs

This is a common behavioural issue seen in the breed. In most cases, excessive barking arises due to boredom, distractions and sleep deficits.

You can teach your dog the “quiet” command and also make sure it gets plenty of mental and physical stimulation along with at least 12 hours of sleep per day.

Jumping on People

Being a large dog, this behaviour can be dangerous and an alternative appropriate behaviour should be trained from an early age. You can teach your GSD the “down” or “sit” command to prevent it from jumping. Using positive reinforcement training will ensure that your dog prefers to choose a sit or a down when they desire your attention and affection. Punishing your dog for jumping up might work to initially stop the behaviour but it doesn’t teach your dog what you actually want them to do instead.

Understand that most dogs jump on people due to over-excitement and a lack of training.

Chasing or Herding

GSD temperament

Since German Shepherds were bred to herd livestock, they have a tendency to nip at the heels or chase kids and small animals.

Your GSD will mainly engage in this behaviour due to boredom or the desire to control movement. With consistent training, stopping the rehearsal of the behaviour by keeping the dog on lead and diverting your dog with toys and activities can help put a stop to this unwanted behaviour.

FAQs – German Shepherd Temperament

Are German shepherds good puppies?

german shepherd pros and cons

German shepherds are large puppies and can weigh 6-9kg at 8 weeks of age. They can be particularly mouthy puppies that like to bite and chase. Puppies become more of what they do every day, so if you want a good puppy that behaves start puppy training straight away and don’t allow the rehearsal of undesirable behaviours.

Buying your puppy from a reputable German shepherd breeder can help to ensure you start off with a well-behaved or ‘good’ puppy. The best dog breeders make German shepherd temperament and health their number one priority.

Does the German Shepherd temperament make them a good family dog?

Yes, well-trained and properly socialised German Shepherds make excellent family dogs. They are intelligent, loyal, and affectionate, and they have all the personality traits that make them loving companion pets.

Do German Shepherds bark a lot?

Most German Shepherds will bark excessively if they are bored or do not get adequate mental and physical stimulation. Well-trained GSDs will usually only bark if they want to alert you to danger or if they are feeling a territorial instinct.

Can German Shepherds be left alone?

german shepherd training

The German Shepherd temperament can make them prone to separation anxiety which may manifest as barking, destruction, etc. You can train your dog to be left alone at an early age and crate training helps with this. However, no dog should be left alone for more than 4-6 hours a day. Doggy Daycare can be a good option for owners that need to leave their GSDs for extended periods of time.

How is the White German Shepherd temperament?

white german shepherd temperament

The White German Shepherd temperament is no different to the old-style black and tan German Shepherd temperament. Both are fiercely loyal and protective of their loved ones and family. However, their intelligence and high energy levels can predispose them to behaviour problems like barking, separation anxiety, chewing, digging and leash reactivity.

How is the Black German Shepherd temperament?

german shepherd barking

The Black German Shepherd temperament is energetic, protective and highly trainable. Without proper obedience and life skills dog training, barking and leash reactivity can be common behaviour issues.

If your German Shepherd has any of the behaviour problems we’ve mentioned above or you’d just like to know how to train them, consult a dog behaviourist, our online dog training course or a dog trainer near you for training, obedience and a behaviour modification plan.

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Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney
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Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney

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