The German Shepherd, for better or worse, has earned a reputation. On one hand that reputation is exactly one of the reasons why they are one of the best guard dogs out there. On the other hand, they cause unnecessary fear in a lot of people you may have over your house because people think they’re dangerous.
In some instances your insurance rate may even go up if you tell your home or renter’s insurance company about your dog based out of some German Shepherd myths that have been circulating for quite a while.
These myths stem from the GSD’s record as a military and police dog, as well as from Hollywood and other sources. I’d wager, however, that most people don’t have first hand experience, nor a reason why they broadly claim these dogs are so dangerous.
Well, I’m here to answer the following question:
Are German Shepherds dangerous?
The German Shepherd can be dangerous, just like any dog can be dangerous. Even little dogs can be dangerous and bite. All dogs have instincts and share 98 percent of their DNA with their ancestors, the wolf. Therefore, the German Shepherd Dog can be a dangerous animal, but is usually not unless it feels threatened personally and acts out of fear, or if it feels its family is threatened.
As stated a moment ago, any dog can be dangerous. I’ve personally been bitten on the face by small dogs, not once, but twice. That doesn’t mean that I consider Pekingese dangerous dogs, however.
So, why do so many people believe that these beautiful dogs are dangerous? Let’s dissect this even further.
German Shepherd Police and Military Dogs:
Most people know that the GSD is a proud working dog with a long history, that excels in many different environments. They are fearless and highly adaptable, which is one of the reasons why this is the most popular K9 in departments across the United States.
They also possess a bite strength of 238 psi and big, pointy teeth, which nobody wants wrapping around their limbs. They’re also smart, have excellent noses, and are incredibly loyal to their family making them the perfect breed for work and protection, when other breeds can fail under similar stress.
What’s the point with all of this?
Because of these traits, and the fact that military units and police departments use them to apprehend criminals and other work, they’ve earned quite the reputation for being dangerous dogs. And, it is a fact that criminals will resist arrest less often when their is a K9 team present.
These dogs scare people.
That reputation extends outward
But are they actually dangerous, just because, or is there reason why so many people believe this?
Any dog has the ability to bite or be dangerous. A lot of the time this is a reaction to fear. If you back a dog into a corner it will bite you, not necessarily because it wants to, but because it is afraid.
This is true regardless of breed.
The GSD just happens to be a big animal with big teeth that is also very intelligent and intimidating.
Speaking of those teeth, imagine my surprise when we brought our old girl Casey who is currently 10 years old, but 8 at the time this happened, to a new vet in a new state for the first time.
I brought her in, and the tech said, “we’re gonna have to muzzle her for our protection.”
My mind was blown. My dog had never been muzzled one single time in her life. In protest I exclaimed that she’s a gentle giant and has never once bitten anyone or any other animal, even if we do find our cat in her mouth on a regular basis (he’s still alive and kicking because she’s never bitten down in all this time.
The vet tech then said something that stuck with me, even though I forgot her face and everything else about her. That thing is, “the German Shepherds in this area are mean” and that they always muzzle German Shepherds whenever they come in
By the way, she couldn’t believe how friendly my girl was, and by the end of the visit her muzzle was off. Since then, our family has been known as the good German Shepherd owners.
The point in saying this is that while any dog can be dangerous, German Shepherds only tend to be dangerous if they’re raised that way or if there is something wrong with the dog.
If the dog is raised properly with correct socialization, the dog will not be dangerous, even if it is willing to protect you or your family if the time ever comes, she will only do so out of necessity.
Some people raise them to be dangerous
Just about any dog can be raised to be dangerous. If you keep that dog away from everyone except your own immediate family, that dog may want to harm other people for the simple reason that it doesn’t know any better.
We had a Rottweiler growing up that wanted to eat anything not directly related to my immediate family. Whenever we had someone come over the dog had to go get closed into a bedroom.
We brought one of my friends over for a holiday dinner once and sat him down at the table, and then let the dog out.
Man what a mistake that was. My parents weren’t too smart and I was just a little kid who didn’t know any better.
But, my friend almost lost his left ear, and would have if the adult next to him didn’t pull the dog away just in the nick of time.
The point is that any dog can be dangerous if they’re raised to be, and the German Shepherd is no different.
German Shepherd Loyalty
One of the reasons why the German Shepherd dog is sometimes seen as a dangerous dog is because of their loyalty to family.
To be honest, the German Shepherd dog is one of the most loyal dog breeds out there and once they pick their person/people they develop a strong bond. While this is a desirable trait in a dog that you want protecting you and your family, this loyalty can sometimes be seen as aggression, and sometimes it actually is aggressive behavior.
The reason why is because a GSD is unlikely to let anything perceived as a threat, whether two legged or four, come between his family and him.
That loyalty, in check with proper training, is a trait that I admire most in this breed of dog. Our dogs have always been loyal friends, willing to please and do anything we’ve ever asked once they’ve reached a certain age.
Do German Shepherds Attack Their Owners?
Any dog, including German Shepherds, can attack their owners. However, most will only do so if they feel threatened, are backed into a corner, are abused, or something like that.
Also, most dogs bite out of fear. If you treat your GSD with love and respect, even while still correcting bad behavior, your dog will never attack you.
Remember a moment ago when I pointed out how loyal they are? Why would an animal so loyal to its family attack it?
Are German Shepherds Friendly with Kids?
I’ve had three different German Shepherd dogs now as an adult, all with kids. The first one, a large big-boned male named Jumbo, was a rescue dog who we had BEFORE we had our first child.
He utterly adored each of the kids of mine he actually met (2 of the 3), and have no doubt that he knew they were my children and would have protected them if I required that of him.
The rare occurrences we had him around other children he was also fine.
Our 10-year old GSD female, Casey, is practically my 12-year old’s dog. They grew up with each other, and Hannah has taken over much of the daily doggy duties, though I have had to take some of those duties back with the addition of our 12 week old puppy, to make sure they interact well with each other.
I have no doubt that Casey views my three kids as a part of her family, and she shares a strong bond with each one of them.
Even more telling, is that we recently as of two years ago moved to a new house in a new state and obviously brought our then 8 year old GSD female with us. She was very receptive of meeting the new kids in the neighborhood, as well as their parents.
In fact, she likes all of our neighbors, except one of the adults, which you can read about in this story, where I highlight the time I thought my neighbor was a stranger trying to abduct my son and I sent Casey after him.
She still barks at our neighbor. I encourage you to read that story, by the way, because it highlights many of these points.
So far, and to date with my experience concerning the German Shepherd Dog, they’re very friendly with kids.
Are German Shepherds Dangerous to Other Dogs?
They can be. This is the one part that I struggle with when people ask me if my German Shepherds are dangerous. Truth be told, I have never been around one that has loved being around other dogs.
Again, I can only speak from my own experience here, but for the most part, they don’t usually like other dogs, but they can and will usually tolerate them to at least some degree. As with everything, each GSD is going to react differently to being around other dogs.
Our first boy, Jumbo, was a rescue which I think weighed heavily on his dislike for other furry beings.
While we had him, he bit two dogs on two different occasions, both of which were in the family. Both of which were also just warnings, and believe whole heartedly that if he wanted to kill either of those other two dogs, he would have been able to easily do so.
Also, each time we went on walks and came into contact with other dogs he’d tend to lose his mind, foaming at the mouth, nearly convulsing in anger toward the other dogs. It was actually kind of scary because we weighed more than 100 pounds and was not easy to control when he got like that.
We eventually stopped walking him during the daylight hours, and only walked him at night when there weren’t as many dogs being walked by others.
Our current senior-aged German Shepherd, Casey, is much different. She has never been bitten by another dog, but was herself bitten when she was a puppy, by another dog at a dog park. And when confronted, the owner of the other dog simply said, yeah he could get a bit mouthy.
Since then, she has always been leery around other dogs, but has been able to tolerate them.
For example, when we’d go on vacation we would have her kenneled by the people who watch dogs for people when they go away.
We’ve also had her groomed while around other dogs at a groomer and has done fine, even if she was a bit nervous and I could tell.
I think the difference is in how we raised her, compared to how Jumbo was raised. We socialized Casey, but have no idea how Jumbo was.
The key is to get your German Shepherd around other dogs who are friendly as soon as they can handle it to help ensure that they’re not going to hate other animals.
Do German Shepherds Bite?
Any dog can bite if put in the right (or wrong) circumstances. Most dogs bite out of fear, though some are just jerks. Above I mentioned that I was bitten twice by small dogs, and I had done nothing to provoke them.
In fact, the one Pekingese bit me when I was trying to give her a kiss on the head. Another time my wife was bitten by a black lab who was the family pet to the house next door.
People tend to believe that Labrador Retrievers are friendly, non-aggressive dogs. But if you asked my wife she’d have a different opinion.
This isn’t to say that those are bad or dangerous dogs, in general, I just want to illustrate that any dog can bite because it is in their nature regardless of breed.
So do German Shepherds bite? They can, especially if they’re afraid, but generally don’t unless their owner trained them to or they are provoked in some way, just like any dog.
German Shepherds in the Movies:
The truth of the matter is that Hollywood has done their part to infuse this mentality with the masses. People tend to believe to at least some degree the things they see in movies.
While German Shepherds aren’t always displayed in a manner that they look dangerous, the image is burned into the memory when a GSD attacks a bad guy or something similar. That thought makes some people think that these majestic dogs must be dangerous, when they’re not necessarily so.
I do want to say that there is no such thing as a cookie cutter dog and that I’m sure there are German Shepherds out there who are actually dangerous. It would be ridiculous for me to suggest otherwise.
Most of the time, however, it is induced by something people or other animals have done in the past, causing fear. And, as we all know, a scared dog is more likely to bite.
Having said that, while all dogs are different, it has been my experience to date with nearly two decades of experience with the breed, that the German Shepherd is NOT dangerous. At least, not for no reason.
And for criminals?
A German Shepherd is absolutely dangerous to a criminal intent on harming the dog’s family, however. So for you criminals reading this, if you see a house with a GSD, keep moving. Because while that dog may be lame in the protection department, you just never know.
And is it really worth risking?