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Dealing With German Shepherd Biting

German Shepherds are medium-to-large dogs with a thick double-layer coat, strong and agile bodies, and characteristic 'wolfish' faces with long lupine muzzles and erect ears. Originally bred to guard property and livestock, German Shepherds (sometimes known as Alsatians) are intelligent, versatile, independent dogs well suited to active working lifestyles.

Are They Aggressive?

In a word: no. No breed can be characterized as aggressive, no matter what reputation the media and/or Hollywood have given them. It is true that German Shepherds are a popular breed and that a lot of people decide to get one for the wrong reasons, or without doing the necessary research into the mental and physical requirements that the dog has, which can lead to a very frustrated, edgy adult dog.

What Causes Aggression and Biting In German Shepherds?

These are very demanding dogs, and not suitable as pets for the novice owner. They are a serious working breed with high exercise requirements, and active, intelligent minds that need lots of interesting challenges during the course of a day. That's why they're so often picked as military or police dogs: as a breed, German Shepherds are exceptionally versatile and can be trained to do almost anything. Conversely, if confined to the life of a household pet (long spells alone with nothing to do, not enough exercise, living in an apartment or confined to a house/backyard), Shepherds will be frustrated and unhappy, which they may express through aggressive and destructive behavior.

What Should I Do to Prevent It?

Here are some basic tips for preventing this sort of behavior in your German Shepherd.

  • Insufficient exercise is the number one cause of undesirable behavior in dogs. German Shepherds have a high activity level, and need vigorous exercise every single day. They need to roam over large areas, explore new environments, and romp, sprint, and jump with regularity. You should be taking your Shepherd jogging, running alongside a bicycle, hiking, or involve him in agility training (obstacle courses) or Schutzhund (tracking, obedience, and protection work). These last two have the added benefit of working his brain as well as body.
  • German Shepherds are very very bright dogs. They get bored quickly. As the owner, it's your responsibility to ensure that your dog has enough to do and that it's of a sufficient degree of difficulty to pose a challenge to him. Involve him in obedience work to at least the intermediate level (preferably advanced) and make sure you spend plenty of time with him at home, teaching him tricks and playing interactive games (fetch is always a winner, despite its relative simplicity. It's a great way to burn up energy, too).
  • With a protective breed like the Shepherd, suspicion of newcomers is part of their genetic makeup. You need to work hard to counteract the negative effects this can have by socializing your Shepherd rigorously and from an early age. The first step is to take him to puppy preschool, where he'll learn proper canine communication and have the opportunity to mingle with a large number of strange new puppies and dogs in a controlled, positive environment. It's absolutely vital that you take advantage of the socialization period in your dog's life (10 to 16 weeks) - this is the phase when he's most receptive to new experiences. Taking him out to meet lots of new puppies, dogs, and humans at this point will go far towards preventing aggression, fear-based snapping, timidity, and sharpness in your dog once he hits adolescence.

When to Ask For Help

A badly-trained or poorly socialized German Shepherd - especially in the hands of an inexperienced or ignorant owner - can be as dangerous as a loaded gun. These dogs make excellent companions, guard dogs, and working dogs as long as they're in the right hands. If you feel unsure of how well you're bringing up your dog, or if you feel threatened at ANY time, you should seek professional help straight away. At the very least, make sure sure that you do your homework on dog communication and psychology.

For in-depth information and techniques on training your dog and preventing and dealing with behavioral problems like aggression, biting, and destructive behavior, have a look at Secrets to Dog Training - it's written by an experienced, professional dog trainer and contains everything you need to know about raising your German Shepherd.


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