German Shepherds have long been a popular family dog in the United States.
They are loyal, protective and can be trained to do so many things. This popularity, however, doesn’t change the fact that there are some pretty serious myths and misconceptions about this much-loved breed.
While some of these myths have some reasonable support, some are just based on fear and misunderstanding.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the common myths about German Shepherds, and then breakdown those myths with facts about how German Shepherds really are and what makes them such unique and amazing dogs.
Myth #1 – Do German Shepherds Attack their Owners?
Many myths about German Shepherds are related to their aggression level.
Historically, in movies and television especially, we see examples of German Shepherds behaving badly.
This myth is likely supported by the common use of German Shepherds as police and military dogs.
These dogs tend to act aggressively, and have been known to unintentionally injure their owners. But is this action an actual attack or is it just a case of “mistaken identity”?
Fact: German Shepherds do not attack their owners any more frequently than many other breeds of dogs. In many cases of injury caused to owners by German Shepherds, the dog is not at fault or the incident was not a case of aggression.
This doesn’t mean however that German Shepherds haven’t been known to attack their owners. Many well documented cases where a GSD has attacked their owner, there is a known history of abuse.
In these instances, the dog has attacked its owner out of fear or as a way of protecting itself in a scary situation.
German Shepherds, like most other dogs will take any action necessary to protect themselves when they are feeling threatened, even if the threat is their owner.
Myth #2 – Are German Shepherds Friendly With Kids?
This myth, like myth number 1, is likely the result of many years of popular culture portraying the German Shepherd as a scary dog.
Size may also be a factor in this myth as well, being that German Shepherds are large dogs, and can be a bit overwhelming for a tiny child.
The size of a German Shepherd combined with toddlers may be another factor in creating the myth that German Shepherds are not good with kids.
Strong, big dogs can easily knock over a tiny child, causing crying and tears.
Fact: German Shepherds are consistently scored as one of the most popular family breeds by the American Kennel Club. This high ranking has much to do with their temperament as a loyal and kind family dog.
Like any other breed of dog, however, you need to be a responsible dog owner when you mix kids and German Shepherd pups.
German Shepherds benefit from good socialization, and lots of training when you add them to a family with young kids.
Likewise, it’s important to teach your kiddos safe behavior around all dogs, to avoid unintentional negative interactions.
If your kids are older, a great way to mix kids and dogs is to have your children assist with training your German Shepherd.
Because GSDs are highly intelligent, they thrive with training and focus, and including your kids will help your German Shepherd acclimate to your whole family.
A well socialized and trained German Shepherd makes a great companion for kids.
With a hidden silly side, your German Shepherd will love playing with your kids, and will give them a run for their money with their high energy level.
Just remember, if your kiddos are small, you should closely watch over them while they play with your German Shepherd. GSDs sometimes forget their size and can knock over a tiny kiddo who just wants to play.
Myth #3 – Are German Shepherds Good With Other Dogs?
A big dog, with an intense loyalty to their owner is likely the source of this myth.
Like with small children, a German Shepherd can be intimidating to other dogs, whether they are the sweetest dog or a bit on the irritable side.
Many dog owners assume that because they are larger in stature, a German Shepherd isn’t going to be a good match with other canine members of the family or with friends pets.
Fact: German Shepherds can be testy with other dogs. And female German Shepherds seem to be more easily irritated by other dogs. That doesn’t mean however that they are inherently bad with other dogs.
It just means that you will need to work a bit harder at socialization and training if you are selecting a German Shepherd. It is true that female German Shepherds seem to be a bit more feisty towards other dogs.
This may be a result of their intense loyalty and protective nature. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good with other dogs, however.
If you are introducing your German Shepherd to a new dog, use good sense practices, like meeting in a neutral location like a dog park.
Also, make sure you keep your GSD on a leash until you are sure that they are comfortable with new dogs. This will allow you to make quick corrections to their behavior when necessary.
Myth #4 – Will German Shepherd Dogs Become Aggressive?
Like the first few myths, this one has a lot to do with popular culture, poorly trained dogs, and a misunderstanding of German Shepherds.
German Shepherds have been frequently used for jobs that require them to be aggressive, and perhaps this leads to a judgement that they can or will become aggressive.
We see police dogs, military dogs and guard dogs on television and movies, and they are more often than not, German Shepherds.
German Shepherds can be trained to strong, protective dogs, but does that mean they are inherently aggressive?
Fact: This is not necessarily true. Yes, German Shepherds can be aggressive, but they aren’t any more aggressive than some other breeds of dogs. In reality, a GSD can be very relaxed and calm.
As is the case with other aggressive dogs, the dog is not the driving factor for behavior. Training is key with German Shepherds, in managing aggressive behavior.
And like with any other breed of dog, a GSD that feels threatened, no matter how sweet they normally are, can become aggressive.
German Shepherds have a tendency to do well in jobs that require them to become aggressive at a moment’s notice, but that doesn’t mean that your family dog will all of a sudden flip out and be mean.
Training and socialization are key to keeping everyone calm and happy in your home.
Myth #5 – Do German Shepherds Bite?
This is kind of an odd myth, but one that is out there regardless.
For some reason, German Shepherds have gotten a bad rap as a breed, known for biting.
Perhaps this myth is again fed by the breed’s use in aggressive jobs or maybe their size and imposing stature cause people to assume that they will be biters.
Fact: This is an unfairly earned myth. German Shepherds are not generally known to be biters. Biting is a bad habit that is encouraged by poor training and poor socialization.
According to the American Kennel Club, German Shepherds account for less than 2 percent of reported dog bites.
In fact, America’s favorite breed, the Labrador Retriever is more likely to bite a person than a German Shepherd. For dogs, biting is a response to fear and a need to defend themselves.
If a German Shepherd bites, it’s likely there is a reason. Few dogs bite without being provoked.
However, a well socialized and trained dog is more likely to be calm in a greater variety of situations, which can also reduce the risk of biting.
Myth #6 – Do German Shepherds Bite Harder than Other Breeds?
Considering the myth that German Shepherds are aggressive, biting dogs, it makes sense that many people worry that the German Shepherd is going to be a strong and vicious biter.
Big dogs bite harder than tiny dogs, but that doesn’t mean they are more likely to bite.
Fact: German Shepherds do have a strong bite. That kind of comes with the territory with larger dogs. However, they are not the strongest biter. Bite force is difficult to measure, but there has been some research done on this subject.
The average bite force of dogs is 269 pounds of pressure. The dog with the strongest bite force is the Rottweiler, with a bite that measured at 328 pound of pressure.
The German Shepherd came in second with nearly 100 pounds less of bite pressure, measuring 238 pounds of pressure. Even small dogs can exert in excess of 100 pounds of pressure when they bite.
This strong bite pressure was necessary when your domestic dog had a different diet and needed to be able to chew hard foods like bones.
And it is important to remember that bite pressure and the likelihood of biting don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
Many times, the German Shepherd gets a bad rap as an aggressive dog.
In fact, any breed of dog can be aggressive given the right conditions.
Yes, German Shepherds can be aggressive, and in some cases, their defensive and protective nature is used as a benefit for jobs like police and military work.
However, with good socialization and training, your German Shepherd can be a calm, sweet and loyal family dog.