Most of us know German Shepherd Dogs are great family pets. They are brave, protective, loyal and super intelligent. And they even get along with cats. Mostly. But maybe you’ve seen “that dog” at the dog park, the one that snarls, snaps, and maybe even attacks other dogs – and maybe that dog was a German Shepherd. Making you wonder: “do German Shepherds get along with other dogs?” It’s a really good question to ask if you already have a German Shepherd and are considering adopting another dog into the family.
So, do German Shepherds get along with other dogs? Yes, German Shepherds get along with other dogs (most of the time). The thing about German Shepherds (GSD) is that their ability to get along with other dogs has everything to do with proper training and socialization. Unfortunately, poorly trained and socialized dogs can cause problems in the house or even at the dog park. A GSDs naturally protective and brave personality may manifest itself as aggression towards other animals if they are not properly trained.
Maybe you have an aggressive dog or are worried that a GSD might be too aggressive for your home. With proper training you can minimize and overcome any potential aggressive behaviors toward other animals. If you are considering bringing a new dog into the home, rest assured that there are lots of proven techniques to make sure you will most likely never have any problems with aggression.
German Shepherds Need a Social Life!
Dog training and behavioral experts agree that the most important thing you must do so that your German Shepherd gets along with other dogs is for you to socialize them properly.
What is dog socialization, exactly?
Socialization is the fancy word for a dog learning to be a dog. The best time for socialization is between 3 – 12 weeks.
“Socialization” is the process of exposing your dog to any and all situations in life.
Obviously, if you are adopting a puppy, you will want to make sure you bring your GSD home from a reputable breeder who takes very seriously the importance of early socialization.
For you, this means giving them a chance to interact with other dogs. You can do this by taking them to obedience classes or to the dog park. This is really, really important because they essentially learn the social rules between dogs that you cannot teach them.
Essentially, your dog learns its place in the pack, even if you have a one-dog house. Learning how to behave in a pack at a very early age will dramatically reduce any future aggression towards other dogs.
Socialization in the Home
You’re unlikely to spend more time at the dog park than at home, so make sure that you take socialization seriously in the home as well.
Remember, your puppy needs to know its place in the pack. You, your family, and any other animals you may have in the home are part of that pack and your GSD needs to know exactly where it fits in.
Make sure to establish yourself as the boss, or alpha, of the pack. Do not be afraid to correct your GSD and establish strict rules and boundaries regarding their behavior.
Be sure to reward them with affection and attention only when they are in a calm and submissive state with you and all the other animals in the household.
It is never too early to start socializing your dog. Remember, this is the most important and fundamental part of their training!
Adequate socialization will make your (and your GSDs) life so much easier in the long run.
Have an Aggressive Adult German Shepherd on Your Hands? There’s Hope!
Maybe you are reading this article because you have a German Shepherd that does not get along with other dogs. Maybe taking them to the dog park, or even a walk is a stressful, less-than-enjoyable experience.
No worries, there is hope!
Adult GSDs that were not properly socialized or trained as puppies can be trained as an adult. Just remember, this process takes time, dedication, patience, and a lot of repetition.
It’s always helpful to try and understand where your adult GSD’s aggression is coming from. Are they acting out of nervousness and fear? Are they being aggressively dominant? Are they trying to protect you?
Each of these roots of aggression has different training strategies.
Depending on your situation, It may be helpful for you to get in contact with a certified dog behavioral specialist to be able to understand your animal better and work out an effective training strategy.
Some Basic Advice for Dealing With an Aggressive Older German Shepherd Dog
1. YOU are the Alpha Dog
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you are the alpha dog, right?
So if your dog is not in control of itself, i.e. it’s nervous and aggressive, you need to set the tone energetically.
This means that you need to stay calm and centered. If you are nervous, panicked, or scared – your dog and their behavior will reflect that.
2. What Triggers His Aggressiveness?
First, you need to know what triggers your GSD’s aggressive behaviors towards other dogs, you need to systematically work on desensitizing them and counter-conditioning them with those triggers.
3. Don’t Punish Aggression With Violence
NEVER punish your dog through physical violence when they are aggressive with other dogs.
Keep calm, and have a plan.
4. Consider Muzzle Training Your German Shepherd
Consider starting out with muzzle training.
There are some great options available that allow your dog to eat and drink with no discomfort. This also gives you the peace of mind that your dog is not going to actually do any damage to another animal.
Muzzle training is not very difficult if your dog is generally not aggressive toward you. It’s a good idea to do the muzzle training before starting any kind of desensitizing work.
5. Invest in a Harness
If you haven’t already, invest in an escape-proof harness.
This will give you greater control over your dog and help you feel more secure in controlling them.
6. Look in the Mirror
Consider changing your behaviors to minimize your dog’s aggression.
Take your dog for a walk during downtimes, for example. Consider crossing the street to avoid other animals.
7. Train, Train, and Train Some More!
Invest as much time and energy as possible training your German Shepherd. Use “sit” or “down” or “stay” whenever it makes sense.
These will come in handy when you are trying to desensitize your GSD to its triggers.
Now that you have some options to minimize the consequences of aggressive behavior towards other dogs, you can work on exposing them to their triggers little by little. Plan these situations carefully and stay in control!
For example, if you are walking your harnessed and muzzled dog and see another dog approach, rather than crossing the street, order your dog “down” or to “sit” and reward them lavishly while the other dog passes by.
Be sure to give them lots of treats and affection for doing your bidding. Then continue walking. It might not always go that smoothly, but little by little, your dog should learn to tolerate the presence of other dogs.
Remember: this advice is really basic.
You know your dog best. If you have any lack of confidence, doubts or worries, your best course of action is to get in contact with a certified behavioral specialist to come up with a special training plan.
Introducing a New Dog into Your Pack
Maybe you looked up this article because your family already includes a GSD or two, and you want to bring another dog into the home.
Even if your GSD is a “good boy” at the dog park and on walks, bringing a new dog into the pack might test his limits.
Here are some simple steps you can take to help the process go smoothly:
- Keep in mind GSD considers his dog and your family his den and his pack. He has a very strong instinct to defend it.
- Introduce any newcomer, (whether it be a new adult dog or a puppy) outside, preferably in a neutral space.
- Be calm and relaxed during this process. Both dogs will pick up on your energy and tensions could result.
- Keeping both dogs leashed (you’ll need a helper), bring the dogs together and let them sniff each other and briefly get to know one another.
- Separate them into parallel activities. Play fetch, etc. and give your dog a treat or two.
- Bring them together again for some more sniffing and getting to know one another.
- When the dogs seem relaxed and calm and they are done getting to know one another, take the dogs for a walk together around the block or close to your home.
- Keeping them leashed, enter your home with both dogs and walk them around the inside of the house together.
- If all seems calm, unleash them – but stay close and supervise their interaction.
You will want to pay particular attention to feeding the dogs in separate bowls and maybe even separate spaces, especially at the beginning.
When you see them getting along, or maybe even playing, be sure to lavish them both with lots of attention, affection, and praise.
Most people have the idea that using a muzzle on your dog is cruel. It can be, if used improperly. There are, however, some really humane styles of muzzles and you can be doing yourself and your dog a huge favor in training them to wear one. Whether it be an emergency situation, a grooming precaution or because you are visiting an area that has breed related muzzle requirements, you may end up in a situation where you find it necessary to put one on your dog. Training your dog to happily wear a muzzle is highly recommended by most experts.