A German Shepherd puppy makes a fantastic companion for your family. German Shepherds are smart, loyal, naturally protective, and friendly.
Just like any breed, Shepherds require training and socialization when they’re young. This helps to foster the pup’s best traits: His intelligence and loyalty while warming him up to new situations and people.
Without proper training and socialization, German Shepherds can develop nervous habits and overly-protective behaviors, just like most breeds. If you’re able to notice certain problematic behaviors in your German Shepherd puppy, though, you can catch and remedy these habits early.
You might be wondering: What traits should I be watching for in my German Shepherd puppy?
At Misty Ridge, we’ve been breeding German Shepherds for close to 30 years, and our team has extensive experience in Shepherd training and Schutzhund competition. We know how Shepherds “tick,” and wanted to share a few behaviors that should be corrected when your dog is a puppy.
Common Behavioral Problems in German Shepherds
German Shepherds are one of the smartest breeds in the world. That’s why they’re commonly used for search-and-rescue, as seeing-eye dogs, and in police work.
This intelligence, when left to its own devices, can lead to problematic behaviors. The dog essentially teaches itself how to respond in situations, because he’s not receiving the right signals and positive rewards from you. With early training and socialization though, you can help to prevent some of these common issues from coming up. A few of the most common include:
- Over-Protectiveness – German Shepherds are naturally protective. They want to protect the family unit. This protectiveness can become problematic if it manifests as aggression towards strangers or other animals. Examples include lunging at the mailman, or aggressive barking at passers-by. With German Shepherd puppies, it’s imperative to socialize them early and often. Introduce them to new people, new situations, and new noises. Socialization helps your puppy develop confidence and to learn what types of people and situations are non-threatening.
- Territorial Aggression – Your Shepherd doesn’t just want to protect you; they want to defend their territory, as well. That’s why they’re often used as guard dogs. Unfortunately, when they become over-territorial, this can be unsafe for visitors. Often, too, Shepherds can become territorial over food, growling, barking or lunging at anyone or other animals that come into their space. Exercise, obedience training, and rewarding calm behavior can all help to alleviate territorial aggression.
- Digging or Destructiveness – German Shepherds, require rigorous mental and physical exercise. They get bored very quickly, and often, this boredom manifests itself in destructive behavior. When bored, your pup might try to seek attention too, another common reason for the destructive behavior, like digging excessively or chewing up a shoe. Providing daily physical exercise, as well as training (mental activity) can help prevent boredom.
- Nipping – Many young dog breeds nip starting at around 6 to 9 months old. This is fairly typical behavior, but with Shepherds, it can be a bit scarier as get bigger. When this happens, provide your pet with a chew toy and help train him that nipping hands or arms isn’t acceptable. You should always redirect nipping to the chew toy, and reward your pup’s positive behaviors.
- Separation Anxiety – German Shepherds, love you and want to always be by your side! Unfortunately, work and vacation make that impossible. Separation anxiety is very common, but it can become problematic if your dog barks, becomes destructive, or whines while you’re away. You can help ease this behavior by providing a comfortable space while you’re away and a favorite chew toy when you leave. You might also start with shorter trips when you first bring your pup home.
- Showing Dominance – Shepherds are pack animals, and they’re continually seeking cues as to their place in the pack. If they’re unsure of where they stand, they may show dominance to you, your spouse, or even, children. Obedience training is imperative, and you should include your whole family in the training process. This will help your dog learn that he is not the alpha.
Ultimately, the best way to weed out problematic behaviors is to start a training regime very early. German Shepherd puppies want to learn and put their intelligence to good use. They’re easily adaptable too. That’s why early training is so helpful for them to learn positive behavior.
Owners must be consistent in their training. Using the right cues, rewarding the right behaviors, and communicating with your dog properly is very important. The best way is to learn the right way to train a pup is to seek the help of a German Shepherd trainer. Taking a course teach you how to properly communicate with your dog and provide you with techniques to redirect negative behaviors.
German Shepherd Puppies: Choosing the Right Animal
How can you find a Shepherd puppy without problematic behaviors? It starts with the breeder.
Find a breeder that breeds for temperament and health. The best breeders take great care to produce animals that are calm, confident and loving. That doesn’t happen by chance. It requires careful pedigree planning and selecting the right sire (dad) and dam (mom) who show well-adjusted temperaments.
Similarly, the best breeders will also be happy to provide a pedigree for the animal and are glad to answer the phone when you have any training concerns. In short, if a breeder has a positive track record, the right experience, and are happy to provide information about your pup’s pedigree, those are all good signs that the puppies they offer will have even temperaments.