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The German Shepherd is rated as one of the most intelligent of all dog breeds and continues to be very popular around the world. The German Shepherd has a loyal fan base and continues to trend well amongst dog lovers, despite many other popular breeds emerging over the last 20 years.


The breed ranks high in popularity all around the world including the United Kingdon, USA, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. They are great family dogs but will usually still attach themselves to one member of the family. This usually will be a person that they respect and see as someone they perceive to be a strong individual with leadership qualities and traits.

Bark Busters rates this breed as 2nd to the Labrador for the most trained breed we see, coming in second to the Labrador in United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and coming a close third to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Labrador in the United Kingdom.

We believe their popularity is due to their undying loyalty and naturally protective nature, which stems from their heritage as guarders of sheep. They originated as a wolf-like breed that was capable of herding and controlling sheep and a formidable force capable of fending off wolves in the countryside and hills of native Germany.

They are very trainable, but some are not the easiest dog to train, due to their determined, strong-willed nature. They won’t comply for just anyone and will need strong leadership. Once trained correctly, they generally stay trained with only small amounts of regular maintenance and consistent rules.

The German Shepherd needs expert training, that uses a method that is breed specific, something aimed towards understanding their personality that is kind and humane.

Dog owners nowadays understand the importance of locating kind and humane training for their pets that is dog-friendly and fits into their busy time-scale and training needs.

Personality and Temperament

German Shepherds are slow to mature. In some cases, reaching full maturity can take up to 4 years before you see the personality of a mature dog kick in. Meanwhile, you might have to contend with a puppy’s brain, housed in a full grown powerful dog. The wait is worth it!

It is for that reason, we recommend that you practice some good management of your German Shepherd puppy from an early age on to reduce any property damage, while they mature and develop.

Don’t leave your puppy confined for long hours. Not only will they not like it, but they need to have their intellect challenged on a daily basis, so make sure you provide the right kind of entertainment for them. Ideally, they need to be mentally stimulated and busy or they will find something to occupy their brain that could result in the damage of your precious possessions.

The German Shepherd’s temperament or personality generally comes from energetics, and they are mostly outgoing and stable.

The breeds natural wariness of strangers is what makes them the ideal guard dog. However, this does come with a note of caution as the German Shepherd ranks as the highest breed we see in the United Kingdom that shows aggression to people and animals.  

The AKC describes the ideal German Shepherd as having a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile expression, self-confident, and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships.

Some are over friendly, and others are at the other end of the scale, making them wary of strangers or aggressive. This can be dependent on its breeding and the dog’s bloodlines, as well as its upbringing, the type of environment it is raised in, and the education it receives as it grows and develops.

  • Act the way you want your dog to be, not the way they want you to be
  • Make rules and follow them with consistency, kindness and firmness
  • Keep them busy and don't allow any behaviour you don't want from your dog
  • Look for a reputable trainer and hopefully get a guarantee on the training as they are masters on bending the rules, and you may need some extra help later on as your dog matures.

Bark Busters is the right choice and we are the German Shepherd experts.

Dogs Have Four Basic Needs

Food - Select the right diet for your dog. One that possesses all your dog’s nutritional needs. Remember that a slow-maturing breed will need the right nutrition, so do your research on the best diet for this breed.

Shelter - They need a place to call their own, a bed of its own, or a place where it can feel safe such as a den-like crate.

Safety - Your dog’s feeling of security comes directly from your leadership. You must quickly let them know you are in control and leading, or chaos may occur.

Entertainment - Your German Shepherd dog needs to be entertained to reduce boredom and to stave off Separation Anxiety. Toys and activities are vital to ensure that your dog is less destructive too.

Points of Interest of the German Shepherd
  • Has a very dense undercoat, that needs regular grooming and ongoing care.
  • All around versatile dog that adapts to any surroundings.
  • A great watch dog but needs education and training to ensure they are not allowed to push the boundaries and to control their watchfulness.
  • A great family dog but they need to receive early basic canine education and consistent, ongoing management.
  • A loyal and loving nature.
  • Energetic and athletic – a great companion for the fitness-loving dog owner.
  • Fearless personalities, that can be prone to aggression if not educated and trained correctly.
  • Staying power and high energy levels.
  • Need lots of brain stimulation and interactive toys.
  • Big barkers, which stems from their natural protective natures, so there is a need to stay in control of this.
  • Highly intelligent and capable of being trained to do almost anything. They are strong-willed so you might need expert advice and help.
  • Natural suspicion of strangers, but will make friends if introduced properly.

Behaviour Problems

German Shepherds have their fair share of behaviour problems, such as barking, aggression towards strangers and over-protectiveness of the home and family, which can stem from their natural suspicion of strangers.


In the United Kingdom, aggression in German Shepherd ranks has the highest behaviour problem we see out of all the dog breeds. A staggering 40% of German Shepherd owners that we see report aggression to people or other animals. Many people have German Shepherds to protect their home and to keep their family safe. They may encourage barking or aggression when there is a noise outside, or a knock at the door, to ward off any would-be burglar. However, it’s important to remember that your dog is indiscriminate and may well show the same behaviour to people outside the home who are innocently walking by or jogging in the park, and innocent visitors to your home too.

Pulling on the Lead

Pulling on the lead also ranks quite high in their list of behaviour problems as they have this innate need to always walk ahead of their owners.

Getting your German Shepherd to walk correctly on the lead, by your side, needs expertise and the right walking technique or you could struggle to control such a powerful dog.

Pullin gon the lead

Chewing or over-exuberance

Chewing or over-exuberance are usually more prevalent in German Shepherd puppies. Like all breeds, they need entertainment to satisfy their intelligence levels, as well as exercise and education. Don’t take on a German Shepherd dog or puppy unless you have the time to devote to them and the energy levels that they deserve.

German Shepherds will generally attach themselves to one person in the family, but they can still be a good family dog.

Although they have their fair share of behaviour problems, these generally stem from a lack of leadership on the part of their pet parents. They are very trainable, but they do have strong personalities that need the right type of parenting and the right type of training that is just and fair. Then you will see how wonderful they can be.

They are definitely worth the effort if you can stay the course and they will repay you tenfold. If you can invest the time in education and training, you will reap the benefits in the long run.

Sibling Rivalry

If you already have a dog and want to add another, there are some things to consider before doing so.

If possible, match the size of the dogs and look to add the opposite sex. Female dogs traditionally ‘rule the roost’ and adding a neutered male will cause few issues. Adding a neutered male to the family when you already have a similarly sized neutered male will normally go off without a hitch, providing you treat them equally.

However, matching two females is a bit harder and we do encounter many situations where we are asked to treat what is commonly referred to as “Sibling Rivalry’’ even if they are not true siblings.

If you encounter such a situation, separate the dogs, and seek expert help. Bark Busters is always here to help.

Sibling Rivalry Case Study

Bess is a 12-month-old German Shepherd and was the apple of her owner’s eyes, whom we will refer to as John and Shirley.

John and Shirley had nursed Bess through a serious illness over many months. They felt that she was a special dog and believed that she was such a gentle soul that would never harm a fly.

One day while John and Shirley were out visiting a friend who worked at a rescue shelter, they spotted an adorable female Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy named Snowflake. It was an instant attraction and they both fell in love with this cute, white wriggly puppy. They just knew in their hearts that Bess would love her too. They felt that she would be a great friend for Bess who John and Shirley felt spent too much time alone while they had to work.

They signed the papers and immediately adopted Snowflake.

Things appeared to be okay in the beginning and both Bess and Snowflake seemed to get along. Bess would tolerate Snowflake jumping on her and biting her face and tail. At night, Snowflake loved to be wherever Bess was and would always curl up nearby or climb into bed near her when she settled down for the night.

Things continued like this for months until one day, when Snowflake was about eight months old, the two dogs got into a fight. John and Shirley were shocked because they had to drag them apart. Thinking this was just a minor disagreement, they immediately put them together again, but the same thing happened again.

Soon the two dogs seemed to hate the sight of each other, and John and Shirley had them living in separate parts of the home, each in their own room. This was an impossible situation with dogs and humans on edge all the time.

Bess was still the love of their life, and they still held a special place in their heart for her and if anyone had to leave, they knew in their hearts it had to be Snowflake. They were conflicted because they had adopted ‘Snowflake’ in good faith. Over time, they were wishing they had never brought her home.

The Reality of the Case

The reality was that this was a miss-match from the start. John and Shirley had made a common mistake of not seeking professional advice before choosing another dog and believing that if they loved a dog that their other dog would too.

Female dogs generally rule the roost in most households. We mainly find that if there is an issue with Sibling Rivalry or dog fights in the home, it will usually be the female dog that instigates them in some way.

We advised John and Shirley that this was not going to be an easy problem to resolve, and we needed their dedication to make it work. They were adamant they wanted to try.

The matching of two or more female dogs can work, but many times it doesn’t, and fights and battles continue to occur.

The better situation would have been to match a neutered male with a spayed female of equal size and energy. However, Shirley and John were determined to make it work by following our training advice to see if they could rectify the problem.

There was also another issue that we uncovered during our training in the Bess and Snowflake case, and it was John and Shirley’s deep affection and sympathy for Bess, who had been sick and ailing for a long time. This caused them to deal with her differently. They tended to be firmer with Snowflake than they were with Bess, which had caused favouritism and an imbalance in the relationship. This was one of the root causes of many of the fights.

After we instructed John and Shirley on putting in place some training techniques and appropriate ‘canine communication’ and showed them the importance of treating both dogs equally, the fighting subsided, and dogs and humans were able to live happily together again.

One of the main causes of sibling rivalry, a dog fighting with other dogs in the household, is where dog owners treat their dogs differently, where they have a favourite, or where one dog has been sick or injured. It is important to treat each dog the same and to put in place appropriate training, for both dogs and owner, and we can usually rectify the problem. We have a very high success rate when it comes to sibling rivalry, and it is important to rectify the problem early. It also takes a lot of dedication and commitment from the dog parents too.


The best type of safe socialisation for your German Shepherd puppy, is with dog owners you know that have a friendly dog, that is sensible and not intimidating towards puppies. Some dogs are too bossy with puppies, and this can instil fear in a very young and inexperienced puppy.

The wrong kind of socialisation is with a dog that is intimidating which is possibly going to frighten an inexperienced puppy and possibly cause it long-term behaviour problems. This could lead to aggression towards other dogs as your puppy matures. Be selective of which dog you choose to play and socialise with your puppy.

Dog Parks

If you are determined to take your dog to a doggy park or a place designed to meet other adult dogs, we recommend that you wait until they have reached 12 months of age. The concern about dog parks is the natural intimidation that older dogs project when they encounter puppies. This can give your puppy lasting bad impressions, which can later lead to aggression towards other dogs, as your puppy reaches maturity.

Even other puppies can bully and intimidate your dog, so don’t rush off to a dog park, let your puppy enjoy pleasant experiences with well-behaved dogs or puppies first.

However, if fully immunised, you can sit with your puppy on your lap in a public area or park, where it can watch the world from a safe place. This way it won’t be intimidated or frightened by over-exuberant mature dogs or other larger puppies.

German Shepherd Socialisation

Breed Capabilities

It is the German Shepherd's inherited attributes that has seen them to be one of the most selected dogs for police work, assistance, therapy, support dogs and scent detection dogs. They are skilled at all types of detection work, including drug and bomb detection.

They will master any task you set out for them, but you will need patience and determination to get the best out of them.

The German Shepherd does extremely well at obedience training and agility work. They love to be kept busy and to have an outlet for their energy and intellect.

Search and Rescue

They have great scenting attributes and are ideal for Search and Rescue work. You can start your German Shepherd puppy off with simple scenting tasks.

Start by hiding food and getting your dog to find it. Then hide their favourite toy and encourage your dog to follow the scent trail.

Repeat a command, over and over, using a command like "seek, seek, seek".

Eventually, that word will see your dog place its nose to the ground and bound off in the direction of where you hid the toy.

Add a degree of difficulty incrementally, growing on your dog's ability to find lost items until you are ready for more advanced work.

German Shepherd Scenting


Speak to your vet about the best diet for your dog or research online as to what might be the best diet for your German Shepherd puppy.

The German Shepherd needs good quality food and nutrition, or they will suffer from a form of growing malnutrition, where the food being fed is not sufficient to feed a growing and developing dog.

Energy Levels

The German Shepherd has very high energy levels and can be the type of breed that will charge through the house, jumping on everything and everyone, sweeping objects off the table with their tail as they go.

Their strength is something that their owners sometimes complain about and find hard to control. Strong leadership is needed and the correct communication is a must so they are kept under control.

Address some of these energy levels by exercising your dog’s mind and body. Hiding treats around the garden or home can help and providing the right toys and obedience training that stimulate their active mind.

Child's Play

Due to their size and energy levels, you must give thought to how your dog and children will interact. Any play between your dog and children must be monitored and always controlled. Children have a way of getting dogs excited and this can lead to the dog inadvertently hurting the child through their natural excitable, boisterous behaviour.

Make sure that you educate the children to play sensibly and instruct them to play games that are less likely to lead to over-exuberance, such as hide and seek games or fetch games, not the rough and tumble type of games or wrestling.

Wrestling games can cause your dog to become over-excited and to mouth and play-bite every time it sees the children. In turn, your children will try to avoid your dog, because they fear getting hurt.

German Shepherd and Children

Adult Play

Any form of play, 'fetch the ball' and especially tug-of-war games, must end with you taking control of the item. Once the game is over, take the item out of play, with a 'Finish' command and lots of praise.

This technique is designed to show the dog in a subtle way, that you are the decision maker and that you control the game.

Encourage your German Shepherd to use its brain by hiding items that can be found or playing a controlled game of fetch, where you teach how to wait until told to go get the ball.

Puppy Selection

If selecting a puppy from a breeder, insist on viewing both parents to determine the type of personality your puppy might grow up to have.

Puppies inherit a lot from their parents, including their personality and genetics. If you spot a parent that has signs of serious aggression or fear issues, this dog is not likely to produce the offspring that will grow into the ideal pet.

Puppies also learn a lot from their parents while they are with them. Their mother guides their behaviour. If she is tolerant and outgoing, then the puppies will usually be the same. If they get a lot of human contact, then they will be accustomed to humans and generally feel good about them.

All this early education is important and therefore it is not wise to take possession of your puppy until at least 8 weeks of age but 12 weeks is much better. Experienced breeders will want to adhere to this as they know that the puppy gains a lot of education if it is allowed to stay in that environment a little longer.

Don’t trust anyone who says that you can take a puppy away at the age of 4 to 5 weeks. That is bad advice!

Select the Puppy that Suits your Personality and Lifestyle

When selecting a German Shepherd puppy, identify what type of personality you are looking for:

  • A companion dog
  • A family dog that is safe with children
  • A watch dog that is also a good family dog
  • An active dog to match your activity levels
  • A dog that can be trusted to spend some time alone
  • A dog that can be trained to be a search and rescue dog or agility dog

Do your homework and to find out what breed of dog will best fit your lifestyle. The slow maturing type of German Shepherds are usually those that have strong German bloodline breeding in their pedigree. You won’t always know what their bloodlines are, especially if you are adoption a dog from a rescue, but you should take the time to assess their personality and check with the rescue staff who will have some insight into the dog’s behaviour.

Should We Adopt One Puppy or Two

Prospective puppy parents often ask us, whether they should adopt one or two puppies and our answer is always the same. Only adopt two if you actually want two dogs.

Getting two puppies because one might be lonely is not a good idea. A puppy is adaptable if given the right environment and education in which to thrive. They soon look upon you as a two-legged dog and they can fit right into your social structure.

Some may find this hard to fathom, that a dog might look at them as they would another dog, yet the same people will think of their dog as a little four-legged human.

German Shepherd Puppy

Considerations When Selecting

Always check out how the dog walks, look at its hind legs and see if you can spot any weakness there. Is the puppy or dog friendly with you or are you being told they will be okay when they get to know you? That is a warning sign that the dog or puppy has issues with strangers, and once there is a property or family protect, it could cause you some problems. It is best to select a dog that loves everybody because they are the most stable and will be the dog that you can trust to be a great companion.

A dog, regardless of how friendly, will more than likely still bark when they hear strangers approaching their home.

Check out the animal shelters / rescues or speak to breeders, to find the right dog for your needs.

Bringing a New Puppy Home

Always try to bring your new dog or puppy home early in the day. The reason behind this is to give much daylight time as possible to become accustomed to their new home. If you can bring something from there old home, some bedding or a toy, this will help them to get settled.

Ensure that you have pre-selected where your new dog or puppy will sleep and start to get them use to this by feeding him there during the day and spending time with them there. If the dog is crate trained, place your them in their crate well before bedtime. If they are not crate trained, you will need to accustom your dog to the crate first. See our crate training guide. If it is a puppy and you would like to start off with a crate, place them in there and monitor how they react when left.

Select a place that is practical, and it should not be your bed unless you are determined to always have your dog sleep with you. It might not be a habit you can break easily in the future.

If your dog or puppy begins barking or crying, don’t immediately rush back to them. That will only reinforce that if they cry you will come, and it will make the situation worse. Instead stay close by and address any concerns when they stop crying, reinforcing that if they are not crying you will come. Puppies are like newborn babies, and they would like to be constantly held versus being placed in their bed.

Remember, your dog or puppy did have a home before this one, and it will need time to learn that this is their new home. Those first couple of days away from their mother can be scary!

Games to Play

Identify the games that will enhance your dog’s wanted behaviour, versus games that will increase its unwanted behaviour.

We recommend that you don’t play hand games or chasing games that encourage a dog to bite or chase, or where you chase your dog or puppy around the house or garden. These games encourage biting and running away, causing recall issues. You will be teaching your dog bad habits, not good ones.

Always be mindful of what you teach your dog and make sure it is something productive. You hold the key to how your German Shepherd will grow and develop, so make wise choices.

Puzzle and Treat Dispensing Toys

When providing entertainment for your dog, we recommend educational toys. These are the ones that you can fill with treats and where your dog works out how to get the treats out. These are highly recommended to stave off destructive behaviours and to provide an outlet for your German Shepherd’s intellect.

To stave off destructive behaviours and keep your dog physically and mentally challenged, buy toys that slowly dispense treats to keep them occupied, prevent boredom, and help with separation anxiety. These toys can help your dog to direct their energy in a positive way.

German Shepherd GameChanger

Check out toys like the GameChanger® by Bark Busters, which is a treat and chew toy all in one. The toy is quiet and won’t damage your hardwood floors or furniture, unlike hard plastic toys. This toy is flexible and is BPA-free. It won’t break teeth and won’t hurt your dog’s mouth. Kongs and Buster Cubes are also good to keep your dog entertained too.


If possible, check bloodlines or have a vet do an appropriate examination before you select a puppy or adopt your German Shepherd.

A dog with identified genetic faults should ever be used for breeding, or you will just pass on genetic faults to their offspring.

Most modern-day shelters spay / neuter their dogs and conduct vet checks for medical soundness before placing them up for adoption. Visit your local shelter or rescue to see what great dogs they have available.

Choose reputable registered breeders as they usually "score" their dogs, which means they have them X-rayed for common genetic faults and will be able to provide a score. If buying a puppy from a breeder, ask for the score results. Shelters and rescues won’t have these luxuries, but they are generally experienced at spotting obvious problems which is based on an informed opinion and experience.

Common breed genetic problems
  • Hip dysplasia and elbow problems
  • Degenerative Myelopathy - compression of the spine
  • Von Willebrand Disease (vWD) - a blood disorder
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) - a pancreatic disease that requires a supplement
  • Retinal dysplasia - growth / lesions on the retina.

These are a few heredity ailments, and you can learn more about these and others by speaking with your veterinarian. It is always wise to ensure your German Shepherd has regular vet checks throughout its life and that you seek vet advice on any medical issues.

Toilet Training

There are definite times when your puppy will need to toilet. Here we identify six critical times.

  • Immediately after eating or drinking
  • When they first wake up in the morning
  • After exuberant play
  • When woken during the night, such as the phone rings or you get up to use the bathroom.
  • When you arrive home and your dog greets you
  • If they get frightened or scared by something or someone

Take your puppy to a designated toilet area. Grass or dirt is best as we don’t want them associating their toilet with anything related to carpet or floors in general.

Toilet Training Aids

If you need to leave your puppy or dog for any length of time, it might be wise to provide an indoor toilet that you can eventually transition to the outdoors. Artificial grass products can be good and one that we would recommend if you can setup an indoor toileting area.

Bark Busters Lifetime Support Guarantee

Bark Busters dog behaviour therapists and trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. The Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind to provide International dog training guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

This article is the copyright of Bark Busters® and is intended for information purposes only. Dog owners should fully research any problems that they may have with their dogs.


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