Do German Shepherds Bite Their Owners? Signs to Watch For


german shepherd biting arm of person

Well-behaved German Shepherds are dedicated, loyal, and highly-intelligent companions.

However, German Shepherds can also have aggressive tendencies that can be intimidating and even dangerous. This leads many to ponder the question – do German Shepherds bite their owners?

A German Shepherd will not bite its owner if the two have developed a trusting relationship. However, German Shepherds do have the potential to behave aggressively if they feel threatened, so proper training and socialization are necessary to develop this trust so that a German Shepherd does not mistake its owner’s innocent behavior as threatening.

Aggressive Behavior in German Shepherds

German Shepherds have a reputation for being aggressive, but where does this come from?

This seems to contradict the fact that German Shepherds were bred as herding dogs and are not innately aggressive.

GSDs are in fact a highly intelligent, intuitive breed that can quickly learn aggressive behavior from those around them, including their own mother, the vet, other dogs, or their owner.

This behavior can result in biting, which can be very serious. Biting will usually stem from a dog either being confused about her surroundings or her simply responding to a stimulus. 

However, if your German Shepherd is behaving aggressively in general, it’s likely due to her basic instincts or undesirable learned behavior.

Aggression in your German Shepherd can lead to biting, so it’s important that an owner understands the causes so that they can determine how to put a stop to it, or prevent it altogether.

Here are some of the ways you might see this aggression in your German Shepherd:

Barks Continuously

Like other breeds, German Shepherds will react to almost anything in their surroundings, and the way they do this is by barking.

Whether it’s a small animal scurrying across the yard or an actual intruder trying to get into your property, your dog’s bark is their natural instinct when identifying and responding to their surroundings. 

As the owner, you can learn to differentiate between what’s a threat and what’s not by understanding the tone and pitch of your dog’s bark.

A constant loud bark laced with growling is a primary indication that there is a real threat.

And unless that threat is you, you will be on the receiving end of your dog’s protection rather than being the object of attack. 

Chews on Furniture and Other Belongings

While they are naturally protective dogs, German Shepherds are also highly active, energetic dogs that love to play.

One way they do this is by chewing up objects that are of value to you but appear as toys to them. 

When you redirect your dog’s behavior to stop chewing on furniture or important objects, your German Shepherd should stop because you gave a command.

If instead they react with aggressive barking and growling towards you, this is an indication that you are seen as the threat 

Instances like this are an example of when German Shepherds might bite their owners. But for the most part, this behavior can be corrected by early and intentional training for your German Shepherd. Opens in a new tab.

Growls and Barks When Served Food

Another display of aggression unique to specific breeds, including German Shepherds, involves food.

German Shepherds will typically curl up at your feet or follow you around, begging you for a bite of your meal. 

If your German Shepherd begins growling at you, snapping at you, or even lunging towards you at dinner time (whether it’s your dinner or hers), this is aggressive behavior that can lead to biting.

Here you are seen as the threat, keeping the dog away from its food source.

Behaviors like this can be corrected through proper training, a consistent eating location, as well as a consistent feeding schedule.

Growls and Barks When People Show Affection

german shepherd showing its teeth

German Shepherds are loyal dogs. But their loyalty only lies with a select few.

If you are one of those individuals, showing affection to your German Shepherd is reciprocated by your dog.

But if someone on the outside of the circle of loyalty shows affection, then they could be on the receiving end of aggressive behavior.

Aggressive behavior towards someone that your German Shepherd does not trust includes low growling, a tense and prepared stance, and even nips targeted at the individual.

If your German Shepherd shows behaviors like this towards others, then your dog perceived that individual as a threat.

If she displays these behavior towards you as the caregiver, then you have a bigger problem on your hands because now you’re perceived as the threat.

It’s important to identify this early on so that you can correct the behavior through proper training and reinforcements.

Who Will German Shepherds Show Aggression Towards?

As you can see with the specific instances of aggression listed above, there will typically be a clear line between who German Shepherd will show aggression towards and who they won’t. 

What you don’t want is to be the perceived threat. Your German Shepherd will pick on this, which ultimately can end in a mean bite.

If the relationship between you and your German Shepherd continues in a negative way, it can be challenging to correct.

German Shepherds who respect their owners show their love and admiration in a positive way.

Loyal, well-behaved German Shepherds show their respect by:

  • Following simple commands
  • Using non-threatening barks towards you
  • Giving and receiving affection 
  • Staying by your side
  • Standing in front of when you with an alert, protective stance when a threat is near 

How to Keep Your German Shepherd from Biting You 

The primary way to keep yourself from being on the receiving end of an attack from your German Shepherd is by establishing dominance early on.

Establishing dominance means your German Shepherd knows that you are the authority figure and will follow on your command.

This is done using the following training guidelines:

Building Trust

When your German Shepherd knows to trust you, then you strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.

This, in turn, establishes loyalty and sets the foundations for your dog’s willingness to protect you. 

Helpful Tips:

  • Learn everything you can about German Shepherds. Read, read, and then read some more.
  • Be consistent.
  • Enlist help. There are great training programs if you feel overwhelmed.

Proper Training

Training your German Shepherd properly and early on is key to building a trusting relationship.

But what happens when you adopt a GSD that’s a bit older and you don’t have a full picture of their history – can you still train them?

It is definitely possible. Either way, proper training will determine whether or not biting, or any other aggressive behavior becomes an issue.

Follow these rules when training your GSD from a young age to ensure that they will not behave aggressively towards you:

  • Use positive reinforcement when your GSD does something good.
  • When your GSD is behaving badly, don’t yell. Speak quietly. And most important of all – don’t hit or get physical with your dog. German Shepherds will challenge you right back – it’s in their nature.
  •  Socialize your GSD with different people in different places – but make sure those people are on the same page with you regarding training, expectations, and the overall experience.
  • Show love to your GSD. Like most dogs, German Shepherds know love when they get it, and this is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. 

Final Thoughts

Whether or not a German Shepherd will bite its owner or not is highly dependent upon her training.

German Shepherds are exceptional dogs, and require exceptional training, love, and attention.

If you provide your GSD with the attention she needs along with proper training and socialization, you will find that the thought of your GSD biting you will never even cross your mind!

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 18 years now. I'm originally from Indiana, though I've lived in many different states and traveled extensively. The places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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