Will My German Shepherd Protect Me Without Training?


The German Shepherd has made its way into the hearts of dog lovers around the globe. Known for their fierce loyalty and their dedication to protecting their loved ones, they are one of the most popular breeds in the world. 

So once you bring a German Shepherd into your home, will they protect you without training? For a German Shepherd, protecting its family is an instinctive, not a learned behavior. Originally bred in part to protect herds of livestock from predators, today’s GSD instinctually views its owner(s) as a part of the herd that it is in charge of protecting.

In this article we will discuss the history behind the German Shepherd, and why they have the need to protect those closest to them. 

History of The German Shepherd

The German Shepherd came to light during a time period in Germany when dogs were bred for specific work purposes. At this time in the 1850’s, Shepherds were breeding dogs who people believed would herd their sheep and protect their livestock.

It was the popular opinion that dogs should have a purpose, and many were in search of the perfect dog for their working needs. 

Among those who were on the hunt for skilled working dogs, was a man named Max von Stephanitz. He was an ex-cavalry captain, and a former student at the Berlin Veterinary College.

While attending a dog show in 1899, he came across a dog that stopped him in his tracks. The striking dog’s name was Hektor Linksrhein, and his traits made him everything that Stephanitz believed a working dog should be.

Hektor was stunning, strong, and incredibly intelligent. Stephanitz immediately purchased Hektor, and began the incredible journey that became the starting point of the German Shepherd. 

Hektor, soon named Horand, became the center of the new organization, Society of the German Shepherd Dog.

Stephanitz founded this organization with the hopes of establishing an incredible foundation for breeding working dogs, and creating an entire breed just like Horand.

He bred those who followed Horand to be fiercely driven, loyal, protective, and intelligent.

Stephanitz is now credited for creating the German Shepherd, and in hand responsible for some of the desirable traits passed down in the German Shepherd breed. 

Is this quality instinctual?

It’s no coincidence that German Shepherds are used to fill important jobs such as police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and military dogs.

While this has a lot to do with their eagerness to learn and obey, their loyalty and willingness to protect also plays a major role in their assignments. 

The first German Shepherd Dogs were bred to protect peoples’ land, their livestock, and their homes.

When a habit like this has been ingrained in the breed for hundreds of years, it’s no wonder they are so eager to protect their loved ones, even without training.

Protection and loyalty is like second nature to the German Shepherd Dog. Even if they are unaware of their original roots, it is a part of who they are. 

Think of it in the same way of how Pointer dogs instinctively point and stand alert to moving objects that catch their eye. Just as pointing is to these breeds, loyalty and protection is to the German Shepherd. 

Protecting their “herd”

German Shepherds have been used for many years as herding dogs. This means they help to herd livestock for their owners, and protect their herd from outside predators.

Because of this history of the German Shepherd, they often view their family and their home as the herd that they are in charge of protecting.

A German Shepherd’s family is their world, and they feel obligated to protect the important parts of their world.

While this need to protect their family is a part of the German Shepherd’s makeup, it’s important to realize that the word “protection” can mean many different things for each individual dog. 

How Will My German Shepherd Protect Me?

We have all seen the footage of the trained police dogs catching the bad guys, or the loyal dogs jumping to their owners defense in the event of them being attacked.

It’s important to realize that these acts are often a trained response, and there is no way to know if your dog will act on their protective instincts in the desired way without specific training. 

Yes, German Shepherds are essentially programmed to want to protect their loved ones, but this can present in many different forms. 

  • Barking: The most common way that a German Shepherd will try to protect their loved ones is through barking.

    Barking can be used to alert their owners of a moving leaf, a person passing by on their walk, or a burglar entering your home in the middle of the night.

    If a German Shepherd feels like he or you are threatened in any way, they will usually bark to make you aware of the possible danger approaching. 
  • Body language: If your German Shepherd feels like you or him are in danger, they may try to do anything possible to look or sound threatening.

    This can mean standing at alert, exposing their teeth, growling, or having the hair on their back stand up tall. 
  • Staying close: If your German Shepherd feels like you are threatened, they may try to stand as close to you as possible.

    By doing this they are showing the possible danger that you are “theirs”, and that the possible danger should back up. 
  • Anxious behavior: Aside from the standard signs of protection, are also the less threatening habits.

    If your pup feels like danger is near they may pace nervously, whine, or act like they are on edge. 

Each German Shepherd is different, so this means that their method of protection can vary greatly.

While one GSD will immediately jump to the defense of their owners and attack the threat, another GSD may just bark loudly in an effort to scare away the current danger. 

Be In Control of This Natural Instinct

While it is incredible to own a dog with such a natural instinct to protect their loved ones, it can also be a dangerous quality when not controlled.

While German Shepherds have their owners best interest in mind, they don’t always know the appropriate times to act on their protective instincts.

This can result in a German Shepherd that is aggressive to other people, dogs, and in new environments. 

An untrained German Shepherd can be risky, as they do have the potential to be dangerous when they are unaware of their boundaries. Some ways to stay in control of these protective instincts are:

  • Socialization: Exposing your German Shepherd to other surroundings, people, and dogs is extremely important part of their development.

    By being around other people and dogs, they learn appropriate interactions. They learn how to communicate effectively, and how to positively respond to non- threatening factors.

    By being properly socialized, they won’t feel like everything is out to get them or you.

    An unsocialized dog may feel threatened by the person passing you by on your walk, or the dog happily approaching them at the dog park.

    By opening up their world and exposing them to new surroundings, we are essentially showing them what positive interactions look like, so they know the difference when they or you are actually being threatened.

    We’ve all seen the dog that barks at every single thing that passes them by on their walks. This is often a dog who was not properly socialized, and this is an undesirable trait. 
  • Opening up your home: Having a well trained German Shepherd out in public is great, but it would be a nightmare to have a dog that is aggressive to any and everyone who walks in your front door.

    When you bring friendly visitors into your home, you are showing your German Shepherd what it looks like when someone is actually invited inside.

    This introduces them to positive interactions between you and someone who is in your home and proving to them that not everyone who steps in is there to hurt you or your dog.

    By showing them friendly and welcomed visitors, it becomes more clear to them when they are actually faced with a hostile intruder, and how that interaction will feel completely different. 
  • Basic obedience training: Basic obedience training is important for your German Shepherd pup, as it helps to instill confidence.

    German Shepherds are incredibly intelligent, so it helps them to feel useful and confident when they are able to follow commands and please their owners.

    A confident dog is less likely to feel threatened by their surroundings, which is a safer dog for everyone to be around. Basic obedience training is also helpful when you need your German Shepherd to listen to orders.

    If they are barking inappropriately at the salesperson you are trying to speak to at your door, you want to be able to successfully direct them in that situation. 

Is This A Good Quality?

Generally speaking, the willingness to protect their loved ones is an incredible quality for your German Shepherd to have.

A loyal dog is a loved member of the family and will strive to be there for you in every way possible.

This invaluable quality is why German Shepherds have become so popular over the years, and are found in many homes around the world.

As long as there are appropriate boundaries for your German Shepherds need to protect, then it is a quality that is ideal for any family or working dog.

By following proper socialization and training, you can make sure that their protective nature is well controlled. 

Final thoughts

It is clear that German Shepherds are loyal to those they love, and will dedicate their lives to keeping us happy and safe.

While there is skepticism surrounding the German Shepherds need to protect, it’s been proven that with proper training and guidelines, a German Shepherd is an incredible companion for any family.

When you have a German Shepherd in your home, you can rest assured that you are in safe hands. 

Make sure to follow the recommended steps for training your German Shepherd Dog, and you will have a loving and devoted protector!

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds and a variety of other large and medium breed dogs for over 20 years now - Labradors, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pit Bull Terriers - just to name a few. Myself, along with my team of highly experienced canine professionals, strive to bring you the best and most useful information to help you raise your dog the right way. Read my story here.

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