7 Common Myths About GSDs

7 Common Myths About GSDs

We've all heard some wild things about German Shepherd Dogs. Some are true, some aren't. But even the outrageously false ones are funny... or sad. Sometimes both at the same time. Anyway, let's get a list together.


1. German Shepherd Dogs are part wolf, that's why they have erect ears and look the way they do.

Nope... not even a little. No wolf was added when the breed was created, we can prove that with DNA. I guess I can see where that one came from, though.

2. German Shepherd Dogs are aggressive!

Some are, but most aren't. Most are just normal pets. A little aloof maybe, but being aloof is in the breed standard. Some are fear aggressive. But there are a lot of dogs in every breed these days that are fear aggressive. That comes from incompetent breeding practices that don't focus on producing dogs with solid nerves who aren't irrationally fearful of normal things like strangers. Some are truly aggressive. These are going to be your working line dogs who've been specifically bred, molded, and trained to exert controlled aggression on "bad guys." Whomever they may be. Not many people have these dogs, and the ones that do are no threat to you. Unless you're a "bad guy."

3. German Shepherd Dogs are naturally protective and will defend with their life.

Yes and no, again. Are they protective? That depends on what you call protection. The breed is yappy... they have a voice, and they like to use it. If they think there's a threat, they're going to bark. If that's protection to you, then basically all German Shepherds are protective. Most of them will put on a show that's good enough to scare the common criminal.

A high-level burglar will walk right by 90% of German Shepherds and ignore them, and they won't do anything except continue to bark at best or even become friendly after a while. Stealing your stuff isn't a threat. Dogs don't understand why your jewelry box is important to you.

The whole "Defend me with his life" part? If you think that's what protection means, and if you think that's what your dog will do and you didn't get a working line dog with great nerves, drives, etc. from a great breeder, then found a great trainer, etc. Then what you're asking from a dog, any dog of any breed, is unfair. And you'll be disappointed. That's like me expecting you to get in the ring with a prime Ali or Mike Tyson and expecting you to win or at least go the distance... with no training or even a sign of interest that that's what you want to do or think you're mentally and physically capable of doing. How unfair and unrealistic is that? Well, that's how unfair and unrealistic it is for anyone to expect any dog to "defend" them with their life with no training and no selection to make sure the dog is mentally and physically fit and has the drive to even want to be a protector and fighter.

4. German Shepherd Dogs are so smart, they don't need training. They just pick up on things.

This is false. A smart dog may pick up on some impressive things, but that isn't training. Training is knowing a command fully and completely, and then obeying that command immediately, without fail. You will not have a good time with GSD ownership if you don't train your dog.

5. German Shepherds need a heavy hand in training/German Shepherds need an extremely gentle, padded hand in training.

They need what they need. All dogs are different. Even within the same breed. Even within the same litter. Some dogs will shut down if you tell them "No." They'll roll over belly up and act like you just took their soul out of their body. Some dogs will walk through a prong collar correction as if nothing happened.

Again, work with a trainer who knows what they're doing so you don't create issues that have to be fixed later by stumbling through trying to train your dog yourself. Even if you are a trainer, other trainers exist that are better than you, still no shame in seeing a trainer.

6. German Shepherd Dogs aren't safe with children!

German Shepherds are #3 behind Rottweilers at #2, and a host of "Pit Bull type" breeds and mixes at #1 for attacks resulting in the death of children.

Should you interpret that data as Pit Bulls are evil, Rottweilers are nearly as bad, and the beloved German Shepherd Dog is no better? Or should it be read as large working dogs who are bred with no thought of reproducing stable, genetic nerves and a lack of training can be dangerous?

7. It's how they're raised! Dogs are trained to be mean. They're harmless unless abused or trained to be aggressive.

Some dangerous dogs are just the result of bad breeding where people threw two purebred dogs at each other to make puppies and never stopped to think "Maybe I shouldn't breed my dog. He's afraid of thunderstorms, he tries to bite strangers, I've never had his hips OFA rated and his conformation is way off from the breed standard."

A puppy that's the result of that breeding can be raised with all the love and care in the world and still be irrationally fearful of people, other dogs, and thunder just like his dad. And that genetic, irrational fear from breeding dogs with weak nerves can give that pup who was never abused or trained to be mean anxiety that leads to aggression or reactivity.

The only thing that might help that poor puppy is good training at a young age to try to manage those genetic nerve issues and fear. Dogs with good genetic nerves don't bite children. They also don't bite random strangers minding their own business. A dog with good nerves wouldn't view them as threats, but dogs who have poor genetic temperament and nerves do. And that can happen with any breed. Once again we come back to train your dog, and more importantly, train yourself how to pick a dog or puppy with a stable temperament and good nerves!

What other myths have you heard about German Shepherds? I can't wait to see them all in the comments. Thanks for reading and please leave a like and share.

You might also like: Different Types of German Shepherds, Which Is Right For You?

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