There is no doubt that German Shepherds grab people’s attention everywhere they go. Not only are they highly recognizable, but they are also beautiful to look at and people are often in awe of them when they get a chance to see one up close and personal.
This is understandable because let’s face it, German Shepherds are awesome dogs. And, while most people have a healthy respect for German Shepherds and are happy to admire them from afar, there are some people that gravitate toward them and want to pet them.
So, should you let these strangers pet your dog?
The short answer is no, and here’s why:
The German Shepherd dog established in 1899 and was bred to be a herding dog. The qualities looked for in these fine herding dogs include confidence, intelligence, loyalty, and courage. They are also naturally protective and aloof with strangers.
These traits were bred into them. Although they make great pets and companions, they still carry these traits and can’t be expected to give up their guardian nature because a stranger wants to touch them. Not to mention, since this is a ‘stranger,’ you really have no idea what that person’s nature, intent, how they will touch your dog, how your dog will read and react to their body language or have any control over the person.
Since German Shepherds are naturally watchful and protective, they consider if their job to look after those they love. However, that doesn’t mean they should be aggressive toward strangers or not know how to greet them. In fact, it’s your job to socialize them so they know how to behave in public and safely greet strange people and animals.
However, since they are naturally aloof and naturally protective, they shouldn’t be expected to desire touching by just anyone who happens to want to pet them. And, since they are also a herding dog, they are naturally mouthy. From puppyhood, they need to be trained that it’s not okay to bite and nip hands (not to be confused with anxiety, aggression, or fear biting), etc. The last thing you need is your shepherd giving someone a little nip to herd them away or protect you.
With that said, in the real world, you can’t control every variable, nor do you want to own a dog that can’t tolerate strangers, develops behavior problems, or becomes aggressive toward strangers or at the end of their leash. German Shepherds must be socialized so that they don’t behave in an unacceptable way around strange people and animals or in new places.
Socializing and training a German Shepherd is very important and will build their confidence. This prevents anxiety, fear, and other reactive behaviors that have nothing to do with being naturally being protective.
Socialization and training prepare them for the world outside the walls of your home and will also teach them how to confidently behave when the day comes that a stranger reaches out to give them a little pet.
Socialization and training from about 8 weeks of age will prevent:
- Anxiety in new situations
- Fear of new people and places
- Unwarranted aggressive
- Becoming territorial
- Guarding behaviors
- Negatively reacting to people and animals in public
It will also:
- Build confidence
- Improve obedience
- Provide mental stimulation
- Help you bond with your dog
- Build trust
- Expose them to a variety of people and places and situations
- Provide mental wellbeing
- Help prevent anxious, fearful, and other negative behaviors
- Teach your dog to look to you for guidance
So, what is a German shepherd owner to do?
Socializing your dog doesn’t mean that every stranger on the street should be allowed to pet your dog. Be comfortable telling strangers “no” and setting boundaries regarding your pet. At the same time, expose your dog to many situations and train them how to behave in situations, such as:
- Around children
- With people of other races
- When seeing other animals
- Greeting strangers
- Behaving at the vet
- Responding to the doorbell
- On walks and car rides
- In new places
- Around loud noises and sirens
- When seeing bikes, etc.
A well socialized German Shepherd is a pleasure to own and very confident. There’s no doubt there are plenty of friendly shepherds out there that love to greet people and even enjoy attention from new people, but those dogs are rarer.
It’s your job to train and protect your dog rather than your dog making decisions for themselves, despite how intelligent the breed is. To avoid accidents, its best to not allow just anyone to pet your dog, even in situations that feel awkward.
It’s also equally important to protect people who are uncomfortable with German Shepherds by keeping your dog from their personal space. Owning a German shepherd is a huge responsibility but it’s also an amazing privilege.
To be advocates of the breed and show the world how wonderful these dogs truly are, it’s our job as owners to protect, train and socialize them so that they grow up all they were born to be Which is well balanced dogs that can go anywhere, excel at many jobs, and show confidence in situations, and are safe to take out in public places.
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