Understanding 8 Common German Shepherd Behavior Problems

german shepherd behavior problems

As a proud German Shepherd owner, you’ve likely experienced firsthand the loyalty, intelligence, and strong work ethic that define this remarkable breed.

However, just like any other breed, German Shepherds can sometimes leave you puzzled with their behavior problems.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into these common behavior issues, explore the underlying causes, and provide valuable tips to effectively prevent and manage these intriguing canine conundrums.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dig into the heart of these fascinating challenges with our furry companions!

Common German Shepherd Behavior Problems

German Shepherds are brilliant dogs, but their intelligence can sometimes lead to behavior challenges.

Here are some common behavior issues you might encounter:


German Shepherds, as you may well know, possess a strong protective instinct.

This protective nature can sometimes take a darker turn and manifest as aggression, particularly if they feel threatened or if they haven’t had the right socialization experiences during their formative years.

Fear-based aggression can rear its head if they’ve missed out on exposure to a diverse range of experiences and people during their crucial socialization period.

Excessive barking

German Shepherds carry their protective instinct like a badge of honor. This keen sense of protectiveness often translates into a chorus of barking, triggered by what they perceive as threats or even when they’re simply bored.

Separation anxiety

It’s in their genes to be vigilant and responsive, which is a remarkable trait, but it can also be a tad overwhelming.

They can react quickly to what they consider threats, whether it’s a passing stranger, a nimble squirrel, or even a gust of wind.

This ceaseless vigilance sometimes results in a cacophony of barking that can be maddening for both your furry friend and you.

Chasing or herding behavior

German Shepherds have a strong herding instinct, which can lead to chasing cars, bikes, or even children.

It’s important to redirect this instinct into appropriate activities like agility training or obedience work.


While their protective instincts can be a positive trait, German Shepherds may become overly protective, leading to issues with strangers or even friends and family members visiting your home.

Socialization, obedience training, and setting clear boundaries can help manage this behavior.

Leash pulling 

You’ll undoubtedly agree that German Shepherds are robust and brimming with enthusiasm.

While this exuberance is endearing, it can become a bit of a battle when it comes to leash pulling.

The moment they spot something intriguing, be it a squirrel or a captivating scent, that leisurely stroll turns into a tug of war.

It’s a common issue that can test the patience of both owner and dog.

Obedience problems 

German Shepherds are renowned for their intelligence, but this intelligence can sometimes translate into a bit of stubbornness.

They’re not always motivated by pleasing their owners, and their independent streak can make training a challenge.

However, it’s essential to keep training sessions interesting and engaging.

Destructive behavior

Destructive behavior is a common issue, especially when German Shepherds are bored, anxious, or inadequately trained.

Their high energy levels, combined with intelligence, can lead to behaviors like chewing on furniture, digging up the yard, or even destroying personal belongings.

Addressing this behavior involves a multi-pronged approach.


Root Causes of German Shepherd Behavior Problems

Understanding the root causes of these behavior problems is crucial for effective management. Here’s a deeper look:


Genetic predisposition plays a significant role in a dog’s behavior.

German Shepherds, like many breeds, have specific traits that are hardwired into their DNA.

While their loyalty and protectiveness are desirable qualities, they can sometimes contribute to issues like overprotectiveness and territorial aggression. 

Lack of socialization 

Socialization is a crucial aspect of a dog’s development, and insufficient exposure during the critical puppyhood period can result in fear-based aggression and anxiety.

German Shepherds need to be introduced to various people, animals, and environments to learn how to adapt and respond to different situations.

Inadequate exercise 

German Shepherds are known for their high energy levels and intelligence.

When they don’t receive enough physical and mental exercise, they can become restless and engage in problem behaviors to alleviate their pent-up energy.

Training gaps 

Inconsistent or improper training can result in a lack of obedience and impulse control.

German Shepherds are intelligent and thrive on structure and clear communication.

If their training is inconsistent or based on punitive methods, it can lead to confusion and frustration. 

Tips for Preventing German Shepherd Behavior Problems


Now, let’s explore how to prevent and manage these behavior issues:

Early socialization 

Start socializing your German Shepherd early, ideally during their puppyhood.

Expose them to various environments, people, and animals in a positive and controlled manner.

This helps them build confidence, learn to adapt to different situations, and reduce the risk of fear-based aggression or anxiety in unfamiliar settings.

Regular exercise 

German Shepherds are active and intelligent dogs, so they need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.

Daily walks, runs, or engaging in activities like agility training can help burn off their excess energy and keep their minds sharp.

Additionally, interactive toys and puzzle feeders can provide mental challenges and prevent boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors.

Positive reinforcement training 

Employ positive reinforcement training methods to shape good behavior and discourage undesirable actions.

German Shepherds respond well to rewards such as treats, praise, and playtime.

Consistency in your training is essential.

Setting clear boundaries and rewarding them for following commands reinforces obedience and impulse control.

Address anxiety 

If your German Shepherd displays anxiety-related behavior problems, particularly separation anxiety, it’s crucial to address this issue.

Gradual desensitization techniques can help ease their anxiety when you leave them alone.

This might involve starting with short departures and gradually increasing the time away.

Consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can provide tailored strategies to manage anxiety effectively.

Seek professional help 

If behavior problems persist or escalate despite your best efforts, don’t hesitate to consult a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist.

These experts can assess the specific issues your dog is facing and develop a customized training plan to address them.

They can also provide guidance on managing more complex behavior problems, such as aggression or severe anxiety.

Consistency and patience 

Patience and consistency are the cornerstones of preventing and managing behavior issues.

German Shepherds are quick learners, but they also need a consistent and calm environment to thrive.

Make sure everyone in the household follows the same rules and training techniques to avoid confusion.



When you have the privilege of sharing your life with a German Shepherd, it’s undeniably fulfilling.

But, like any wonderful journey, it can come with its unique set of behavioral challenges.

Nevertheless, with a little investigation into the root causes and the application of some proactive strategies, you can bask in the companionship of a happy and well-behaved furry friend.

The magic ingredients for success here are your patience, unwavering consistency, and, of course, the abundant love you share with your four-legged companion.


Are German Shepherds prone to separation anxiety?

Yes, many German Shepherds are prone to separation anxiety due to their strong bonds with their owners. Proper training and gradual desensitization can help alleviate this issue.

Can aggressive behavior in German Shepherds be corrected?

With proper training and socialization, aggression can often be managed. Seek the assistance of a professional if the aggression is severe.

How much exercise does a German Shepherd need?

German Shepherds require at least 1-2 hours of exercise daily, along with mental stimulation. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.

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