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I have been lurking and reading in this forum, and I am noticing that aggression with these dogs and issues spawning from it are far more common than with labs. Is this common with shepherds? Are they naturally more predisposed to aggression during their growing up phases.

I am aware that a well socialize GSD can be a wonderful companion and sweet dog to have around but I am assuming that this breed is less forgiving of mistakes. Do you feel thats true?
 

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Depends on the GSD. As long as they know their place and depending on their temperment, some can be more aggressive than others. That is why socializing as puppies is so important! I have never had one that had aggression issues, so really can't comment on that. However, being in charge and being positive goes a long way. Sure there are others on here who may have more experience with that than I do (ie, having an aggressive dog). Positive reinforcement goes so much further than negative. In the end, all they really want to do is please YOU! Give them a job to do, keep them active and socialized. Just don't mistake normal teething and mouthiness for aggression in a puppy. Like I said in a previous response to one of your threads, they just take a lot of work and patience/love. Would also recommend if you get a puppy, that you get a good background on the temperment of the parents and try to get recommendations from people that have actually bought a puppy from whomever you decide to purchase your puppy from. If the parents are aggressive, stay away. Just my own thoughts. Ask the breeder for references, vet references, get as much information as you can. If you feel the slightest bit of hesitation or doubt, don't get a puppy from that person. Check your local BBB and you can always check here as well. I learned the hard way.
 

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Yeah dont worry I am not getting a GSD anytime soon I am not ready. We did the background checks with the lab breeders when we got our lab six years ago.

I am just trying to get a more unbiased feel for the breed, since younger GSDs act different that the senior I pet sat for two months.
 

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The truth is that GSD's are more alert and a bit more high strung than most dogs. There is a reason why they are used in Police work. There's also a reason why they make excellent search & rescue dogs and guide dogs for the blind. GSD's are (for the most part - and I'm only talking about well bred dogs) devoted & loyal, courageous, extremely strong and agile, and very alert / observant. In the wrong hands they can become aggressive if not socialized or trained. In the right hands - they make great great pets and I've seen many shepherds actually being used as therapy dogs to help other dogs with aggression issues.

I think that you've definitely come to the right place for unbiased and knowledgeable information about the GSD but what you'll notice is that most people here will post aggression cases looking for advice the very first case of aggression they see. People here are generally responsible and we like to try to nip any aggression in the bud. With that said, there are still people out there who get GSD's for the "macho" look and actually encourage aggression in their dogs. That leads to the bad reputation they get. Add to that the fact that the GSD has a bite force second only to the rottweiler and you can see why a GSD bite is not as easily forgotten as a bite from other breeds. It also doesn't help that they just look scary :) -- unless you are me or my girlfriend that is, but even we take caution when encountering a strange dog.
 

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There are so many things I could add I couldn't resist. GSD's in the wrong hands do not get:
1. extensive socialization with all sorts of animals and people
2. guidance and training, including rules and limits
3. a job - be it Schutzhund or just fetching a ball
4. enough exercise - people underestimate the amount of exercise this breed needs.
I have a working line DDR / Czech shepherd and if didn't get one of these things (2-4 daily) he'll start to get, well "annoyed" :) I can only imagine how a working line shep must act if he only gets like 1-2 20 minute walks...
 

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A well-bred lab is friendly and outgoing. A well-bred GSD is aloof and a bit suspicious.
Labs tend to have a high pain threshold. GSDs tend to have a lower pain threshold.
Labs, in general, tend to enjoy playing with other dogs throughout their lives. GSDs, in general, don't much care for dogs outside their pack once they're adults.
Labs are bred to retrieve dead game. GSDs are bred for herding and military/police work.
Labs are bred for a "soft mouth." GSDs, let's be honest, are often bred for a "full bite."

You can see how, if you screw up the breeding with a lab, you could easily end up with a happy-go-lucky goober who's not that bright (bless his heart) but really wouldn't hurt a fly. If you screw up the breeding with a GSD, you can end up with disaster.
 

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Not a single dog I own had had any human aggression. However...it does exist in their genetics. Like others have said, this is a dog that was bred to protect. Be it their shepherd or their K9 officer or their family. An aggressive response to a threat is necessary for them to fulfill that duty. Where things seem to have gotten a little fuzzy in the breeding is the threshold for what counts as a threat. Dogs that are quick to react are often called "sharp".

Part of the importance of properly socializing the German Shepherd Puppy is to teach it what is normal human behavior and normal environments and what is not. This way they can have better informed responses as adults. Early socializing shows pups what is scary and what is not, which is why for more sensitive dogs it is often imperative that their socialization be carefully monitored and controlled to insure that those experiences are positive ones.

With this also comes the Shepherds need for leadership. Like other herding breeds, They were bred to work closely with humans. I actually find this aspect of their personality to be similar to retrievers. More typical guard dogs like Rotts and Dobermans were often expected to work independently of their handler. A Shepherd needs clear boundaries and expectations for behavior. More than other breeds I have seen they seem to worry more if they can't figure out what you want. They thrive on structure and clear understanding of their role (whatever that may be).

While Shepherd pups are generally friendly and a little bold, as they mature they tend to get more aloof, preferring the company of their family rather than just anyone. Generally speaking I have also found that they are not awesome dog park dogs. They don't usually welcome doggy company outside of their family unit.

A Shepherd is not a dog for someone who wants a dog that takes care of itself and does not really have the time to invest in proper daily interaction.
 

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While Shepherd pups are generally friendly and a little bold, as they mature they tend to get more aloof, preferring the company of their family rather than just anyone. Generally speaking I have also found that they are not awesome dog park dogs. They don't usually welcome doggy company outside of their family unit.

A Shepherd is not a dog for someone who wants a dog that takes care of itself and does not really have the time to invest in proper daily interaction.
That's a good point about the dog park - my dog used to love it but now he'll only be comfortable in the park with dogs he knows since he was a puppy. Newcomers will need to show that they are all about play and approach him "politely" (from the side, head slightly lowered, minimal eye contact). If another dog comes in an is a little bit standoffish trouble will soon follow :) so while I correct this behavior (usually by redirecting with a toy to break off the tension) I understand that (at least my shep) is not the best dog park dog. Even if he's completely comfortable at the park he'll still hang close to me (not out of shyness, he's always been a very confident pup) to see what toy I'll take out of that special bag that's always hiding in the closet :)
 

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I also think something like trying to gage incidence of aggression via reading posts on an internet message board is going to lead to a very inaccurate and skewed perspective.

This board has over 10,000 members, many with multiple GSDs, and there are how many aggression threads going at any one time? Compared to the population of dogs the board represents, the numbers are tiny.

People don't tend to post threads to the effect of "it's Friday, another day gone without my dog acting aggressive". So the only types of posts that are there to be seen are the exceptions. The same goes for health issues. Certainly the GSD is prone to many, but the incidence of them can seem much higher than it actually is because, again, people only make threads when there is a problem.

Plus, if you actually read many of the threads, a good half the time someone is totally misinterpreting something innocent (puppy play biting being a common one) as aggression, when it certainly isn't.
 
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