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Are German Shepherds Friendly to Strangers? Breed Facts & FAQ

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

german shepherd head tilt

German Shepherds are among the most popular dogs in the United States due to their amazing intelligence, ability to learn complex tasks, and loving nature. However, since owners often use them as guard dogs, many people wonder if they are friendly toward strangers. The short answer is no. German Shepherds tend to be wary of strangers, but this is a complex subject that we will look at in more detail, so keep reading while we try to understand these popular pets a little better.

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Are German Shepherds Mean?

German Shepherds are among the most affectionate dog breeds you can find. However, they do tend to be wary of strangers.  In contrast to how film and television portray these dogs, most tend to be quiet and shy around strangers. An untrained dog will often retreat in the direction of its owners and will only become aggressive if cornered or it perceives that its owners are in danger. Only a few will be aggressive toward strangers without any training.

woman and a liver german shepherd dog
Image Credit: Eudyptula, Shutterstock

Inexperienced Owners

In our experience, many people purchase a German Shepherd without the knowledge of how to train it properly. In this situation, the dog becomes the boss and is very difficult to control. Improper training often manifests as a pet that can bite and play roughly with family members and act aggressively toward strangers.

It’s a Herd Dog

You can tell by its name that the German Shepherd is a herding dog. Breeders created it to run long distances to keep all of the sheep together, which it does by nipping at them without causing injury. It also keeps any predators away from the sheep. Because of its herding instincts, it can nip at family members that it is trying to herd into line, and this can frighten small children and visitors, giving the impression that this animal is mean. However, it won’t cause any harm and is only doing what its instincts tell it to do. You can reduce herding tendencies with proper training.

It can be difficult for many people to help their pet get the exercise its body demands, causing your dog to become frustrated and bored. A dog that isn’t getting enough activity can tear up the furniture, dig holes, and start barking much more than usual, which can cause some people to think it isn’t friendly.

german shepherd running outside with tongue out
Image Credit: Vilve Roosioks, Pixabay

Guard Dogs

With proper training, your German Shepherd can be an effective guard dog, and as you might expect, they will be aggressive toward strangers, as part of their role as protector of their house and family. However, once the stranger is with the master, the dog will no longer consider it an intruder, and the aggression will subside.


Are German Shepherds Friendly?

The German Shepherd is an extremely affectionate dog toward its family members, and some will also be friendly toward strangers after it has become clear that they aren’t a threat. Overly friendly dogs can be difficult to turn into effective watchdogs and are usually better suited to homes that don’t require protection, though training can help in some cases. These friendly dogs make perfect companion animals, and they are well-suited to homes with children and the elderly.

What Are the Friendliest Dog Breeds?

If you need a dog that is friendly toward strangers, there are quite a few with a reputation for being too friendly for guard duty. Breeds like the Beagle, French Bulldog, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Irish Setter Poodle, Pug, Samoyed, and many more all make excellent choices when looking for a dog that is suitable for large crowds.

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Final Thoughts

Early socialization and training are essential for the German Shepherd breed. You can usually find a local trainer in your area that can help you if you don’t have experience, and though it can be expensive, the trainer will usually show you how to train your dog, giving you valuable knowledge you can use with your future pets. With proper training, the German Shepherd is not aggressive toward strangers and can work in the military, law enforcement, and other settings where there are many strangers. Introducing your pet to as many strangers and other animals as possible while it’s still a small puppy will help it feel more at home in those situations, and it is more likely to be friendly toward strangers.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this short guide, and it has answered your questions. If we have convinced you to get one of these intelligent breeds for your home, please share our look into if German Shepherds are friendly to strangers on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Image Credit: Diego Cervo, Shutterstock

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