Do German Shepherds Bite or Attack Their Owners?
Stacy Reed
Author: Stacy Reed
Stacy is a freelance writer who has always shared her life with dogs, especially German Shepherds.
Published date: September 4, 2022
Updated date: September 19, 2022
This article was reviewed and fact checked If you have found any errors, please contact us!

Do German Shepherds Bite or Attack Their Owners?

This loyal, loving, and protective dog breed is amazing to have around, but its size and intimidating appearance lead many people to consider the German shepherd aggressive.

Pair this with their use as military, guard, and police dogs, and you can understand why so many people hold a grudge against this breed.

The big teeth and strong bite of German shepherd dogs have long been a cause for concern. So, if you’re wondering whether German shepherds bite their owners, the answer is yes.

There have been cases where a German shepherd dog has attacked its owner or family member. 

However, don’t let this breed’s potential for aggression put you off.

While German shepherds may become aggressive when threatened or provoked, by and large, they are loyal dogs who rarely attack their owners.

How Often Do German Shepherds Attack Their Owners?

How Often Do German Shepherds Attack Their Owners?

All dogs bite when provoked; the German shepherd is no exception. 

Are german shepherds dangerous? The German shepherd breed does not attack its owner any more frequently than dogs of other breeds. 

In fact, the German shepherd bites “bad guys” and bad dogs to keep their family members from harm.

Contrary to popular belief, German Shepherd aggression is not common. According to the American Kennel Club, German shepherds are popular family dogs.

They are less likely to bite someone than America’s favorite dog breed: Labrador Retriever. They account for 4.6% of total attacks, making them less dangerous than most big dog breeds. 

As to why they bite at all, there’s science behind that. 

German shepherds were originally bred to be protectors. Their tolerance for unfamiliar things, strangers, and other dogs go down significantly when they mature.

This is especially true for German shepherd dogs that have not been spayed or neutered, as their hormonal surges can lead to more excitement and aggression. 

Still, German shepherds attack only when they feel cornered or threatened, which is valid for other dogs. Even then, they don’t attack their owners quite as often as you might think.

Reasons for German Shepherds Attacking Their Owner

The German shepherd can attack its owner due to many different reasons. The more you know about these situations, the better you can avoid any unpleasant encounters in the future. 



Yes, German shepherds experience trauma. If you want to adopt a German Shepherd, look at its history. If the dog was previously abused, mistreated, or neglected, it would likely have behavioral issues. 

The dog may feel unsafe around a new owner and new dogs. Trust is difficult to develop, which increases the likelihood of an attack. 

This is not to say that you should not adopt a dog with PTSD. It simply means that you must be patient as you build a bond based on trust with your German shepherd dog.

Take active steps to make it feel safe and loved. By the end of the acclimatization period, you’ll be surprised by the affectionate nature of a German shepherd dog.

Dog Feels Threatened

When German shepherd dogs feel threatened or are attacked, they will go into fight mode. Something as simple as replacing its food bowl can push them to the edge. 

This is why it is crucial to train your German Shepherd dog with love.

Dog owners should not use negative punishment techniques like yelling and physical force to make their pet obey their commands, as it can instill fear and lead to aggressive behavior. 

Stressful Environment 

Just like any other breed, a German shepherd will respond to environmental triggers.

Stress can play a significant role in a dog’s behavior and influence its personality. High-stress levels can lead to aggression or depression. 

Luckily, this is something you can control. Explore why a particular environment is stressful for your German shepherd dog and take active steps to create a good environment where it can thrive. 

A dog will only attack its owner when it feels unloved or even threatened. Your adult dog can also become aggressive if you scold it often or use harsh training methods.

If it always feels unsafe and on edge, it will respond accordingly.

Dog Is in an Aggressive Stance

Dog Is In An Aggressive Stance

German shepherds require lots of exercise, training, and play to thrive. When their energy is unchecked, they can feel on edge and become aggressive, which could quickly translate into a physical attack. 

Keep a sharp eye out for these signs to avoid an attack:

  • If your dog’s tail is arched at the back, stiff as a stick, and its hackles are raised, it indicates alertness and aggression.
  • Aggressive low growling will accompany snarling and snapping, which means it is getting ready to cause serious harm.
  • It is an implicit threat signal if your German shepherd dog maintains prolonged eye contact.

To avoid these aggressive behaviors, you must use the proper training methods. Poor training techniques lead to a dog claiming the alpha position in your home. Teach basic commands like “stop” and “sit.” 

Your dog should also know the consequences of becoming aggressive, such as ignoring and crating it for extended periods. 

The Dog is Mother to Small Puppies

This is probably the most obvious reason for your German shepherd dog biting and becoming aggressive toward you. As with most dogs, resource guarding extends to their young ones. 

Your dog can become aggressive towards you if you come near their puppies or look at them too long, much less try to pick them up.

They will snarl and growl at you, and if you continue to invade their comfort zone, it will lead to aggressive barking

Luckily, you can work around maternal aggression. You will simply have to draw the mother away from the pups to feed her or take advantage of her potty time to greet and look closely at her young puppies.  

A German shepherd attack can also occur when it’s in chronic pain or in heat.

Book an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the root of this behavior and find a solution to mitigate aggressive tendencies. 

What to Do if You Get Attacked by Your Own Dog?

What To Do if You Get Attacked by Your Own Dog?

If you get attacked by your German shepherd dog, note your injuries and treat them immediately. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Wash the wound with mild soap and run tap water over it for five to 10 minutes.
  2. Gently press a clean cloth over the wound to slow the bleeding.
  3. Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream, then wrap the wound with a sterile bandage. 
  4. Change the bandage multiple times a day and look out for signs of infections.

First aid will treat most mild injuries. But if you sustain severe injuries due to a dog attack, call emergency services right away. 

How Likely Is It to Repeat?

How Likely Is It to Repeat?

A repeated attack by your German shepherd dog depends mainly on why it did so in the first place. 

Your German shepherd dog can show aggressive behavior abruptly, with little to no signs pointing towards an attack.

This may be because it has a brain tumor, chronic disease, or any medical condition causing immense pain. 

It could also be because your dog does not view you as its master or alpha. If your dog does not fear you, it will turn on you to establish dominance. 

A visit to a veterinarian and intensive behavior training can turn the course in your favor, leading you to enjoy a long, loving relationship with your German shepherd again. 

When Should You Ask for Professional Help?

When Should You Ask for Professional Help?

Like every other dog breed, a German shepherd bites only when feeling threatened. If you notice aggressive behavior, take a step back to see if you’ve gone wrong somewhere. 

A severed bond will not repair on its own. You will have to connect with a professional dog trainer for help.

Experienced trainers can help dog owners rebuild trust with their highly intelligent, energetic, protective dogs with exercise and helpful tips on socialization. 

Socialization will teach your dog to behave appropriately with unfamiliar people and other dogs.

A well-socialized German shepherd can become a loyal family dog that is friendly and approachable, making it less likely to attack its owner.

Final Thoughts

German shepherds are an intelligent, loyal, and friendly breed of working dogs.

They have a reputation as an aggressive dog breed due to their size and intimidating appearance, but they are, by and large, loving and affectionate pets.

The German shepherd dog is often not the driving force of its own aggressive behavior—its owner is.

This is why you should get a German shepherd puppy from a renowned breeder, so you’re familiar with its family history and temperament.

Train it from a young age to become a calm dog by using positive reinforcement training to prevent the onset of aggressive behavior.

*Anything German Shepherd offers information and does not claim to give medical advice.

So, if your German shepherd dog is experiencing health issues, it would be best to contact a licensed veterinarian immediately.


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