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At What Age Do German Shepherds Become Protective?

How does an adorable German Shepherd that loves everyone turn into one of the most protective dogs on the planet? More importantly, when does this transition happen?

While you can start to notice protective behaviors as early as 12 weeks, full-blown protective behaviors typically wait until about 6 months of age, when your dog reaches adolescence. But why does this happen, and is there anything that you can do about it?

We break down everything that you need to know about a German Shepherd’s protective behaviors here.

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Do German Shepherds Always Have a Guarding Instinct?

When you adopt an adorable German Shepherd puppy, they’re all fluff and love, and you won’t notice any of the protective behaviors that the breed is known for. When you think about the genetic instincts behind this, it makes perfect sense.

Puppies are like children, and nobody would expect a child to defend the house. It’s not until German Shepherds reach adolescence that their guarding instincts come in full force.

You might start to notice some of these symptoms as early as 12 weeks, but they really come in around 6 months. Once your German Shepherd reaches adolescence, some guarding instincts are inevitable, but with a bit of training, you mitigate how severe these instincts take over their actions.

german shepherd leaning over the fence
Image Credit: Nate Tribbs, Pixabay

Do German Shepherds Get More Protective as They Get Older?

While German Shepherds get protective once they reach adolescence, they shouldn’t get any more protective as they age past that. The only exception to this is when you have a much older German Shepherd.

All dogs can get a bit more temperamental with old age, and with a dog like the German Shepherd, this can display through more protective behaviors.

However, if you notice any sudden changes in your German Shepherd’s personality, even as they age, this can be a sign of an underlying problem, and you need to address it as soon as possible.

Will German Shepherds Guard the Entire Family?

While some dogs bond to one person more than anyone else, the German Shepherd tends to bond with the entire family, so they can get protective of them too.

This doesn’t mean that a German Shepherd won’t show an affinity toward one main caretaker, though, as this is often the case. But even when German Shepherds show this affinity, they tend to guard and feel protective of all family members.

How Do You Make a German Shepherd Less Protective?

While some people enjoy having a pet that is extremely protective of them or their entire family, others want a dog that’s a bit less aggressive. While a German Shepherd will always have a protective streak once they reach a certain age, there are things that you can do to reduce these tendencies.

All these methods require training, and with any training, consistency and positive reinforcement are critical. Your German Shepherd is protective toward you because that’s what they think that they’re supposed to be.

To try to reduce this level of protectiveness, it’s best to do it on a leash. Keep them on a leash while a stranger is approaching you, and reward them for as long as they stay quiet. As soon as they start getting aggressive or loud, simply turn away and take your pup with you.

It’s important that you do this as soon as your pup starts acting up. This way, they can associate the two behaviors.

Keep in mind that in some settings, your German Shepherd will always display protective tendencies. This is especially true around the home, where your German Shepherd feels like it’s the family’s territory. This is especially true if you’re not home, since your pup won’t be able to tell if the stranger is an intruder or a welcome guest.

German Shepherds typically do better around strangers when “their person” is around. The German Shepherd views this individual as the pack leader, and when they’re around, it’s not their job to guard the pack.

Of course, it can be extremely frustrating when that individual isn’t home, and you’re trying to bring new people into the house.

German shepherd lying on sofa
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a dog that doesn’t have any protective tendencies, the German Shepherd isn’t a good fit for your home. But just because the German Shepherd is a protective dog, that doesn’t mean they’re overly aggressive.

With training, exercise, and attention, this dog can make the perfect addition to watch over your home and family once they reach a certain age. Just don’t hold their protective streak against them!

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Featured Image Credit: Rob Wee, Pixabay