GSD Dominant Behavior

Dominance? Or Hyperactivity? Here’s How To Spot Dominant Behavior In Your German Shepherd

We have talked about a German Shepherd’s dominant behavior several times and by now we know that GSDs are born to be leaders. In the wild, they live in a pack, and there is always one pack leader that dominates others.

Similarly, when a GS comes into a family of humans, it sees them as a single pack and its instincts tell it to take the position of the alpha. However, your dog will need your approval to do so. If you will get under your dog and let it do what it wants, you are actually encouraging it to dominate.

Dominating GSDs become a huge problem for many owners that completely lose control over them. They begin to charge at family members, bark aggressively, or bite in some cases. The only way to keep your GSD in control is to train it to follow your rules and commands.

German Shepherd Jumping


Why do GSD’s Exhibit Dominant Behavior?

Firstly, a GSD is born with the qualities of dominance and they are extremely territorial as a breed. Secondly, there are a variety of reasons for a GS to become aggressive and take hold of the people in the house. Some of the most common reasons for dominant behavior in a GS are:

  • If the dog is not trained to behave well around kids, pets, and strangers.
  • If the dog always gets what it wants.
  • If you obey the dog more than it obeys you.
  • If you leave the home after your dog.
  • If you open the door for your dog.
  • If you hug your dog as soon as you enter home.
  • If you spoil your dog and fulfill its desires.
  • If you encourage your dog’s aggression instead of ignoring it.
  • If it lacks training.
  • If you let your dog sleep on your bed.
  • If you let your dog sit on the furniture.
  • If you let your dog jump on people.
  • If you pay attention to your dog when it is barking, growling, biting, chewing, etc.
  • If you let your dog have food before you have yours.

Common Signs that Tell You that Your Dog is Dominating

If your GS is dominant, you will notice it is behaving differently. Below are the common signs a GSD exhibits that point out dominant behavior in this dog breed.

  • Jumping on family members, guests, and strangers.
  • Not taking the leash too well.
  • Refusing to walk on the leash.
  • If it’s stubborn.
  • Pushing or forcing you to play.
  • Putting its paws at you.
  • Always getting out the door first.
  • Barking and whining when you don’t offer food.
  • Growls when someone touches its food.
  • Growls when someone comes close to it.
  • Ignoring commands.
  • Sleeping on your pillow.
  • Sleeping with you on the bed.
  • Growls when you try to get it off the bed.
  • Showing aggression when left alone.
  • Destructing things when not entertained.
  • Sitting on furniture.
  • If your dog is charging at you.

How to Handle a Dominant German Shepherd?

Dominant German Shepherds need to be handled with extra care and attention.

You will need to adopt the best training practices to make your dog learn some manners. For the most part, the dog is exhibiting a dominant behavior because you mishandled it. If your GS is being dominant and showing signs of aggression, make sure you tell your dog that you are the boss and there is no way that you are going to get scared.

Do not get aggressive when your dog shows signs of dominance, as it is the worst way of handling the situation.

  • Start training your dog when it is just a few weeks old.
  • Leash train your dog and make it walk by your side instead of pulling on the leash.
  • Use the verbal command like ‘Stop’, ‘No’, ‘Stay’, etc. to tell your dog that this behavior is not appropriate.
  • If your GS is showing dominance and getting aggressive at you, distract it.
  • Do not offer treats when it is barking or growling at you as it will associate barking with treats.
  • If your dog tries to pull on the leash, pull it back a little to tell it that you are in control.
  • Say ‘No’ in an authoritative tone when your dog behaves badly.
  • Do not react to aggression with aggression as it will worsen your dog’s behavior.
  • If your dog doesn’t follow a command, correct it right away.
  • Use clicker training method for obedience training.

Calm German Shepherd

The Key!

If your GS is being dominant and showing aggression, you should start its obedience training. To make your dog learn to behave, you will need to be consistent and calm. If your dog is barking or crying, walk away from it. You will need to set a schedule for training your dog and the sessions should last for up to 15 minutes. Prolonged training sessions bore the dog and it might become aggressive or destructive.

Make sure you put the leash on your dog before starting the training session. Leash is the only way you can control your dog’s behavior and is also an important part of GSD training. Another important thing to keep in mind when dealing with a dominant dog is to adopt a preventative approach. Always keep your dog under supervision so that it can be controlled when it shows its dominant side.

There are some basic house rules that you need to set so that your GS becomes obedient.

  • Furniture is not for your dog to sit on.
  • Your GS cannot lie down on your bed.
  • Your GS cannot bite other people.
  • Your GS cannot bark for food.
  • Your GS cannot pull or chew on the leash.
  • Your GS cannot jump on people, children, and other animals.

If your GS is too dominating, know that you adopted the wrong training approach. If you want to know the right technique to train a GS or want to get control over its dominant behavior, sign-up for our newsletter or contact us via e-mail. We help owners raise their German Shepherds to become loyal, affectionate, and friendly.

Last Updated on November 16, 2022 by Shepped Team

32 thoughts on “Dominance? Or Hyperactivity? Here’s How To Spot Dominant Behavior In Your German Shepherd”

  1. My GSD is almost two year old. He is not properly trained so he dominates . We have 5 members in our family. He was 1 month old when we brought him. From beginning he is over loved. As I am the only one who is worried about his training and unfortunately I have to live away from my home. How can we train him now please help .. As he has bitten me 2 times..and shows all the sign of dominance as u mentioned in the post. Thank you

    1. Our German Shepard has bitten my husband twice. Both times was because he fell. the GS went after him in a very aggressive angry way. Had to be pulled off the first time. Other wise he is. easy to handle. We do not know why he acts this way

        1. I know that my question may seem strange but all animals learn from the moment they are born what is acceptable behavior from their Mother and siblings. I’m using my words carefully here because the cause of your GSD’s behavior could be any number of things. When your Husband fell was your GSD running at him and because of this he may not have known the best way to stop your dog and fell trying to avoid your dog jumping on him and pushing him down? This is not acceptable behavior.My GSD/Doberman/Staffordshire mix is now 118lbs and in his exuberance as a 6-7 month old would run and jump on people( which is also a sign of dominance) . Once we started training with him( witch I have to say is more for us to learn how to interact with your pet than for them!) things are great, of course repetition,repetition and calm assertiveness within the whole family must be used. Seek help with professional trainers and or one on one training, I got great help from Petsmart/Petco and from watching Caesar Milan and am very happy with my big guy whom I still call Baby Boy today (nobody wants a power house of 60-100+ running at them!). I wish you luck and am quite sure you and your Husband will be enjoying a happy balanced pet soon!

    2. Please believe me it is never too late to train and have a well balanced GSD, but it will take time and the co-operation of everyone in the family.Each and everyone of you will have to show that you are the Alpha. With calm assertion this can be obtained. I would suggest finding dog training classes with professional (Petsmart\Petco) offer classes or one on one training but as I wrote earlier everyone has to be on board. It will take time,patience,repetition, repetition and calm assertive behavior. GSD’s are one of the intelligent breeds and learn very quickly and easily but also need exercise , a good tip will be to take your GSD for a good walk/run before training as this will drain any excess energy and make it easier to train. I wish you the best and am pretty sure that you will end up with the best GSD ever!

  2. Looking for help… I have a 7 month old female gsd. Whom I just had spayed 8 days ago. I got her at 11 weeks old and thought I was training her properly, even the trainer at Petco was amazed with how much I was able to train her on my own that he didn’t have anything else to offer! I told him that she had a lot of behavioral problems but offered me no help. I just don’t know what else to do, I can’t sleep because she cries in her crate all night, she destroys her bedding in her crate, she is constantly getting into things that she knows she’s not supposed to, she “talks” back to me when I tell her “no” she pretty much does everything on this list that describes dominance. What Can I do to break this behavior?

    1. It appears the big pet stores like that are great for teaching basics and for teaching the newest fad in training.
      I would suggest seeking out a behaviorist. Your local Humane Society or SPCA or other shelter is a good resource for this. Your vet may have advice or know of a reputable trainer. Often they offer classes or will know trainers who can help you problem solve.
      The big box stores aren’t really focused on tailoring their training go your dog’s individual needs.
      A dog behaviorist has specialized training for dogs with needs beyond basic obedience commands.

  3. My son got a 2 yr old male GSD. He’s a great dog most of the time. When people come to the house he’s generally fine. He does however seem to growl at certain people or certain actions people take like getting up and walking into the kitchen. What corrective action should he take??

  4. I got a 4 years old male GS from a family who has kept the dog in a basement all day or outside in the backyard. He never learned manners and has not socialized with people or other dogs. he has bit me (not too hard) when tried to take off the prone collar. I have two other dogs in my house, one golden retriever and a cockapoo. He bit the Cockapoo and always try to intimidate the Golden. He has not been able to dominate the Golden yet. My partner bent to vaccum under the table and suddenly he grabbed her from behind and started growling at her in a threatening manner, while pushing her with force against the wall. He obeys me and respond well to my commands most of the times, but I work and I don’t come home until late in the afternoon. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if it is a good idea to keep the dogs separatedly or let them be together. I am affraid that if he gets use to this new space, when he sees my other dogs again he will be even more agressive. Please advise.

  5. I have a 3 1/2 yo female. She is a great dog and is really sweet and cuddly. She is willful but for the most part she is obedient. In the last year when l walk her, she randomly decides to be really hostile to other dogs. She growls and shows her teeth and there is a lot of jumping and she looks like she’s about to tear the dogs throat out but she has never bitten down hard or actually caused injuries . she is fine with my friends dogs (other then being a bit rough and a bit dominating). HOW do I control this behaviour?

  6. I have a 11 mnth old gs. I got her when she was 4 mths. She was fine we took her everywhere and social izes her. When knew she was starved and probably abused. But she was learning well. She got parvo after she got vaccinated. I dont know how she lived. I personally treated her with iv and force feed her. She recovered but has never been the same. No one can come in my house, she will physically attack them. She is starting to growl and charge my 5 yr old and 9 yr old. She is getting trained by a gs expert, but is getting worse. I cant take a chance she will get better and not bite mt kids. Help

  7. I need serious help or a new home for my 4months old pup. He is becoming unresponsive and his food aggression just took a turn for the worst.. the circumstances are very specific around each case. But he was separated from his mother at four weeks and left with me. I’m two weeks from labor myslefv. Also b have a three year old daughter. I’m afraid all of these factors have led to his food aggression as well asbhis newly adopted flat out aggression to any male. He himself Is a male. I don’t want to get rid of my dog. But he will not bite my kid or someone else again. Please help

  8. Wonder if anyone can offer me some advise. My GS is as daft as a brush with us. Not aggressive, very protective.
    He hates it when my husband and I hug. Gets a little jealous but not aggressive.
    However my big problem is I can’t walk him. When he sees other dogs he literally pulls me to my feet and drags me along. Sounds funny but it’s not at the time. I’m so frightened to let go of him incase he tuns off. He would never actually harm another dog. He just shows them who’s boss. He has actually pulled his collar off a few times. I have tried various leads and even a a halti. Nothing works. Any advice.

  9. Hello I have a 3 month female german shepherd sable line…. She’s already showing some defiance with pulling on the leash and basically doing her own thing I work with her she can understand simple commands like stop sit but she’s struggling with coming when she’s called if she’s distracted I’ve only had her for 2 weeks

  10. We adopted our GSD at 6 weeks. He has si CE day 1 bitten, snapped and barked. We cannot walk down the hallway or sit in the living ing room. We have offered distractions, other toys etc…. please help. We are considering returning if he is this aggressive as a pup. He is now 8 weeks old.

  11. how to stop a GSD from grabbing my smaller dogs collar all the time at the dog park? I’ve tried Pet Corrector when he does it but doesn’t seem to work.My runt pit Lab mix can’t out run him and is not mean enough to get him away from him.She’s 50 lbs but small and kind of thin. She’s 1and a half years old.What to do.

  12. my gsd is 9 months and showing aggressive behavior. When on a leash, he will try to leap and nip anyone who walks towards me. He barks aggressively at kids who walk by and if he had a chance I’m sure he would try to bite them. I don’t know how this behavior came about because we socialized him heavily since he was a pup. He used to play with kids and now he is aggressive towards them. I have a feeling he is trying to protect me but I don’t need his protection. How do I show him that they are not a threat?

  13. we have a 22 month male GSand we had basic training for him but we lack on keeping up with it and have allowed him to have control, plus we all are not always on the same page with his discpline and training. He is a great dog he helps my son with autism with staying calm. but now he wants to control of our beds and who gets on them and also the couch. It is our fault for the way he is and I would like to know how to correct these behaviors we have allowed.

  14. We have 21/2 yr old male GSD. He is great outside with adults, children and other dogs. He’s good off the lead he takes command well.
    For the last 6 months he has started to growl at us and people that he knows that come in the house. He doesn’t do it all the time. It’s like he’s scared of something. He does this one minute then he’s fine the next. Any ideas!

  15. While I agree with some of the information, I disagree with other aspects. Letting your dog sleep with you, or paw you for attention is not the sign of a dominant dog, in fact many of these behaviors are exibited by a variety of members in the pack.

  16. My 10 month German Shepherd is just now showing signs of trying to be the alpha. He seems to have forgotten all he has been taught. Sit stay come etc. He totally ignores me.

  17. Sarah E Ethridge

    My 1 1/2 year old gsd is a naughty boy. He did graduate basic obedience class but since has gotten older and wiser. He forces us to play even if we have already played fetch. He will bark when he wants something and won’t stop till he gets it. He CONSTANTLY mouths on us and if he can’t then he whines and barks. I tell he NO and he continues. Im at a loss with this crazy boy. He is also very hyper. We can throw his Kong for 3 hours straight and he is still ready to go. Any suggestions? Thank you

  18. My GSD is nearly 3. We got her at 3 months old and have consistently struggling with her dominant behaviour. She does not respect us. She understands no, sit, stay, leave it and is house trained. But she drags like mad on the lead and is very strong, jumps up and snaps at us. When she is told off she rolls on her tummy or jumps around like its playtime and is bad with other dogs, very rough and scares them. Please help I have been trying all the tips for 3 years now. My partner thinks if we can’t control her it’s unsafe to keep her…but I want to fix this

  19. I have a 3 year old trained GSD, BUT, that being said she is showing dominance at the dog park. Her behavior is as follows: She is fine with the dogs that come on a regular basis. But, any new dog (dog needs to be smaller than her & female) she runs over grabs them by the neck holds them down & growls, let’s them go & walks away. Of course the owners are horrified, as am I. When I see a dog coming in I lead her away from the gate, distract her & when the dogs in the park I let her off command if new dog her behavior is as above. PLEASE give me advice. Oh I have done everything my trainer has suggested, its not working. Here is what I’ve done for over a year:
    *Take her away from the gate
    *walk her around the park on leash until she “settles down”
    *play fetch until she doesn’t show interest in the dog
    *take her out of the park when she exhibits the behavior

    PLEASE HELP ME (us) Thank you, Sherry

  20. Please help. I have owned a German shepherd and trained her fully and successfully. I am currently looking after my neighbours 6 month old gsd for a week and it’s a nightmare. He is an alpha and totally trying to dominate me. Nipping me, barking at me etc. He slips the gentle leader at every opportunity and I am struggling all round to be on charge. With each day I feel more bullied. Not like me

  21. You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about when you say that GSD turn on family members!

  22. Three weeks ago I adopted a male GSD who will be 11months old tomorrow. He is terrific, friendly, no resource guarding, smart, gets along with dogs and people. He was given up to VA German Shepherd Rescue by a family with four kids. He was at the rescue only 1-1/2 weeks before we adopted him (didn’t realize this until later). 
    My problem: On the second day I walked him he jumped up and mouthed my arm really hard. I told him no but he didn’t listen. This has happened several times after and now I can only take him out for short potty breaks and the only exercise is playing ball in the back yard.  I thread the leash thru a pvc pipe so he can’t bite my arms. He seems to be getting frustrated on the leash…not reacting to anything or anyone but me or my boyfriend.  I’ve been reading a ton and think it’s redirected (frustration/aggression) and tried: ignoring him, replacing with tug, throw treat on ground, firm “no” which he doesn’t like.  He just get in a zone and can’t snapped out of it. If I’m near a fence I’ll wrap his leash around it until he calms down and then I’ll make him sit and then down and then he is fine. But this happens EVERY time we go out on the leash. He has giardia (which I found out on Saturday) and he’s on medication for that. He is super skinny and has probably had it since we got him. I was going to schedule training with him but with this behavior I can’t.  Other than this, he has been great but we can’t have him do this since it will continue to escalate.  I hate that he doesn’t get proper exercise…was looking forward to hikes and looooong walks.  I do mental exercises with him in the house and he is learning quick.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *