Will My German Shepherd Protect Me? (Trainer Explains)

Will My German Shepherd Protect Me

German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, and for good reason. Their intelligence, trainability, loyalty, and athleticism make them a great choice for many owners from a variety of backgrounds.

They are also renowned for their capabilities as working dogs, including for use as police and military K9s, and civilian guard dogs. While German Shepherds are known to be great guard dogs and intimidating working dogs, many owners may be wondering if these traits are natural to the breed or if the German Shepherd becomes this good at what they do through extensive training.

Some owners may even specifically seek out a German Shepherd in the hopes the breed will stay true to their name and protect the owner and occupants of a household. But will your German Shepherd actually protect you?

German Shepherds who receive training as personal protection dogs are more likely to protect their owners in the event of an attack or intruder than those who have not gone through specialized training. While some German Shepherds may naturally want to protect their owners when they are attacked, not all dogs will do so.

In the article below we’ll take a look at some specific situations where a German Shepherd may protect their owner, though it’s important to keep in mind that dogs are individuals and even those with specialized training may not always respond to an attacker in the way the owner was expecting. Similarly, a German Shepherd who has received no training may choose to jump in and protect their owner if they feel there is a threat.

We’ll also discuss how protection-specific training can impact a German Shepherd’s willingness to protect their owner, and how you might go about training your German Shepherd to protect you. Finally, we’ll talk about how a German Shepherd might react to an intruder in the home.

5 Situations Where Your German Shepherd May Protect You

While German Shepherds are good all around dogs that are capable of being trained in a variety of activities (from farm work to hunting), there are only a handful of things that naturally come to them without any training. Protection work is something that German Shepherds can be trained in (and be very good at), however unless the dog has been specifically bred for aggression and protective tendencies then it’s unlikely that most German Shepherds have a natural instinct to protect their owners at the cost of their own safety.

German Shepherds may protect you (or themselves) at any point where they feel there is a threat, but there are a few specific situations in which they are more likely to act in a protective manner:

1. If They’ve Been Trained To Protect You

The most likely situation in which your German Shepherd will protect you is because you’ve trained them to do it, either as a personal protection dog (PPD) or as a guard dog for your home or business.

While some dogs may step in and protect their owner when they are being threatened (and the German Shepherd is a breed that is more likely to act in that way), most dogs will act on instinct. This means that they will likely flee but fight and freeze are also options depending on the situation.

If you have trained your German Shepherd to protect you when given a cue, or when they see you in a state of distress (similar to how a service dog may be taught to act in a certain manner if their handler is having a seizure or a medical episode), then they will most likely attempt to protect you.

This is not a guarantee, though, especially if your pup is injured in any way or if you encounter something you have not trained them to (like a wild animal).

German Shepherds who are used as police or military K9s go through extensive training to do the things they do, but they are trained to attack on cue rather than act as a protector for their handler, though they may still do so if they have a good bond with their handler.

So, while it is more likely for a German Shepherd to naturally protect you than some other breeds of dogs, those who receive proper and extensive training related to protection work are more reliable.

2. If They Have A Strong Bond With You

German Shepherds are well known for how closely they bond with their owners, and this bond will likely trigger their protective instinct if the person they are bonded to most is in danger (or if the German Shepherd feels there is a danger).

If you and your German Shepherd share a close bond, then there is a greater chance they will step in and try to protect you from whoever (or whatever) is attacking you. This often goes against their natural instinct to keep themselves safe and away from danger, but their loyalty to their owners can be so strong that they override that instinct.

There is evidence that dogs can experience the emotion of love (though not quite the same as people do), and a German Shepherd’s love for their owner may cause them to act more protectively than they would for a stranger or someone who they are not as closely bonded with.

3. If They Are Territorial

Resource guarding is a common issue in many dogs, and this can extend to their owners, home, or whatever area they consider their “territory”. German Shepherds, due to their extreme loyalty to their owners and their general high confidence levels, may be more prone to resource guarding and territorial aggression.

If they feel their resource (which could be you, your child, or your home) is being threatened, they may take any steps necessary to try and protect that coveted resource. While this may be beneficial if you are being attacked or threatened by someone, it could also create an issue where your German Shepherd feels they need to “protect” you from something you don’t need protecting from.

This can result in aggression issues and dangerous situations, so if your German Shepherd is acting protective and aggressive without any reason, you should reach out to a reputable local dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist as soon as possible.

4. If You Have Kids

Some German Shepherds may not be overly protective of their adult owners, but they may show more protective instincts over small children.

This may be likelier in female German Shepherds (especially those that have proven to be good mothers to puppies), though this may not be the case for every female dog or mother dog. While this can vary based on the individual dog and situation, German Shepherds are known for being good family dogs and are likely to watch out for small children that they feel close to.

However, it’s not wise to rely on your German Shepherd to guard your children when you are not present (in fact no dog should ever be left alone with a child unsupervised no matter how well trained they are).

If your German Shepherd is skittish around children or they’ve had a negative experience around kids in the past, then they may not show as much protective instinct towards the child, but they may alert you that something is happening by barking or whining very loudly and consistently.

5. They’ve Formed A Negative Association With Someone

Dogs learn by association, and if your German Shepherd previously had a negative encounter, intentional or not, with someone (or something), then there is a high possibility they may react protectively if they encounter the person again. This situation is likely rare, and it is very dependent on how traumatic the first experience was.

If, for example, a German Shepherd witnessed (or was even part of) a domestic violence incident in a household, then if the attacker appears again there is a chance that the dog will be proactive and react aggressively towards the attacker, even if they’ve not yet made a move towards the dog’s owner.

On the other hand, some German Shepherds assume their owners are being “attacked” when they are only roughhousing with another. There are plenty of videos online joking about what a dog would do if their owner was being attacked, but for some dogs who may have had a previous traumatic experience that was a real attack, this could cause them to react protectively over their owner (even if no actual threat is present) and a bite could result.

Will My German Shepherd Protect Me Without Training?

Due to their inherent breed traits and personality, there is a chance your German Shepherd may protect you if one (or more) of the situations I explained above occur. However, unless your German Shepherd receives appropriate and thorough training to be a protection dog, then there is a greater chance they will resort to their natural instincts, with flight being the first option.

Just as with humans, animals have a strong preservation instinct. Unlike humans, most animals do not have the same level of emotional intelligence and decision-making skills, which means they are not capable of choosing to save their owner versus themselves. If their instinct to flee kicks in, they may not be able to override it.

While some German Shepherds will absolutely jump in to save their owner from an attacker and there are many, MANY stories of them doing just that, like in this video:

However, this is not something you should rely upon as there is a greater likelihood that your pup will become fearful and natural instinct will kick in and result in them fleeing from the situation or hiding rather than fighting.

How Do I Train My German Shepherd To Protect Me?

If you are interested in training your German Shepherd to protect you or your family, the most reliable option would be to seek out a trainer who specializes in training personal protection dogs, or PPDs.

These dogs go through rigorous, specialized training that is customized to their owner or handler and the dog itself. The training is different than how you would usually train a dog, and it is different than the training required for certain dog activities such as IPO/IGP.

While some positive reinforcement PPD trainers exist, the majority still rely heavily on outdated methods that can have an unwanted side effect on the behaviors of the dog being trained.

It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to train your dog to be a personal protection dog by yourself unless you have access to the resources and environments to run simulation attacks for training purposes.

It is also important to consider the risks associated with training and owning a PPD, especially one such as a German Shepherd who already faces a lot of breed bans. In many areas of the United States, dogs who have been trained as PPDs often face additional bans in certain areas (especially in housing complexes) as there is an increased liability risk.

There is also a lot of controversy over the training of personal protection dogs and many breeders and businesses say they have the same rights as a service animal (they do not).

Both dogs and people can make mistakes, and if your German Shepherd is trained as a PPD and severely injures or kills someone, then you could face legal consequences, especially if the attack was unwarranted or the dog acted inappropriately.

Will My German Shepherd Attack An Intruder?

There is a high likelihood that your German Shepherd will alert you to an intruder in their home, even with no previous training. However, it is still unlikely that they will attack an intruder unless they feel they have no other option.

German Shepherds have been bred to be very diligent in their duties, and this includes looking out for their household. If they sense that someone (or something) is not supposed to be there, then it’s likely they’ll at least make an attempt to get them to leave!

In most cases, your German Shepherd will cause quite a commotion with their deep barks, and they may charge toward the intruder. This may be enough to get the intruder to leave, but if they don’t then some German Shepherds may attempt to bite whereas others will continue to bark from a distance.

While your German Shepherd is probably more likely to attack an intruder entering your home than attack someone who is threatening you, they still shouldn’t be relied upon as your sole source of security and protection.

They are a great option as a “rapid response team” in that their barking will alert you to a situation and potentially scare off the intruder, but it is also wise for you to contact your local authorities immediately rather than assume your pup will handle the issue all by himself.

Closing Thoughts

While German Shepherds may be more likely to automatically attempt to protect their owner from an attacker or an intruder, they should not be counted on to act that way in all situations.

Certain situations, such as when your German Shepherd is bonded very closely with you or if they are protective over your children, might increase the chances of them acting as a protector when called upon.

In most cases, it requires specialized training as a personal protection dog before your German Shepherd will understand when and how to best protect you.

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