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Looking for "Warning Signs" | The German Shepherd

You should keep an eye out for a number of “warning signs” - which may indicate that you should keep a closer watch on your German Shepherd dog, take him or her to a dog behavioral psychiatrist, or engage him or her in obedience training. Whenever you see your German Shepherd engage in one of these warning signs, you should immediately stop him or her from whatever he or she is doing (but see below – do not yell or strike your dog), make it clear in a firm yet calm voice that his or her behavior is absolutely unacceptable, and apply a fair but fitting punishment to your dog, such as “kenneling” him or her in a large cage (like the one he or she sleeps in) for a period of five to ten minutes – the equivalent of a human time out. If you respond in this way, your German Shepherd will know that this behavior is unacceptable and will learn to curb his or her natural impulses in the same manner that humans learn, for example, not to yell or punch anyone who offends them.

Violence and aggressive behavior need not be only against human beings. Keep watch for aggressive behaviors against other dogs, although of course this must be distinguished from the natural “play”-fighting that many dogs engage in – the occasional nip or rough and tumble are normal dog behaviors and part of establishing a pack hierarchy, while serious fighting, growling, snarling, and biting are not. Keep an eye out for your German Shepherd dog becoming “out of control” among people or animals, ignoring commands and barking, snarling, growling, or chasing wildly. Likewise, avoid the reverse – a dog who appears excessively fearful in the company of either other animals or human beings is one who is susceptible to violent behavior – dogs often “lash out” out of fear or pain – so do not confuse your dog's fear with natural serenity or shyness.

Keep watch for your German Shepherd dog growling or baring his teeth at other animals or humans with no or minimal provocation (although even the most mild-mannered dog may respond negatively if injured, if food is offered and then snatched away, or if he or she is taken by surprise or has his or her tail pulled), or for your German Shepherd responding with active negativity to such innocuous, kindly gestures as being patted on the head or scratched lightly behind the ears. If your dog growls or jumps at people while riding in a car, this is another warning sign, as is reacting with excessive anger if food or treats are taken away from him.

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