German shepherds are the second most popular breed of pet dogs in America, according to the American Kennel Club. When German shepherds attack unexpectedly, environmental, genetic and biological factors are responsible. The shepherd's intelligent, loyal and protective temperament makes it an ideal service dog, which is why the U.S. Department of Defense currently employs 2,300 German shepherds, reports the charity Kevlar for K9s.
Why Do German Shepherds Attack Unexpectedly?
German shepherds have a partially deserved reputation for attacking suddenly. Due to aggressiveness traits passed through bloodlines, undesirable temperaments were handed down from generation to generation. Worldwide organizations like The German Shepherd Dog League identified this trait as a tendency for biting out of fear and warned the public to be wary of especially timid, easily frightened dogs. Through selective breeding programs and education of owners, this dangerous temperamental element has largely been eliminated from purebred German shepherds.
The training a German shepherd receives is largely responsible for its behavior. Sadly, some German shepherds are the victims of abusive owners who keep them as attack dogs, train them poorly and encourage dogs to bite any intruders. When these dogs slip their leashes or escape their compounds, they can attack. Although German shepherds should only be trained as guard dogs by experts, home obedience training for your puppy is vital for both the dog and the owner's safety. As a safety precaution, never leave small children alone with even well-trained German shepherds.
Exercise, Confinement and Boredom
As the American Kennel Club notes, German shepherds are energetic dogs that require regular exercise. These muscular dogs that were bred for herding livestock have a lot of energy to burn off each day. Confinement in small spaces or chaining dogs leads to boredom, lack of socialization and territorial behaviors such as attacking people who venture close. Tied dogs can often become the victim of cruelty by children and adults who poke at them with sticks or taunt them from a safe distance.
Dog and Human Behavior
Uneducated owners of German shepherd dogs play a large part in causing attacks. As with almost all breeds of dogs, certain natural human behaviors take on completely different meaning from a dog's point of view. Examples of this are when people stare directly into a dog's eyes, walk straight up to it, or pet its head with a hand descending from above it. Dogs see these gestures as challenges and some German shepherds will attack because of this perceived threat.