Every pure bred dog that is recognized by the American Kennel Club has a breed standard for what constitutes an ideal temperament. The German Shepherd temperament as described by the German Shepherd Dog club of America is no exception. It describes the ideal temperament as (and I quote): “The breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them.” Of the thousands upon thousands of puppies born every year, not all will have the “ideal” German Shepherd temperament.
There are many different types of temperament a puppy can have. Most of a dog’s personality and temperament traits will be hereditary. Others will be environmental. Still others can be a combination of both. As anyone who has been breeding dogs for a number of years can tell you, we all have dealt with most of these different types of temperament throughout the years. We already know what the ideal temperament for our breed is. Let’s take a look at some of those with less than “ideal” temperaments.
The “I love everybody” type of temperament. (Some people call this the Golden Retriever personality). This is the type of dog that is friendly to everyone he meets. Life is fun. Life is good and they want to let everyone they meet know about it. They greet everyone and look for them to give them affection and attention. It’s what they live for. These types of dogs are true “people” dogs. They are wonderful to have around when you are selling their offspring. Your puppy market people will eat this type of dog right up.
The “fear biter.” This type of temperament is totally opposite from the “I love everybody” temperament. This is a dog that is fearful of everything, but especially of people. He is the type of dog that a stranger could never pet or even get close to. He’s not necessarily aggressive. He wants nothing to do with outsiders because they fracture his already fractured dysfunctional little world. Get too close to this type of dog where he can’t get away from you and out of fear, he will bite. This type of dog should never be bred or sold into a pet home. Many breeders will choose to put this type of dog to sleep. He is disaster waiting to happen.
The “sharp” dog. This type of temperament would be considered an aggressive temperament. Unlike the fear biter that would be happy to get away from you, the sharp dog is one who will try to attack you. This too is a dog that you could never trust. A person wouldn’t have to even be considered a threat to this dog. This dog is just plain old nasty. Again, this is not the type of dog who should be bred or sold into a pet home.
The soft “timid” dog. This type of dog is also afraid of people AND just about anything else that might “rock his world.” He is timid and will back away from people, cowering; tail tucked, head down, body shaking, but is not a fear biter. He is not the type that bites, rather he is the type that submits and will roll over like you are about to kill him. Noise bothers this type of dog. Things falling off shelves, doors slamming, thunder, and fire crackers; all of these types of things disturb these dogs’ overly sensitive nervous systems. Again, this is not the type of dog that should be bred.
Although all of these above temperaments are far from the ideal, some of them can be worked with and lead fulfilling lives with their people. Some of them will be put to sleep by dedicated breeders that know that no good can come from having less than ideal temperaments. The choice is a personal one.
It is the responsibility of the breeders to incorporate the best temperaments in their breeding program. The majority of a litter will be going into pet homes with children. We owe the public the best of our breeding skills to produce dogs that are worthy of carrying the name “German Shepherd!”
The conscientious dedicated breeder will have bred two dogs of excellent temperaments to produce the best possible puppies. His next goal is to find the “ideal” home for his puppies. That in itself can prove challenging. A German Shepherds temperament can be compromised in a home where the owner totally ignores the puppy while she’s watching the latest episode of General Hospital and gobbling down bon bon’s all afternoon. These animals MUST be socialized. They MUST get used to other people. They MUST be introduced to new sights and sounds. There are many different ways to socialize a puppy. Go join a breed club. Look for a place that offers puppy classes for training and socializing. Take your puppy to a pet store that allows you to bring him in and shop with you. Take him to a park. Take him for a walk. Invite people over your house for coffee. There are a dozen different ways to introduce your puppy to the world. If you don’t, the world can be a very scary place for the youngster.
Make no mistake; the German Shepherd is one of the most intelligent of all breeds of dogs. It is because of their keen intelligence that they must be trained from an early age. The dog can never be given permission to be the leader in a household. It is not one that he relinquishes easily once he establishes himself on that throne. The owner MUST ALWAYS be and remain the alpha with this breed of dog. The dog will respect you for it.
If you can’t train the dog yourself, it is the wise owner who will have a professional dog trainer to do it for you. Watch this person’s training technique to make sure you like the way he trains. If he uses intimidation methods, this is not the type of trainer you want training your dog. You want the dog to like doing what he does by rewarding him for good behavior. A well trained dog is a happy dog and one that you will enjoy living with for years to come. Remember that the German Shepherd is the happiest when he is given a task to do. He can be a “rascal” to live with if he becomes bored. You owe it to him and yourself to bring out the best of this dog’s marvelous temperament and utilize his great intelligence and his will to please. You’ll be glad you did.
My rating: Love everybody type of temperament: (3), fear biter: (1), sharp: (1), timid: (1)