Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The German Shepherd Dog of America describes the German Shepherd dog’s temperament as having 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.

Everyone would agree that a German Shepherd without this ideal temperament is not a very good representative of the breed. A dog that is shy or aggressive is not what the breed standard calls for. So this is the description of the ideal German Shepherd dog. What then is the difference between the temperament of a dog and his personality? Some people might consider this the same thing. I do not.

The temperament in my opinion represents the dog’s character. The personality is something all together different. You can have a dog that has excellent temperament but is dull in personality. The personality of the dog is what makes him unique just like in people. Anyone who has been in the breed for any number of years will have had experience with many different types of personalities and temperaments. Most of us know what it is to live with a dog that has the ideal temperament. They are a joy to live with and this is the type of dog that you are proud to take anywhere with you.

I have owned a dog with a great temperament but who was kind of dull in personality. She really wasn’t a whole lot of fun to be with. Fun to her was lying around the house all day and as long as you fed her, she was happy and content. Turned out she had a thyroid problem. I offered her back to my friend who sold her to me and she was placed in a good home.

I love having a dog with a great personality. This is the dog that is fun to be with and makes me laugh. Some of these dogs can be so funny that they make you laugh out loud. My one girl is the alpha girl although her mother tries to remind her who the real boss is on occasion. This girl is never content just lying around. She has to be directing “traffic” constantly while she’s in the house. If her sister grabs a toy, she grabs it from her. She has one eye on what she’s doing and one eye on what the other two dogs are doing at all times. She’s afraid that she may be missing something and that they are having something that she isn’t. She’s trying, she’s exhausting, she’s intimidating (to them), but is always a constant source of entertainment. She’s a very happy dog……….as long as everything is going her way! Her need for recognition knows no boundaries.

I believe that temperament is something that the dog is born with through his genetics and I also believe that his environment has a lot to do with it as well. Now some dogs can come from a horrific upbringing by someone who may be abusing them. Some of these dogs come out of shelters and are re-homed in to loving environments and the dog shows no fear of humans. Other dogs put in the same circumstances may become shy and distrustful of all humans, but with a lot of work can sometimes be brought out of his fear. Sometimes this puppy is born with a good temperament but may be more sensitive in his nature to upsets in his life. This is all about the temperament of the dog.

The personality is something that the dog develops and you can normally see this as a youngster. Each day is a new adventure for the dog with a fun loving personality. He loves being with his people and he’s performing on a daily basis as if to say, “Look at me!” I find that the dog with a good personality always shows me something new and why he is different and stands out from the rest. Some are mischievous and down right bad to the bone! I wonder if they think when I laugh at their antics that this is approval for some of their naughty behavior.

My “personality” girl never fails to amaze me at some of the things that she does. I wonder sometimes what she’s trying to communicate to me. For example……every night before my three girls go to bed, they share a snack with me. Now they all have their own ways of doing things. I wonder what this particular girl is trying to convey to me. She has a need to come up behind my computer chair where I am sitting and she gently (and she never does anything gently) rises on her hind legs and “buzzes” me on the top of my head with her snout. Every night without failure she does this. What is she trying to tell me? Is she thanking me for the snack or is this a way to show affection? I don’t know, but she’s been doing it for several months now. There is never a dull moment with this one.

So of course we all want the dog with the good temperament, but I also want the one that has the personality as well. Some dogs are just there and other dogs remind and let you know that they’re there. They demand your attention and if they don’t have it, they are determined to get it. It’s like they are always turned on and love performing for you. Sometimes however, it can be so very exhausting and that’s when I REALLY appreciate the easy going, calm “loves to lay around the house” type of dog!

My rating: good temperament: (4), good personality: (4)


  1. Hi Barbara, I enjoy your writing and topics. Regarding your female who buzzes the top of your head.. I interpret that as her telling you who the boss is, and for the moment, it's not you. Jumping up of any kind is disrespectful and I would take exception to it. As well, I would want her eyes trained on me and the ball and not on any of the other dogs in the room. She is doing your job for you by monitoring all the dogs and very soon might be showing everyone what their boundaries are (including you), if you do not show her who is number one. Establishment of the number one position gains peace and harmony within a dog household. There is such a thing as too much freedom and not enough direction.

    Your girl is a cleaver one...

  2. We have a veritable menagerie of personalities in this house. Kizzy the garbage hound, Vinnie the ham, Arwen (aka Rock Baby) and "INEVERSTOPGRACIE".
    All have excellent temperaments. By that I mean that I can walk any of them through crowded streets without incident. That being said, each brings something different to the table of life.
    Kiz and her incessant search for the perfect taste (this includes sand, branches,tin cans, terry cloth towels and in one instance black malaga soap from Spain)...Vinnie who is always looking for the flash of a camera and his best angle...Arwen whose closest friend is a 30 pound boulder whose only fault in its existence is being in her way..
    Literally...would run after that ball till she dropped.
    Her nickname is "The Eveready Bunny"....
    Its intriguing watching them interact and meld all of the various personalities into one cohesive mob. Particularly when Grace decides that Vin just HAS to have a hair redo and attacks him from any and every angle, leaving streams of slobber all over his newly washed coat. Or when Arwen, (tiring of boulder number 1)decides to further dismantle our stone wall and search for the NEXT boulder victim...proceeding to bark at it while draping her tongue across. Could never figure out what that boulder did to her to make her SO determined to "kill" it.
    Could you imagine the resulting puppies from breeding Bu to Vinnie???? EGADS! You would have non stop diva's ! lol...

  3. Greetings Barbara: I’ve been blessed with a number of GSDs with great temperaments, plus personality. But yes, I’ve had a few with some and not the other too. I know this is a new topic but I wanted to write about temperament/personality. I guess I’ve never brought this into thought they’re two different things. Barbara, you’re so correct that you can have a dog with a great temperament but can be completely boring, not interested in working or too much energy that they’re in your face constantly. Good thought. At the moment, I have a GSD, Koda with a very pleasing temperament & an awesome personality. Every one that meets him loves this dog. He has always been the star of his obedience class. And I’ve had many who say, “He’s the goal I eventually want to see in my dog.” How nice is that?! My boy is funny, he wants to please & work for me with tons of energy. Maybe a bit too much at times but he’s young yet. Only three, but he gets out and about which I love at the end of a day!

    I’ve only bred a few litters & have been blessed with fairly good temperament, awesome personalities, looks, working drive & most of all longevity. Many of those shepherds entered in the 13 Club. That breeding was an outcross two different times with the same stud/dam, sadly to say, I don’t have that line anymore. So I pray with my dog, Koda which is mostly line bred with a bit of out cross will have a long life too. I truly feel breeding dogs is first knowledge, an art in putting that knowledge together with a lot of luck to add. Kathy & Koda Partch

  4. Yes Kathy, when you have a dog like your Koda (nice name by the way), they are truly a joy to live with! Thanks for sharing!