The personality traits of the German Shepherd dog

The personality traits of the German Shepherd dog

Life As A Pet Parent

While the German Shepherd dog is often mainly associated in most people’s mind with working roles such as police work, guarding and security, as the name suggests, the German Shepherd (also occasionally referred to as the Alsatian) actually originated as a combined working herding and guarding dog for use with herds of cattle or sheep. Unlike many of the other herding dog breeds such as the Border Collie, the German Shepherd can make the transition to living within a domestic home relatively easily, and while they are certainly complex dogs that require a knowledgeable handler, they are not as high-energy as many other herding breeds, which often find it hard to settle down to living indoors.

They make excellent pets for all sorts of reasons, and are hugely loyal, very soulful dogs that are fast learners and good company. If you are wondering about what a German Shepherd is like as a pet, in this article we will look in more depth at some of their core personality traits and their general temperament. Read on to learn more.

German Shepherds and their guarding instincts

The German Shepherd is widely used as a guarding dog in all sorts of situations, such as police and security work, property patrols and within domestic homes and country farms. They are territorial and soon get to grips with the boundaries of the area that is theirs, and will often independently patrol their land and look out for signs of intruders, other dogs or potential problems! Should they spot something amiss, they will bark and make a fuss, both to inform you to come and see what is going on, and to act as a deterrent.

This means that within the domestic home, the German Shepherd must be well socialised with people and other animals from an early age, and well trained about the boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour when they come into contact with someone or something new!

The prey drive

German Shepherds were originally bred to guard and manage herds of livestock, but they also have a relatively strong prey drive too. This personality trait was essential to the breed’s working origins, as it could be channelled into a talent for herding livestock rather than pursuing prey! Herding is essentially a graduation of hunting within the canine skill set, and so all herding dog breeds will tend to have a strong prey drive, and the German shepherd is no exception. This means that within the domestic environment, the dog’s prey drive must be curbed and managed in order to ensure that they are not a danger to other smaller pets either within the home or outside of it.

Superior intelligence

The German Shepherd ranks within the top five breeds in terms of canine intelligence, which is essential to make an effective working dog! Only the most intelligent dog breeds make for effective working dogs, and so the German Shepherd became a natural choice.

High intelligence levels mean that the German Shepherd can be trained to retain and repeat a wide range of commands, but high intelligence does not automatically make the German Shepherd easy to train! Intelligent dogs can be complex and challenging, and may be one step ahead of you in terms of picking up bad habits or learning things by mistake! They are also likely to easily become bored of repetitive training, and will not thrive unless they are kept active.

German Shepherds and boredom

As mentioned, a highly intelligent dog like the German Shepherd needs a fulfilling lifestyle, with plenty to do that keeps both their minds and their bodies active. While they will also be happy to relax around the house and chill out with you, this is not all they need, and you must provide plenty of outlets for your dog’s intelligence and need to stay entertained.

German Shepherds are incredibly versatile dogs, who often excel at things like heelwork or agility, all of which can be great sports to keep your dog active and thinking.

Herding traits

German shepherds have been widely used throughout their history as herding dogs, an instinct that they still retain as an inbuilt character trait. This means that your dog may need careful supervision around livestock, and it is not unusual to see the German Shepherd trying to “herd” other pets, children, and even their owners!

Bonding and loyalty

German Shepherds are among the most loyal dogs around, and they bond closely with their family and regular handlers. They will soon come to see your children and other pets as part of their pack, and will defend and protect them too! They can be wary and watchful of strangers, and may take a while to warm up to people that they do not know. However, once your German shepherd has bonded with you and you have earned their loyalty, you will have a friend for life.



Pets for studWanted pets

Accessories & services

Knowledge hub


Support & safety portal
Pets for saleAll Pets for sale