If you ask any German Shepherd owner to name the top three traits of their dog – they would probably say loving, protective and loyal.
But, why are German Shepherds so loyal?
We look to the breeding history and how the way individual dogs are raised for reasons as to why this dog breed is so loyal.
Why Are German Shepherds So Loyal?
We talked about these things in our other guide on ‘Why Are German Shepherds So Protective?‘.
But to recap, a dog’s temperament and characteristics are mainly a product of two things:
- Their genes, DNA, quality of breeding, what they were bred for, and their natural instincts and drives
- How they are treated, bonded with, trained and socialised
Let’s look at each of these things in more detail for German Shepherds when it relates to loyalty…
German Shepherd genes, DNA, quality of breeding, what they were bred for, and their natural instincts and drives
Throughout history and from their origins, German Shepherds were bred for working ability, obedience to their master, loyalty, intelligence, with appearance becoming a focus in modern times – particularly in the US.
It started when the breed was created in 1899.
The breed creator Max von Stephanitz wanted a standardised dog breed that was the ideal working dog and showed all the primary characteristics like loyalty, intelligence, strong working drives, and essentially a dog that would do anything it’s owner asked, and was eager to please.
Appearance came second to those things – although the dog did have to have a good working body – good bone structure and health.
This relationship of the German Shepherd breed being bred as the ideal dog to serve humans in a working capacity is where all modern day German Shepherds get all those common characteristics from – including loyalty.
Throughout the 1900’s – the bloodlines diverged into the show lines and the working lines, with show lines have more of a focus on appearance and movement/gait, whereas the working lines likely only had this master-working dog relationship strengthened.
Without obedience, loyalty and respect (the core traits the breed was based upon) – you don’t have a very good working type dog.
In modern times, the German Shepherd is bred all over the world.
Europe is known for having high breeding regulations, where breeding is not regulated extensively in other parts.
The breed generally does still maintain the core parts of the original breeding stock, but temperaments and individual dog traits can vary wildly.
Some German Shepherds who have been bred from common pet stocks might be clumsy, skittish and fun loving. They may or may not have working ability.
Whilst others with strong working lines will appear focussed, intelligent, well behaved, and well balanced temperament between working tasks and family life.
How they are treated, bonded with, trained and socialised
The ideal German Shepherd:
- Has a stable temperament – calm and non-reactive most of the time, but will protect or alert if they sense danger or a threat
- Competent with both its show and working ability
- Has a basic obedience level
- Has a basic training level with ability to perform basic commands
- Is socialised and not aggressive around humans
- Is socialised and not aggressive around other animals (although some dogs show higher desire for dominance than others)
- Has a good bond with its owner and family – achieved by spending quality time together
- Shows a love and firm protection for their owner and family – although the protection is not aggressive, but rather passive, unless attacked or there is a serious threat
But treatment of the dog, how much of an effort the owner puts in bonding, the time and quality of puppy and adult training and how well socialised the dog is all have an affect on how the dog expresses itself.
A dog may show signs of disloyalty if they have had a traumatic experience and are fearful of or don’t trust humans, if it doesn’t have a strong bond or respect for its owner, if they are disobedient because they haven’t been trained, or if they haven’t been shown how to properly interact with other animals and humans.
Even though a dog comes from a certain breed with general characteristics, it is up to the owner to love, train and hone the dog’s behaviors in a positive fashion.
Are German Shepherds Loyal To Only One Person?
Generally a German Shepherd will be loyal to their immediate family and the people they know i.e. the people it lives with and considers part of their pack – could be you, your partner, kids etc.
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