Whether you pick up your new German Shepherd as a puppy or adult, it’s possible when you got them that they might be showing signs of being a lot more timid or scared than the average dog.
This might prompt you to ask “Why Is My German Shepherd So Scared All the Time?”
Sometimes it can just be a puppy getting acquainted to it’s surroundings – most dogs after they become socialised and comfortable will settle down a lot.
And sometimes it might be because of something more serious like mistreatment in the past or some kind of mental condition.
In this guide we explore what might be the causes of an overly fearful dog, how you might identify it and what might be able to be done about it.
Let’s go into it in greater detail!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
Why is My German Shepherd So Scared? Potential Causes, Signs & Calming Options
What is a German Shepherd’s Natural Temperament?
A well bred German Shepherd by nature should be smart, confident and courageous.
You would be right in feeling concerned if your GSD is showing signs of being timid, is fearful or is easily scared in certain situations.
Scared behavior may arise around people, other dogs and animals or even around inanimate objects like thunder or fireworks.
When it does happen, you might consider if it is a regular thing or a one off type event.
Your GSD is allowed to show some fear or be a little startled sometimes…he or she isn’t a robot!
A puppy may show more signs of timidness, but if they do, they usually quickly grow out of this as they get more comfortable with their environment and family.
What Are Some Potential Causes Of Scared Behavior?
You might look to identify the cause of your German Shepherd’s fear as soon as possible.
You can identify the cause of your GSD’s timid actions by monitoring him or her and identifying change in their behavior.
Does your German Shepherd show fearful signs in these situations?
- When there are fireworks outside say for a celebration
- When there is thunder
- When someone it hasn’t met enter the house
- When you move house or its surroundings change
- When you’ve bought a new dog or there are new animals around
- As a puppy
- After a once off or ongoing traumatic event
- When it experiences physical pain, and is touched in the sensitive or painful area
It is natural for your GSD to display fear in some of these situations more than others and there are different levels of fear.
For example, some puppies might cower, howl and/or hide when they hear thunder for the first time, compared to an adult German Shepherd who has experienced several storms before and knows it’s nothing to worry about.
Another example of natural and unnatural behavior where fear is present is when you take your GSD for a walk.
It might be natural for your GSD to be watchful and cautious around other humans and dogs, but be un-reactive.
It might be unnatural for your GSD to bare its teeth and jump at other humans and animals every time you encounter them.
It is possible your German Shepherd may have experienced mistreatment or a traumatic event before it came into your life.
You should always ask the right questions, obtain the right information about and meet your GSD before receiving it from a breeder, rescue or adoption centre.
If you cannot correct unnatural behavior through positive reinforcement training, you may need to take it to a professional trainer.
In some severe cases, you may need to see an animal psychologist to assess whether your GSD can co-exist with humans and other animals.
Consult a vet or animal behavior expert if you think the issue is serious.
How Can You Tell if Your German Shepherd is Unnaturally Scared – Warning Signs?
Signs that indicate your German Shepherd is experiencing unnatural fear might be:
- Hunched posture
- Avoiding eye contact
- Licking it’s lips excessively
- Unnecessary urination
- Other submissive displays like cowering away from humans and animals, or showing its belly
It is not uncommon for an unnaturally scared German Shepherd to display these traits before acting out aggressively or violently in an effort to protect itself.
They may also do the opposite and completely retreat or find a private spot where they feel more safe.
If you notice any of these signs, monitor your GSD’s body language closely.
My German Shepherd Dog Is Scared Of Everything, What Can I Do?
Some things you might consider might be:
1) See a Vet Or Animal Expert Like A Professional Trainer
As we mentioned above, if you can’t manage this type of behavior yourself, or you think it may be dangerous/make the situation worse – seek a vet’s help. They may refer you to a professional trainer, or animal behavior specialist immediately.
2) Regular Socialization
Socialize your GSD with people and other animals from a young age. This will help your GSD learn social skills and get used to what is a genuine threat, and what is an everyday occurrence.
If you mingle your GSD with people and animals (especially other dogs) often, your GSD will have a better idea of what is not acceptable behavior or a threat when it does arise.
GSDs are naturally wary of and aloof around strangers, so don’t be alarmed if your GSD isn’t as warm and friendly to people it doesn’t know like a Golden Retriever or Labrador for example.
3) Desensitize, Counter-Conditioning and Rewarding Confidence Positively
When your GSD shows fear in a particular situation, it might be showing it has situational loss of confidence.
The best way to fix this might be to de-sensitize your scared German Shepherd with counter-conditioning.
If, for example, your German Shepherd is scared of the sound of the garbage/trash truck makes when it comes to empty your bins, you might start by playing the noise of a garbage truck to your GSD for 2-5 minutes daily.
Sit with him or her while noise plays. Your German Shepherd will ideally become more comfortable with the noise as it hears it more regularly.
If your GSD sees you acting calmly to the noise, and you reward your GSD positively with a treat or toy, it will associate the noise with a positive experience.
This is called counter-conditioning.
It’s very important when your GSD is scared, that you do not use force to discipline him or her, or reward fearful behavior.
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