Why are people so afraid of German shepherds?

Whenever I take Nina for a walk, a lot of people are scared of her. Even when she doesn't bark, I've seen people who yell at me that they're allergic to dogs and to get away (and after that they'll go and pet my friends puppy). Or one lady picked up her little dog and started shushing it like it was a baby and and like my dog was going to attack it. Which she didn't even look twice at it. Nina minds her own business for the most part, she rarely barks, and when she does I quickly use the cue for her to stop. She's a little on the small side for a shepherd, she's not like, gigantic or anything. When kids come up to pet my friend and I's dogs, they go straight to the puppy and their parents warn them to stay away from Nina. Why are German shepherds so scary to people? I mean, I don't care that they're not giving my dog any attention, because Nina's sort of aloof, doesn't care much for it. That's how the breed usually is. I just don't really get why she's so terrifying.

Best Answers

  • Tiffany CarsonTiffany Carson St. Marys
    Accepted Answer
    I feel your pain. I'm fortunate enough to live in an area with lots of decent, or at least half-way so, GSD owners, so people are pretty familiar with the breed here, but there are those who keep their distance and really hurt me with their ignorant comments. The problem is that so many people have owned GSDs that either shouldn't (whether it's because they're not good owners or it's just not the right dog for them) or they're ignorant about proper training and behavior. Some think it's normal for GSDs to bark, growl, and lunge at every stranger they see. "He is a guard dog after all", some think. There's more to it, such as how well the dog was socialized, but if I were to name everything that adds to the problem, this answer would probably turn into a miniature book. The same problem lies in all breeds to some extent, but people don't tend to be afraid of smaller dogs and may even feel that it's cute when a Poodle tries to nip someone's ankles. How to combat ignorance? With knowledge. Learn the facts and share them with others, and train your dog so that he will be a good example of the breed.
  • laura cottamlaura cottam plymouth
    Accepted Answer
    German Shepherds are used for police dogs they are trained to hunt down people and bite them.People think with there wolf like face and how big they are they are quite imitating.I know they are big softies but you need to make sure Evan the kindest of dogs can take a turn on someone or some thing.Some people are scared of big dogs and it is not there fault
  • Kylie DennisKylie Dennis Tooele
    Accepted Answer
    yeah, its because they are trained for police work and they look big and scary, and people assume that just because some german shepherds are used as police dogs and used to hunt down people, that every german shepherd is mean and ferocious, well its not true. : ) i think its best to educate people about german shepherds and what great dogs they can be, reassure them, that nina is not going to hurt them and she is friendly and explain that not every shepherd is not going to attack. some people can just be ignorant or they just don't know any better, because of maybe past experiences. i LOVE shepherds, pit bulls, any bully breed and any big dog. yay! for german shepherds!! : )
  • Accepted Answer
    I agree with everyone else on the police thing and general fears. Some of those people may have a genuine fear to a breed, size of dog, etc and it may not be their fault. Others are nervous about strange adult dogs around their kids. But the biggest concern is police dogs with them. GSD's are used so often for police work, guarding, security, etc, that people automatically think it's engraved in their brains. What they don't realize is that a dog THAT well trained, will listen to every single cue or command, right on the spot and will not go after someone unless told to do so and even then, they follow through with going for just that specific person, rather than the person next to them. I own three rottweilers and often, people will cross the street when I walk even one of them. I intend to get a GSD in the near future, as well. Don't be hurt about it, it might not even be that SHE is specifically terrifying, rather than the breed itself. Just remember people are undereducated.
  • Accepted Answer
    I find it ironic that people will want to pet Squ'mey & love on him (he doesn't like it much, but tolerates it) and then they ask what he is. When I say white gsd I get one of three reactions. 1) they back away in horror; 2) express amazement that he is so "gentle" or 3) get mad i didn't "warn" them he is a gsd! All we can do Nina is be responsible owners & nice, polite ambassadors for our breed!
  • It was quite ironic to find your question posted here, as I was googling virtually the same thing for my dog hoping to get some perspective and perhaps ask the same question myself somewhere- I signed up on Dogster just to answer and contribute to your question. I can completely relate to your feelings- and it is tough. I don't have an answer, it bothers the heck out of me, when people are so dramatic and make scared faces or walk the other way- but what breaks my heart is when kids are nervous around her. I am training her to be a therapy dog too! she is beyond sweet. I am a big guy myself so I am hypersensitive to that feeling to begin with and now feel bad that my dog is getting that too. I love when people know the breed and see how well behaved she is and give her hugs, but I hear you man, it is tough. Chalk it up to ignorance I guess and we need to continue to love our dogs and be proud! I am in the exact same boat and am hopeful our big sweet dogs can change the world :)
  • Linda MatthewsLinda Matthews Plain city
    Accepted Answer
    I get silly stuff too. But, you know you can't change them all. They have their quirks about what our breed is all about. Maybe it is the size or the ears but this is a very talented dog. They deserve the upmost respect as any other dog. Give it time there is some very cool people out there who love the breed. You just haven't met them yet. I get people stoppping and asking questions all the time. They especially take interest in me doing dumbell retrieves or if I am doing competitive obedience routines. They ask how I get my dog to do that. It is simple, because she wants to. What ever your breed be proud and just laugh off the bad ways people act out on. If your dog knows tricks or command, perform for them. Show them you are proud. I am more afraid of small dogs to tell you the truth. :) I have alot of fun with my dog and people seem to like it that I do things and go places with them.
  • Accepted Answer
    Cookies and Cream had a really great answer. The more responsible German shepherd owners the less fearsome their reputation will be. If you have never owned one and are considering getting one, talk to breeders, owners and research about them on the internet.
  • amanda henshawamanda henshaw Mayville WI
    Accepted Answer
    Unfortunately, GSDs are not the only breed treated this way. When I walk Thunder most people cross the street instead of passing us on the sidewalk. I think this is because thay are big "scary" dogs. Which of course is the funniest thing ever. On the other hand the children in my neighborhood love him. And they now believe all Rotties are the sweetest dogs ever. I am not sure what their parents think and really I don't care.
  • Alexa TravisAlexa Travis Birmingham, AL
    Accepted Answer
    While its true that most fears towards this breed are irrational, please understand that it goes both ways. Yes, some ignorant parents will shoo their children/little dogs away from "the big bad K9"... but I'm sure those less sightly members of society are also inclined to think twice before going toe to toe with your girl. I for one enjoy the security I get with having Mulder around me. Sometimes people make fools of themselves, and at those times I just have myself a good laugh and keep on with my business. And on the occasions when someone wants to pet the cool "police dog", well, I'm happy to oblige ;)
  • Stephanie ThompsonStephanie Thompson Lake Worth
    Accepted Answer
    We can relate. Mackenzie is our bully girl. 75 lbs. half American Bulldog/half Olde English. Some people stand still, staring with mouth open as we walk by. Shockingly, many kids want to actually pet her. There are a brave few that come right on up because they just want to give her "smushie face." Mackenzie knows who the doggie people are. She lunges up, they catch her on their knee to get some good head rubbing. Mackenzie slobber kisses & leaves white hair in return. Big Breeds Rock! Love 'Em Or Hate 'Em! :)
  • Kim MiedemaKim Miedema Huttonville
    Accepted Answer
    It's not just German Shepherds that cause people to behave like that, any of the big "scarey" breeds will do it. Before our Kelpie we had Rotties and more time then I can count people would scream as soon as they saw them(for no reason I might add our dogs were minding their own business). Also people tended to cross the street as soon as they saw us, which is fine by me as if someone is going to be that misinformed I don't want to meet them anyway. Personally I am not afraid of Shepherds but I am more aware of them when they are around my Kelpie as she has been attacked 7 times by Shepherds where blood was drawn. It's not the dogs fault as the owners of those dogs obviously knew NOTHING about prey drive and so didn't call their dogs off when it kicked in. But now my Kelpie prefers to go after the Shepherds BEFORE they go after her.
  • Accepted Answer
    Alot of people have pretty much summed your question up. Even though I know the answers, I still find myself asking the question. As a little puppy, Caddy got all kinds of attention! However it sort of depressed me because I found myself saying in the back of my head, 'Enjoy it while it lasts pup.' I`ve always known that Caddy would receive less and less attention as she got bigger and bigger. Which really sucks because Caddy loves attention,shes a real sweetheart.Its just the reputation GSD`s have.
  • Accepted Answer
    because German Shepherd is a big dog breed,and others might think that the dog is big and the dog can easily bite them?
  • Accepted Answer
    Most people are afrraid of german shepherds because they are in the "big killer dogs" catagory. Yes that would put them up there with rotwilers. I am not afraid of any type of dogs because you have to get to know the owner and the dog more befor you can place it in a catagory.
  • Accepted Answer
    GSDs ( here in the UK anyway ) don't tend to have that "big, scary dog" label anymore. The late 80's early 90's saw the GSD labelled as some kind of menace to society but all in all the general public from my experiences are not wary of them. I walk with a lady and her bitch Cassie who is a sweetheart, she has some trust issues with people but has always been fine with me. Tyler & Cassie get on like a house on fire! I am yet to meet a bad GSD, all the ones i've met have been total love bugs and great family pets.
  • Jennifer StamJennifer Stam Eustis
    Accepted Answer
    People are scared of what they don't know, and a bad experience can traumatize them. Plus German Shepherds are aloof, they don't come up tail wagging like a lab, so people don't really know how to respond to them. I love them and think they're an excellent breed myself, but my sister is terrified of them for some unknown reason. The best thing to do is have such a well-behaved shepherd that people have to notice and be impressed by. I rescue miniature schnauzers and two are licensed therapy dogs and a lot of people say, I thought schnauzers were nippy, barky dogs that are bad with children. My girls love every dog they meet from Great Dane to teeny chihuahua and absolutely adore children and are trained never to vocalize on a therapy visit. And they never have and never will nip anyone in their lives, so it's all about changing people's perceptions of things with positive behaviors. Sometimes teaching your dog to lie down while being petted makes people more likely to approach.
  • Accepted Answer
    The people that act that way are not socialized themselves. I say just say "HI" as we walk. My dog is a police dog, and he does protect me. I say job well done.
  • Accepted Answer
    I never knew people were so afraid of GSDs until I owned my now 11 month old. I get the craziest reactions when I walk her especially downtown. Just last weekend this lady was pretty much hugging the wall looking at her on the opposite side that my girl was walking. Of course Dakota wasn't even looking her way. Odd... Then a few days ago this guy wouldn't even ride his bike past me and her until I assured him that she's a sweet, very well-trained GSD. Claimed he had been bit twice by GSD. Guess all of us caring Shepherd owners need to set a good example for this amazing breed. Sad they have such a bad rep.
  • Accepted Answer
    cuase there known for being police dogs and guard dogs.and i agree there really friendsly and affexionate
  • Regina FrauRegina Frau Marysville
    Accepted Answer
    I have had my pure GSD for 6 years and everyone loves him! Kids and seniors walk up to me asking about him. He's silly and walks around happy, not snarly. He does bark at other dogs if I walk him with my husky but just us and he's fine. He's not large either only 78lbs. Maybe it's YOU they don't want to walk up to. :) I smile at everyone and always say "would you like to pet him?" because Loki is a therapy dog. If you come across as someone who wants to be left alone people will not walk up to you asking to see your dog. I would--I walk up to ALL GSDs!
  • Accepted Answer
    I love GSD's but to answer historically, there is one word that says alot: Auschwitz. "...The SS officer in charge stood with his German shepherd. The officer had one foot propped up on a little stool. We lined up and filed by him. Right there the selection took place. As each person passed by him, he pointed left or right. The thumb left and right was your destiny..." -Memories of Auschwitz http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/memories_of_auschwitz.htm
  • And somebody had to bring up Auschwitz... wow, way to go... Honestly, the German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. Auschwitz has little to nothing to do with the fact that people are scared of the breed. The breed is everywhere, in every country of this world. People got a German Shepherd because it was fashionable to own one. Dogs like RinTinTin painted a picture that sticks in peoples head and that is why everybody wanted a dog like RinTinTin. The brave, intelligent, fierce, affectionate dog that can not only protect you but will get the newspaper and the milk from the fridge for you too. One thing people didn't understand is that a GSD needs training. They are easy to train but they are very high energy and high drive dogs that need to be socialized and a job. A lot of people just didn't know how to handle GSD's and that is why the GSD is feared today. Where I live the GSD is very well respected and I have yet to meet one scared person.
  • Jodi PangmanJodi Pangman Schenectady
    Accepted Answer
    I'm going to answer this question based on experience. There are too many badly bred Shepards out there that are owned by irresonsible owners. A lot of back yard bred Shepards have awful temperments. I've run into so many of them and just about every Shepard I've had in an obedience class has tried to go after one of my dogs. Couple that with an ignorant owner who refuses to believe their dog is anything but a sweet heart and you can understand why people are afraid of them. I also know some well bred Shepards with responsbile owners so I know how great Shepards can be. Shepard owners need to thorughly train and socialize their dogs to ensure they're putting out a postive image of the breed. If the general public has more postive experiences with the breed then people's views will change.
  • Accepted Answer
    I know the feeling. I have two GSDs. I think many people are afraid of GSDs because of the stereotype that GSDs are dangerous. They were trained and used as WarDogs in the early wars. Those that were brought back were not good pets. The military trains them differently now but they are still not meant to be "pets". It's really how you train and treat your dog. You can't change people all that much. I agree that many people see the dark side of the GSD because of the media. The police, military and protection agencies use the GSD and that scares people. But those dogs are highly trained for their specific duties. Those are not "pets", they are trained units. People should stay away and be afraid. These are not your friends. They never will be. This is their job and they take their jobs seriously.
  • Magali PirardMagali Pirard Santa Rosa
    Accepted Answer
    I'm not afraid of german shepherds but... when I ride my bike with my baby in the trailer and my dog in tow- it's always the german shepherds who are off leash and make a dash for us. It freaks me out- makes my dog get loose (because she's got a quick release) and just puts us all at risk. I think german shepherd owners THINK they can control their dogs - they are sooo obedient and then I show up! They don't seem like bad owners- they always look so surprised that their dog is taking off after us. So chances are its the naive dog owners who have done some training and think they got it under control that are freaking everybody out.
  • Erica ManningErica Manning Danvers
    Accepted Answer
    I have a shepherd mix I also often get scared looks from others. They ask 'is he safe, or ok to come over to' and I almost feel like saying why because you 'think' he's mean? He is the SWEETEST and most loyal boy. Media and movies have a great deal that has put the mindset in those afraid of german shepherds...they're foamy drooling, jumping, ripping in various police movies are what scare people. In reality they are one of the best breeds to have for a family dog. I think she looks sweet :)
  • Yeah, Many People are afraid of german shepherd, Maybe because of their wolf like faces and their size. but i like the way me and my gsd dominate the street
  • Accepted Answer
    Many people find big dogs in general very aloof and impossible to manage. Sometimes when a dog first comes into a new, unfamiliar house they get excited and start barking and standing up on two legs and all those things, like my uncle's dog Chloe. It doesn't mean they are going to bite you or anything like that. But as I said, big dogs have a nature to protect their owners, and some people think that means that anyone who touches a dog like that will be bitten and attacked and pinned down until they bleed. They are wrong about this, especially around a well trained and socialized dog. Anyways, if the way these people really offends you, try telling them in advance that Nina is actually a nice dog and that she won't bite or anything. Try having your hand on her yourself. This will give them a sense that you are supervising and in a protective zone. Owner in touch w/ dog=safety
  • Theresa BrenzelTheresa Brenzel Louisville
    Accepted Answer
    GSDs have a long history of being police/guard/military dogs . . . so there's that very ingrained social image of them. They do tend to be bigger and/or at least powerful looking dogs. And also they are often aloof, reserved, one person dogs and they usually they look self-composed more so than gregarious. Partly it's their personality, but also it's their wolfish, dark face and upright "adult" ears. They just kind of look no-nonsense and I guess to people who aren't dog saavy perhaps that translates to menacing. I think you'd get the same reaction walking a Rottie or even a Doberman Pinscher . . . Many dogs just look intimidating to some people. Being the owner of a dog with the opposite image problem, lol (floppy puppy ears, big footed, goofy grin, who couldn't intimidate anyone), I'd say,as long as you know your dog is a good soul and well mannered, I wouldn't worry about what a few people think--sometimes it comes in handy to have a dog that people are leery of.
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