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Thread: Need Advice - Timid German Shepherd

  1. #1

    Unhappy Need Advice - Timid German Shepherd

    Hi all, my first post here but have been lurking from a public account for a little while now, hoping someone may have some advice to share...It's a particularly long story as I want to give as much background info as I can. I would really appreciate any advice - I am very lost as to what to do.

    I have a desexed German Shepherd boy about 2 years old now named Bear. I bought him from the pet shop and it was a choice between him and his brother, i picked him because when we let them out of the cage he came over and wanted cuddles.

    All of Bear's life he has been particularly sooky, but now it's starting to become somewhat of a problem. My partner has started working long shifts out of town, we live in a bad area and I am starting to feel a bit unsafe at night etc and unfortunately Bear doesn't bark enough if at all while we are home...I also had an intruder in the front yard last week, Bear was none the wiser and when we do have visitors he peers out from around the side, if they come closer he runs around the side, hides up on the back stairs and doesn't make a sound.

    When my partner or I address him he always looks guilty and shy, ears down etc. He kind of comes over and leans and rubs on me like a cat would, he is very very cuddly and I love him to peices but I am a bit stuck as to what to do to get him to be a bit more territoral, alert, and confident, which is why I went for the german sheperd breed. He acts much the same around strangers and won't go near them unelss they repeatedly call him.

    Bear is well socialised and quite the opposite around other dogs though - boisterous and energetic, we regularly have him with my parents two dogs and he is always at the fence barking and running along it with the dogs over the back.

    My family have suggested I should look into adopting another smaller dog so that I have a bit of 'security' and could be alerted if someone is hanging around that shouldn't be but I am worried about the effects this would have on Bear (would another dog liven him up like he is with my parents dogs or make him worse, how would he socialise to living with another dog, etc).

    Do you have any thoughts or experiences that you could relate to, any advice etc much appreciated... I should also add that we did used to scold Bear when he has chewed something up though we don't do it so much now as he already looks so guilty all the time. He is lovingly cuddled, groomed, and although could do with a bit more we do walk him and take him to the beach here and there.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009


    I think you may be mistaking his "guilty" look for one of submission. Ears folded along the head, head lowered and slightly wagging tail usually shows a submissive dog greeting a higher ranking dog. Basically the polite doggy way of saying "Hi Mum / Dad, I missed you".

    You could always try to teach him to bark on command with a command such as "guard" or "protect". It wouldn't make him aggressive but can be scary for someone who doesn't know your dog. (I have heard of this successfully working with a Labrador.) The owner taught her lab to bark and bark and bark when she heard the word "Protect" and then when she says "Watch" the lab would stop barking. So anyone hearing that would think that the dog was still ready to 'protect' their owner.

    There is very little you can do to make a dog bark at strangers, most of the time they either do it or they don't (unless your training proper guard / attack dogs.) Getting another dog who barks may work as you said he barks with your parents dogs. It sounds as if he is quite unsure of himself and not really prepared to draw attention to himself by barking when he has no one to back him up, so having a mate around might bring out the guardian in him.

    How he will get on with another dog is all about him and the other dog. Some dogs get along and some don't, just like people. I would suggest thinking about rescuing a dog from a shelter as you and Bear can meet the prospective new family member together and make a decision (i.e you like him, Bear likes him). What sort of dogs do your parents have? There is a fair chance that another dog will liven him up as this is happening with your parents dogs, but then again it is down to the dogs. Especially if you get another dog who doesn't like barking very much
    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog." - Edward Hoagland

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009


    Why can't you install an alarm for security and just be happy with Bear as a loving companion.
    A pessimist sees the glass as half empty;
    An optimist sees the glass as half full;
    A realist just finishes the damn thing and refills it.

  4. #4


    I am a bit stuck as to what to do to get him to be a bit more territoral, alert, and confident, which is why I went for the german sheperd breed
    In short... you don't.
    You already have a perfect family pet with traits that most owners would kill for.

    I'll trade you my poodles voice box if you like.

    Alarms systems go pretty cheap these days, my partner works in security and installs all sorts of different ones.
    You can buy ones now that detect pets, anything under a certain weight/size will not be picked up by the sensor so you can leave it on while you are out and the dog won't set it off walking around.
    You can get glass break detectors, which don't actually measure breakage, they measure the vibration in the glass, so even someone tapping on it hard sets it off.
    You can get door sensors that go off if a door opens, motion detectors, infra-red... the list goes on.

    While I do agree that dogs can be good alarm systems, their presence alone is usually enough to deter them, perhaps look into getting one of those signs for your gate or door like this:

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Western Sydney


    I'll trade you my poodles voice box if you like

    I think you have a nice family pet dog. IMO barking dogs are in general a bad news esp bigger ones as barking can be associated with aggression.

    Like Kaz suggested you can teach your gsd to speak on command.
    I love cooking but I love eating even more.

  6. #6


    @ Kaz, Thanks yes I've never thought of it that way...

    I will investigate the teaching.

    He is very unsure of himself when he is alone, if someone like a friend enters the yard he runs around the back and hides.

    Yep thinking of adopting from a shelter, we adopted our cat from a shelter, would use the same group they are lovely.

    My parents have a lab and a much older german sheperd. Nextdoor has 5 'papillion?'s, it gets noisy but they have them upstairs at night.

    It is good to read your thoughts, I never thought of the not wanting to bark without another backing him up.

    @ Anne, thanks I am very happy with Bear already and am concerned that he is unhappy hence not barking and being very timid etc.

    @ Crested, love the sign....I'll do a bit more homework on the alarm systems

    Thank you all so much for your responses - lots of food for thought...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009


    Ok, but your post doesn't mention any concerns about him being happy, just the security bit.

    Buying him from a pet shop means that in all liklihood, the breeders were byb or he came form a puppy farm. Either way, it is very unlikely that his breeders were breeding for temperament. Buying from these kinds of sources also increases your risk of buying a dog that isn't what it is claimed to be. I am not surprised he is timid and not like you expected.

    Glad that you are getting some options here though from members. I hope it works out for you and for Bear.
    A pessimist sees the glass as half empty;
    An optimist sees the glass as half full;
    A realist just finishes the damn thing and refills it.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011


    I have a timid lab cross, who seems to show similar behaviour to your German shepherd. He used to barely bark and would not go anywhere near strangers. When someone approached him he'd run away and even growl at people when feeling trapped

    When he was younger did a lot of training with him, as advised by a local dog trainer. E.g. we'd ask friends or just random people who wanted to pet him (he was an extremely cute puppy !) to hold out their hands for him to sniff them. If he touched their hand with his nose he got a lot of praise and treats. We never forced him into a situation though and he was always allowed to retreat if not comfortable and hide behind our legs. Since nothing more dramatic happened he grew more confident over time. He still doesn't like being touched by strangers and he'll certainly never be one of those overly friendly dogs that come begging for pets and slobber all over complete strangers. But at least he doesn't run and hide anymore and he is just generally a lot more confident these days.

    He appears happier and that's good enough for me. I mean he may be never be mistaken for a vicious guard dog but surely there are benefits to this... As for us we don't have to worry about him knocking over little children in the park, jumping all over people or wandering off to play with our neighbours.

  9. #9


    We had a similar with our dog when she was younger. We would find that when you spoke her name - positive or negative she would become submissive. With our dog it was re-training her.... Food worked with her - we taught her to not come weeing if you are trying to pat her, to be calm when needed but not submissive. It took time but I also found that she grew out of it.

    Now she is only timid around new people ( i put that down to her breed ) or if in protective mode.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2009


    You could get an aussie terrier - ours was guaranteed to bark at anyone new on the place, and bite people who ignored her. The bane of all thieves.

    The dog I've got now is considered by other people to be extremely submissive but she will bark at anything that isn't right at night, or anybody coming into the back yard whether she knows them or not.

    She also barks at any bird that tries to land in the back yard - which I don't really need.

    My brother has a staffy that doesn't bark at anybody - because she was trained by a deaf dog when she was a puppy, ie it didn't hear anybody so it didn't bark - so neither did the staffy.

    She is about as safe in the back yard as a self propelled bowling ball though.

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