German Shepherds are undoubtedly some of the most valuable companions a person can have. They’re not just renowned for their skills and abilities as working dogs, but they are also incredibly loyal and loving family dogs.
They tend to get along well with all of their owner’s family members, even children. But what about other dogs? And what about animals, such as cats, birds, or even other species?
The answer is yes, German Shepherds can get along very well with other dogs and different animals. However, you as a GSD owner must be prepared and you’ll have to train your dog to coexist with other animals. As a herding dog, the breed can have a high prey drive which can make them predisposed to chase after smaller animals.
Do German Shepherds Get Along With Other Dogs?
To answer this question we need to take a look at the original intention and the history behind the development of the German Shepherd. This history can have a large effect on the temperament and personality of the modern GSD.
History and Background
Their creator, Captain Max von Stephanitz, bred them in an attempt to create the ultimate herding dog. While they were excellent at herding and guarding livestock, their talents did not end there, and they started to be used for police work and military service.
These duties required them to be brave, loyal, and occasionally, aggressive – all traits that would come to be associated with the breed, as German Shepherds became more commonly used as guardians and watchdogs rather than as herding dogs.
GSDs were also used as solitary dogs, which meant that they did not have as much socialisation and play with other dogs. This led to them being more territorial, displaying more guarding behaviour. In their role as police dogs and military dogs, this could be seen as a desirable trait.
However, modern German Shepherds do not only fulfil those roles, but a number of other roles as well. GSDs are now used as guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, and family pets.
The Breed as Family Pets
Since German Shepherds are also used as family pets, there is a greater likelihood of them interacting with other dogs. While they may be aggressive towards other dogs when raised to be military or police dogs, the same does not have to be true when they are raised as family pets.
By far, the greatest influence on a dog’s tendency to be aggressive towards other dogs is their training, socialisation, and upbringing. Many GSDs grow up to love playing and interacting with other dogs.
While they may start out as wary of other dogs due to their loyalty and protective instinct toward their owners, a well-socialised German Shepherd should not be aggressive. Given some time, they’ll learn to be friends with other dogs once proper introductions are made.
Of course, their interactions with other dogs will also depend on how well-behaved the other dogs are. Proper manners and doggy behaviours are key, and if the other dog is too rowdy or aggressive, there is a chance that a GSD will defend themselves if they do not feel safe.
However, if both the German Shepherd and the other dog are both well-behaved and understand each other, then there’s a good chance that they will get along just fine.
Socialising a German Shepherd
German Shepherd puppies should get a good amount of socialisation training before they turn 16 weeks old. This socialisation can begin as soon as they turn 8 weeks old, as this is the period when they begin to learn more about the world around them.
While a GSD puppy may not yet be able to play directly with other dogs due to their vaccination schedule at this age, they can still be exposed to various people, places, animals and situations.
This early exposure to a variety of experiences will help increase their confidence and make them less fearful of meeting both two- and four-legged strangers.
During this socialisation period, it’s best to engineer rewarding contact with other dogs and people. If a German Shepherd puppy associates making new friends with positive feelings, they’re much more likely to be friendly towards strangers in the future.
This can be done simply by taking your GSD puppy out with you to parks or other places where dogs are, even if they can’t play just yet. Praise your German Shepherd whenever they watch calmly or show gentle, non-aggressive interest in people or dogs. You can even give them treats so that they associate the experience with yummy rewards.
How Can German Shepherds Get Along With Other Animals?
The amount of training and socialization required for a German Shepherd to peacefully live with other animal species depends heavily on the dog’s natural prey drive. However, it’s difficult to determine this without first introducing the animals to one another – which may be dangerous if the GSD’s first instinct is to hunt down a smaller animal.
Other dog breeds, such as a French Bulldog, may be okay to interact with prey animals with no preparation, but they don’t have the strength, speed, and power of a German Shepherd. Certain more active breeds, like the Jack Russell or Shiba Inu puppy, can tend to be more reactive towards the GSD.
It’s best to take a proactive approach: train and socialize your GSD as though they have a high prey drive. Begin with the assumption that you’ll need to cultivate your German Shepherd’s ability to resist their prey drive, instead of thinking that they will get along with other animals naturally.
How To Get a German Shepherd To Get Along With a Cat
The first step to getting your German Shepherd to get along with a cat is to know your cat’s personality, inside and out. Some cats take naturally to dogs and treat them as friends, while others may hiss and claw at the larger dog.
If you have a cat breed with a laid-back personality, such as a Lynx Point Siamese, they may be more suited to living with dogs than more spirited or excitable breeds.
Assuming your cat is open and receptive to interacting with other animals, you then have to make the proper introductions.
If your cat is older and you’re bringing in a GSD puppy, then this is the best possible scenario. German Shepherds that grow up with cats tend to get along well with them, because they become accustomed to the cat being a part of their family. In many cases, it’s not uncommon for GSDs to protect the cat like they would a human.
Begin by giving them space away from each other, but within the house. This lets them get accustomed to each other’s smell. Then you can start bringing them together for short periods of time, always supervising their interactions.
How To Get a German Shepherd To Get Along With a Bird
Getting your German Shepherd to coexist with a bird is both easier and more difficult – it sounds like it doesn’t make sense, but let’s think about the circumstances of owning a bird. Most of the time, they’ll be in a cage, or in a locked room where they can fly around as they please.
Since they’re naturally separated from the GSD, there’s a little less risk that they may come into conflict. However, German Shepherds are both smart and athletic, and a focused and driven GSD has the ability to stalk and hunt birds that are trapped in a house.
Most bird cages also aren’t built to keep out a determined adult German Shepherd, who is more than strong enough to bend the bars to get at a bird. Make sure that, if you do have both a bird and a GSD, the bird cage is either out of the reach of the dog or is sturdy enough to keep them out.
If you do let the bird out of its cage to fly around, it should be done in a room or space where the German Shepherd is not allowed. GSDs can jump surprisingly high, especially if they have other furniture to use as a launchpad.
It’s also important to keep the bird’s emotional and mental well-being in mind when you get a dog. Even if your German Shepherd isn’t aggressive or hostile, it can still be an unpleasant experience for the bird. If you notice that your bird starts losing feathers or stops eating while your dog is in the house, they could be stressed out and suffering.
How to Get Everyone to Live Together Peacefully
The key to getting all your animals to coexist peacefully is to get them used to each other early. The younger the animal, the more receptive they are to new experiences, new stimuli, and to making new friends.
German Shepherd puppies are very moldable and trainable, and introducing them to your existing pets is the easiest way for them to learn that your other pets are part of the family. The older your GSD, the more likely they are to be set in their ways.
Start early, and your job will be much easier. German Shepherds are wonderful dogs that can learn how to do amazing things – they can definitely learn to get along with other animals.