German Shepherd Fails Service Dog Training


A German Shepherd, a breed known for their intelligence, strength, and loyalty has been the traditional choice for assistance dogs. Despite this, a number of German Shepherds fail service dog training due to temperament and health issues. This is an important issue for pet owners to keep in mind when considering adopting or purchasing a German Shepherd as a service animal. This article will discuss the reasons why some German Shepherds may not be suitable as a service dog, what could lead them to fail training, and the other types of working dogs with the potential for successful service dog training.

Physical Limitations

German Shepherds are renowned for their strength, intelligence, and loyalty, but like all dogs, they must navigate a variety of physical limitations in order to succeed as service animals. Some of the most common issues facing German Shepherds involve their size. As large and powerful dogs, they can be intimidating in environments such as hospitals and schools. Additionally, their sheer mass can make it difficult for them to maneuver tight or crowded spaces without accidentally knocking something over or running into someone.

In addition to this size issue, German Shepherds are prone to arthritis and hip dysplasia which can make service tasks more arduous than those performed by smaller breeds that do not suffer from such joint problems. Many German Shepherds also have difficulty with recognizing verbal commands or focusing on tasks due to shorter attention spans caused by a genetically inherited condition known as benign hereditary motor sensory neuropathy (HMN-P). Though medical advances offer hope for controlling these conditions through diet and exercise, physically impaired German Shepherds may still struggle to complete critical service dog tasks such as leading the blind, hauling wheelchairs, or assisting disabled individuals in everyday activities.

Behavioral Issues

German Shepherds are very intelligent and loyal dogs but, like all breeds, they can present certain challenges when it comes to service dog training. The most common behavioral issues that prevent German Shepherds from succeeding in service dog training include:

– Excessive barking: German Shepherds are especially prone to excessive barking, which can be disruptive and potentially dangerous in a service setting.

– Territorial behavior: German Shepherds are naturally territorial and protective of their owners, families, and environments. This can make them too aggressive towards strangers and other animals if not properly trained.

– Leash reactivity: German Shepherds may become reactive when on a leash due to anxiety or aggression towards unfamiliar stimuli. Without proper socialization and desensitization techniques, this behavior can create safety issues for the handler or those around them.

– Hyperactivity: Some German Shepherds may have too much energy to stay focused on task instruction or stay within the confines of a service environment. Many require regular exercise to manage this behavior.

– Destructive behaviors: If not given adequate stimulation and entertainment, some German Shepherds may resort to destructive behaviors such as chewing on furniture or engaging in digging activities.

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Socialization Effects

Poor socialization can negatively impact a German Shepherd’s ability to pass service dog training. A lack of exposure to different environments and situations can lead to fear and anxiety, which can make it difficult for a canine companion to focus on the task at hand. As service dogs are often exposed to unique circumstances, an untrained pup may become overwhelmed and be unable to complete tasks or obey commands. Additionally, poor socialization can cause a German Shepherd to act aggressively towards strangers or other animals, which is unacceptable behavior for any animal in a service position. Lastly, if not properly socialized during puppyhood, these dogs may be reluctant when interacting with people and rely too heavily on their handlers’ directions instead of displaying trust and independence in dealing with new people and situations. Therefore, it is necessary for German Shepherds that seek to work as service animals to have an even temperament and confidence that arises from early positive experiences – both of which are difficult for poorly socialized animals to attain.

Big Picture Solutions

In order to enhance their German Shepherd’s chances at passing service dog training, owners should first ensure that their dogs receive full, comprehensive obedience training. Dogs with basic commands such as sit and stay down can easily transition into service dog and therapy jobs; however, animals without those skills may find the transition more difficult. Additionally, owners should ensure their dogs have adequate socialization experience to be around people in a variety of settings and under different circumstances. Socializing is important for developing an animal’s behavioral responses to new situations and environments. Exercise is also essential for ensuring energy levels remain balanced and consistent. Finally, owners should strongly consider the personality traits and behaviors of their German Shepherd when enrolling in a service dog training program. Dogs with aggressive tendencies or uncontrollable barking behaviors may not fit the role of a service animal or therapy dog.

Tips and Advice

1. Ensure your German Shepherd is up to date on all its vaccinations and regular vet check-ups: Making sure that your pet is healthy for service training can help it succeed with ease. Take the time to see that all their annual shots are current and up to date, so that no health issues will impede upon their training proceedings.

2. Start Service Dog Training Early: It is important to start service dog training from a very young age. This helps familiarize the pup with obedience commands and proper etiquette before they become an adult.

3. Enrichment Activities: Keep them physically active but also mentally stimulated by introducing puzzles and toys that they have to find around the house or by playing hide and seek with them in a local park or open field setting.

4. Socialization Exercises: Have them interact regularly with other animals and people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds, so they can learn how to respond in a give-and-take fashion leading up to more formalized service dog areas of discipline.

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5. Positive Reinforcement Techniques: Always make sure you are providing your pup with rewards when they accomplish what they are being asked either through treats or by offering verbal commendations such as “good job” or “well done!”

6. Patience & Consistency: Having patience during this process is key as it could take weeks or even months for a German Shepherd to successfully complete service dog training depending on the difficulty level. Also, consistency needs to be maintained; sticking to the same commands with the same verbiage at every practice session will prevent confusion for both the pup and the trainer(s).

Supplemental Resources

1. German Shepherd Dog Club of America: This website offers information on the history, temperament, and training requirements for German Shepherds. It also provides resources and advice to help owners find a reputable breeder and choose the right dog for their family.

2. Service Dog Trainer Learning Programs: Organizations like Executive Protection K9 offer a variety of courses designed to teach owners about service dog training. Their courses cover basics like puppy imprinting, scent detection, tracking, and emergency response.

3. The World of Dogs: A forum dedicated to engaging discussions about all breeds of dogs, including German Shepherds.

4. German Shepherd Training Books: Popular titles about learning how to train a German Shepherd include “Training the Working German Shepherd” by Pam Dennison and Joan Orr’s “Raising & Training a German Shepherd Puppy Like a Pro”.

5. National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS): Puppy School instructors at NAPPS are trained in obedience tasks that are important for service dog trainers such as walking on a loose leash and coming when called in public settings. Owners can access local puppy training classes that meet their needs as well as webinars hosted by experts in the field.


Though German Shepherds have been used successfully as service dogs in the past, it has become increasingly difficult for them to succeed. This is due to the fact that many of today’s breeding standards emphasize show-dog qualities rather than service needs. As such, owners must ensure their German Shepherd dogs have strong health and work ethics as a top priority when selecting a puppy. Additionally, they should seek out reputable trainers who are experienced and knowledgeable in helping these animals succeed in service dog training. With proper health and training, any German Shepherd can be successful as a service dog with patience and dedication from its owner.

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