Maryland Pet

Q & A: A Cowardly German Shepherd

Question: A Scared German Shepherd

“I have a 18 month-old German Shepherd that has been obedience trained. I wanted to take my dog through a “personal protection” class and signed up to have him evaluated. The class is offered by a very highly recommended dog trainer.  The purpose of the evaluation was supposedly to see if my dog was capable of undergoing that type of training.”

“The class was very interesting, offering different types of scenarios to test my dog’s ability to protect. The trainer instructed me to walk with my dog down a designated pathway. Halfway along the trail, some shabby-dressed man jumped down from a tree, yelling like crazy and firing a mock-gun that sounded terribly real (It even scared me!).”

“Anyways, when the man jumped out and shot the gun off, my dog just jumped up and tried his best to scurry away. Because of this, the trainer said that my dog would never be a suitable candidate for protection training, because, and I quote: “He was a coward”. Do you know of anything I could do to alter the situation? I bought my dog for the specific purpose of being a family protector.”


For starters, I’m not so sure that you should trust anyone that recommended that trainer, who is supposedly “highly recommended”. This of course is not your fault, but sometimes good dog trainers get confused with the bad ones. Anyways, about the issue – let’s look at the situation from a different angle – that of the confused, scared animal.

Any dog can be scared into running away. Regardless of the breed or how tough an animal can be when facing danger, every animal is built with the survival mechanism to get away from danger and stay alive. This “training procedure” that was done with your dog was not only irrelevant to the dog’s protective abilities, it only served to set off his instincts to run from an unknown attack, one that came on with total surprise.

If a crazy person jumped out of a tree and shot off a gun in my face I’d be running as fast as possible too! Such a test is not an indicator of a dog’s prowess for becoming a protection dog. It means that the trainer has more work cut out for him than he would have if the dog had instinctively attacked.

The mark of a good trainer is that he take a less than perfect dog and brings him to his maximum peak of perfection. So I can leave you with two important pieces of advice:

1) Your dog will be an excellent protector. I would dare you to have him in the yard at night and send a stranger to jump over the fence, then you will see how well your dog will love and protect its family!

Note: Please do NOT do this, it is merely an example of my point.

2) Shop around for a trainer who is willing to accept your dog’s behavior as a personal challenge.

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