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Stubborn German Shepherd: 7 Reasons Why & What To Do

German shepherds are known for being particularly obedient, so stubborn behavior can stump even the most experienced owners.

I’ll run through 7 main reasons why German shepherds may become stubborn, and I’ll cover things you can do to overcome this pesky behavior.

7 Reasons why German shepherds become stubborn:

  • They sense a lack of authority
  • Insufficient training
  • Insufficient exercise
  • Lack of mental stimulation
  • Reinforcement of stubborn behavior
  • Something is distracting them
  • Underlying health issues

Is Stubborn Behavior Normal In German Shepherds?

Despite being one of the most highly intelligent breeds out there, GSDs certainly have their fair share of stubborn behavior and tendencies.

It’s important to remember that German shepherds are strong-minded and independent, meaning they oftentimes push limits and try to defy commands.

This confuses many owners because German shepherds are also known for being very obedient…

And that’s true, but several things need to be in check for a German shepherd to be obedient like everyone thinks they are.

So while most people know GSDs as very obedient, if they aren’t trained well enough or satisfied with their routine, environment, and lifestyle, a GSD will more than likely be very stubborn.

stubborn german shepherd

7 Reasons Why Your German Shepherd Is Stubborn

Let’s run through the 7 most common reasons why a German shepherd will demonstrate stubborn behavior.

For your GSD, it could be just one, or a combination of the causes below. So always keep in mind everything from your shep’s daily routine, lifestyle, and environment.

1. They sense a lack of authority

German shepherds need a clear leader who they view as the “alpha”. Most of the time, this happens quickly and naturally if you are the one to consistently train, instruct, feed, play, and care for your GSD.

Issues start to arise if your GSD senses a lack of authority or can’t establish who the leader of the home is.

If this is the case, they will take it upon themselves to fulfill that role. This can result in bad behavior, a lot of defiance, and of course stubborn behavior.

The clearer it is to them that you are the boss, the more they’ll be inclined to listen to you.

2. Insufficient training

Stubborn behavior could be the result of a lack of overall training. Perhaps your GSD is still only very young anyway, or you’ve skipped a few too many sessions over the years…

Either way, consistently training basic commands like sit, stay, down, paw, come, and drop establish the foundation to good behavior and strict obedience.

It’s all too common that owners stop command training quickly after their GSD demonstrates the command once or twice…

The more your GSD gets used to doing what you say, the more this will transfer into daily life, not just training sessions.

3. Insufficient exercise

Many owners may not connect stubborn behavior with a lack of exercise, but it’s certainly one of the most common causes!

German shepherds thrive on an active lifestyle where they have plenty of outlets to release their energy (both physically and mentally)…

If your GSD isn’t quite receiving the physical exercise they truly need, this will result in pent up energy causing destructive behavior, frustration, boredom, and defiance.

A well-exercised German shepherd will be calmer, allowing them to be more receptive to your commands and instructions.

4. Lack of mental stimulation

A lack of mental stimulation is a huge contributor to bad behavior, stress, anxiety, disobedience, and pretty much all the things you don’t want!

GSDs are highly intelligent and absolutely must have their minds put to work… Solving tasks, following commands, and having to think is just as important as physical exercise is.

Without sufficient mental stimulation, a GSD will never completely be satisfied, and negative behavioral tendencies like stubbornness will be a common result.

A few tips for improved mental stimulation:

  • Consistent command training
  • Socializing with other dogs
  • Puzzle toys
  • Nose work games
  • Agility training

I’ve got a complete article detailing the 8 best ways to mentally stimulate your German shepherd here. Check it out!

5. Reinforcement of stubborn behavior

Wait, what?

Yep, accidental reinforcement of the very behavior you’re trying to discourage is easy to do.

In the case of stubborn behavior, it’ll go something like this: You’re calling your German shepherd to come back inside, but they plonk their bum down outside and just stare at you, refusing…

So then after a few failed calls, you resort to bribing them with a toy, treat, or any kind of pacifying action.

While this may work in some cases, the ultimate lesson from this is that your GSD has just learned that refusing your command at first, leads to good things shortly after.

Dogs learn quickly by association, and it won’t take long before your GSD pairs stubborn behavior with tasty bribes!

6. Something more interesting is distracting them

This is perhaps more of an innocent reason for stubborn behavior, but nonetheless still annoying.

If your German shepherd is refusing your calls to come back inside, it could simply be that they’re smelling something interesting or listening to the neighbor’s pets next door.

Sometimes, if there’s something else going on more interesting than you, your commands will get ignored.

Truthfully, however, if sufficient training has been put in, your GSD should still be inclined to listen to your commands even if there are other distractions present.

It’s worth keeping this one in mind.

7. Underlying health issues or pain

In more unfortunate circumstances your German shepherd could be dealing with an existing health issue or pain.

Dogs dealing with a health issue or chronic pain will react in a range of ways, but disobedience and defiance is one of the most common.

Typically, if something is wrong with your GSD there will be multiple indicators happening at once.

If your German shepherd has drastically changed their behavior and temperament all of a sudden, it’s worth contacting your veterinarian to be on the safe side.

If you witness physical symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or food refusal then its important to speak to your vet as soon as possible.

Ways To Prevent Stubbornness In German Shepherds

Lets run through the best tips and tricks to prevent stubborn behavior in GSDs.

1. Consistent daily training

Training your GSD on a daily basis will not only increase their skills and ability to carry out commands, but it will reduce bad behavior, defiance, and stubbornness.

Try dedicating 30-45 minutes to basic command training, and see how your GSDs behavior improves over the course of 2-3 weeks.

2. Avoid situations that trigger stubbornness

A classic example of this is calling your GSD back inside from the door. This is giving your GSD an opportunity to be stubborn…

It’s best to avoid this. For example, before calling them back in, go outside and interact with them for 5 or 10 minutes… After a while head closer to the door and encourage them inside.

This is a much better approach than simply calling your GSD from the door. That’s asking for a stubborn response.

3. Provide enough physical and mental stimulation

Ensuring your German shepherd’s physical and mental stimulation needs are taken care of will result in better overall behavior and quality of life.

A GSD that is calm and content will be more than happy to obey your commands the second your give them.

Getting a calm and content GSD is all about providing a great daily routine with everything they need (particularly their stimulation needs).

4. Interact with your German shepherd more

Simply improving your bond with your German shepherd can also work wonders when it comes to their obedience and willingness to listen to you.

If you’re bond is strong, your GSD will have no problems obeying your commands.

One way to build your bond is to simply interact and engage with your dog more. Other than being the one to feed them and play with them, ensure you train, brush, bathe, talk, and engage with them.

All small actions like this will ultimately create a better bond and help establish you as their clear leader.

Do You Have a Stubborn German Shepherd?

Let me know if your German shepherd is acting stubborn. Or, if you’ve dealt with the situation before please message in letting me know how you tackled it!

Thanks for reading! Back to more German shepherd articles.


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. For the FULL disclaimer Visit Here

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