Why does a German Shepherd Snarl?

Imagine this: A German Shepherd puppy is nibbling on a toy. So, the owner wants to take the toy away but the puppy then snarls at him. Immediately the human gets scared, runs to the computer, opens Google, and types “Why does a German Shepherd snarl?”… In this article, I will explain the truth behind this canine behavior.

german shepherd snarl

Why does your German Shepherd snarl?

Dogs are very honest in their vocal, gestural and body signals while humans are not honest in our communication. That means, a dog that is bored barks, moans, gesticulates and moves in accordance with what it wants to express. While its owner vocalizes that they will go out for a walk, his expression is that of annoyance and his body language is that of “I want to lie down to watch TV”.

So you will observe that when your German Shepherd snarls at you, it also gestures and moves according to its annoyance. Therefore, you must learn to decode that if your dog snarls at you, it is because your presence bothers them either by competition or by dominance.

In ethology we see the snarl of a dog as a “display” (chain of behaviors that preceed a certain behavior).

For example, if your dog emits a hoarse, deep and sustained growl, accompanied by the baring of the fangs, the hair on the back bristling and they look at you from the front, then they are at the activation point of the display that will lead to aggression.

german shepherd baring teeth

This ritualized behavior manifests itself in the face of intruders who endanger the pack or invade a territory or challenge the hierarchy of dominant dogs.

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But if your German Shepherd dog emits a long, normal-pitched growl, glances at you sideways and only shows their front teeth a little, then it’s a warning sent from a dominant position to whoever is bothering them.

Another scenario would be that your puppy growls at you from a submissive posture or ears pulled back and the growling is prolonged and shallow, while avoiding your gaze. In this case, the dog is telling you that they are afraid but if you provoke them further, they will bite you.

As you may have witnessed your German Shepherd snarl, it does not necessarily translate into an aggression. As the dog’s communication is honest, we must interpret that they growl at you because you annoy them and they want you to stop in your behaviors.

This is how many people confuse their dog’s grumbling growls or the growls for fear of being bathed with aggression. The first thing you should consider before demonizing your dog’s snarl if they expose their teeth is that your dog is honest and is saying “Stop, you’re annoying”.

What to do if your German Shepherd snarls at you?

Before correcting, the best thing is to educate, establish rules and limits – a dog is very happy if they live at home with a strict and fair leader. Be honest with the dog as they are – if you do not want them to get on the couch or the bed, be firm about it.

In summary, if your German Shepherd snarls at you, do not panic before analyzing the reason for their behavior. Be aware that if your dog snarls at you, it is because you lack the character to be their leader.

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But fear not, they will not bite you if you stop bothering them, although that would be a behavior of submission.

Take your dog to a group or canine training center that has a certified ethologist to work with the education of your dog. On this website, you will find more information on this subject that is not limited to the German Shepherd but for all breeds of dogs. So now you know the answer to “Why does a German Shepherd snarl”.