Gender Issues: Male versus Female

Here are some questions we get concerning choosing a male or female puppy:

What is the difference in temperament between your male dogs and your female dogs? – O.C.

Yes, I’ve been told that a female GSD would be better for our needs. Is it true that females are less likely to be aggressive? – Mary B.

Is it true that female GSDs are better for novice owners? – Don

We need a female puppy, we have been told only the females are good with small children. – Elaine

Is it true that male GSDs get along better with other dogs, I have heard female dogs will not get along together and may fight? – Todd

Is it true that male GSDs bond better with the family, I have heard that females are more independent. – Chris

We would like to have a male but we have been told male GSDs do not get along with other dogs. – Leslie.

I need a dog for protection, so only a male puppy would work for me, I know females are not very protective. – Juan

This is only a very small sampling of questions we receive concerning the differences between the sexes in GSDs. There are many myths regarding the matter of choosing the “correct” gender of your dog. In attempting to answer these questions and address the myths, I must first clarify my answer with the following information:

How a dog behaves as an adult is determined by two primary factors:
When we speak to the differences between the males and females we must always keep these to factors in mind because both play a part in how a dog will behave.

Obviously the most important factor in adult behavior in a dog is environment. We have often found that very similar litter-mates grow into very different adult dogs because they have grown up in two very different environments. How a dog is raised, trained, and the environment he lives in plays a huge role in his behavior as an adult dog.

However, it is undeniable that genetics also plays a role in adult behavior, and many of a dogs natural behavioral tendency’s are inherited.

The overlying lesson would be that, no matter which gender you choose, you should select a puppy from parents whose behavior is similar to the type of dog you are looking for. For example, if your household is full of teenagers who often have teenage friends over, you may wish for a gregarious dog who is open and friendly with those he does not know well (i.e. your kid’s friends). If you choose a puppy from parents who are naturally suspicious with strangers, no matter if you choose a female or male, you are likely to have problems. On the other hand, if your spouse often travels, and you would prefer a dog who is a natural protector (i.e. aloof and naturally suspicious) you might be unhappy with an outgoing, I love everyone, type of dog (even if you choose a male).

Once you have determined what your basic needs are and you have found a puppy with parents who are very close to your “ideal” GSD in natural behavior you can then take responsibility for making sure your puppy grows into the dog of your dreams by ensuring he, or she, is raised and trained in such a way that you are guaranteed of success. Never assume a puppy raised without such a plan will grow up to be a dog you would like to own; make it happen through careful consideration, preparation, and training.

Now to the myths…

Myth number 1. Males are more aggressive then females. (This can also be restated as: males are better for schutzhund or protection; or the converse, that females are less aggressive and thus not good for sport or protection, but are always good for novice owners with small children, or with lots of visitors running in and out of their house.)

Busted! This is a common, and completely unfounded, myth even among many breeders, and it is very common among not-very-experienced schutzhund folks. But anyone who has raised very many dogs from puppy hood knows this is just not true. Some females are exceptionally courageous and some males are cowardly. Some males are good with other males and some females are fighters. Having raised many sets of male/female litter mates (such as Hasso and Helge, Frisco and Fina) it is very obvious to us that behavioral tendencies run in families and that if a male is very aggressive (or fearful) it is likely that his litter sisters are also very aggressive (or fearful). We do not see courageous, hard fighting, over-the-top males without also finding very similar full sisters. The other end also holds true; if a dog lacks courage, or even confidence, it is very likely that the siblings do as well. So, if a female puppy is lacking in confidence choosing a male from that litter is likely only going to mean that you will end up with a male who lacks confidence.

What does seem true is that there is a great degree of similarity between well-bred siblings in regards to behavior. What is also true is that each (good) breeder has a preference for particular type of temperament and that “ideal” temperament is subjective, and may be very different between breeders. So, the temperament and personality of our males is very similar to those traits in our females, however, our dogs may be very different in these traits than those from a different breeder with different priorities, even if the dogs are of the same gender. This means a male from me is most likely very similar to my females but he may not behave at all like a male from someone else’s breeding program.

So, when considering any puppy from any breeder what is most important is NOT the gender of the dog but instead the behavioral tendencies of the parents/grandparent, etc. So, if you desire a particular type of personality in your adult dog, do not select a puppy from parents whose behavior is markedly different. Do not fool yourself into believing that a puppy from parents who show any unnatural aggression (i.e. handler aggression, dog aggression, toy aggression, or food aggression) is not going to have a strong tendency towards these behaviors himself or herself. So, if you do not want any of these traits in your dog do not consider getting a puppy from parents who posses any of these behaviors themselves.

Instead, choose a puppy from parents who themselves are very close to your ideal. If you need an aloof, one family/person type dog to protect you or your family, do not select a male puppy from two “lab-like” social butterflies and think that just because he is a male he is going to be a natural guardian. This will not be the case and your needs would have been better met by a female from two naturally protective parents.

On the other hand, if you know that you prefer an “novice friendly” dog who is gregarious and won’t mind lots of company, kids, and other visitors, don’t even consider a puppy from aloof, naturally suspicious parents. Even if you choose a female puppy you will find she is still going to be aloof (and perfectly able to act on her suspicions).

Myth Number 2: Male dogs do not get along with other male dogs; female dogs do not get along with other female dogs; and finally, the ever-popular, opposite-sex pairs always get along well.

Busted! If you have a dog already, do not think that simply choosing a dog of the opposite sex is a guarantee of success. Instead invest some time in truly understanding the temperament of your dog, if your grown dog is not always sociable with other dogs fix that problem first, before you bring a new puppy home. Do not think simply adding a dog of a different sex is the answer, some dogs are far more tolerant of rude behavior from another dog and some have a very low tolerance, know your dog and know the social tendencies of the parents of any puppy you are considering. Well matched dogs of any sex can get along well together. Our males and female mix freely. Obviously we have more females then males and all our girls socialize freely with each other (and the boys) during long “turn out play times” in our yard. We have no problems with female to female aggression among our dogs and indeed many of our girls are BFF with other female dogs, and these friendships often last their entire lives.

Many males are tolerant of other males too, those neutered early and raised in a dog social environment are the best, while some intact males, raised in social isolation are the worst. Many of our visitors would comment on our two males Frisco and Hasso and how well they interacted together and indeed these two males spent hours together, unsupervised, in our play area with all their lady friends. Our intact and neutered males socialize freely in most cases, we occasionally have intact males that require supervision when playing with other intact males and this is most common in “teenager” males between the ages of 2 and 4 years. Some bloodlines produce males exceptionally well suited to multi-male environments, for example our male Hasso was exceptionally good with other males and he has passed this trait onto his sons and grandsons, who have no interest in “posturing” or other boy dog games. Our male Xano tended to produce “social climbers’ who often engage in social posturing and other boy dog games, these males are not well suited for multi male environments except with experienced trainer/owners or if they are neutered prior to puberty. Being able to recognize traits such as these is one benefit of going to an experienced breeder/trainer for your puppy.

Finally, some male/female teams are not good either. Dogs, like people, can sometimes rub someone the wrong way and and a pair of mismatched dogs can, even if they are male/female, not enjoy each others company… and when the dogs don’t get along nobody is happy.

For most novice owners one male dog per household is enough, while multiple females are rarely a problem (if well bred and raised) raising multiple males can be a challenge. We most often recommend male/female pairs, but this is not always the case as each situation and the dogs involved are unique.

Remember, if you desire a multi-dog household, start with a puppy from social parents who enjoy the company of other dogs (as all GSDs with correct temperament should) and then raise your dog in such a way that your dogs respect each other and get along well together (we are happy to help out in this!). When raised properly a well bred GSD will enjoy the company of familiar dogs almost as much as they enjoy their human family.