Can a German Shepherd Dog Kill You? (With Stats and Real Cases)

German Shepherds are large dogs. Their bites force can be as powerful as 238 PSI (pounds per square inch), which means it’s strong enough to break a bone and cause very serious physical injuries.  In extreme cases, it could be fatal.

German Shepherd Dogs can literally kill a person with their bites. Data from 2005-2016 recorded 4.6% of fatal dog attacks were caused by German Shepherds. That said, German Shepherds kill less than 2.3 people per year in the US. Most of the fatalities are either the very old and the very young.

What are the odds of being killed by a German Shepherd Dog?

Overall, you have a 1 in 112,400 chance of dying from a dog attack. This means you’re more likely to die from a fall, a car accident, choking, or a bee sting, than from a dog attack. (Source)

Dog attacks cause about 30 to 50 lives in the US each year. And less than 2.3 were caused by German Shepherd. Most of the fatalities tend to be the two extremes, the very old and the very young.

Unfortunately, German Shepherds, among Pitbull-type breeds and Rottweilers, are responsible for the most “damaging” bites per year, according to American Animal Hospital Association.

How do people die from dog attacks?

A large dog like a German Shepherd weighting over 100 lbs can jump over and knock down an adult in a split second, if they choose to. Here are some of the  common fatal attacks caused by large to medium-sized dogs:

  • Bitten on the neck, throat, arm, or legs
  • Multiple bites by one or a pack of dogs
  • Excessive blood loss due to injuries
  • Rabies as a result of bites from non-vaccinated dog

Will German Shepherds Dogs kill their owners?

Now that you know German Shepherd could kill people, I figure you are probably wondering: Will German Shepherds kill their owners? 

Between 2010 and 2020, there were 21 fatal dog attacks caused by German Shepherds in the US. And 13 of those had the owners or their family killed. The numbers round up to 1.3 cases of German Shepherds killing their owners or their family at home per year. 

Summary of fatal attacks by German Shepherd in the United States (2010-2020)

  • 18 (85.7%) were either young children and elderly
  • 13 (61.9%) were killed by their own dogs or dogs owned by their family
  • 13 (61.9%) were children 14 years old or younger 
  • 9 (42.8%)  were 2 years or younger (as young as 9 days)
  • 5 (23.8%)  were over 65 years of age

Will German Shepherds Dogs eat their dead owners?

The result may surprise you and even the most experienced forensic examiners. 

Dogs, including German Shepherds, do eat human body after they die. When dogs scavenged dead owners, 73 percent involved bites to the face, the rest involve bites on necks, thighs and abdomen. (Source)

Let’s look at a real case that involved a German Shepherd. In 1997, a forensic examiner in Berlin reported a 31-year-old man who owned a German Shepherd was found dead of a gunshot wound to the mouth, a pistol under his hands and a farewell note on a table. 

Most of his face and neck were gone – and there were tooth marks around the edges of the wounds. A half-full bowl of dog food sat on the floor. (which indicated the dog had access to food or not in hunger.)

Police reported that his German shepherd was calm when they arrived. On the way to an animal sanctuary, the dog vomited some of its owner’s tissue, including skin with still-recognizable beard hair. (Source)

Why dogs kill their owners?

Ron Berman is a Canine Behavioural Consultant and Forensic Dog Bite Expert. He is one of the most experienced dog attack experts in the United States, having dealt with almost 900 cases with 24 years of experience.

In an interview with MirrorOnline after a woman killed and eaten by her two pit bulls, Ron identified six possible reasons that might have led to such tragedy:

  1. Lack of human contact – Prolong isolation takes away a dog’s trust in humans. This will make a dog semi-wild and they may react with fear when someone approaches them. Fear will make a dog attack.
  2. Cross-breed factor – It might produce dogs with unpredictable temperaments. 
  3. Not being fed well – When dogs eat a person after the person is dead, chances are they’re in extreme hunger or not been fed for days.
  4. Not on leash – Accidents or animal bites are greatly reduced when owners use a leash properly.
  5. Redirective aggression – If a dog chases an animal in the wild and someone tries to interrupt, the dog may turn the aggression to the person instead.
  6. The owner lacks alpha – if a dog owner is not being an assertive leader of the pack, the dog becomes the leader and takes over.

It is rare for dogs to kill and eat their owner. But Ron made it clear that there’s no guarantee. Even if you love your dog very much and he’s your trusted pet since you brought him home as a puppy – anything can happen, he said.

What will happen to the owners of a dog that killed someone?

Dog owners could face legal liabilities, fines, charged with serious crimes or imprisonment if their dog injures or kills a person. Previous cases had shown owners could be convicted of negligent homicide and/or second-degree murder.

While the rights as a victim of a dog bite depend on the laws in your state, the owners will likely be sued if for such incidents. In 2019, the average settlement amount for a dog bite claim was $44,760 nationwide.

What will happen to a dog if it kills a person?

In most cases, the dog will be confiscated or euthanized. And it is not uncommon that the dog will be shot to death right at the place of the incident in order to save the victim.

The Bottom Line

While it is important to introduce training to your German Shepherd early on, you should learn to read the signs as well. That may include barking, growling, lowered head, front teeth showing, or ears pinned back.

Last but not least, no matter how tame or obedient you think your GSD is, you must always in full alert when you have young children at home. Never ever let your dog stay with children unattended. And always care for seniors who have dogs at home.

Image by 3636444 from Pixabay