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Thinking of getting a new dog and wondering, “Are German Shepherds good with kids?”
You’re on the right track doing your research first. Bringing a dog into your life is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly – especially with such a large breed!
To make your decision easier, I’ll give you the best tips for selecting a forever friend for your family.
Is A German Shepherd Child-Friendly?
Yes, a German Shepherd is child-friendly and enjoys children when properly socialized and trained. They are a highly intelligent breed that is specially selected throughout history for their loyal, watchful temperament with their families.
A properly trained GSD is a good addition to a home with children when the
children are taught to respect the dog and the dog is taught to respect the
Yes, the German Shepherd is generally known as a gentle family pet and steadfast guardian. This breed has a history of patience and tolerance, both qualities that are sought after for families.
While the GSD takes to its family, the GSD is still aloof with strangers and is usually not outwardly friendly to those outside the family unit. For some families, this is a highly desired trait.
In general, large dogs are often a better choice than little dogs when your family includes small children and toddlers. Large breeds, like the GSD, are less likely to get hurt when accidentally stepped on or tripped over.
Keeping Your Child Safe With a German Shepherd
Many problems between children and GSDs develop when neither understands the body language of the other. Small kids get over-excited, move rapidly and unexpectedly and scream in high-pitched voices.
GSDs may interpret these actions and noises as invitations to play. When in
fact the child might consider the dog interacting as a fearful event.
A GSD’s attempts to befriend and play with a child might appear as an attack by the child, causing long-term mental trauma to the child.
Shepherd’s are large dogs friendly to their family. Keep in mind the
following when considering this energetic breed:
A GSD likes to lick children’s faces as he does to other dogs. But such action increases a small child’s fear.
An exciting game of chase and tag nearly always ends with the child getting knocked over. Your dog may believe the child’s cries of distress are a sign of play and a large GSD may jump on top, making matters worse for the child.
GSDs love to jump and are highly active. Thus, small kids are easy targets for accidental knockdowns during greetings.
Both Shepherds and children need supervision to prevent misunderstandings. Don’t leave children and dogs unsupervised!
Even kids who aren’t always scared of a large dog need to be watched when interacting with dogs!
A Puppy or Adult for a Family?
GSD puppies are a lot of work! Young families with pre-school age kids are
advised to delay getting a puppy until the youngest child is at least five
Some families with young children choose a puppy thinking they are safer and
easier to train than older, adult Shepherds. But this isn’t always necessarily
Puppies are fragile. They require more time and care and are prone to
play-related scratching, jumping, and biting.
They aren’t appropriate for homes with young children. Especially homes
where the parents are busy and can’t provide the training and basic needs of
such an active breed.
Look for a Known Child-Friendly German Shepherd
The best choice for many families is to find a young adult GSD who previously lived successfully with children. This means the rescue or previous owner knows the German Shepherd is child-friendly through the dog’s history.
Look for a dog who obviously LOVES kids! Not a dog who merely tolerates kids.
Check with your local German Shepherd Dog rescues or other dog organizations for adoptable adult dogs that show success with families.
The best GSD for kids is those GSDs who receive proper socialization, positive family-friendly training, proper amounts and the right type of exercise, and attention.
Don’t underestimate how much time and resources your GSD needs!
Teach Your Children to be Shepherd Savvy
Your dog needs training so theylearn to regulate their behavior around your family. Fortunately, this breed is one of the smartest dogs in the world and responds well to obedience commands.
German Shepherds get along with children when both the child and dog take active and successful steps to live with one another. Success starts with adult planning, participation, and direction.
First, parents teach the GSD how to act in a controlled manner through home obedience, also known as German Shepherd lure and reward training. Second, parents must teach children how to control the trained dog.
Training is a family effort but must start with the adults.
Getting Along with Rewards
Give your children tasty treats and teach them how to lure-reward train your
dog. Your dog soon learns to positively associate petting and stroking with
Your GSD quickly learns that training is fun and LOVES training by children! As your dog learns to come, sit, lie down and roll over by your children he willingly accepts and enjoys the child’s company.
Performing the basic commands when given shows that your GSD acknowledges and respects the child’s requests. Rolling over on request, or performing another command such as down, means your dog shows willing and happy appeasement.
A major side effect of lure-reward training is your dog grows to like and respect his trainer. In this case, he learns that children are fun and give tasty treats!
Besides socialization, basic training is one of the biggest contributors to a well-behaved dog.
A Shepherd’s High-Energy Needs with Your Family
This is a working breed that needs daily exercise, and not just a walk around the neighborhood. They don’t do well in backyards or separated from their families penned up in an outdoor or indoor kennel for long times.
As a pastoral or herding breed, the Shepherd needs exercise to avoid behavioral issues, such as anxiousness. They do best with two hours of exercise a day.
At a minimum, they need two 30-minute walks daily and plenty of mental stimulation and training.
Do you have an active family? Do your kids love to run, swim and hike?
If so, this breed will match your energetic family!
If you prefer to stay indoors and are a quiet family, then they will likely overwhelm your family with their energy needs. It’s not unheard of for them to jog a 10k with their owner, only to still have the energy to do the route again.
Use Playtime to Help Bonding With Your Family
Play interactively with your dog frequently to burn energy. This also helps them to stay fit, toned, and healthy.
If you’re an active family willing to devote time to your dog, then they are a perfect match!
Interactive games with your children, like fetch, help your GSD to bond with
them. But teach your child how to end the game on his or her terms to maintain
control over your dog.
The German Shepherd is good with kids and families who are active and enjoy fun activities with their pets! If you’re looking to get a German Shepherd, then read up on how to buy a German Shepherd puppy first.
Will Your GSD Respect Your Kids
Yes, but only with an adult’s guidance first. They are one of the most intelligent breeds and need the training to help them achieve their best behavior.
Be sure to tell your whole family to stick to the training program in order to have the most success with your dog. Post the instructions for training in an area where your kids can see them every day.
Show your kids how to perform the commands appropriately and remind them that training the dog is a family event.
Teach your kids to respect that your dog is not always available to them. Don’t allow your children to take your dog’s food while he’s eating or to try and play with your dog when he’s resting or needs a calm moment to himself.
Is a German Shepherd Right for Your Family?
So, is a German Shepherd a good family dog? And, are German Shepherds good with kids?
When they are given the appropriate training, exercise, and care.
A GSD is a larger breed dog that is generally tolerant of grabs, prods, and occasional tail tugs from children in the family. Many families adopt or buy German Shepherds because they are so loyal to their families, especially kids.
While large dog, they generally enjoy their close family members and may see kids as their flock that needs protection. They need plenty of exercise and love the outdoors.
Visit Shepherd Sense to find out everything you need to know about owning and caring for your next German Shepherd.
Catherine Krasavin owns Shepherd Sense, a dog website aimed at German Shepherd owners and lovers. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, with Honors, and has been training dogs for over a decade. Catherine’s currently attending continuing education courses to keep up with the latest in animal science, as well as earning her diploma in dog training. She owns a plush coat German Shepherd who was awarded Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme Gold Award - the highest level of achievement.
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