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Are German Shepherds Good With Kids?

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Are German Shepherds Good With Kids?

German Shepherds have been used throughout history as protectors. The most intelligent and loyal Shepherd dogs were bred in Germany in the 1800s to make what is known as the German Shepherd Dog, or GSD, today. 

They were working dogs whose primary task was to protect flocks of sheep from predators. The German Shepherd’s reputation quickly spread due to their incredible sense of smell, intelligence, loyalty, and courageous nature. Today, they are used as police and service dogs, as well as family pets. 

If you’re considering adding a German Shepherd to your home and you have small kids, you may be wondering if this large, regal dog might be a good idea. Are most shepherd dogs good with children? The short answer is yes. German Shepherds are known for being loving to and protective of kids. However, in order to make sure your German Shepherd, or any dog, is going to be good with your kids, proper socialization and training are required from the start. 

Table of Contents

Is a German Shepherd a Good Family Dog?

When you train and socialize your German Shepherd, you will be rewarded with a loving dog that is fiercely protective of his family and bonded strongly to his owners. This dog is extremely intelligent and easy to train. The energy level of a GSD can be matched by children. Ideally, they can happily wear each other out. 

This dog needs an adequate amount of exercise each day to be healthy and content, so playing with kids is an efficient way to achieve this goal. With love and respect, the German Shepherd will be a loyal, entertaining, and wonderful friend to every member of the household. 

Will a German Shepherd Scare My Children?

Not intentionally. This dog can be a little scary and overwhelming to small kids just because of their size and appearance. This breed is gentle with kids. Your dog will likely want to get near your children to smell them and get to know them. 

Depending on how familiar your kids are with dogs, they might find this very intimidating. However, this is all part of socializing – the dog with the kids and the kids with the dog. Just as your child will learn the dog is not a threat, your dog will learn the same about the child. If you have older kids, have them help with the dog’s care and training. It’s a great way to bond together. 

german shepherd and children on the bench

Bringing a New Baby Home

If you already have a German Shepherd and are about to bring a new baby home, your dog can learn to love and protect your new little one, as well. German Shepherds of all colors are naturally curious about babies. They are full of new sounds and smells for your dog to discover. Some of these sounds may take some getting used to! 

But if you teach your dog that this new little person is part of your family, he will accept and love the baby just the same as everyone else. German Shepherds tend to have a gentle and loving disposition when it comes to babies. As your baby grows, teach respect for the dog, as well. Gentle petting and respecting the dog’s space can be something your child knows from day one. Always monitor your dog and baby and don’t leave them alone together. 

While a German Shepherd is known for being generally safe with kids, it’s never a good idea to leave any dog alone with a baby. Even what the dog perceives as gentle playing is not something a newborn can handle, so always be present when allowing your dog to interact with your child. 

Respect

This goes for both the dog and your children. When people bring a dog into their home, they usually say the dog has to be good with the kids. What’s equally important, though, and often overlooked, is the fact that your kids have to also be good with the dog. 

As much as you need to train and socialize your dog, you also need to teach your children that the dog is a new family member and needs to be respected as one. Most dogs won’t tolerate children pulling their ears or tail, for example. And when the dog then reacts in an aggressive manner, the family is quick to get rid of that mean dog. 

In reality, no dog, including a German Shepherd, is to be used as another toy for the kids. This is a living creature who is relying on you to care for it and keep it safe. Allowing children to tease, kick, hit, slap, jump on, or otherwise torment the dog means you probably shouldn’t have a dog. 

If you wouldn’t allow your kids to do that to one another, don’t allow them to do it to the family pet, no matter what species you have. It’s unfair to any animal to put it in that position. 

If your goal is to have a German Shepherd you can trust with your children, respect from the start is paramount. Respectful socialization goes both ways. Your dog will respect your children if your children respect the dog. 

When Eating or Sleeping

Respecting your dog also means teaching your kids to allow him his own time away from them. If you notice your German Shepherd trying to separate himself from the kids and go lie down and rest, allow him his time without being disturbed. 

Teach the family that when the dog wants to be alone, he can have that time. If the dog is already sleeping, don’t allow your children to startle him awake or abruptly touch him when he’s not aware of what’s happening. When your dog is eating, allow him his time to eat in peace. 

Teaching kids that their meal time is not to be interrupted by the dog and the dog’s meal time is not to be interrupted by them is a way to keep everyone’s space respected and safe. 

Socialization

The earlier the better when it comes to socializing your German Shepherd. If you’re opting for a puppy, that’s a very good way to make sure your dog will be friends with your kids. 

Starting when they’re small means your dog and kids can likely grow up together, and they’ll always view each other as family members. If you’d like to adopt an older German Shepherd, try to find out about their background first. 

Were they raised in a house with kids? Have they ever seen kids before? If you know of someone looking to rehome a German Shepherd but the dog has never seen children before, the socialization process with your kids might take a lot longer. Children have actions, sounds, and scents that might be no big deal for a dog who was raised with them, but could very easily scare a dog that isn’t used to them. Not every dog loves children automatically. 

 

german shepherd with family

Exercise 

Your German Shepherd requires a certain amount of exercise every day to keep him content. The ideal time is at least an hour, but if you can provide more than that, even better. If they don’t get this time for exercise and play, they could turn to some undesirable behaviors, like destruction, excessive barking, and being overly rough with children. 

This is a dog that needs to burn off energy, and if he has extra energy stored up, he may be abnormally jumpy and snippy with the kids. Even if he’s just excited, this can turn into a child being knocked down or jumped on in a rough manner. 

An overly-excited dog of this size around small children is never a good mix. If your kids are too small to go outside and play with the dog to wear themselves out, then you have to make sure you’re giving your dog the physical activity he needs.

The Importance of Socializing Your German Shepherd

For you to truly have a German Shepherd that is well-adjusted, calm, good with people and other animals, and able to be around kids, proper socialization is a must. Socializing means introducing your dog to new people, places, things, and experiences. 

This socialization needs to happen as early as possible while the dog is still young. If your dog safely enters into new situations with you and knows from a young age that it will always be okay, you’ll have a dog with a great temperament who trusts you to keep him safe. Showing your dog the world and making new experiences a regular part of his life will also help him gain confidence. 

When dogs act shy or aggressive, it’s usually out of fear. Improper socialization creates scared and insecure dogs who hide behind aggression as a way to keep themselves safe. They don’t know the world doesn’t have to be a scary place. 

By socializing your dog properly, you will instill traits in him that help him be the best dog he can be, like curiosity, courage, and self-assurance. When it comes to children, a shy or aggressive dog can’t be an option. Socializing your dog with children from a young age will ensure they grow up together as friends. 

A German Shepherd in the Home 

Just as German Shepherds can get along well with children, they can also get along with other pets. Introducing an adult dog to the family feline may not go well initially, but the relationship may improve over time. If your German Shepherd puppy is introduced to other pets in the home, this is your best shot for a harmonious household. If the pets are raised together, they can get along very well. 

Poorly-bred or under-socialized German Shepherds can be high-strung, nervous, unable to focus, and difficult to train. When choosing this dog to bring into your home, find out as much as you can about the dog’s background. If you’re purchasing a puppy, always research and select a responsible breeder who puts care and time into the puppies. Ask questions, learn about the puppy’s parents, and know what kind of dog you’re getting. Then, socialize!  

Do German Shepherds Attack?

Because this dog is commonly used in police work and the military, people assume they are ready and eager to attack. On television and in the movies, German Shepherds are the police dogs always taking down the bad guy. We see them be very aggressive and they seem happy to do it. 

In reality, a well-trained and socialized German Shepherd won’t attack any more than any other breed of dog. They’re used in the police force and military because of their personalities, ability to be trained, and high intelligence levels – not because they’re aggressive dogs by nature. 

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children hugging german shepherd

How Can I Teach My Kids to be Gentle with the Dog?

If your kids are old enough to understand boundaries with the dog, then it’s important to start showing them the right way to pet them. We’ve all seen the pictures and videos on the internet of babies and small children lying on top of the dog, riding the dog, or pulling their ears or tails. The general opinion is, “Wow, what a good dog!” This is wrong on many levels. 

The dog may be “good” in that he’s not openly hostile to this behavior, but that doesn’t mean he should endure it. Consider if your child was exhibiting this behavior to another child at the park. Pulling their hair, lying on top of them, slapping them, or taunting them. You’d put a stop to that immediately. With the dog, he can’t tell you he doesn’t like this. Sometimes there are signs that maybe the dog would prefer this to not be happening. 

Pay attention to very wide eyes, ears that are back and flat to the head, and an attempt to leave the situation. If these signs are shown and ignored, the next way the dog will attempt to stop this from happening is to growl. This will eventually lead to a bite. People are very quick to cart their “aggressive” dogs off to the shelter because they growled at the child, but what was the child doing before the growl? A dog is not a creature that has to endure anything your child wants to do to him. He’s a part of the family, and as such, he should be treated like one. 

If your dog is in training, make your child a part of it. Have them learn the commands and tricks so the dog will obey them, as well. Teach your child how to give the dog a command and how to reward him for a job well done. 

Daily brushing helps keep your dog’s coat healthy and soft. This is a good task for your child who will then learn how to gently brush a dog and how to take care of him, too. 

At mealtimes, have your child feed the dog. If your child is given a task that keeps the dog healthy and happy, they can feel like an important part of the dog’s life. 

Are German Shepherds Good with Strangers?

German Shepherds can be good with strangers if they are taught to be. This is another time socialization is important. Introducing your dog to new people will help him be confident and friendly. Remember that your dog is loyal to you and the family and very protective of you. 

When new people come over, your dog may be a little wary at first. If you let the dog know, with relaxed energy and a calm demeanor, that this stranger is a friend, eventually he should warm up to them. You may notice your dog acting very protective in the yard or barking out the window at people, but this doesn’t mean he will be aggressive to strangers that you allow into your home. Your dog will determine from your energy if this person is a friend or foe. 

The bottom line

German Shepherds can be great with kids and make wonderful family dogs. Training and socialization can help your dog be the best he can be and get along with people and other animals alike. 

German Shepherds are not aggressive dogs by nature, but their reputation for being police dogs have made them out to be very scary. These dogs don’t attack out of nowhere, and they aren’t mean because they like to be. They’re actually very gentle dogs who are products of the environments in which they were raised. 

If your children are taught to respect the dog, the dog will respect them. It’s important to teach your kids how to respect a dog’s space and his needs. He should have his own time to rest and eat without being interrupted. 

Involving your kids with the dog’s care will also help them see that the dog is a family member and should be treated as such. 

Author: Jessica Rossetti

Author: Jessica Rossetti

Jessica lives in Chicago with her husband, Dominic, and their rescued cat, Toast. She has lived with dogs for over 30 years and spends her days writing, caring for various animals, and enjoying her backyard that has become an oasis for wild creatures.

Her passion for animals began at a young age when she would bring home the lost dog or cat. As she got older, she went on to bring home an injured bird or raccoon. This love and desire to help all creatures led to her work as an adult with various animal rescues, where she saved the lives of many domestic and wild animals while learning the necessary skills to care for them.

Owning and operating a professional pet care service in Chicago for the past twelve years, Jessica cares for dogs in her home while writing full-time.