When you have young children, the decision to bring home a dog isn’t one to be made lightly. That’s especially true when you’re talking about a large dog like the German shepherd dog (GSD). If you’re considering adding a German shepherd dog to your household, you need to be absolutely sure you’re making the right choice.
So, is this breed a good family dog? Are German shepherds good with kids? Or is it smarter to choose another breed instead?
The answer is yes, German shepherds can be great with kids — provided they are properly socialized and trained. When your dog is taught to respect children, and your kids are taught to respect your dog, it’s a great match. It’s just one of the reasons German shepherds are such popular pets. (The American Kennel Club ranked them the fourth most popular dog last year.)
Let’s learn more about the German shepherd’s temperament and personality, as well as how to properly train and socialize your GSD. We’ll also discuss how to teach your kids to treat your dog so that everyone can live together in harmony.
The German Shepherd Temperament
Generally speaking, the German shepherd is a gentle, affectionate, trainable dog that is child-friendly and not inherently aggressive. They’re known for their loyalty to their human families and their protective instincts, which is partly why they’re considered good guard dogs. If you have kids, you can rest assured your dog will always have their back.
The German shepherd has been bred as a herding dog and may retain some of those instincts. You might find that your GSD likes to “herd” young children around the house — while this can be a fun part of playtime, some German shepherds might try to nip at the heels of your kids.
Remember, the German shepherd is a large dog – while they aren’t likely to intentionally harm your child, it’s easy for them to bowl over children or even sit on them accidentally, simply because of their size.
While German shepherds are good with kids in most cases and can even make great playmates for young children, it’s important to remember that any dog can act aggressively if they feel threatened or are in pain. That’s why it’s always recommended that you remain close when your dog and young kids are interacting.
It’s not likely that a German shepherd would intentionally hurt your child, but play it safe and don’t leave your children around your dog unsupervised.
Training a German Shepherd
The best way to ensure that your dog and your younger family members get along well is through training and socialization. Luckily, this dog breed lives to please its owners — the GSD has a high trainability level and loves to follow commands and complete tasks. This is one of the main reasons the German shepherd is often used as a working dog. They’re commonly “employed” as service dogs and police dogs.
So, what do you need to do to turn a German shepherd into a great family pet? It’s all about proper socialization, great training, and making sure your GSD gets plenty of exercise.
If you adopt a German shepherd puppy, you can provide proper socialization early on in life. Socializing your dog means exposing them to a wide variety of people and situations. When this is done at an early age, your dog grows up familiar with all types of people as well as other pets.
Socialization might be easier from a young age, but you can socialize dogs of every age, including adult German shepherds. If you adopt an older German shepherd, don’t worry. You can still socialize them to get along with all sorts of people and pets — it just might take more time and patience.
Every dog can benefit from proper training, the German shepherd included. Make sure your dog knows basic commands like sit, stay, come, heel, and lay down. They should also be leash trained and crate trained. Crate training is especially important if your dog will need to stay home by themselves for the day while you’re at work. Because these dogs are prone to separation anxiety, giving them a safe space via the crate is recommended.
If you want to help ease your dog’s anxiety, try Native Pet’s Calm Chews. These all-natural chews can help reduce general anxiety, relax muscles, and even improve sleep.
Some people may want to learn about dog training techniques on their own. However, we always recommend attending obedience classes or consulting a professional dog trainer. Just remember that your dog will need regular reinforcement at home in order to follow commands properly throughout their life.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation
As mentioned, German shepherds are working dogs and they have a high energy level. Active dogs like the German shepherd need plenty of exercise, or they might start to act out. If these dogs stay cooped up too much, they might be more prone to aggressive behavior, escape attempts, loud vocalization, and more.
Provide daily exercise by going for plenty of walks and play sessions. Toys are great for mental stimulation, too — your German shepherd’s intelligent brain needs a workout as much as their body does. Plus, an all-natural chew like Native Pet’s Yak Chews can give your dog something to work on while adding a bit of protein to the diet at the same time.
Teaching Your Kids How to Treat Your Dog
Unfortunately, about half of all dog bites involve children. So, it’s important for kids to know how to interact with a dog safely and respectfully when you own a German shepherd — or any breed of dog, for that matter.
Teach your children that it’s not okay to:
- Tug on the dog’s ears, tail, or skin
- Attempt to ride on the dog’s back
- Bother the dog during mealtimes or when playing with a toy
- Make loud noises at or around the dog
- Approach the dog quickly or startle them
It’s also a good idea to make all family members aware of the basic signs of aggression in dogs. These include growling, snarling, bared teeth, wide eyes, a stiff and rigid body stance, barking, and lunging. Make sure your kids know never to provoke a dog exhibiting these signs.
Are German Shepherds Good With Kids or Not?
Yes, German shepherds are good with kids in most cases. This breed’s willingness to please its owners coupled with a strong sense of loyalty makes them kid-friendly. But it’s important to understand that a German shepherd needs proper training and socialization, as well as plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, in order to be well-behaved around small children.
Socialize your dog and make sure they respond to basic obedience commands. Give them plenty of exercise and toys to play with. Make sure your children understand your dog’s boundaries. And don’t leave small kids unsupervised around your German shepherd.
Follow these guidelines, and you’ll have a loyal, affectionate, beautiful canine companion in the family. The German shepherd remains one of the most popular dog breeds for a reason.
Want more advice on your dog’s behavior and wellness? Visit the Native Pet blog, where we have plenty of resources on German Shepherds: