German Shepherds are some of the most popular and loved breeds in America. These lovable dogs are well known as one of the best police dogs and guard dogs. But there’s one question that many potential owners often ask: Are German Shepherds good with kids? Let’s find out the truth.
So, Are German Shepherds Good with Kids?
Here’s the quick answer: German shepherds are gentle, friendly, and enjoy children when given proper socialization and training. They like to be around kids and especially older kids because they know that games will include things like fetching or other goofy antics. Unfortunately, lack of proper training can cause dogs or any pet not to understand the difference between playing and roughhousing with a child.
How to Train Your Dog to Safely Play with Kids?
1. Socialize Your German Shepherd Puppy!
German Shepherd dogs need to be properly socialized from an early age to be a good family dog. Your goal in socializing your puppy should be to expose her to as many different people (including young children) and other dogs, places, and situations while they’re young (and before they reach 6 months) so they can become accustomed to them and learn how to react appropriately. That way, when they are an adult dog, they will be able to handle themselves with anyone and anything without hesitation. German Shepherds can make great family dogs if you do this!
You can start by letting your puppy get used to your family as a first exposure. Let them meet one of your family members. Then another relative (grandma, aunt, etc.), then a friend or neighbor, and so on. Or if all at once is too hard, try having them come in small groups like 1-2 at a time.
After introducing your puppy to many different people, it’s time to start on other pets, places, and situations. One of the best ways to do this is by taking short trips throughout town for walks so that there are new smells and sounds around every corner…but again, this can be hard if you don’t have time! So then the next alternative is to find a good puppy kindergarten class.
The puppy kindergarten class is a great option because it lets your puppy meet and play with other German Shepherd puppies (and people) at a young age so that they know how to behave when they get older. It will also help you socialize your dog by exposing her to new things like different surfaces, objects, sounds, etc.…
2. Train Your Dog (Set rules, boundaries, and proper behavior)
Socializing your puppy is a great first step, but it doesn’t give you the control you need. If you don’t also train them in proper obedience training and discipline right from the start, they will be hard to deal with as an adult dog. If not properly trained, German Shepherds can become unruly and disobedient, and in the wrong hands, they can be very dangerous. In fact, many dog bites in children each year can be blamed on dog owners that don’t socialize, and obedience train their German Shepherd dogs properly.
To train your dog, you first need to establish rules and boundaries for them. This means taking the time to teach them what is acceptable behavior (and what isn’t). For example, just telling your dog not to jump doesn’t really work because they don’t understand what you mean. Instead, to correct this behavior, you need to show them what you want them to do instead and then reward them for doing it. The best way to do this is by luring your dog away from the jumping action with a treat so that they jump toward the treat (instead of on top of people).
The same goes for any other behavioral problems that you may be having. First, you need to identify what the bad behavior is and create a plan to train them into doing something else instead (such as chewing or jumping up). Then, after teaching them what is expected of them, you must supervise them and discipline them if they break your rules.
3. Use Positive Reinforcement to Reward Good Behavior
Remember to never scold your dog in a negative way when you catch them doing something wrong (or they will only learn fear and will behave worse). Instead, use positive reinforcement to train them so that they actually enjoy behaving properly around kids.
For example, let’s say that you have your puppy on a leash, and they jump up at your kid when greeting them (which is something that should be avoided). First, stop all movement so that the puppy realizes what they did wrong. Then verbally correct them by telling them “No” or “Down.” Once they are down on all fours again, praise them and praise them for staying down. Then reward them with a treat. This will show them that they get something when they behave properly…and that having kids around is fun and rewarding.
4. Establish Off-Limits Zones for Your Dog
Your German Shepherd also needs to have their own safe space that children are not allowed to go in. This is where they will rest when they need time away from the kids (or just for themselves). It’s also a place where they can retreat to when they need it. By creating a space that your dog can trust, you allow them to feel protective of the space.
5. Never Leave German Shepherds And Young Children Unattended
No matter what breed of dog you have, you should never leave your dog and child unsupervised. This rule is even more important to follow if you have big dogs like German Shepherds. This is because big dogs can accidentally knock children down if they jump up at the child (and are too quick and sudden for them to move away).
How to Teach Your Children to Act Around Dogs
To foster safe interaction between your German Shepherd and your child, you will also need to teach your child from the beginning how to behave around a dog properly. This is because children can do things that may be dangerous or inappropriate for dogs (for example, playing too rough or poking at them).
1. Ask Children to Approach Slowly
When your dog is in a good mood, have your child slowly approach the dog (and let the dog come to them). The idea here is to show the dog that they are not a threat. This will help to build trust between them and establish that your child is not going to hurt them. Reward your dog for being calm around them.
2. Tell Your Children to Be Gentle with Your Dog
Your children should also be taught not to do anything that will annoy or agitate a dog. This includes poking them, forcing themselves on top of the dog (or climbing on them), or trying to hug or kiss them without permission. All of these actions can agitate your German Shepherd and cause them to bite out of fear or startled reflexes.
3. Teach Your Children the Proper Way to Huge and Pet Your German Shepherd
Many German Shepherds will enjoy children petting them and playing with them. But others may be more hesitant about it or only like certain parts of their bodies to be touched. Of course, as a dog owner, you know your dog better than anyone else. So, you will have to teach your children how to physically interact with your dog in a way that won’t agitate them.
The dog’s body language will also help you to know if your child is going too far. If they are starting to get annoyed, scared, or frustrated (or worse, aggressive), that’s a good sign that your child needs to back off. You can teach your kids this by explaining how to read a dog’s body language and the meaning behind it (if they are old enough to understand).
4. Hands Off When The Dog is Eating
One cardinal rule that children should never forget is not to touch or bother the dog when they are eating. Even the most well-behaved dog will lash out when they are eating. This is because dogs will instinctively defend their food, and they won’t be able to distinguish between a child’s hand that is reaching for their food and an actual threat or enemy (like another animal or another dog).
Does This Mean German Shepherd is The Right Dog For Your Family?
Although German Shepherd is one of the best guard dog breeds and can make fantastic family dogs, each family is different and has different needs, so no dog is going to be the perfect fit for everyone.
Weigh what you want out of a dog against your living situation and environment, and then compare that to the traits of each breed before making a final decision on what kind of dog might be right for you.
While I can’t tell you what breed of dog will be the best match for your family, if a German Shepherd is under consideration, you should definitely do some research before deciding. Take into account things like
- How much time and effort are you willing to put into training and exercising your dog?
- How much time can you afford to spend with them every day?
- Is there anyone in your family who is very young or frail?
- Do you have enough space in your home and yard to keep a dog?
- Can you afford to take care of all necessary expenses for the type of dog you choose to get (working or showing German Shepherd)?
- And most importantly, will this be a good fit for your lifestyle?