Have you been thinking about getting a German Shepherd, but you’re worried that it might attack your kids? It’s a valid concern. After all, German Shepherds are popular police and military dogs around the world.
Let’s talk about whether German Shepherds are good with kids and what you can do to help keep family safe if you add one of these noble dogs to your family.
- Are German Shepherds Dangerous?
- German Shepherds and Kids
- German Shepherd Temperament
- The German Shepherd’s Need to Protect His Family
- The Importance of Socializing a German Shepherd
- Teaching Your Children How to Interact with Your German Shepherd
- Is a German Shepherd Right for Your Family?
- Final Thoughts on German Shepherds and Kids
Are German Shepherds Dangerous?
Your image of a German Shepherd may be of a vicious dog attacking a criminal. And while that can be one use of the German Shepherd, the breed isn’t inherently dangerous.
German Shepherds were initially bred to herd sheep. When technology reduced the need for sheepdogs, the highly intelligent German Shepherd became a military and police dog. However, they are trained to attack on command and don’t just assault people for no reason.
A properly trained and socialized German Shepherd should not be aggressive. However, without proper socialization as a puppy, training, and exercise, a German Shepherd could become aggressive as an adult. A lot of work goes into bringing up a well-adjusted German Shepherd from a puppy to an adult.
German Shepherds and Kids
In general, German Shepherds tend to do really well with kids. That depends on their breeding, training, socialization, and temperament, though.
You should never leave an unfamiliar German Shepherd alone with your kids. Whether it’s a puppy or a newly adopted dog, you need to give the dog time to prove themselves before it’s safe to trust them alone around children of any age. Once you’ve had a German Shepherd for a few months, you may trust it with your older children.
However, it’s never a good idea to leave babies or small children alone with any dog, regardless of the breed. Any dog may be triggered by the sounds or movements of a small child and attack it, with disastrous results (especially if the dog is a fully grown German Shepherd).
It’s also important to remember that small children don’t yet understand how to interact with animals and may tug on the dog’s ear or tail. A German Shepherd may react to pain by biting, even if the dog is otherwise friendly.
With supervision and proper interactions, though, German Shepherds and kids can be a great mix.
German Shepherd Temperament
German Shepherds are intelligent and loyal. They’re easy to train, and they love their families, though they may be wary of strangers. German Shepherds need plenty of exercise; without it, they can become bored and destructive.
With the right socialization, training, and exercise, a German Shepherd will have an excellent temperament. They’ll be devoted to their family and protective without becoming aggressive.
On the other hand, lack of training, socialization, or exercise can lead to an aggressive German Shepherd who can’t be trusted around much of anybody but their favorite person. A German Shepherd’s temperament varies a lot, depending on how you raise them.
The German Shepherd’s Need to Protect His Family
Thanks to their loyalty, German Shepherds can be very protective of their family. This may be an asset if an intruder tries to get into your home. It’s less of an asset, however, if your dog is wary of anybody who enters your home.
While your German Shepherd may be perfectly fine with your children, playmates could be a problem, especially if the kids like to roughhouse. Your German Shepherd might decide they need to “protect” your child by biting their playmate.
This is one reason that German Shepherds need plenty of socialization as puppies. They need to learn that most people are OK, including anybody you or your children bring into the home voluntarily.
The Importance of Socializing a German Shepherd
All dogs need socialization as puppies, but it’s especially important for German Shepherds. Between their loyalty and their size (a large male can weigh 100 pounds or more), an unsocialized German Shepherd can be a liability.
What is socialization, and how do you do it with a German Shepherd? When puppies are young, they need to be introduced to a wide variety of people, places, and animals before they develop a strong fear response.
After about 6 months of age, it’s much more difficult to introduce your German Shepherd to new people and places because they’re more likely to be afraid, and fear can lead to biting.
If you adopt an adult German Shepherd, it’s still important to socialize them as much as possible. However, you may need the assistance of a professional trainer to ensure your dog only has positive interactions with new people, places, and animals.
A dog trainer can help you read your German Shepherd’s body language and will teach you the best way to introduce your dog to new situations.
Training a German Shepherd
German Shepherds are extremely intelligent. That makes them easy to train, but it can also lead to boredom and destructive behaviors.
It’s crucial that you only use positive reinforcement training techniques. Reward your German Shepherd for doing good things rather than punish them for negative behaviors. Dominance-based training techniques can increase aggressiveness in German Shepherds or trigger fear-based aggression.
Some of the basic commands you should teach your German Shepherd include:
- Drop it
- Leave it
Training is about more than just teaching your dog to do tricks. Dog training sessions help you bond with your dog and encourage your dog to listen to you and see you as the boss. The last thing you want is for your German Shepherd to decide they’re the one in charge!
Exercising a German Shepherd
German Shepherds were bred to work all day, so they need plenty of exercise. Your German Shepherd needs at least one hour of intense exercise every day. A walk around the block just won’t cut it.
It’s best to have a house with a yard if you have a German Shepherd, so they have a chance to run every day. If you have kids, they and the dog can have great fun chasing each other around the back yard.
If you don’t have a yard, your German Shepherd can be your jogging or hiking buddy. Or, if your dog is friendly with other dogs, you can go to the dog park. Some German Shepherds love to fetch, acting more like a Retriever than a Shepherd.
A German Shepherd who doesn’t get enough exercise is going to be more prone to a host of behavioral problems, including destructiveness and potentially aggression.
Teaching Your Children How to Interact with Your German Shepherd
Many dog bites are triggered by children behaving inappropriately with dogs. Babies and toddlers should never be left alone with any dog, no matter the size or breed. Once your child is old enough to understand, you need to teach them:
- How to be gentle with the dog. No tugging on tails or ears.
- To stay out of the dog’s face. Even friendly dogs may not tolerate having people, even little ones, getting in their face.
- Not to hug the dog. While some dogs tolerate hugging, most dogs don’t enjoy it.
- How to read your dog’s body language, so they know when they’re upsetting the dog.
Is a German Shepherd Right for Your Family?
German Shepherds can be fantastic family dogs. They need plenty of socialization, training, and exercise, and they should not be left alone with small children.
However, if your children are old enough to understand how to interact with a dog, and you have the time and money to dedicate to training, exercising, and socializing a dog, a German Shepherd may be just the right dog for your family. After all, they’re the second-most-popular dog breed for a reason!
Final Thoughts on German Shepherds and Kids
As long as they are properly socialized and get plenty of exercise, German Shepherds can make excellent companions for kids. Just keep in mind that all dogs should be supervised when they are around infants, toddlers, or children they aren’t familiar with. Your kid’s next best friend could be a German Shepherd.