The German Shepard consistently ranks in second place for the most popular dog breed in the United States, so you’d naturally assume that this means that this breed is great with kid and families. While this is mostly true, the answer to are German Shepherds good with kids isn’t totally black and white.
These dogs can be extremely loyal and loving provided you get them from a reputable breeder, but a dog that comes from a puppy mill doesn’t have the same socialization or care that a breeder gives. This is why there are so many shades of grey when it comes to any dog breed and kids, but we’ll give you a general guideline that can help you ensure that your dog and your kids get along famously.
Proper Socialization is Key
We can’t outline enough how important it is to have proper socialization when it comes to your German Shepherd. This highly intelligent and powerful breed can and will bond quickly to the people who spend the most time around them, and this is especially true for young children and kids.
You want to handle your new puppy as much as possible and have them around your kids as well as any other pets in the home. You want to continually introduce them to people and dogs to help improve their social skills and reduce the chances of the dog having an outburst.
The more socialized your dog is, the fewer chances you’ll have of the dog lashing out or ending up with poor social skills that can cause major issues for you as your dog gets bigger. Since this dog can be over 26 inches tall and the shoulder and weigh around 90 pounds, they’re capable of doing a lot of damage to small children and even adults if they have poor social skills.
If you’re not sure how to socialize your dog and you get them from a reputable breeder, you can ask the breeder for tips. Your veterinarian, local humane society, and professional dog trainers are all viable resources you can check into to help you socialize your dog throughout their adolescence.
Know the Breed’s Personality
German Shepherds have an abnormally long puppyhood period, and this typically lasts until they reach three years old. They do a lot of growing during this time, and they don’t have very good spatial awareness, and they don’t realize how large they are. It’s essential that you train your dog to interact safely with your younger children, and there are several classes dedicated to training just this into your dog.
While your dog may never intentionally harm your children, 90 pounds of excited canine can be a lot for a toddler or a younger child to handle, especially if the dog wants to play and jump up. However, German Shepherds are an extremely intelligent breed that learns things very quickly, so consistent training will teach your dog what is acceptable and what isn’t around your children.
This breed is highly prized for it’s dedicated, loving, and protective nature, and this is why so many people consider them the ideal family dogs. Their personality is to protect and watch out for their family, so if you don’t want a dog that will rarely let you out of their sight, this type of breed most likely isn’t the best choice for your household because they’re trained as herding dogs that stay vigilant.
This breed is also very high energy, and this is excellent for your kids because your kids can work at tiring the dog out while they burn off some of their excess energy. You do want to supervise them through until you’re completely confident that your dog knows their own size and strength to prevent accidents.
German Shepherd Temperament
Another hallmark of this breed is their temperament. They do come with a strong prey drive, but the dog is typically very calm, aware of their capabilities, and assertive most of the time while only getting excited when the situation calls for it.
However, this dog does need a lot of time and dedication from their owners when they’re young to help keep them entertained and stimulated, or their high-energy levels can turn a well-rounded temperament into a destructive dog. You should note that a German Shepherd’s alert and fearless nature can be construed as aggressive, depending on the circumstances, and this is especially true when you combine it with their larger size.
As long as you play with and socialize your German Shepherd during their adolescent years, you should end up with a very even tempered dog that will tolerate pokes, bear hugs, and even the occasional ear and tail pulling that younger kids can do. They generally won’t lash out at your child even if the child startles them, and this is why they’re prized as family dogs.
Training for German Shepherd for a New Baby
If you’re going to have a new baby around the house, you want to prepare your dog for this event before it happens. For example, you can wrap a baby doll up in a blanket and teach your dog what is and what isn’t acceptable when it comes to your dog interacting with the baby.
Additionally, you want to practice with the baby doll in a stroller, bassinet, and on the floor because your dog will most likely encounter these situations. You can use this time to train them not to jump or even give them specific commands that teach them their play boundaries around your new baby.
You don’t want to surprise your dog with a new baby, and you don’t want them to exhibit signs of jealousy when this new person starts taking up your time and attention. Take a few weeks before the baby is born and get your dog used to the smells, sights, and sounds of a baby, and gradually adjust the amount of time you spend with your dog, so it isn’t such a huge change when the baby does come home.
Tips for Bringing Your German Shepherd into Your Home
1. Socialize Your Puppy Early and Often
As we mentioned earlier, extensive and early socialization is key when it comes to this breed, and you’re trying to teach them that each new situation, animal, or person is a good thing that they can enjoy. This is also an excellent time to teach your puppy what is and what isn’t acceptable behaviors like nipping, biting, chewing, jumping, or displaying aggression at other dogs.
2. Consistent and Early Obedience Training
This breed is highly intelligent, loves to learn, and can typically pick things up very quickly. This is why you want to start early obedience training and stay very consistent with it so your dog knows exactly what they can and can’t do in and around your home and family.
This obedience training can teach your dog how to communicate and interact with you as their owner and their family as part of their pack. You want to teach them to sit, stay, lie down, come, and stop to start, and then you can start working on more complicated commands or routines.
3. Mental Stimulation and Exercise
If you don’t keep your German Shepherd exercised and mentally stimulated, you could wind up with a dog that starts to engage in destructive behavior like chewing, digging, and tearing up things that they shouldn’t. You can curb this by having a solid exercise routine in place combined with several mentally stimulating toys like Kong products that make your dog work and solve puzzles to get their rewards.
4. Establish Yourself as an Assertive and Calm Leader
Since this dog breed is very strong-willed and a natural alpha, it takes a strong-willed and calm leader to establish the dominance order of your home. You have to make your dog understand that you’re in charge, you set the rules, you set the boundaries, and your dog has to listen to you.
Never use negative or forceful behavior when you’re correcting your dog’s behavior because this can make them fearful. Correcting your dog in a patient and calm way can help to quickly earn your dog’s attention, loyalty, and respect, and this can help your dog bond with your family as a whole unit.
So, are German Shepherds good with kids? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that with a lot of patience, training, and consistency, you can take this dog and integrate them into your family as a protective and family-oriented dog.
This does take dedication from you along with a firm but gentle training session, but your German Shepherd can quickly become a valuable member of your family for years to come.