Are German Shepherds Good with Kids?

There’s just one honest answer to the question of whether German shepherds are good with kidsIt depends.

The German Shepherd Dog is courageous, loyal, trainable, and intelligent.

In fact, German Shepherd Dogs are super-intelligent.

If you don’t train your German Shepherd, your German Shepherd will train you.

Are German Shepherds good with Kids?

If you train your German Shepherd well from the beginning, they can be great with kids.

In fact, my first dog ever was a German Shepherd (when I was a kid myself), and she lived with us for a good 14 years.

But as with most if the dogs, they have a personality and some instincts that you need to be aware about to make sure they are amazing with kids.

Nothing that timely training can’t take care of.

An Example of How German Shepherds and Kids Can Go Wrong

German Shepherd puppies are wonderful. They will follow you around. They’re cute. They’re cuddly.

Their intelligence will be obvious from the get-go.

As long as your German Shepherd is taking in new experiences in the world, and every day is a play day, you and your kids aren’t likely to have any problems.

Then at the age of six or seven months, canine hormones begin to kick in. Your sweet little puppy isn’t so sweet or so little anymore.

Your German Shepherd Dog is beginning to get big enough to push your younger children around. Your dog may test boundaries by defying you.

Your German Shepherd won’t get off the couch unless you physically lift her off. Your dog exercises his herding instincts by herding your four-year-old into a corner.

You and your dog used to have fun going on walks, but now your dog is walking you instead of you walking your dog.

Your German shepherd pulls you down the street by your leash.

Eventually, you have to banish your German Shepherd to the backyard. Then there will be some incident when you need to put up your dog for rehoming.

Because you didn’t take the time to train your dog, your dog cannot remain as your lifetime companion.

But by the time you have to make this decision, you will usually be OK with it. Your kids often will be, too.

The vast majority of German Shepherds that wind up in dog rescue because they can’t get along with kids got there through no fault of their own.

They weren’t exposed to people and animals and varied experiences, “socialized,” as puppies. Or they never got any training, or they got abusive, aggressive, or dominant training.

Sometimes the problem is the family just doesn’t have time for their super-intelligent, large, muscular, active dog, and the dog finds other things to do.

There’s a better way. German Shepherds can be great with kids if they get the right training — starting while they are still with their mothers.

German Shepherds need to be taught that there are certain commands they must obey. They must be taught that their humans are in charge.

If it is not clear that the humans in the family are in charge, it’s not a question of whether the German Shepherd will try to take over. It’s a question of how and when.

But with positive training and consistent leadership by their humans, Germans shepherds can be great with kids, and great with the entire family.

Training German Shepherds Is a Family Affair

When you train your German Shepherd Dog well, you will be in control. Your dog will be well-mannered, sociable, and completely safe to be around.

Everyone will be able to see that your dog listens to you. Everyone will be able to see that your dog obeys you and your kids.

It’s important that you train your dog, and you train your kids to train your dog at the same time.

Everyone who lives in the same home with your dog needs to be able to tell your German Shepherd to sit, come, lay down, and stay.

You all need to use the same command words and reward your dog in the same way.

The ability of your kids to give your German Shepherd basic commands that your dog obeys can save its life.

Your kids will be able to stop it from running out into traffic, or fighting with another dog, or nipping at a neighbor.

When everyone in your family can take charge over your dog, your home will be safe for the neighbors’ kids to visit.

You won’t have to crate your dog when Grandma and Grandpa come over. You won’t find your cowering in fear on top of the refrigerator.

The limiting factor for involving your children in German shepherd training is their age:

  • Before the age of four, your kids can learn to be nice to their dog. No pulling the tail, don’t give doggie a haircut with the scissors you use to cut construction paper, never hit the dog.
  • Children aged four to seven can learn to give your dog commands while they are standing next to you. At that age, you need to be there to make sure they get your dog to comply.
  • By age eight, children are successful at giving their German Shepherds verbal commands.
  • And by age ten, many children can direct their dogs through complex skills trials and take them to dog shows.

It’s essential to involve everyone in your home who is old enough in training your German Shepherd.

Both you and your children will have a happier experience with your dog if you do.

Training Your German Shepherd isn’t Optional

When you train your German Shepherd, he will be fun to live with. You won’t have to worry about walks or short trips in the car.

You and your kids and the dog can enjoy the hike and bike trail, or the camp round, or a day on the lake.

The more time you and your kids spend training your German Shepherd, the deeper the bonds you will form.

You will recognize problems before they start — and you will avoid problems insuring your home.

Rightly or wrongly, many insurance companies rate German Shepherds as a high-bite risk. Sometimes German Shepherd owners can’t get homeowner’s insurance.

Sometimes renters lose their apartments because they can’t get renter’s insurance.

Some military bases ban military families that have German Shepherds from on-base housing.

There is a solution to this problem. Make sure your German Shepherd passes the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test.

If your dog can pass this “nice dog” test, you can get a waiver to live in military housing, you almost certainly won’t have a problem renting an apartment, and you will be able to get homeowner’s insurance without an expensive rider.

There’s no doubt that German Shepherds are trainable.

There are German Shepherds that are therapy dogs, service dogs, hearing alert dogs, seizure alert dogs, mobility dogs, autism companion dogs, improvised explosive device detection dogs, sentry dogs, and guide dogs for the blind.

German Shepherds can be trained just to be fun for the family, too. But there are things you can do to make the process easier.

5 Suggestions for Raising a German Shepherd That’s Good with Kids

Great German Shepherds are trained, not born.

If you have a German Shepherd that’s good with your children, you put in some real work to make that happen.

German Shepherds repay our efforts to train them many times over, but you will need to focus on training from the very start.

Here are our top five suggestions for raising a German Shepherd that will be good with your kids.

Be careful selecting your German Shepherd

Certain German Shepherds aren’t going to be good with kids.

Retired working German Shepherds usually aren’t great with children.

A German Shepherd retired from working the military, with the border patrol, from sniffing for bombs at airports, or a dog that has spent its life competing in Schutzhund, agility, and show events is likely to be very intelligent.

It will probably be in good health. It will know how to obey.

But this German Shepherd will probably be too high energy and have too much of a hunter instinct to adjust to living with kids.

At the other extreme, be careful when a friend, or a friend of a friend, offers you German Shepherd puppies out of their backyard.

People offering German Shepherd puppies informally usually have good intentions. But they won’t be able to tell you whether your puppy has any of the 50 genetic conditions that affect the breed.

German Shepherds can have hip dysplasia. It’s best to know this early, so you can arrange the living spaces, so the condition will be milder.

German Shepherds can develop progressive muscle weakness, or problems swallowing.

Not only can treating these problems cost your family a lot of money, they can greatly diminish your dog’s and your family’s quality of life.

The German Shepherd that is most likely to be good with kids is a not-quite-show dog. These dogs are raised by breeders.

They have impeccable pedigrees. They are trained from birth. But some German Shepherds will win prizes at dog shows and some will just make great dogs. You probably want a great dog.

Spayed or Neutered German Shepherd makes a difference

When middle schoolers approach puberty and become “hormonal,” their behaviors become troublesome to their parents.

When German Shepherds approach puberty, at about the age of six months, their behaviors become troublesome to their humans.

Spaying or neutering German Shepherds makes them much more manageable.

Some veterinarians recommend spaying female German Shepherds at age two to prevent urinary disorders and neutering male German Shepherds at age two to prevent muscle disorders.

These problems tend to show up when the dog is about five.

But if your dog becomes extremely unruly after the age of six months, it may be a good idea to go ahead with spaying or neutering.

It doesn’t do your dog any good to be reproductively intact if its behavior is so intolerable you give it up for adoption.

Your dog’s experiences at the ages of 7 to 14 weeks are critical

About the age of seven weeks, German Shepherd puppies have the observation abilities of an adult dog, but they still have the attention span of puppies.

This is the time in their lives that they can be introduced to as many people, animals, places, and things as possible to make them “socialized” for the rest of their lives.

There is no time in a dog’s life when learning takes place faster.

Anything and anyone you introduce to your dog during this time is likely to be regarded as a friend, so make sure your puppy gets lots of happy, positive experiences with people, animals (especially cats), and things (especially vacuum cleaners) during this time.

They will get along better with your kids and their friends if you do.

Puppies that spend more time being guided by their mothers are easier to train

One of the factors in how well a German Shepherd obeys its humans is how long it had to obey its mother.

If a puppy stays with its mother until the age of nine weeks or more, it will have been trained not to bite and how to get along with its littermates.

Don’t take a puppy home before it’s nine weeks old unless it has been orphaned. And between the ages of eight and eleven weeks, make sure it has a calm, happy environment.

Between the ages of four and seven weeks, your puppy has been learning that people and other dogs and other animals can be friends.

If it has a scary experience between eight and eleven weeks of age, however, it will retain that fear for the rest of its life.

Adolescent German Shepherds need to mature at their own pace

Between the ages of six and fourteen months, German Shepherds go through another stage of life when fears can become permanently imprinted in their brains.

Make sure your children treat young dogs gently. Keep kids and dogs safe from accidental injuries. Make sure your kids are nice to their dog.

Getting a German Shepherd through this time of life makes them more friendly and relaxed about kids and play situations later.

Both kids and dogs have to follow the rules

For German Shepherds and kids to have a good experience, both German Shepherds and kids must follow some basic rules:

Any dog you have just brought home, especially a rescue dog, must have 24-hour supervision around children.

No matter how sweet your dog seems, don’t leave your children with a dog unsupervised until you are very sure how both will act.

Every child in your home needs to follow some basic rules, too:

  • Never poke, pinch, or hit your dog. Do not pull her tail.
  • Never try to take away your dog’s bowl, bone, toy, water, or food.
  • Don’t touch your dog when he is sleeping.
  • Never go inside your dog’s crate.
  • Do not throw anything at your dog unless you are playing fetch.
  • Do not hug a German Shepherd. Show your affection by the time you spend with your dog.

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