Some people may think a German Shepherd may not be a good choice for a family with kids, but the opposite is true. German Shepherds are great for many reasons, especially when you have kids.
One of the first dog breeds that come to mind for protection, police and military work is the German Shepherd. For this reason, families may not think German Shepherds would be a good fit for a home with kids.
German Shepherds were bred to be working and protection dogs, and they excel in both areas. A German Shepherd is severely loyal, loving, protective and intelligent. When I say intelligent, I mean scary intelligent.
Socializing your German Shepherd puppy is very important to their development as a great dog and family member.
Socializing means letting your German Shepherd puppy meet with as many people as you can, especially when you have kids.
Socializing your German Shepherd puppy is critical, as it teaches them to trust family members and close friends, while developing proper protection and behavioral skills.
There is no trick to socializing your German Shepherd. All you have to do is let your puppy be around family and friends. Let your puppy explore and play with as many people as you can.
Your German Shepherd puppy will associate the scent of people to their personality.
After a few visits with your German Shepherd puppy, friends and family will be seen as part of their group, or pack. Remember that YOU are always the pack leader of your dog! YOU call the shots, always.
Training a German Shepherd as a puppy around kids
Here are some great German Shepherd puppy training tips when you have kids. Theses tips should be followed even if you don’t have kids in the house.
- Never hit your dog. There should only be great positive reinforcement. If the dog pees on the floor, that’s your fault for not letting them out. Shouting a sharp, “NO”, while they’re caught in the act is sufficient, before taking them outside to finish. You can’t show anger or shout the word, “NO” after the fact, as it will not work.
- While your German Shepherd puppy is eating, sit or lay beside them and caress the side of their face or top of the head. This teaches trust. Your German Shepherd puppy will realize you are not a threat (you have no interest in their food.) I have done this for our 3-year-old German Shepherd from day one. I am able to kiss her on the face while she is chewing on a bone from the butcher. She has never growled or walked away.
- When your German Shepherd puppy comes in from outside after doing their business, give them a treat and say, “Good boy, potty!” Always praise them with the word you want to associate with the act and give them a treat. The treat is mainly for the puppy months. I still tell our German Shepherd, “Good girl, go potty.” She was house trained in 4 days at 10 weeks of age (they are very smart.)
- Talk to your kids, if they are old enough to understand, on how to treat your German Shepherd. Treating dogs the right way is not only for your dog’s protection, but for the protection of others. Just like humans, there are times when a dog needs their space. Dogs should be treated nice, petted nice, and not surprised.
- Never let your kids try to ride the dog.
- Even though German Shepherds are very laid back as a rule, their tails and ears should not be pulled. More than likely they won’t do anything but walk away, but you just don’t want the dog in pain.
- I talk to our dogs all the time, cuddle them and ask them questions (they respond.)
- Allow your kids to give your German Shepherd treats and throw the ball for your dog. Make sure your kids are involved in the training process through bonding and having fun with your dog.
German Shepherds are not scary
Contrary to what many people believe, if raised well, German Shepherds are not scary and are definitely suited for families with kids.
A German Shepherd’s natural instinct is to love, serve and protect. German Shepherds have instinctively very high intelligence, a high prey drive, and are severely loyal to their family (pack.)
German Shepherds absolutely love to be around their family, which is why they are called shadow dogs, or velcro dogs.
Your dog will love everyone in the family, but tend to bond closer with one person. This one person (me in this case) has a constant German Shepherd shadow. They never leave your side, ever. Wherever you go, they are there. If you leave the room to refill coffee, they are there. This is instinct.
A German Shepherd will love you more than you can imagine and hate being away from you.
Leaving your German Shepherd alone for long periods of time can cause separation anxiety in your dog. A German Shepherd, more than other breeds, needs to be around their family, as you are their pack and they love you more than you know. They know it’s their job to protect and serve you.
Reasons why a German Shepherd is great with kids
There are things our German Shepherd has done with our kids that she was never trained to do. These traits are instinctive and usually show up around 1 year of age. Many other people have reported the same German Shepherd behaviors around kids.
- During the night our German Shepherd will go room to room and look in on everyone for a few seconds, every few hours while we sleep.
- When the kids are at the park our German Shepherd will sit completely still, just watching the kids. If the kids happen to get out of site for a second, she will move her head quickly to locate them and give off a little whine. If she doesn’t see them, she moves a bit until they come into view. Our German Shepherd never takes her eyes off the kids.
- When I ask our German Shepherd, “where is this person”, using the person’s name, she will run through the house to find that person. She always finds the right person.
- When I ask our German Shepherd, “where’s Jake” (our 2nd dog), she does the same thing. If Jake is upstairs, she will herd him downstairs to me.
- If the kids are play fighting, our German Shepherd runs over and breaks it up by getting in-between them. If she’s outside, she runs inside quickly as if to say, “What the hell is going on here!”
- If someone we know shows up at the door, our German Shepherd lets out a bark to let us know they’re here. If someone shows up who she doesn’t know, that is an entirely different bark, complete with hair standing up. She is protecting her family.
- I have seen a couple people approach our kids (nice people but not someone our dog has met yet) and our Shepherd gets in front of the kids and sits, as she assesses the person.
German Shepherd Intelligence
As mentioned before, the intelligence of a German Shepherd is very high. It is said the intelligence of a German Shepherd is equivalent to a 7-year-old human.
Teaching your German Shepherd dog is easy, due to their high intelligence. Usually after 3 training sessions, your German Shepherd generally understands commands given (after about 6 months of age.)
I talk to our dogs all the time, using short sentences and focusing on keywords.
Our German Shepherd enjoys playing with ice cubes in the summer. I call her name from the kitchen and ask her, “do you want ice?” Then I get an ice cube from the freezer. As she takes it, I say, “good girl, ice.”
After a few times of this, now when she wants ice, she barks at me. I ask her, “show me.” She leads me to the freezer and looks up at the top door where the ice is, then at me, then at the door again. To reinforce this, I get the ice and say again, “good girl, ice.”
Teaching a German Shepherd is much like teaching someone a foreign language. You show them something and associate a word with it.
Our German Shepherd always comes to me when she wants something. She will sit in front of me, barking to get my attention. I ask, “show me” and she leads me to the back door to go outside, the freezer, or her treat cabinet. Of course, I make her do something for the treats then praise her.
If our German Shepherd wants to play catch in the house, she brings me the tennis ball and tosses it onto my lap. If you spend time with your German Shepherd, talk to them, and get to know how they work, you will be amazed at the bond you will have with them.
It’s easy to teach a German Shepherd if you take the time to get to know how they think. I know the difference in her barks and the tones she uses to tell me things. If I don’t understand, I ask her to show me and she does.
One last story before I go. We had a cairn terrier, named Jack. Jack was 13 years old when we got our German Shepherd, Leia, as a puppy. They bonded well.
Leia woke me at 2am and would not stop bothering me until I followed her downstairs. Jack was having seizures and convulsing on the kitchen floor. As I held Jack, Leia sat next to me and watched, her head cocking from side to side. She knew there was a problem, which is why she rushed to wake me up.
Unfortunately, Jack passed away, in my arms, an hour later. If it wasn’t for Leia, our boy Jack would have passed away alone.
If you want a severely loyal, loving and protective member of the family, a German Shepherd is a great breed to consider, especially with kids.
If you take the time to learn about them and spend a lot of time with them, your German Shepherd will be the best canine family member you can imagine!
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