Before you take on a GSD as a new member of your family you’ve probably asked yourself… are German Shepherds good family dogs?
Every year, the AKC recognizes the German Shepherd as the second most popular dog breed (after the Labrador Retriever and before the Golden Retriever). Their popularity is not surprising, considering that their nature and temperament make them an excellent choice not only as working animals but companion dogs as well.
Are German Shepherds good family dogs?
A German Shepherd can be an ideal choice for a family dog. They’re intelligent and highly trainable, adaptable to almost any lifestyle, and loyal to the family members they will serve to protect. If your family has the time to devote to sufficient training and exercise, then a GSD will make a loving family companion.
German Shepherds are eager to please as well as perceptive, so they understand your moods and how they should act around you. To known faces, they’re also sweet, endearing, and goofy at the same time.
I can’t tell you how many times my girl has had everyone laughing hysterically!
While German Shepherds can be the perfect pet even for households with young kids, it’s important to note that, just like any other dog, they aren’t always inherently that way. Training your dog and your kids how to interact with one another is key.
Here is a great video that demonstrates how german shepherds can be the ultimate family dog:
Are German Shepherds good with kids?
German Shepherds can be amazing with kids because they are playful and sweet. They will tolerate not only hugs and snuggles but also pulls, pokes, and grabs from little ones. They’re also active and energetic, allowing them to outplay even the most hyperactive child.
But, how a specific dog behaves towards and around young children really depends on their upbringing. If a GSD is to be well-mannered around kids, they need proper exposure with children and training. Your child also needs to understand how to interact properly with a German Shepherd.
Here is a sweet video about a little girl and her German Shepherd:
Are German Shepherds good with babies?
German Shepherds have been known to do very well with babies. But, they don’t always inherently know how to behave around them. Like any other dog, GSDs need to be taught how to treat babies. Luckily, German Shepherds are super fast learners and will quickly learn to be gentle with a new edition.
The biggest concern with a properly socialized and trained German Shepherd is not that they would purposely harm anyone in the family but that they often don’t understand their own size and strength. With sturdy adults and older children, that might not be an issue. But their massive size and weight could easily hurt fragile babies and toddlers. No matter how well trained any dog is, it’s crucial not only to keep an eye on their interactions with babies but to also supervise actively.
Here is a cute video compilation showing just how loving and German Shepherds can be with the littlest of humans:
How to Raise a German Shepherd to Be a Good Family Dog
1) Socialize at a Young Age
It’s best to start socializing GSDs when they’re puppies not only because they haven’t grown to their full size and weight but also because they haven’t formed any bad habits.
While they’re puppies, give them tons of exposure not only to young kids and babies but to all sorts of people, animals, and environments.
2) Train the Dog
While structured training sessions are helpful, every interaction is actually a teaching moment when it comes to training your German Shepherd on how to behave around kids. Always supervise and praise them when they’re doing well to reinforce good behaviors.
For safety, it’s best to start exposing your GSD to really young kids only when they have already gone through some basic obedience training and can follow basic verbal commands.
3) Train the Kids
Dogs aren’t the only ones that need to be trained. If you are to have a German Shepherd fully integrate into your family, everyone at home needs to learn how to treat the dog, most notably the kids.
Among the most important lessons to teach kids is to respect the dog’s privacy and personal space. They should leave them alone when eating, sleeping, or resting in their own bed or crate.
They should also avoid tugging their tails or ears, and also trying to ride them like a horse. Over time, you’ll also observe what your GSD likes and will tolerate, and it’s essential to make sure your family respects those preferences.
4) Give Them Ample Exercise
Because they are working dogs, German Shepherds are naturally energetic. Depending on your specific dog’s activity level, they might need anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise per day.
As puppies, however, they tire quite easily. For GSDs below six months old, 15-30 minutes sessions of exercise a few times a day should be enough. Click here for an article on how long to walk your German Shepherd puppy.
How you exercise your German Shepherd should be based on your preferences and lifestyle. What’s important is that they get to burn off their excess energy, so they’re calm and well behaved at home.
5) Keep Them Busy
German Shepherds don’t just need exercise but mental stimulation as well. They need to keep their mind going, or else they get bored quickly.
One of the best ways to deal with this is to teach them new tricks continually. You can start with simple ones and build on them over time. Having a goal and an increasingly challenging project doesn’t just keep you both busy but also improves your bond.
Additionally, you can get them toys that keep them engaged when you’re not around.
6) Keep Them Healthy
How a dog feels affect their temperament. Therefore, a healthy dog is a better-behaved dog!
Several health problems are common to the German Shepherd breed. But, it doesn’t really take extraordinary measures to keep them in top form. Apart from giving them enough physical and mental stimulation, feed them high-quality, age-appropriate food. Also, make sure to groom them properly and get a vet check-up regularly.
In my opinion, German Shepherds make an excellent addition to the family. They are loving, intelligent, highly trainable, and playful with kids.
However, it will take some training for both your dog and your children to have your household running smoothly. Once integrated into the family, the love and affection you will get from your German Shepherd is priceless!