If you have a baby and are thinking about getting a German Shepherd as an addition to your family, or you already own a German Shepherd and have a baby on the way, you’ll want to know whether the two are compatible.
German Shepherds are excellent with babies and small children. They are extremely protective, gentle, and affectionate by nature, making them great companions for newborn babies and ensuring their safety. They will form a strong bond that will last through infancy, childhood, and their lifetime.
However, there is a degree of caution in that the German Shepherd should be well-socialized and not made to feel jealous of the child. Additionally, babies and children should never be left alone with a dog.
In this article, you will learn more about German Shepherd-child compatibility and what principles govern the depth of their bond or lack of it, including jealousy, gender, and in-group bias.
You will also find out how you can make the introduction between your baby and your German Shepherd smooth, hassle-free, and fruitful.
But before getting to any of that, let’s return to the original question and dive deeper into whether German Shepherds are baby-friendly.
Are German Shepherds Good With Babies?
If we take a sociological view of dogs and their owners, it’s no secret that most are emotionally attached to their dog, who is seen as a member of the family. Some owners have the view that humans are equal, not superior to their canine friends.
But no matter your view, let’s look at what makes German Shepherds friendly or hostile toward humans.
The In-Group/Out-Group Factor
German Shepherds were bred to be, well, shepherds! They have strong protective instincts, and farmers never had to worry about predators such as foxes or coyotes killing their sheep. However, when what you must protect is far more valuable than sheep, it is understandable to hesitate.
The breeds’ protective traits descend from their wolf ancestors, which means they make sense of the world from a pack perspective. You, fortunately, are in your dog’s pack. And because German Shepherds belong to one of the smartest dog breeds, they can also see that your baby is part of the pack.
If German Shepherds weren’t as bright, they might think of protecting you from your baby. But since they are also loyal to your baby, the job of protecting you from your infant must go to the babysitter.
With the in-group/out-group distinction established, I would like to focus on how you can emphasize that your baby belongs to the in-group.
Don’t Be Annoyed With Your Child
Remember, what protects your newborn, infant, or toddler is that your dog sees him as part of the pack. It is crucial not to test the depth of your German Shepherd’s intelligence. Despite being smart, GSDs aren’t intelligent enough to notice the nuances that make us tolerate our loved ones even when they are misbehaving or demanding.
If your German Shepherd mistakenly assumes that your child is a source of trouble for you, he might start categorizing the infant as an out-group entity. A well-socialized GSD will still not be aggressive. However, having your baby on a big dog’s grudge list isn’t great.
Don’t Make a Rushed Introduction
Different German Shepherds have different levels of exposure to children. If your dog has previously visited houses with babies, they may have a concept of tiny humans with spontaneous sleep schedules. However, German Shepherds don’t like to be surprised by too much new information at once.
I am dedicating a portion of this article to introducing a German Shepherd to a baby in a controlled and safe manner. For now, I’ll just include the fact that rushing an introduction will make the in-group/out-group sorting a game of chance.
Watch This Video On How To Introduce a Dog To a Baby…
Don’t Be Performative With Your Affection
Finally, there’s the chance that your German Shepherd might get so insecure that his definition of “in-group” might shrink to himself. Let me explain that: we humans have been social/tribal since the dawn of our species. That means we think about our friends and family.
However, there are contexts in which self-preservation outweighs social responsibility. In the case of dogs, self-preservation becoming priority number one is almost always a high-risk situation.
Make sure your German Shepherd isn’t insecure or jealous of your baby by avoiding over-affectionate gestures towards your infant or toddler in front of the dog.
Jealousy: When Intelligent Dogs Get Insecure
German Shepherds can get jealous of babies if they’re not introduced properly and are shown relatively little attention in the presence of an infant. This can happen, especially if the baby is a fresh addition to a family that the German Shepherd already belongs to.
To make sure a German Shepherd isn’t jealous of a baby, parents must make a gradual introduction and should monitor for signs of jealousy and aggression. Given that GSDs are pretty social, a new addition inspires curiosity and interest instead of jealousy and aggression.
However, if your German Shepherd is a rescue dog, you have to factor in abandonment issues. If the dog was disowned after its previous family introduced a baby, then he will be insecure about your infant.
Signs of Jealousy
German Shepherds don’t always get jealous of babies and are reasonably restrained even when they suspect they aren’t getting as much love. Still, a dog feeling insecure is a high-risk situation in this context, which is why you must watch out for signs of jealousy.
- Growling around the baby – Growling or low-volume barking around the baby is a sign of aggression that stems from jealousy. Watch out for aggressive body language in this case. You can learn more about German Shepherd body language in this article.
- Refusing to smell the baby – Smelling the child is a sign of curiosity while staying distant is a sign of caution. You do not want your German Shepherd to feel like he cannot be around the baby.
- Trying to get attention – Dogs love attention, and I’m sure your GSD has ways of getting yours, but if you feel like he’s being “extra” in his attempts whenever you’re around the baby, you can conclude that he is jealous of the infant.
Steps to Take Upon Noticing Jealousy
If you notice that your German Shepherd shows possessive traits, here are a few steps to take.
- Determine whether it is protectiveness or possessiveness – There’s a subtle difference between being protective and being possessive. If the dog thinks your affection for the baby is a threat to his self-interest, then he is possessive.
- Be joyful around your toddler to calm a protective dog – If you seem annoyed around your child, your German Shepherd might get protective of your mood. It has been concluded that dogs can relate human emotions to actions. So, upon noticing over-protective tendencies in your GSD, you have to start being annoyed at your child in private.
- Reduce open displays of affection to calm a jealous dog – If there’s a steep difference in your treatment of your German Shepherd and that of your baby, your dog will get jealous. That’s because they are smart enough to see that they’re not receiving a fair share of your love. Please don’t make the difference more obvious.
German Shepherds, Gender, and Baby-Friendliness
You might wonder if the gender of your German Shepherd has any influence on baby-friendliness. Are female dogs any different from males?
Female German Shepherds are good with babies and can develop a more compassionate bond because they are not as aggressive as their male counterparts. Even male German Shepherds are good with babies and don’t show aggression if adequately socialized.
Regardless, you cannot consider a big dog of any breed or gender to be safe enough to leave an unsupervised child around them. That has more to do with the toddler than with the dog.
A German Shepherd’s self-preservation instincts will get triggered if he is teased or provoked, and a child might not always know what hurts or aggravates the dog. Anything from a baby crying to a toddler poking the dog or pulling its tail can startle a dog. Do you want to know more about GSDs and kids? Check out this detailed post, 5 Reasons Why German Shepherds Are Good With Kids.
Learn More About The German Shepherd In This Video…
How to Introduce a German Shepherd to a Baby
Introducing a German Shepherd to a baby requires caution as you don’t want your German Shepherd to see your child as a threat or for your baby to start crying and startle the dog. However, most of the associated anxiety relates to how you exhibit your personal connection to both parties. Toning down your nervous energy is actually a good thing.
To introduce a German Shepherd to a baby, you must first train him to be familiar with the child’s scent, then exhaust the dog’s excess energy by taking him on a long walk. Ensure that he is submissive when the introduction occurs and stay firm yet empathetic while supervising the encounter.
While it is easy to get nervous thinking about what could go wrong, your German Shepherd is less likely to feel open; he can detect your anxiousness. Focus on your empathy for the baby to bring out your compassionate body language. Dogs mirror their owners’ emotions, and your German Shepherd will instantly understand that the child is not a threat.
While you can regulate your mood to control the direction of your dog’s emotions, you cannot control his behavior as easily. Take the next few months before the baby arrives as a time-bound assignment to get your German Shepherd to see you as the guiding guardian. Avoid playing confusing games with him and do not switch up routines.
Make your German Shepherd accustomed to following your commands without pause, and don’t send mixed signals unintentionally. This can make his behavior worse and more uncontrollable upon the baby’s introduction. Here’s a refresher on how to discipline a German Shepherd, which includes the specific things not to do.
Own the Scent and Space
It’s now time to start owning the space and scent of your baby. This involves bringing home items your newborn has recently used, including but not limited to a wool cap, a tiny handkerchief, and the baby’s sock. You must stand at a distance and proudly hold the item while making your dog “SIT.”
After he has sat for a while at your command, you can command him to “COME” and let him smell the items. By engaging in this activity, your German Shepherd internalizes that you own this specific scent, and he can smell it only when you allow him to. This also familiarizes him with the baby’s scent in a non-threatening environment.
As for owning the space, you have to make the nursery (or the cot if you’re in a smaller house) off-limits. Use the “GO” or “WAIT” commands or simply discourage him verbally any time he nears the area.
Make the Introduction
Finally, when making the introduction, you must remember to exhaust your German Shepherd’s pent-up energy by first taking him on a long walk. When you enter the house, he will notice the higher intensity of a previously familiar scent. The parent holding the child must be in a relaxed, almost-zen state.
You should allow your dog to sniff the baby from a distance. This will educate him on the role of the child as a potential master. As days go by, you can have your dog inch closer each time while you calmly hold the baby.
Watch Two German Shepherds Greeting a Newborn Baby…
I love how relaxed the mother is in this video and how the dogs are smelling and licking the baby’s head and face. Dogs can sense pregnancy, and they can recognize the infants’ smell and correlate it to the changes in the mom’s pheromones during pregnancy. Check out this article for greater insight into what German Shepherds can sense.
Mistakes To Avoid When Introducing German Shepherds To Babies
Puppy GSDs enjoy their interactions with babies, especially because both fascinate by tiny things or objects shown to them. As they grow together, they enjoy better relationships. However, some pet parents rush to introduce German Shepherds to their babies. Perhaps, there are also other common mistakes that pet parents commit while introducing GSDs to babies.
- Don’t begin with touches. Encouraging your baby to touch GSD is good, but that shouldn’t be the first step. Allow the dog to listen to your baby’s voice and get acquainted with the same.
- Unsupervised interaction is another mistake to avoid in this process. Dogs aren’t the same, and babies aren’t, either. So, it’s essential to supervise their movements and interactions until the baby ages and understands the events around them.
- Food isn’t the same for both. It’s a common practice for pet parents to feed the baby’s food to the dog to improve eating habits. The problem is that the dog gets used to the food time and food type. As a result, he may reject his food at some point.
- Take one step at a time. Take the relationship slow and steady. It’s common to see pet parents introducing commands, eating behaviors, and other activities to GSDs and babies simultaneously. While babies learn from these actions, their understanding is limited and needs time. Don’t rush in this process.
It’s only natural for expecting parents to feel like their German Shepherd might act unpredictably when bringing home their baby. The truth is a well-trained and socialized dog will not switch personalities upon seeing another addition to the family.
All you have to do is show dominance over your German Shepherd and establish yourself as a pack leader, familiarize your German Shepherd with your baby’s scent, and gradually introduce the infant as a potential pack leader as well. As long as you don’t show dramatically different degrees of attention to both, your dog will not feel insecure or jealous.