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Are German Shepherds Good With Kids? What Parents Must Know

Last Updated: February 18, 2024

If you’re thinking about welcoming a German Shepherd into your family, or if you already have this majestic breed and are considering starting a family, you must understand how well German Shepherds interact with children.

German Shepherds are good with kids due to their protective, loyal, and watchful nature. As a guardian breed, they are natural protectors of their family, especially the children. When properly socialized and trained, they love being around kids of all ages.

In this post, I’ll dive deep into the temperament of German Shepherds and their behavior around children and share personal anecdotes and tips to foster a harmonious relationship between your GSD and your little ones.

Whether you’re a current GSD owner pondering the addition of a child into your home or a parent considering a German Shepherd as a new family member, this exploration is tailored for you.

Key Takeaways:

  • German Shepherds are inherently protective and can form strong bonds with children when properly socialized.
  • Supervision is essential, especially in the early stages of introducing a German Shepherd to your children, to ensure safety and comfort for both.
  • Communication with your children about interacting with dogs is vital for preventing misunderstandings.
A young girl petting a German Shepherd

Unveiling the Compatibility of German Shepherds with Kids

When it comes to the German Shepherd’s compatibility with kids, there’s much to unpack beyond the stereotypes and the breed’s imposing stature.

“A German Shepherd’s loyalty to their family, especially the little ones, is a powerful example of the depth of their character and heart.” – World of Dogz
German Shepherd enjoying the beach.
My German Shepherd, Willow.

Let’s discuss the traits that make German Shepherds good with kids.

1. German Shepherds Are Protective and Loyal

German Shepherds were initially bred to be herding dogs in the late 1800s. But unlike the Border Collie and some other shepherd breeds, they also excelled at protecting the sheep from stray dogs, wolves, and other predators.

Their size, strength, and stamina, combined with a strong bite force, meant they could easily safeguard their flocks.

Although German shepherds are rarely used as shepherd dogs nowadays, being preferred instead in other working roles such as police and military, their protective and loyal traits remain.

“Living with a German Shepherd and kids is like watching a bond form in real-time, built on mutual respect and unwavering loyalty” – World of Dogz

German Shepherds are self-confident, brave, intelligent, and devoted and are very protective of their loved ones, including the children in the family.

They will naturally protect kids from strangers and intruders and are the ideal guard dogs. However, you must use caution around other children due to these strong protective instincts.

I find it fascinating that the German Shepherds’ herding instinct remains so strong.

Some dogs will even “herd” kids and keep them in check – such is their instinctual drive to move animals around.

If your GSD possesses strong herding instincts, you must channel their energy into mentally stimulating games, exercises, and training.

A young girl hugging and petting her GSD.

2. German Shepherds Are Friendly

German Shepherds are among the most child-friendly dogs.

Their friendliness makes them perfect companion pets and well-suited to homes with babies and children.

However, early socialization and training are essential for the German Shepherd breed. This means exposing your pup to countless different situations from a young age.

Socialization should start as soon as you get your new German Shepherd, usually when they’re around eight weeks old.

Introduce your GSD to many other people, including young children and teenagers. They should also be exposed to other dogs, pets, noises, cars, bicycles, motorbikes, etc.

This prevents them from becoming anxious in a new environment as they’ll know what to expect and will not show aggression through fear.

A properly trained and socialized German Shepherd loves to be around kids and enjoys playing with them. He will quickly bond with them and form an unbreakable friendship.

German Shepherd relaxing on decking

3. German Shepherds Are High Energy And Love To Play

German Shepherds are high-energy, keen, and alert. Among guardian breeds, the working line German Shepherds’ energy intensity is second only to that of the Belgian Malinois.

They make great playmates for active children with whom they’ve grown up.

Due to their strength, energy levels, rough play, and strong prey drive, it’s wise to be cautious when introducing an adult German Shepherd to children until they’ve become familiar with them.

If you already have kids, you should choose a puppy and start the socialization and training immediately.

I advise choosing a show-line German Shepherd as they have a lesser working drive and a slightly friendlier temperament than some working lines bred for border patrol, such as the Czech Shepherd.

My German Shepherd is from the show lines, but I had no intention of entering her into shows when I bought her.

“I chose her for her temperament, looks, and lineage, knowing she’d have more patience around children.” – World of Dogz

A German Shepherd needs at least two hours of daily exercise, brain training, and stimulation.

Due to their breeding purpose, they love having a job to do and desire to please their owners, including the kids. They enjoy fun games like fetch, Frisbee, hide ‘n’ seek, agility, and “find it.”

Learn More About The German Shepherd In This Video…

4. GSDs are Intelligent and Fun to Train

German Shepherds are highly intelligent and trainable. Their high IQ is why they’re used in working roles today, such as assistance dogs, search and rescue, police, and military.

They are the third most intelligent dog breed. They can comprehend a new command after only five repetitions and observe the first command 95% of the time.

To put this into context, the German Shepherd has the IQ of a 2-year-old child, which might explain why they are good with kids, as they can easily relate to them.

When training, the intelligence of the GSD allows them to be extremely obliging, and they’ll gladly follow the lead of their favorite human, which could be a child.

This is why it is not uncommon to see a ten-year-old kid working with their German Shepherd in designated breed clubs such as the SV in Europe (Society for German Shepherd Dogs).

You can teach a GSD several fun tricks and games to amuse your kids for hours. I’m not saying you should treat your dog as a plaything for your children.

However, the vitality and loyalty of the German Shepherd mean he will cherish fun playtimes just as much as your children.

The German Shepherd’s instinctive intelligence makes it a good protector, especially of the family’s children.

When you add this innate trait to adoptive intelligence, which includes training, socialization, and task completion, the breed becomes super smart.

To learn more about the GSD’s intelligence, check out this article, Are German Shepherds Smart?

5. German Shepherds are Affectionate

German Shepherds are known to show genuine affection, love, and warmth to their family, especially the children they are particularly fond of.

A German Shepherd will never harm his “flock” but fiercely protect them once he has had plenty of time to bond with his new family.

“The bond between our children and our German Shepherd is a beautiful reminder that communication goes beyond words; it’s felt with the heart.” – World of Dogz

Some German Shepherds can even become too clingy, especially as the breed is susceptible to separation anxiety.

However, not all dogs are the same, depending on how well they were socialized as puppies. The development of social structure is paramount during the primary socialization period.

They will naturally follow the kids everywhere – even to the bathroom!

GSDs will also show physical affection to children, such as laying across their lap or feet, putting their paws on them, or licking them. Most German Shepherds also enjoy a cuddle.

A GSD playing with 2 kids in the park.

Nurturing a Child-friendly Environment

Protecting your children while raising a German Shepherd involves two steps. The first step is getting an inherently confident dog and providing it with a reasonably secure experience to nurture openness.

The second step is to train your kids and the German Shepherd to behave properly so they don’t clash.

To ensure that your German Shepherd is safe around children, you must expose him to them when he is relatively young.

As long as he grows up in an environment with children around, he will not feel agitated or insecure in their presence.

You can teach your children to act in ways that do not make your German Shepherd uneasy. Some of the best practices include:

  • Ensuring your children understand basic rules. Teach your kids to keep away from your GSD if he appears sick, anxious, or injured.
  • Never approach the GSD if he is growling. Teach your children to spot signs of aggression before your dog reacts aggressively. This will help them avoid an asocial episode. You can learn more about German Shepherd aggression here.
  • Do not poke or prod the German Shepherd. You might assume your children wouldn’t hurt your GSD, but young children do not understand when their actions hurt others. Educate your children on not poking or prodding your dog, even if this seems redundant.
  • Do not approach the GSD if he is eating. Some dogs will growl if humans get too close during mealtimes. This is known as resource guarding behavior, and you should teach the kids to let the dog eat in peace. 
  • Do not throw toys at the GSD. Letting your children know that dogs can bite might make them too cautious and keep them from bonding with the dog. The best way to keep kids from hurting the GSD is to cultivate empathy among them. Articulate how much the dog loves them. 

When children begin to mirror the affection their dogs show them, they subtly convey their love for the German Shepherd through their smiles and behavior around him.

German Shepherds, known for their emotional intelligence and keen senses, are adept at recognizing these expressions of love, deepening their affection for the children in return.

A German Shepherd With a Young Girl

Teaching Children To Assume Authority

Teaching your children to assume authority over the German Shepherd is a good idea. Here’s how you do that.

  • Get your child to distribute treats. One of the best ways to signal to a dog that your child has authority is to have your kid embody the provider role. This is important for all family dogs to internalize. Fortunately, German Shepherds are very quick to pick up on this. 
  • Teach your child how to give commands. Another great way to establish your child’s authority is to have him give simple commands and then give him the corresponding treat.
  • Have your child walk ahead with you. When walking your GSD, don’t be the only one walking ahead; have the kids walk ahead as well. This will signal dominance over the German Shepherd.
  • Supervise grooming sessions. A German Shepherd submits to the person he feels the safest around. That person can even be a child, and regular brushing sessions can promote the kind of bond that, with time, turns into compassionate submission from the dog’s end.

Watch the video below on how to introduce your dog to a baby.


Will A German Shepherd Attack A Child?

German Shepherds are friendly with kids and don’t have the need or intention to attack a child. However, when kids around are new to GSDs and unknowingly expose the dog to triggers, there’s a chance for an attack.

If you’re considering buying or adopting a GSD, ensure your child is trained to handle the dog properly. Sometimes, a kid’s rough play can agitate the dog. Likewise, loud noises can also frustrate the dog.

Do Children Need Training To Be With German Shepherds?

Before a German Shepherd comes into the home, children need to be GSD-savvy. This training includes following commands, maintaining the right environment, practicing friendly touch, and developing socialization.

Being Shepherd-savvy helps exercise the right degree of control on GSDs whenever required.

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds are good with kids because they’re naturally protective, loyal, friendly, affectionate, intelligent, confident, and energetic. They are smart enough to recognize children as important members of the family.

It is best to choose a puppy that can grow up with children around rather than adopt an adult German Shepherd, especially if you have a baby or very young children. Of course, always supervise your children when playing with the dog.

When kids are taught to respect a German Shepherd and the German Shepherd is taught to respect the kids, a well-trained dog is an excellent addition to any family with children.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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