Adding a dog to your family requires careful thought and consideration. It's important to honestly assess your lifestyle and determine whether you can truly provide a furry family member with the time, attention, and training he needs. Take into account the breed you're considering as well. While every dog is a unique individual with his own personality traits, each breed has its own tendencies. The decision to add a pug to your family, for instance, may be an easy one. These charming little couch potatoes don't need much exercise and rarely bite thanks to their tiny mouths and smooshed faces. You may need to think harder about a German shepherd, however, as these dogs get quite large and have protective instincts that cause trouble when misdirected. You'll also need to consider whether you can trust a German shepherd around your children.
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Patience in a German shepherd family dog
German shepherds bond quickly with the children in their home, often treating them with the same love and attention they would lavish on their own puppies. While you should teach your children how to respect dogs and interact with them safely, German shepherds tolerate pokes, grabs, and occasional tail pulls from little hands quite well. Some even enjoy a good bear hug in spite of the fact that it mimics dog fighting behavior.
Shepherds make tireless playmates
Young children have a lot of energy and so do German shepherds. When watching a German shepherd with kids, you may notice the children running out of steam before the dog. This endless energy level coupled with high intelligence means your kids will have a playmate they can teach all kinds of different games and tricks while burning off some of their own energy. The great stamina of the breed makes them excellent companions for the rest of the family as well. Hiking, jogging, canoeing, and generally living life on the go is easy with a GSD dog who can keep up. Vets and breed experts consider shepherds puppies for the first three years of their life, so you can expect several years of playfulness followed by a lifetime of great stamina.
They don't know their own strength
A full grown male German shepherd can reach a height of 26 inches and weigh 90 pounds. That's a whole lot of dog to be bouncing around next to a toddler. These gentle giants won't intentionally hurt children, but your dog could accidentally harm your child if she gets overly exuberant. As is true of all large breeds, it takes German shepherd puppies some time to learn how strong they are and to control their big bodies. Luckily, German shepherds are smart and easy to train. Teach your dog to avoid jumping and other excited behaviors that could cause an accident.
It's important to watch your children around teething German shepherd puppies. Again, the dog isn't likely to inflict any intentional damage. Shepherds can get a little mouthy when teething or playing, however, so have a plan. Avoid problems by providing lots of chew toys. If your pup does get mouthy with you or another family member, immediately but calmly put her in her crate. Let her out again only when she is calm. You can also mimic the high-pitched yip puppies use to tell each other when something hurts during play. Withdraw your hand and quickly give the dog something on which she is allowed to chew instead of you.
Proper socialization is a must
You can trust your loyal German shepherd around your kids and other family members, but what about others? Shepherds will protect their people at all costs, so it's important they know when a family member is in trouble versus when your kids are simply roughhousing with the neighbors. To teach your puppy that not every stranger is a danger, it's important to socialize him early and often. Take your new pet to as many stores and public places as you can and allow him to interact with the other people and dogs he encounters there. The more people, places, and noises to which you can expose your German shepherd, the more confident he'll be. A confident dog is less likely to overreact to a benign situation and go into a protective mode when no actual danger is present. Exposing him to lots of different people and places shows him that a wide range of behaviors and noises are all just part of a normal day.
- German Shepherd World: German Shepherds and Kids: Should You Get a German Shepherd for Your Kid?
- American Kennel Club: German Shepherd Dog
- Canna-Pet: Are German Shepherds Good With Kids?
- Animal Humane Society: Managing Mouthing in Dogs
- Total German Shepherd: The Importance Of GSD Socialization – The Earlier the Better!