Girl hugging a German Shepherd puppy.

Are German Shepherds Good With Kids? A Closer Look

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 10th January 2024

Has your kid been begging for a dog? Perhaps specifically a German Shepherd? Or, you already have a German Shepherd and there’s a baby on the way?

In each of these cases, the question “are German Shepherds good with kids?” becomes of paramount importance. There is not much room for error: the young kids and dogs in the same household need to get along, otherwise, chaos would ensue.

So is that the case with German Shepherds? Let’s discuss this.


Are German Shepherds Good With Children?

Let’s answer the question right off the bat: They might not make every list of the best dogs for kids but yes, German Shepherds are known to be very good with kids. Most German Shepherds instinctively turn into gentle guardians around children. They can be incredibly patient and very protective, especially if they know the child belongs to their owner.

Besides having this reputation of being nice with children, german shepherds have quite a few traits that make them great family dogs:

  • They are very intelligent and trainable. GSDs are always very clever and fairly easy to train. You’ll be able to teach them lots of tricks and games they can play with your children.
  • GSDs have lots of energy and stamina. They seem to never get tired. So, if you need something to keep your kids entertained, your German Shepherd might just do the trick. However, this also means GSDs need to use this energy somewhere - activities and exercise each day aren’t optional, they are a must.
  • They are a very loyal breed. Once they bond with their families, GSDs stay faithful for life.

The Potential Problems When German Shepherds & Kids Interact

German Shepherds are known for being good and patient with young children, but that doesn’t mean you should say “OK then” and go ahead and get a German Shepherd. These dogs do have some traits that might prove problematic later on:

  • GSDs are large and energetic. That is not to say this can’t work with kids - but a German Shepherd needs proper training from a young age (and so will your kid). Otherwise, for example, the dog could easily knock over the child during play which could induce fear on both sides.
  • These dogs can be very protective. As shepherd dogs, GSDs tend to be very loyal to their family and very suspicious of everyone else. Care needs to be taken to not let those traits escalate -  i.e. you probably don’t want your dog to attack everyone that comes close to your kids.
  • GSDs are a lot of work. In general, German Shepherds need lots of attention. They are not an attention-seeking dogs, but they do need constant training, exercise, and activities. They are perfect for active families who spend a lot of time outdoors but aren’t great dogs for apartment living.

Understanding German Shepherds

As for the question of whether German Shepherds are good with kids, we can probably all agree that the answer is yes. There are always individual exceptions, but there are countless reports of these dogs instinctively being wonderful with kids, even without any special training.

However, if you are considering welcoming a GSD into your home, this is not the only question you should be asking. There is a more important question you should be asking: Is a German Shepherd right for my family?

Namely, GSDs aren’t the only dog breed that is good with kids. And even though they are wonderful, faithful companions, German Shepherds come with their own set of needs and requirements (hint: they are not great apartment dogs).

So, before you get one of these dogs, you should consider whether you have the time, space, and energy in your life to fulfil your GSDs needs and make them into happy dogs.

To help you answer this question, let’s get to know the breed a little bit better:

Size

You probably already know this, but we still do recommend taking a minute to consider how big a German Shepherd is. These dogs typically weigh between 30 and 40 kg, and can be over 40 cm tall.

That’s nothing unmanageable and there are bigger dogs around, but GSDs are not lap dogs.

Health

German Shepherds typically have quite a long life expectancy - they live 10 to 12 years (1). However, they are also prone to a variety of health issues. Hip and elbow dysplasia and canine degenerative myelopathy are the things to watch out for, along with some other conditions (2).

Grooming Needs

When it comes to grooming, German Shepherds do not require a lot of special care. However, they do have a thick double coat that sheds a lot. Typically, they will go through an intensive shedding period once or twice per year during which you’ll be finding hairs everywhere. Still, with regular brushing, the grooming needs of a GSD will be easily satisfied.

Exercise

German Shepherds, like all dogs of the shepherd type, are known to be very energetic. They were originally bred to be working dogs, and they typically need lots of activity, or their own “jobs” to take care of.

“German Shepherds are incredibly active dogs that require intense training and regular exercise to keep them out of trouble physically and mentally. They are best for active families and experienced pet parents.” - Barri J. Morrison, DVM, PetMD (1)

If you want a German Shepherd, you have to be ready to fulfil their exercise needs. Otherwise, you might end up with a very nervous and unruly dog on your hands.

Training

German Shepherds respond well to positive reinforcement training, but it’s very important to start them early and stay consistent.

The early period of socialization is super important for GSDs. At this time, they should be introduced to many new people, situations, and animals. Failing to do so might feed into the GSDs protective and aggressive tendencies, creating a dog that can be dangerous to people outside your family.

While some traits of a dog’s temperament do inevitably come from genetics (3), with proper training these traits can be effectively held under control.


Is a German Shepherd Right for Your Kids?

Get a German Shepherd puppy for your kid, and they will very likely become BFFs. That’s indeed a great gift, but just make sure your lifestyle fits the needs of a GSD. If you are ready to take them for a walk a couple of times a day, provide lots of opportunities for running, playing, and exercising; and dedicate time to training, then a German Shepherd will be the perfect addition to your family.

You’ve probably heard that getting a GSD as a puppy is best to get them used to children. And in most cases that’s true. However, there is another good option. If you choose to adopt an older dog with a history of getting along with children, you’ll be 100% sure you are on the right path + you’ll be doing a good deed.

Related: How Much Do German Shepherds Cost?

We are simply hinting at the fact that adoption is always an option, and worth considering. Check out the rescue organisations linked below, or some of your local rescue groups and give those pups a chance. You might just end up falling in love.

References

  1. Morrison, B. J. June 28, 2022. “German Shepherd Dog”. PetMD. Retrieved November 15, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/breeds/c_dg_german_shepherd
  2. Taylor, M. May 12, 2022. “ What to Know About German Shepherds”. FETCH by WebMD. Retrieved November 15, 2022. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/what-to-know-about-german-shepherds
  3. Tiz, J. 2000. “Elements of Temperament: Drives, Thresholds and Nerves”. German Shepherd Guide. Retrieved November 15, 2022. https://www.germanshepherdguide.com/temperament.html

Vedrana Nikolic


Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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