==> Small children or large children? - At home or on the street?

Better safe than sorry!

GSD and Children - Best Practice

I cannot stress enough the importance of learning ever more how to build the BEST relationship with your GSD. All the more if you have children at home or particularly if you are expecting a baby, and you have a German Shepherd, then you certainly need to consider the subsequent points in order to be safe! For your kids, your dog, and you.

Your German Shepherd can be a completely delightful caretaker of your kids and your family, protecting, guarding and guiding at all times. But for this it is necessary that your GSD is trained to the BEST.

Understanding your GSD's temperament, knowing its behaviours and maintaining a healthy relationship with your GSD is needed to help your GSD bond well with your children, grandchildren, and other people's children.

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

1) Alpha Leader

A point most dog owners don't realize: Every family member, including every child, must establish the role of accepted Pack leader - not just you alone.

If your children are small, of course you need to help them to become your dog's accepted Pack leader.

Most importantly, every child must be involved in the Feeding Routine regularly - see again the fundamentally important MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL Dog Meals, Meal Times, and Feeding Routine!

In a family, best is to take Gesture Eating in turns, and when everyone has done it, start again with the first family member the next week or whenever. If you have a baby, hold your baby in front of you in a baby sling or baby carrier while performing the entire Feeding Routine.

In short, with children in the house, nothing is more important than to involve all children in the complete indoors training (see House Training Dogs To Behave Well) and complete outdoors training of your dog (see Dogs Unleashed: From On-Leash to Off-Leash).

How else can you possibly expect both:

  • your children to behave well with your GSD
  • and your GSD to behave well with your children

This will not happen out of thin air, you know?

Re-listen to what the Top dog expert says above - and indeed he said much more on this essential topic.

Do you want your children, grandchildren, and other people's children to be SAFE with your German Shepherd, or do you want them to possibly become another statistic? It's really odd: People insure themselves, their house, their car, and often their dog and their iphone too, but they fail to insure their children through simple training of the right kind!

I fail to understand such people, I just can't! Paying tons of insurance premiums although the best insurance always is what you do yourself: right. And what you teach your children to do: right.

Training the dog and the kids when having both, this also includes other points than involving your kids in the Feeding Routine: Involve the kids in the washing of your GSD, dog grooming, toothbrushing etc, show them how to safely dog walk off-leash etc. All this helps to establish all family members as accepted Pack leader for your German Shepherd.

Only if your dog KNOWS its position in the house (that is, after all family members), your children are SAFE - and everyone (including the dog) is happier too! Dog-Child aggression or even biting only happens in households where the children have not been established as accepted Pack leader.

Conversely, if the roles are well defined through the right training approach (both dog training and kids training), your dog will follow your and your children's clear behavior (and commands) without being stubborn or angry or 'bossy'.

2) Ideally: Start immediately!

The best time to start developing the right bonding between the children and your GSD is immediately.

To most people who have small children it appears best to get a puppy, however that can be the wrong choice indeed: Puppies' erratic, energetic, and dominant behavior (including the desire to nip everything they can get their mouth on) most of the time is a real challenge for GSD-inexperienced parents - and all the more for the children! Thus, key is to immediately and comprehensively socialize the puppy with the children.

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

If you have the choice, then an adult GSD would be the better choice: Older dogs are much more predictable and calmer and more tolerant with kids! However, if the older dog have had little experience of being around children (you can't know if you get a shelter dog!), then they can become scared, agitated and even aggressive. Because, to a not well-socialized dog, children's behavior and screaming is absolutely terrifying! Thus again, key is to immediately and comprehensively socialize the adult dog with the children.

And if you don't have the choice? Because you are already facing a serious situation with the dog and the children together?

Are you asking me? Then I'd reply: There is no one better to learn from what to do and how to behave than the top professional dog trainer who is raising both small children and a puppy and adult dogs at the same time as well!

torero-posturing a dogAnd without force or raising fear in the dog or the children, without shouting, without "training" gadgets, without treat-training, and without the macho-posturing average TV celebrities need so as to impress the impressable audience of average dog owners.


This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

So, start EARLY if you can. And if you couldn't, start with our advice here and in the other Periodicals how to behave right, and how to establish every family member as accepted Pack leader.

dog socializationYou don't need to have kids at home for this. Your family friends with children, your neighbors, or even the odd kid you meet on the street are good training for your dog too. If only you want, then chances are limitless.

Dog training is not finished until your German Shepherd remains totally calm even when a bunch of kids are rushing past on scooters on the street next to your dog! Actually, dog training is never finished, there's always something that deserves a refresher. With most dog owners I know, that refresher would better happen right now.

3) Activities with children and GSD

[wpsharely id="4431"]

Kids and Dogs is a great guide to read if you have children and a dog in the house. It also shows examples how to involve your children with different activities related to your German Shepherd. This not only creates interaction, but leads to the development of deeper understanding and affection and respect(!) between the kids and your dog.

take care!Involving your children and other children in all the ways mentioned above will also make your dog comfortable around the kids when you are not there - very Very VERY important!

News headlines like "Boy (7) mauled while mum was at the grocery store" wouldn't exist if all dog owners followed our advice here! This will never happen though: Only a selected few make it through years worth of our Periodicals. Hey, only a selected few even make it to our site! At the moment, you are one of those selected special few. :-D

Raising both small children and dogs safely and happily at the same time is really simple aka doable, but it needs to be done! Just reading about it is not enough - but necessary to get the best grounding: to know what's right, and why, and what's wrong, and why.

Doggy DanIf you then prefer to also see and hear the best dog training live in order to get it done: There's a reliable Master trainer (as opposed to the well-known dog TV entertainers) available anytime you need some guidance - whether today, tomorrow, or The Day After Tomorrow: His name is Dan Abdelnoor, but really famous he has become as Doggy Dan, as he likes to call himself (though he told me: he hasn't got that in his passport yet). :-D

How I know that his dog training and children training skill is reliable? Obviously because I have been studying his training videos too! How else would I learn more all the time if I didn't watch the top dog experts, interview them, read them, and think about all I watched, heard, and read? And then I try out new things and see what works better and integrate it into our own training approach. This is what I do.

There really is never an end to learning if only we want (or ultimately need to, because of a problem having emerged). Admittedly, watching makes learning a breeze. Sadly, making videos myself is not my skill.

Anyway, if you don't want a whole book on activities with children and dog, in about a year there will be an entire series of MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICALS on dog play, including how to involve children the right way.

4) Baby and your German Shepherd

When it comes to babies and dogs, just remember one rule:

NEVER leave a baby or a small child unattended with your GSD or another dog!

This is the single best rule that can save you from any unfortunate happening. Babies and small children cry, move their arms and legs much, and also make those baby and high-pitched child sounds - all of which together is more than enough to excite (or scare) your GSD!

You need to accustom your dog to all these situations and noises under your supervision, and make your dog realize that this is very normal and nothing much to be excited or scared about.

How? As always, through leading by example: Your behavior (making nothing of what the baby does and cries) will show your dog to make nothing of it either. You show your dog how to behave.

You don't need any of my books for this, no worries. ;-) In about nine months there will be a series of MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICALS on Behavior Training and its differences to the ever so popular but primitive Obedience Training. But in short (super-short): Your commands won't work if you aren't there to give them! Either because you are out of house or in another room, or (later) because the children are out with the dog.

I am just remembering: Dog-Baby socialization, ie how to involve baby and dog the right way - Dan shows this too!

The whole topic of Dog Socialization will often feature in our Periodicals. For good reason: Socialization and training is not only the best thing to focus on when you have a dog - once the dog is there, it also is the only thing you can do:

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

Although comprehensive socialization is best started at puppy age, let me make very clear here that all the same is needed when you adopt say an eight-years old German Shepherd Dog from a rescue center! An adopted adult dog initially is in many regards like getting a puppy. For more see the Puppy Development Guide - Puppy 101.

5) Keeping clean and healthy

With a dog and small children at home, you need to be extra careful about keeping the house clean. Also, take special care in shedding seasons, as well as flea and tick seasons (shedding will come in 5 months, fleas in 14 months, and ticks in 15 months). Do not let the dead hair with parasites on it float in the air. These can cause breathing problems and/or allergies for children!

Try to maintain some discipline around the house. You may ask your GSD to leave the nursery when the baby is asleep or feeding. Similarly if your baby is small and has just learnt crawling, make sure your baby doesn't get near your dog's eating and drinking bowls as well as rest areas!

Further, for your German Shepherd's safety, keep all diapers, baby clothing, baby care products, and toys(!) in an enclosed space that is not within the reach of your dog! This is necessary because your dog can be particularly curious about these items (as they have a strong odor), and by mistake your dog might eat or swallow them. This can be extremely dangerous and can cause instant choking - which may just be the start of a very undesirable chain of events when the baby is there...!

6) Miscellaneous points

must not do'skid-dog kiss

  • Educate your kids NEVER to pat the dog on the head or to grab its tail, not to hug like headlock, not to kiss on the head, and also not to stare right into a dog's eyes. Eye contact is great and crucially important(!), just not staring (as kids like to do).
  • Your German Shepherd may be the friendliest dog for your kids and they will definitely enjoy the dog's company. But make your kids understand that not ALL dogs are like your GSD. They should always be cautious when with any dog.
  • NEVER allow your children to play games with your dog that involve pulling tails, ears or legs. This could annoy your GSD greatly such that the dog could become inadvertently - and suddenly(!) - aggressive.
  • And finally: Do NOT spook the dog. Show your children that they should always approach your GSD from the front and never try to startle the dog by reaching from behind or 'exploding' out of hiding - what kids LOVE to do. This can scare your GSD immensely and cause unwanted reactions!

All of the above are the key points that will help you keeping your children and your German Shepherd safe and in a close bond. Remember that a German Shepherd is an absolutely amazing dog for children to have. Safe, reliable, and protective. He or she will be there to protect and guard your family at all times. Instinctively at the risk of its own life!

This deserves a lot of extra love. So take care of your GSD and give him or her the love (s)he deserves.


Checklist * (see note at the bottom)

  • See the advice above why and how to establish every family member, including every child, as accepted Pack leader for the dog
  • Do involve all children in the Feeding Routine performance (in turns). If you have a baby you must involve it too (safety reasons). A baby sling is of great help here because it keeps your hands free to perform the Gesture Eating in front of your dog (and to do all sorts of other things)
  • The earlier you start to socialize and train your GSD and your children, the better. Ideally, start immediately - whether with a puppy or with and adult rescue dog.
  • Kids and Dogs is a great guide to read if you have children and a dog in the house
  • The single best rule: NEVER leave a baby or a small child unattended with your GSD or another dog!
  • With a dog and small children, keep the house extra clean; and maintain a certain discipline around the house (see above)
  • If you prefer watching and listening over reading (what?!? ;-) ), these days the best dog training you can find online, at your own leisure, and without spending a fortune on one morning or evening with a local trainer of possibly poor but always undeterminable quality
  • In my opinion, Doggy Dan Abdelnoor is the top professional dog trainer that has gone online. He offers phantastic live videos of his client visits (plus a complete dog and puppy training series) - and all at a fraction of what a local dog trainer charges (for training methods you can't observe and a training outcome you can't replicate, and often better shouldn't!)
  • However, if you appreciate the deeper understanding only reading can convey (good! :-) ) and you don't want to wait for the next hundred Periodicals(? yes!) - then here are the best dog books ever written (good humor always holds some truth, hehe! :-D )



==> Next edition: GSD Leash Training <==


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    Some GSD's are naturally inclined to protect & take care of children-others are not & have to be taught what to do & not do. For instance; one family's first GSD was a male-the child(16 months old) wandered into the kitchen after the GSD had ate a ham bone-the child went to sleep on the GSD w/no problems & the GSD guarded the child while she slept. This is just an example.


    Thank you for putting these points up!

    I recently met a couple just last week who had a four year old and a six year old. The four year old wanted to put Hanz (my GSD) so after I got him to sit, she was able to pet him. The older daughter was terrified and screeching the entire time her sister was near Hanz.

    Then the parents came over to meet us, and the father pet Hanz all the while apologizing about his daughters behavior. He then proceeded to tell me about their GSD. I can only hope they find this information at some point. I wondered what is going on at their house between their GSD and the six year old that would warrant her to be so fearful. As I said, she was terrified just seeing mine.


      > I can only hope they find this information at some point.
      Okay June, let's not be so secretive, it's our generous day, isn't it, you may give them this link: /periodical/gsd-and-children-best-practice/


      Thanks for your feedback!


    Thanks so much for this periodical! We have small grandkids and this helped me allot. You mentioned Doggy Dan, I subscribed to him when my gsd was 2 months, she's now 9 months. I can attest that he is a great leader for you& your dog!


      Thanks DeeAnn, happy that it helped you already!

      Doggy Dan? Yes, I too feel he's brilliant ;-) Obviously we do a few things different here, but myself included, we have learned so much from Dan's videos, it can't be put into words or dollars, as I always say. (Though, I should have built that site! But then, I am not that good looking, yeah right)

      Given that we are the largest dog breed site in the world (measured by global spread of visitors, not "traffic" or such), obviously I get to see, hear, and read A LOT, and in my view there is currently no better dog trainer globally than Dan Abdelnoor (who is a professional, contrary to those entertainers on TV with dog shows... pah! You probably know which guys I mean).

      As everyone can see, Dan's (and ours) dog-loving approach works! So I can't understand why people believe they need to use force with their "difficult dog"... - Do you understand?


        Heath has been socialized since we got him @ 9 weeks. Everyday walks with other dogs off leash, much exercise. 5 kids here at home age 11 and up. We have been on walks when children he just met have played fetch with him. He has seen babies in strollers. Now today at a coffee shop, where he has been numerous times, a toddler walked toward him and he growled and barked! Here I thought he was so nice and good disposition. You just never know. He in just shy of 10 mths. Disappointed.

        We then went to a local dog park. We hadn't been there before and a friendly GSD came up to play with him, he ran to a picnic table and at one point snapped at the other GSD. Later he played with a female pit, then was chased around by several other little dogs which had him fleeing for the hills! Just seems you can never be sure.


    Thanks so much for this periodical. Reinforced information I have read but I had not learned that you need to establish the Alpha Leader with each child. I have two grandchildren ages 4 and 6 and it's kinda difficult when all the 8 week old puppy wants to do is play and bite and they want to pet and love on him.


    Thanks so much for all of your work! This is our second GSD but this puppy is quite aggressive - your site has been invaluable while training him (and our kiddos). Thanks again!


    Another great periodical!! I have a 7 and an 8 year old. As Chief is quite a young rescue they give him a wide berth as he can be quite jumpy with visitors (which is getting better with consistency) and they tend to ignore him until he's really settled and sleepy, then the 7year old will go and pet him, the 8year old tends to not bother at all, unless it's to say "Off" when Chief puts his paws on the windowsill or "No" when Chief got too close to his face once while 8yo was sat on sofa, Chief never moved back so quick. I think there's a mutual respect thing going on with those two :0)
    Thanks again Tim!


    Great article! I'm always watching our 7 mo and 13 mo when the grandkids come over. Our female lets the kids do anything to her, while Kai tries to "herd" or circle them. I always look tto you for advise, and now Doggy Dan. Thanks again for the great article.


    I like this site and more the articles you post,i learn alot thank you so much.

    This article was very useful as my two GDS use to bark at my daughter even though i started feeding them with my daughter i realised when the dogs bark she runs and there they sense she is a stranger, Now i will continue regularly to feed them with my daughter
    Thank you so much.


    Not sure why you need to post a negative image of Cesar Millan or continue to make references to his work in your comments Tim. He has contributed more to dogs than thousands of so-called professional trainers out there by reaching out to millions via his television program. Many have learnt a great deal from his methods and I honestly believe a lot of dogs are living much better thanks to him. Not everyone believes dogs are humans like so many Americans do, a dog is a dog, and trying to establish a human-like trust based relationship is a load of balony. I have bought 5 of your books and am an avid follower of your site, I think you have mastered dog training and will follow you and buy your books for many years to come. I just don't believe you gain anything from bad-talking about others, specially others that have done so much for dogs. Just my two-cents.


      Tom I appreciate your comment a LOT! It's your first under a Periodical, and I would have enjoyed getting your feedback on the earlier 14 as well. :mrgreen:

      I can't see anything negative though, and I even searched the page for it. Nothing about Cesar. Maybe search doesn't work. Then we need to look into that.

      Anyway, as you mention Cesar Millan, and are so much in favor of "what he has done for millions", I share my fifty cent as well. ;-)

      He has perfected to charm millions of people "via his television program"S.
      EVERY dog expert I've ever spoken to holds nothing of Cesar.
      So why such discrepancy, you may wonder?

      This is not the page to discuss such discrepancy, but I have done it elsewhere (in the right place). Thus here just my "fifty cent": All he has done FOR DOGS is to show their owners how to treat the dog BADLY. Millions of dogs have had a miserable life because their owners watched tele, were impressed by Cesar's performance, and followed his methods. He isn't loathed by dog lovers and genuine dog experts alike "because he is so successful" but because he is such a ...

      What confuses me is that you also appreciate my own approach. This confuses me because my own approach is diametrically opposed.

      Well, I thought. But I may be totally wrong, hence why I love discussion. :mrgreen:
      Just not here as it doesn't fit the topic. Unless you raise specific insight of Cesar's methods of Best Practice for a GSD and Children?
      Now that would be really fantastic, for everyone who reads here, wouldn't it?


    Hi, thanks Tim. I do have two children, an 8 year old boy and a 5 year old girl. Bandit now weighs more than her 36 pounds at 45 pounds. I started the feeding routine as soon as we brought him home at the beginning of May. He loves the kids, he doesn't mouth them anymore. He just likes to jump on new kids he meets. Knocks them right over lol. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you, I showed my son this article and explained to him why I've been telling him these things all along. Maybe he'll get it now ?


    Tim, this is such good timing because we have been actively working with our 2 GSDs & our almost 2 year old daughter. She absolutely loves them and calls for them by name when she first wakes in the morning!
    Our female Mika is so loving and tolerant, but our male Jack has been much more leery. He has always had a more difficult time with other dogs, kids, loud noises, etc. He has responded positively to our efforts, and so much of that is thanks to your articles. I am just so, so thankful to have found your site, as I absolutely know it is improving my doggies' quality of life.
    I do have one question if you don't mind- what is your opinion on anxiety meds for dogs? Our trainer recommended Prozac for Jack to help him respond to training. I personally don't love the idea, and I haven't seen a drastic change during the 4-6 weeks he's been taking it. Anyways, without making this insanely long, do you have any thoughts on the matter?


      Yes Emily. I am 100% AGAINST such medicinal response to a training challenge. I am surprised you already have been giving Prozac for 6 weeks. And worse, based on a dog trainer's recommendation - such person is not a TRAINER, sorry, no matter how much you hold of them. Think what (s)he's actually doing there...!

      Let me know if this helps - but your child must be the accepted Pack leader for Jack first, never forget (you got those Periodicals some months ago).


        Yeah, I was pretty sure you wouldn't be an advocate for these meds, which I agree with. Thank you for the quick response! My husband and trainer wanted to do the meds, our vet supported it, and I decided to let my husband win this disagreement.

        But, I actually value your opinion even more than our current trainer, and I've been implementing your techniques more than her "training exercises", and let me tell you, your whole concept of building a better relationship with your dog & being pack leader has worked so much better!

        I'm going to call our vet Monday and wean him from the meds... And I will look at the article link you sent me now!


    I love this new look to the webpage! Cleaner and easy on the eyes. Congrats and happy new year!


    Hi Tim,

    This is all good. I followed your feeding routine guidelines since Bosco was a wee pup. I started with my infant daughter in the sling during feeding times as soon as she was home and he was about 4 months at the time. Now at age 3 she loves to help feed Bosco without help from me. While there was a language barrier for quite a time he still knew what to do and they are so good together from that time through present. I could not ask for a better family dog thanks to your methods.

    One thing I would like to see in a future periodical is how to get Bosco (who is still puppy clumsy and not always aware of his rear end) to be aware of his surroundings. When my child was first walking, Bosco sometimes would lightly knock her off balance unintentionally (it was not difficult to do since she was just learning). Have you any pointers or the name of a good book to read up on? More for others since it rarely happens now. Thanks for all your work!


      Angela, that's a great question. That's more difficult to achieve with a dog (yet possible), here's why:
      The Feeding Routine is so easy for training success because it directly addresses a dog's core quest: gathering food. You know, in case there's not a second chance, normally dogs will make use of every chance, and so dogs learn here quickly how to behave well (in people's view).

      Different with own body control: There's no inherent quest not to touch/knock sth with the tail, quite the opposite, exactly the fact that the wagging tail touches/knocks sth gives the dog the subconscious feedback of its surroundings.

      What we people want: that the dog consciously considers its size before even touching/knocking sth.! You see the huge expectation here?

      Anyway, as said it's possible nonetheless. For me, it's part of complete House Training, and hence why it is in that very book. But no need to get it just for this, just do this:

      Inside the house, with the dog on-leash, held short, walk slowly through the rooms (or just the living room, if the main room) in the form of SSCD (Start, Stop, Change Direction), as is explained here. As said this will take some time but then your dog learns to be super careful in the house - and thus also with the child in vicinity. In fact, later on include her in this training as "obstacle".


      -- PS: Outside the USA and Australia houses are smaller, and so in Europe you always had to do complete dog house training such that the dog wouldn't knock sth over! :mrgreen:


        Tim, thanks for your quick response. I will try your suggestion. I have read your book and have used SSCD for house training but I had not thought to revisit it specifically for teaching body awareness around the child, especially once the kid became mobile. That is something I will have to start on once again, I'm sure it will help. Thanks so much for pointing me in the this direction.


    We just brought our 1yo GSD home, he's trained to be a service dog for my husband. We were all out in the yard playing (8yo daughter 10 yo son) and the dog "bit" our daughter, not hard, more directing her, mouthed her. It freaked her out, we know he's not trying to hurt her, but we can't have him putting his mouth on them like that :/ Is that normal for gsd's?

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