After earnestly working/breeding/training German Shepherds for at least 30 years, Max von Stephantitz wrote, “I cannot remember a single shepherd dog who was not in love with children.”
That is a far cry from where the breed is in America today. Unfortunately, many GSDs cannot be trusted around children. The reasons for this are numerous and varied and couldn’t possibly be addressed in the span of this short article. But let’s make an attempt to cover the high points.
The most common reason why German Shepherds (and many other breeds) do not get along well with children is due to a fearful tendency. Nervous dogs do not respond to the jerky, noisy, spontaneous actions of children. These dogs get spooked easily. Many of these dogs react aggressively because they do not have the genetic background to know how to handle these situations. In fact, the most common reason for dog bites is the fear-biter.
A fear-biter should have no mention within the German Shepherd breed. Unfortunately – due to poor breeding practices – the timidity gene pops up all too often in the breed. This was never the intent of the original breeders of the GSD.
In the early years, GSDs were chosen and bred for their calm, social, confident, yet drivey demeanor. This is a foreign concept among most people who think they have a GSD. A good German Shepherd can be a hearty worker yet be social and confident in various settings. This is a result of solid breeding. Training figures into the equation as well but training cannot overcome poor genetics. Socialization figures into the equation but socialization cannot overcome poor genetics. Genetics is everything in the GSD!
To acquire this kind of confident dog, one must purchase this kind of dog. The shivering, wimpering puppy in the corner of the room certainly steals our hearts but he will not typically be confident enough to be around children. For the dog to display confidence, he must BE confident. That is genetics!
Of course, another reason that GSDs (and other breeds) do not get along well with children is abuse. Some children and/or teens pull the dog’s tail or ears, throw things at her, tease her, or worse. This is not a dog problem; this is a parent problem! These children need training from their parent/guardian on how to interact with another species.
Many people settle for less in a GSD. The problem is, they begin to think the timid fear-biter is normal for the breed. IT IS NOT NORMAL! There are so many German Shepherds across America and Britain (almost exclusive to those bloodlines) that are fearful, shy, child-snapping dogs that many people have accepted this as normal. Again, it is not normal! Dog people in other parts of the world shake their heads and snicker at what Americans/Brits accept as a GSD.
A good, normal representative of the breed is one who is confident and social. Questionable breeders can come up with some very convincing stories as to why their puppies/dogs are shy. But here’s a free word of advice….Don’t accept anything less than a confident, social dog. Get a real GSD!