Safe Activities for GSD and Neighborhood Kids - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2014, 07:18 PM Thread Starter
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Question Safe Activities for GSD and Neighborhood Kids

We're trying to be proactive here and are looking for some advice and words of wisdom from other GSD owners and people who have experience with kids. The children next door discovered we have a GSD and love to come over and play with Luke. Luke has learned that kids are pretty awesome and loves playing with them too.

Luke is 15 months old and the three kids are around the ages of 4, 8 and 11. The kids come over when they hear us playing in the backyard with Luke and will throw Luke's toys with us (balls, football, frisbee, etc.) or have Luke chase them. We enjoy the company of the kids and vice-versa. We're just trying to be proactive and avoid getting into any situations where the kids get too hyper, Luke gets overstimulated and the situation suddenly escalates (boundaries get crossed, accidental nip, etc.).

There have been a couple instances where Luke has accidentally grazed one of their hands (teeth rubbed against their hand or fingers) while Luke was going for the ball or while feeding him a treat. We taught Luke to be "gentle" but you'll sometimes feel his teeth rub against your fingers, especially if he's excited and not focusing. This is something that I don't normally mind, but with kids (and kids that are not our own) this is a different situation and something I want to avoid.

We're looking for any helpful advice and boundaries we can put into effect that will keep everyone safe and happy while they play. Also, feel free to share any ideas for fun activities they can do together. Helpful advice and/or criticism is welcome.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2014, 07:43 PM
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First of all, you want to make sure the parents are aware and okay with this situation. Some parents love having a neighbor dog because they don't have to get the kids a dog. Others are less aware where their children are going off to play (those are the parents you need to worry about!)

I'm more concerned about the 4 year old than the older kids. Make sure the older siblings are watching the preschooler. Especially if the child is a boy (I have 2 boys, they were 4 and 6 when Otto was that age, boys require far more redirection than girls)

The kids need to not take toys from Luke's mouth. He needs to drop the toy and back up before they throw it, not do that fake out game that some dogs do (my Otto included). That usually results in knicked fingers.

I would stop the tag game. It's just too much risk that your dog is going to tackle one of these kids onto a rock, knock out a tooth or something.

Hide and seek is okay, dogs love it too.


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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2014, 08:34 PM
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The thought of my dog and kids scares me, but I know there are some good dogs out there.

Here's what I observed in general: a dog gets eager to chase or grab the toy, the kid gets panicky then the child holds the toy above it's head, forgetting the dog can jump and the child gets knocked over. So advised the kids to be careful of that. Also heard from a friend that grew up with a GSD and a couple stories here is when the kids start running, the dog may try to herd them, sometimes there are nips. Even if I had a good dog, the four year old seems too risky, maybe too immature and can't remember rules, may act unpredictably and even if just standing there, your dog probably weighs more than the child so it could get knocked down and hurt by accident. Remember open hand/palm for treats, and have a time limit so your dog and kids do not get over excited. Maybe for now just some throwing/fetch games and see they the kids would like to practice dog training if your dog knows sit, stay, come, etc.

I loved neighbors like you when I was a child! My neighbor had a beautiful Collie just like Lassie that I was so happy just to sit next to. Our dog was a bit mean and I did not enjoy playing with it.

Last edited by Gretchen; 04-25-2014 at 08:38 PM.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2014, 09:12 PM
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Just a general observation...the kids your dog sees all the time he would consider as part of his pack. If he knows how to behave around "kids" that is good but it doesn't automatically translate to "friends" of kids!
My Boxer, I could trust to be safe with GSD?? Yeah not so much!
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2014, 09:23 PM
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What a great thread...It seems like you're past this stage because the kids are already playing with your pup.

I can't trust my pups around kids. But I've learned that if a kid wants to pet the dog, I have the kid approach the dog from the dog's side. And I stand on the other so that if my dog was to try and jump on the kid, I can control the situation...

A safe (IMO) game that might prevent accidental nipping or over-excitement is having the kids hide a doggie toy and then asking the pup to 'find it'.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2014, 09:58 PM
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I have 6 dogs and they are all awesome with kids of all ages(both the GSD's will spend all day with the kids and love every minute of it)I consider myself lucky. The kids play catch with the dogs, they do play keep away with no issues( my dogs don't try to take the toy away but will give chase, but my dogs prefer the kids chase them) The dogs can spend all day having the kids chase them and the kids never catch the dogs. The kids do training sessions with the dogs. They play hide and seek or find it. I also have them just relax with the dogs. The dogs lay down and the kids sit next to the dogs and just pet them. We have also done bonfires with all of them and the dogs lay near by and the kids watch the fire.

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Last edited by llombardo; 04-25-2014 at 10:01 PM.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2014, 10:37 PM
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I'll share my experiences I hope that you don't have to experience them. Gunnar was raised with my 3 kids ages 5,10,11. They all got bit whe he was a little pup and have learned to be relaxed around him. I've taken him to kids events since he came home with me, so he's been around a lot of kids.

My best friends daughter is a small 6 year old girl. She loves animals. She's been raised near dogs, but none in her house. She was playing with Gunnar, throwing ball, and sticks and such. Gunnar nipped her finger playing tug with a stick. The girl screamed and Gunnar shifted from play to prey drive. Girl got scared and screamed more, he jumped up on her and at that point I got there to intervene. That took place over the course of 5 seconds while I was watching from 15 feet away. Be aware of your dogs particular issues and warn the kids.

I had Gunnar at a young kids soccer game. Afterwards half the team of 6 years olds came over and were petting him, hugging him, loving on him. Gunnar was eating it up, started kissing the kids, but as he got more hyped up the kisses got a little wild and one kid got their nose grazed by teeth during the kisses. Gunnar was not being malicious, but there are big teeth in that mouth. It could have gone badly.

I now keep him on a short lead when there are lots of kids around. To protect him from them, and their parents. He's a sweet dog with a big heart and lots of energy. But he's still got a puppy mind.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2014, 11:03 PM
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Here's a suggestion after all the running around playing. To calm everyone down, put the dog in a down stay, the kids sit next to him and each take turns (maybe not the 4yo) reading to the dog. Sounds kind of corny, but you'll be amazed at what happens. The dog gets attention from the kids and the kids gain confidence in their reading skills. It's really a great activity for all.

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2014, 11:39 PM
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My experience is ..with younger GSDs still learning the ropes...they can get a bit overzealous when stimulated in certain ways and control is a bit more difficult because command hasn't outweighed the "playful" exuberance of the dog/pup.

15 months should be getting close in my opinion where a dog should know how to play "nice"....especially if it is so directed by owner/handler.

However, a few spirited lads playing into the paws of a young energetic dog is almost guaranteed to have some "snappy" moments to it..most always unintended but yet still bold on the dog's behalf. I'd use it as you probably have... a good environment for training.....and all involved are aware of what's taking are durable,

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-26-2014, 11:27 AM Thread Starter
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There are some great suggestions here, please keep them coming.

We've met the parents and they've met Luke. They know that the kids are at our house playing with Luke. They don't seem to have any objection with the boys getting out and getting some exercise and we don't mind entertaining them.

The kids are all boys, the oldest will give Luke basic commands and Luke listens to him well - sit, lay down, drop it, stay, spin and high-five. The middle aged boy can get a little hyper at times. Him and the oldest can feed off of each other's energy and get Luke excited with them too which we'd like to avoid. The youngest prefers to keep his distance from Luke and is kind of along for the ride. He actually prefers playing with our cat, although he will throw the ball (the best he can) for Luke on occasion. We're always mindful to stick close to Luke and the boys, especially with the youngest since Luke is larger than him.

Luke is very gentle-mannered with a low prey drive. The few times he's started to go after rabbits in our yard we've told him sternly to "leave it" and he listens immediately. Our concern is the built up energy from the two oldest boys and a loss of focus on Luke's part that could end up with a nipped finger or Luke knocking the little one over.

With summer coming soon we have a pretty good idea that we'll be seeing more of them and would like to be as prepared as possible for their interactions with Luke. So please, keep the suggestions coming!
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