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Discussion Starter #1
Just wanted to get some feedback from you guys as to whether you feel that a shelter GSD who came in a stray would be a safe chance to take when I have a 5 year old at home. Now I know that's impossible to answer without meeting the dog; I think I'm more asking for a general feeling as to whether taking an adult shepherd in, with an unknown background, into a house with a young child is something most of you feel is safe if the dog *seems* okay or if it's generally thought not to be worth the risk?

The background is that there's an adult (2 years-ish?) shepherd in a shelter who seems like a reasonably nice dog. She's attached to the kennel staff already, so didn't want very much to do with us (understandable!), but we did play ball with her in their yard and she was happy to chase the tennis ball for as many times as we'd throw it. She had no problem with me taking it right out of her mouth, fwiw. In the exercise yard, my 5 year old threw the ball for her a couple of times, then walked around on his own. At one point he ran past her and she turned to see what was moving, but then looked away again - basically completely uninterested in him. He pet her on her back and again, she turned to look at him, but then looked away again. That was the extent of the interaction. But of course, he wasn't running, screaming, crying, whatever else might incite a dog so inclined.

Again, fwiw, she did sit for me (most of the time) when asked. Not sure that she knew that command before she got there - I suspect it was taught by the shelter staff as they won't open the door to get her leash on until she sits.

Any thoughts here? I need to make a decision pretty quickly as I don't think she'll be there long. Don't want to miss out on her if it's a reasonably safe thing to do (my son's safety has to come first, of course), but I don't want to be forever badly regretting it, either, if it's not safe for him.

(In case it matters, I've much experience with GSDs and dogs in general, but have never dealt personally with bringing a big dog with an unknown background into a house with a child.)

Thanks!
 

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Does the shelter have a trial period? It's a tough question, I have a 3 and 5 year as well but we went the puppy route. Maybe if you can try her at home for a week to ten days and make sure to NEVER leave them alone during that time and then do what you feel is right after seeing how it goes......
 

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I would bring the dog home. Obviously you won't leave her with your son unsupervised, but you shouldn't do that with any dog anyway. At first I would separate them when he's screaming/crying etc and slowly allow them to be together during those times as she earns your trust.
 

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I fostered many large dogs who came into the shelter with unknown histories when my youngest son was just a little guy. Of course, any size dog can bite and some of the worst face bites on children that I have seen came from small dogs!

My iron clad rule was that if the dog and my son were both in the house, I was right there to supervise. if I had to leave the room, the dog went with me. The dog wore an attached leash and was under control. My son didn't wear a leash, but he was under control, too. I didn't want him squealing or darting around, so if he started to get amped up I would redirect him to settle down. I worked hard on controlling toys and treats when my son was around. I still gave the dog toys and treats. I wanted to get an idea of how the dog was with those resources, but I never put my son or the dog in a position where something could happen. The dog was leashed and my son was under control and I was focused. You just can't let your mind drift, because then your attention is lost and that is when things can go wrong.

It helped a lot to get my son hooked in as my training "helper", and he grew into a very dog savvy kid. I heard him tell his Dad once "Not "down" Dad, you say "off" when he jumps on you". I think he was 4 years old at the time.

I have never allowed either of my kids to climb on our dogs or to bother them when they were sleeping. The dog crates were sacrosanct and were respected as personal space. Same with the dog beds on the floor.

It meant constant supervision, but it has paid off in the end because I have been able to foster a lot of dogs, I have been able to live with dogs of my own and it has worked really well. Invest in a good, comfortable crate for your dog and then USE it.

So I wouldn't tell you to not adopt this dog, but I will tell you that it takes a lot of supervision and control to make it work. I usually tell people with younger children to adopt from a foster home with kids, just so you can get an idea of what to expect...but even then you need to always supervise. Never assume that just because they have been golden together that you can relax on the supervision. Stuff happens, and it is up to you to make sure that the dog and your child are kept safe!
Sheilah
 

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Having a 3 mo old son, I can not imagine pulling an adult dog out of a shelter to keep as a family pet. There is too much of a risk of the unknown.

We will still foster with him, but he will have zero interaction with the adult dogs. We'll reaccess when he's old I'd imagine. Right now I'm just not comfortable with it.

I would personally adopt from a reputable rescue that has the dog currently in a foster home with children, if you are wanting to adopt.

When we were looking for a Mal, I looked at many rescues and just wasn't comfortable bringing in a dog like that as an adult, so we got a puppy and I am SO glad we did.
 

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I think if you kid test the dog at the shelter (which you did) and you educate your child and exercise the types of precautions at home listed above then it's fine. I know a lot of people with young children who foster and/or have adopted dogs straight from shelters and it has been successful. I also know a lot of people who buy or adopt puppies and have huge problems with the puppies terrorizing their small children.
 

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see if the shelter will allow a trial period. It sounds to me like the dog may be okay but without being in a normal setting, theres not really much that can honestly be said. Give it a shot. You'll always be supervising so everything should work out. Not to mention, that dog could very well become your child BFF.
 

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I've fostered many GSDs (as well as other breeds)for a variety of rescues for a number of years. . . I don't have kids myself but there are many of them in the neighborhood. As a rule of thumb if the dog drops it ears and wags it's tail as it approaches a child or the child approaches it, there's a good probablilty the dog has been raised with children and is child friendly. Some of the more quiet, less expressive dogs who outwardly don't show reaction but will approach the children for petting and stand beside the kids to be petted are ususally child friendly. Those who freeze up, stare and show no reaction in acceptance of a child approaching are usually the ones who I'm not going to allow the kids to pet.

I've had some really super friendly dogs who have shown aggression towards young kids approaching them to my surprise...I'd definately check the dog on lead in a more confined area to see how it reacts to your son... that would at least give you some insight into what the dog is 'thinking' when he's brought into closer contact with you son. And as everyone else has said, it's best to err on the side of safety!!
 

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I've fostered many GSDs (as well as other breeds)for a variety of rescues for a number of years. . . I don't have kids myself but there are many of them in the neighborhood. As a rule of thumb if the dog drops it ears and wags it's tail as it approaches a child or the child approaches it, there's a good probablilty the dog has been raised with children and is child friendly. Some of the more quiet, less expressive dogs who outwardly don't show reaction but will approach the children for petting and stand beside the kids to be petted are ususally child friendly. Those who freeze up, stare and show no reaction in acceptance of a child approaching are usually the ones who I'm not going to allow the kids to pet.

I've had some really super friendly dogs who have shown aggression towards young kids approaching them to my surprise...I'd definately check the dog on lead in a more confined area to see how it reacts to your son... that would at least give you some insight into what the dog is 'thinking' when he's brought into closer contact with you son. And as everyone else has said, it's best to err on the side of safety!!


those are actually some really good signals. i always check for those signs myself. I guess i just forget because its a mode thing for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks so much everyone.

Okay - we'll head back there and see what she's like inside just hanging around. Outside she was just totally uninterested in him in any way - good or bad. But, there were adults with tennis balls, so... ;)

She's a big girl, which is part of my hesitation I think.

Okay - another visit there today I guess! :)
 

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Well good luck and I hope it works out that you can adopt her!!!! May be helpful also to have them check for any food aggression or 'resource guarding' of food bowl to be on the safe side. Fingers crossed you can give her a home!
 

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Having a 3 mo old son, I can not imagine pulling an adult dog out of a shelter to keep as a family pet. There is too much of a risk of the unknown.

We will still foster with him, but he will have zero interaction with the adult dogs. We'll reaccess when he's old I'd imagine. Right now I'm just not comfortable with it.

I would personally adopt from a reputable rescue that has the dog currently in a foster home with children, if you are wanting to adopt.

When we were looking for a Mal, I looked at many rescues and just wasn't comfortable bringing in a dog like that as an adult, so we got a puppy and I am SO glad we did.
I agree. As a mother of a 4 and 5 year old, I wouldn't take the chance. At least if you go with a rescue, many can match you with the right dog.
 

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We adopted Indy when she was 15-18 months old. Our little girl was 4-6mo old and we also have a 3 6 7 and 11 yr old lol. They did not know where she had been or much about her just she was high energy. We drove the 4 hours to go visit her with just the baby and my oldest and she played with my 11 yr old, and had a fine reaction to the baby her crying she would look at me like fix it lol. So we brought her home and she is an AWESOME fit. Our baby is now 1 yr old in 2 wks and they are best buds. Indy would lay by her blanket on the floor, or by her crib and when she would cry indy would run over to me like get up lol. Now I'm not saying that any dog can be brought in with kids, but I think there are a lot of wonderful shelter dogs that can and will do great with children. And like others posted SUPERVISION is a must even with trusted dogs, there has been to many cases of OMG i just left the room for a minute. I also think people should lay boundaries with children and the pets I get so irritated when I see like a 80 lb kid riding on a dog like a horse or kids that should know better pulling their ears and so on and the parent says " our dog doesn't mind" lol. Hers a pic of Indy watching over our baby girl lol.
 

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I adopted a 2 year old pound GSD, when my youngest was also two. The dog had just been spayed prior to coming home. My son had surgery the same day as the dog. She did not meet the kids in advance. I did not even get to meet her outside of the kennel. My husband picked her up, while I was caring for my son. The dog was not a stray, but the previous owners lied about her being good with other dogs, so could have lied about other things too.

"Annie" was great with the kids from day one. She was always especially gentle around my son and careful not to knock him over. As others have said, I initially did not allow the dog and kids to be alone together. It wasn't long, however, before I was insisting that the dog be with them at all times. If I was leaving the house...."Keep that dog with you." If they were going out in the yard...."Take the dog with you." I knew no one would dare hurt my kids with the dog around. Sometimes, you just know it is a good dog, the first time you see it. I got lucky.

BTW - Annie and my son will both be 13 next spring.
 

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YES, first imression of the dog is important. I think GSDs for the most part are very honest dogs, few have 'hidden agendas' so to speak, and what you see is what you get. I think GSDs as a breed are much more receptive to children then some of the other more nervous, high strung herding breeds.

I like Mals alot, but I really don't think I'd even attempt to bring an adult out of the shetler into a home with kids. It's sometimes a risk just taking them home with adults. . . lol!

The only issue I can see is primarily the mother's uncertainity of whether this is something she should do or not . . . being confident you can assess the situation once home with the dog and handle any uncertainites is important. So if you FEEL confident the dog is safe to have around a child then go for it. If there are is a lot of doubt or you're unsure of the dogs intentions when you/your son is with it then maybe it's not a good idea to adopt her.
 

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we adopted Riley and Zena while we were dating. They were exposed to kids and all but it was limited. Zena is FABULOUS with kids. When my daughter was born and she would cry, Zena was always right there waking me up to go take care of her. Riley was uncomfy around other kids but after he realized our daughter (then our son) werent going anywhere he's become a very kid friendly dog. He gets all wiggly and happy goofball whenever he see's a kid on a walk. I trust my dogs with my kids and other kids. But it depends on the dog. Read the signs and you should be perfectly fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks so much everyone for all of your input! I think you guys are all correct in that first impressions are important. I've worked with dogs for a long time and certainly don't see any worry about aggression. (I did not temp test, however.) But I also don't see any "evidence" that she's good/great with kids, either. Now part of it is that the shelter she's in is a small one and they don't have a room that you can visit with the dog. You walk in to a room that has some cat cages (and rabbit cages) around the walls, and a little window that looks through to an office where a shelter employee sits. That's it. And of course the runs are through a door. When I first met her, I brought her out back to a fenced play yard and she, for the most part, acted like my son didn't exist. When we went back a couple of days later, we asked if we could sit INside with her. She was mostly just trying to get away from us and get to the shelter guys (who she now knows and is bonding/bonded to). I again couldn't get any sense of her with my son as she was really just uninterested. That's probaby a good thing, and she's probably great with kids, but I can't get a true sense of that. And I don't want to be *seriously* regretting a decision at my son's expense. I don't think I'd have any trouble taking a shelter dog if she was showing some degree of friendliness (any degree) toward him - especially after all your great stories!

But she's not and the shelter isn't set up in such a way as to allow me to get a better idea. <shrug> So I think I can't do this. A shame, really, as she seems like a fairly solid dog who's *gorgeous* to boot. If I didn't have kids, I'd take her in a second.

I'm going to post in the non-urgent rescue section about her - hopefully someone in the area can get her out of there. (And if I then hear that she is indeed fantastic with kids, I'm gonna kick myself but good! :cry: )

Thanks SO much everyone - hopefully the next post from me will be that I found "my" dog (shelter or otherwise!). :)
 

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It seems to me that you have enough interest in this dog to talk to the shelter people and see if there is an "off site" location either inside or outside (perhaps a dog park, or fenced in area) that you could take the dog and your child to to see how they interact...Just a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
As I said, they do have big fenced in exercise yards outside and that's where we were - twice - as well as sitting inside once in their small sort of entry room. Spending any time with her outside gives me NO indication of what she's like with him as there is zero interaction. She's got a decent ball drive and that's all she's focused on. Go out withOUT a ball and she essentially ignores us (both of us) regardless of attempts at interaction. Now, the time when we went out without a ball, we weren't out for a super long time (like 20-30 minutes) - perhaps I would've needed to sit there for much longer to give her more time to work out her "I'm out of the run!" happiness and exploration, but in reality, it was freezing and I've got a 4 1/2 year old getting cold and bored. I have to be realistic, too - we hadn't brought toys for *him*, either. So thus far, getting any idea of any of this stuff outside isn't happening and they don't have anywhere INside that I can get a good idea. I will ask them, but I *very* much doubt they're going to let me just put her in my car and drive her somewhere I CAN get a decent idea inside. That's really what I need, is a more confined inside area to get any sense.

Because I far prefer to rescue a dog who needs a home - especially a shelter dog - I'm doing what I can with this one. But at some point I have to just say that since I can get NO indication of friendliness-to-kids from her, it's not worth the chance. I will try once more - as you say - and ask if they'll allow me to take her offsite. I highly doubt that answer is going to be yes, however. It would truly just be dangerous on *their* part. They don't know me and that I'm totally trustworthy. My guess is that they're going to say no, just go ahead and adopt her and if there's any problem, bring her back. Again, I will continue to try here one last time, but I'm not bringing her into my house with a small, active child unless I have a better sense that she has SOME friendliness in regard to children. That has to be primary. As Forruger said early on in the thread, you want to see either out and out friendliness to kids or at least a decent approach and sitting to allow petting. The complete non-reaction of any sort to a kid can be concerning.

Will lyk if I am able to find anything else out, and thanks.
 

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what about bringing a leash and walking her outside for a bit some structured walking might get her focused enough then you can have her sit while leashed and introduce her to your son and see what she does just keep it at a safe distance etc... While you have her on a leash have him run jump make some noises that he would make playing inside and see how she reacts to them if shes going to snap at him inside the home you can get a better idea and at least have her leashed for a quick reaction for safety if need be
 
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