19 Reasons Why German Shepherds Are Amazing Family Dogs

Written By Jill Taylor

Famous for their roles in police work and property guardianship, German Shepherds are a large, wolf-like dog breed that fits surprisingly well into a family environment. Loyal, intelligent, and protective, they have many attributes that make them rewarding pets. This article explores 19 reasons why German Shepherds aren’t just for police handlers!

Extremely Trainable

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GSDs possess an almost telepathic ability to understand human emotions and intentions, so they’re excellent at learning anything their owners or handlers wish to teach them. Petplan states training should start early (at eight weeks) and that the breed often excels in obedience training, problem-solving, agility courses, and complex tasks like search and rescue. 

Inherent Schutzhund Instinct

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The USCA explains that the “Schutzhund” test assesses a German Shepherd’s natural vigilance and alertness. They are naturally protective, and their deep-rooted instinct to stand guard makes them excellent dogs for safeguarding homes and families, including protecting children. 

Highly Intelligent

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Unsurprisingly, being highly trainable, German Shepherds are exceptionally intelligent and quick to respond appropriately to external cues, like hazards or commands. BARK Post reports, “Their intelligence is an inherited genetic trait passed down through generations. And according to a survey of dog trainers, German Shepherds are the third smartest dog breed.” 


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Although they are often viewed as a ‘serious’ working breed, German Shepherds are playful and exuberant when not on duty. They often enjoy interactive games such as fetch, tug-of-war, and chase and rarely tire of playtime, making them excellent playmates for children.


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There are few breeds as fiercely loyal as a GSD, and they are renowned for forming solid, unbreakable bonds with their owners and family members. They are so fond of human company that they can exhibit separation anxiety when left alone or separated from their favorite human—proof that they make devoted family pets.


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GSDs are highly attuned to their owners, often able to read body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions to accurately decipher human moods. This near-psychic ability makes them comforting and supportive in times of sadness, difficulty, and stress, while also making them excitable celebrators in times of joy.


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Whether navigating city streets or open prairies, German Shepherds are pretty adaptable dogs despite their large size. Their most significant requirements are sufficient mental stimulation and physical activity. Still, they are happy in most environments if these needs are met. Urban family life is no problem for them—so long as there’s a large dog park close by!


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Despite their large size and imposing reputation, GSDs are talented at making their families laugh and often entertain their loved ones with quirky antics and goofy games. From dramatic sighs to their hilarious attempts at agility courses, they often bring happy memories, light-heartedness, and laughter to the homes they live in. 

Eager to Please

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GSDs make excellent working dogs because they have a strong desire to please their handlers—and this trait makes them ideal family dogs, too. With positive reinforcement and consistent guidance, they can learn to be the perfect companions for everyday life, happily taking on tasks like collecting mail and finding lost items.


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When raised in a loving family environment, most German Shepherds are gentle and patient, despite their large size and wolfish appearance. Although leaving small children alone with any dog is a ‘no-no,’ GSDs make calm, playful, and protective companions for children and teenagers, especially when raised alongside them.


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If GSDs are raised in a loving home and well socialized from a young age, they are often affectionate and loving pets that thrive on human interaction—cuddles, pets, belly rubs, and plenty of co-sleeping! According to GSD Colony, their ability to form deep bonds with their families makes them an affectionate and human-focused breed.


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Young German Shepherds are incredibly active and rarely tire of long hikes, games of fetch, or beach walks. They are curious, full of energy, and keen to explore, so they make companions for active people or those with young children who are constantly on the move and require a companion who can keep up with them!

Appropriate Barking

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German Shepherds are naturally vigilant and watchful, but they only bark when they feel that their home or family is threatened. When they do vocalize, it is a deep, resonating sound that quickly alerts people, yet they tend not to bark unless there is a clear and present threat.

Moderate Lifespans

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Considering their large size, well-bred German Shepherds have an impressive lifespan of 10–13 years. With proper care, nutrition, and veterinary attention, they can offer their families years of companionship and love. This is particularly important for children, who tend to be the most distressed when family pets pass away.


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Being highly intelligent and driven by mental stimulation, GSDs are one of the best dog breeds for problem-solving. While this has obvious benefits for training police dogs and other working dogs, it also benefits the families of pet dogs. They are great at figuring out how things work and how to overcome barriers—something that can be both useful and entertaining!


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If you’re looking for courage in your four-legged friend, then a German Shepherd is undoubtedly worth considering. No matter the threat or risk to their own lives, GSDs valiantly engage in police work and search and rescue missions. As family dogs, they often apply this bravery to defend their humans, especially the most vulnerable (like children).

They Respond to Positive Reinforcement

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German Shepherds are natural people pleasers, so you don’t need to be an authoritarian figure in order to get great results from obedience training. They thrive on positive reinforcement, like praise, treats, toys, and extra playtime. This makes them an excellent dog for children or anyone who wants to form a strong (and reciprocated) bond of trust with their pet.


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Like any dog breed, German Shepherds can be trained to be aggressive in certain situations, but this is not their default personality. Although they are protective, they are not naturally aggressive dogs and prefer to handle perceived threats with intelligence and patience.

Thick Coat

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If you live in a more northerly state or at altitude, German Shepherds are hardy enough to cope with snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures, thanks to their ‘double layered’ coat. While this can make them excellent companions in all kinds of cool weather, their coats do require brushing at least three times a week to remove loose hairs and debris.