Dog and Child

From the book "Weisse Schäferhunde" by Gaby & Peter von Döllen, Monika Bender

Translation: Gaby von Döllen
One day every child will ask for a pet, most will ask for their own dog. If you are prepared to buy a puppy you should think about the following facts BEFORE you call any breeder.

It is you who takes over a big responsibility for a long time when you buy a White Shepherd puppy. Many wishes your child asks are only for a short time. You can throw away dolls, games etc, they are only an investment of money. However, a dog will always ask for your care, your love and your attention and means additional costs for his lifetime. Of course, your child can - depending on his age - take over some responsibility, but you should always know that the MAIN work will be up to you, the parents. It is possible that, as soon as the cute puppy has grown to an adult dog, with all his special character sides, the child will soon loose interest.

The whole family should agree to the new family member as nothing will be normal. It is absolutely necessary that you are responsible for all points of education. Even if a White Shepherd is intelligent and will learn very fast and easy, your child or teenager is not able to do this, especially in dog education you are responsible, your child is simply too young. And the whole thing is too important, the dog MUST learn to respect and to accept your child and only you can teach it.

If you have thought about all these points and you are still prepared to buy a dog, everything will probably turn out well. Perhaps your child will discover a new hobby called agility or other dog sports and White Shepherd and child will make a wonderful team. We are crossing the fingers for you that both, your child and your new White Shepherd will grow up as a team, will respect each other as partners and will have adventures together. Then there are the best prerequisites that your child, too, will learn how to treat dogs right and will become a perfect partner for our White Shepherds for his lifetime who appreciates the value and trust of this wonderful breed.

Advantages for the child

A child who owns (or better: who's family owns) a dog has an enormous advantage especially when the child is a bit shy. The dog at his side will offer him the chance of being interesting for other children, to get the necessary contacts, he offers safety and will always listen to the big or small problems. The dog will listen, he won't argue, he does not try to educate and he never poses questions. But he is alive and more able to comfort. He is never in a bad mood or has to do more important things than to play with the child. Another effect is, that the child is more or less forced to outside activities. Playing outside, shopping or even a small walk is much more fun with "partner dog".

The child will learn to respect and accept animals in general. He/She will learn that a dog is a personality that has rights and means responsibility. Because of being outside quite often the child will get a special relationship to nature.

A special event are the successes your child will get when it tries to learn one or another trick with the dog. It means an opportunity for the self-confidence but on the other hand, it will know when the dog does not follow. Difficult subjects like birth or dead can more easily be explained to the child in connection with the dog ( or any other pet). It is known that dogs are able to motivate children, therapies with animals are becoming more and more usual in our lives.

The dog is and will always be an animal, of course, it never ever replaces the social contacts with other children or adults. Furthermore, even if there are many advantages for your child, your whole family should be convinced that the dog is a correct decision. If a family member hesitates, your child will also grow up without a dog.

Before buying a dog you should, especially when there is a child in your family, look for a good breeder. You should have a lee whether the puppies get positive contacts to children within the 8 weeks they are spending at the breeders home. During the first weeks the puppy learns to respect and to love or (when there are negative or no contacts) hate children. If the latter is the case your dog will always have problems with children and you will hardly be able to change his attitude with love and patience. Ask the breeder AND (!!!) look very carefully at how the dogs and puppies are reacting to your own children. A breeder can tell you a lot just to sell his dogs, the dogs themselves won't lie.

White Shepherds - dogs for Children?

The White Shepherd has a reputation as a family dog and you should not be confused by the name "German Shepherd" - the Whites' character is quite different. Especially in Germany the breeding went in direction family dg and the character clearly shows this direction.

The fanciers of the colored German Shepherds often call the Whites as "fearful and not protective". His place is in the family so please do not put hi m outside in a kennel. He is attentive, curious and always open for new things to discover, a perfect partner who will feel enthousiastic for the ideas and games of your children. Perfectly socialized, he will be a wonderful partner and a sensible and loyal "cuddling pet". From own experiences we can say that our White Shepherd never growled (or worse) although she has been treated sometimes very painfully by our daughter.

When you visit shows you will soon realize the perfect suitability as family dog. The White Shepherds are running around, mostly without any leashes and the children are playing around them, touching dogs they have never seen. I have never seen any aggression.

In spite of the trust you may have in the loyalty of your White Shepherd concerning the treatment of your children please look after dog and child when they are playing together. Especially babies or children in their "experimental phase" have an enormous creativity and strange ideas of what they can do with the dog. They want to know how deep is a dog's nose, what they can put into an ear and so on. You should tell your child that the dog is alive and feels pain and can be hurt. He has a right of being treated carefully and with love. If you have a puppy or a young dog, please think that also your dog is in a special phase of development. Your dog has an enormous power and biting your child would have extreme consequences. He will never do so (supposingly a correct breeding and education) even if he feels pain. We can just ask you to take special care that your child soon learns to respect the dog as a living creature and for a place where he can lie down in peace when he wnats to be undisturbed.

When the puppy is correctly socialized, he will be friendly towards all children, he will try to play and to get contact. We had much fun during the first time with our puppy until a bad event destroyed the trust of children within one minute. I will tell this story in part II (own experiences). Our advise is to look after your puppy whenever children are around, the friendly situation can suddenly change into a bad and negative experience and it is very difficult to change the dogs attitude again.

Other children will come and play with your puppy. All in all, there is no objection and also your dog takes profit and strengthens his character. It is necessary to see that the games will not be too wild for the puppy and to stop as soon as you see that he feels afraid or tries to run away. Keep in your mind that your dog accepts your OWN child as a family member and so it will always have more rights in treating him than other children. The White Shepherd is known for his patience but there may be a point where he says to himself that this is more than enough. Always have a look on the situation and your dogs reaction.

Unfortunately, there are also children who have never been told to respect animals and who love to annoy them. This reaction is not normal for children and so you can, more or less, be sure that the parents, too, will not have a sense for the feelings of your dog. Try to avoid any contact with these children in your own and in your dogs interest. In case these children are annoying your puppy, they may get into troubles when he has grown to an adult dog.

Reactions of other parents

I hardly can describe how unbelievable reactions you will get from other parents. As long as your puppy is small and cute there will be no problems. The parents are telling their children that they can touch and cuddle your puppy. As soon as you walk around with an adult White Shepherd, their mind has changed. The cute puppy their children were allowed to play with has suddenly changed into a white, dangerous monster trying to kill everybody around, especially helpless children. First, it is inexcusable that you are walking in "their" area. And if your White Shepherd is without leash (because he really comes when you ask for it and stays beside your side) his is nearly a reason to call the police. You get to hear stories like "last week a German Shepherd bite a neighbors child" and so on. I would like to point out that it is really inexcusable to leave a biting or aggressive dog without a leash especially in an area where children are playing. But, not all free running dogs are children killing monsters!

I do not want to judge all parents, this would be unfair, as there are many who are reacting reasonable and try to make a good contact between their children and the dog. The reason of writing this chapter is that I never thought in advance that there are so many problems and that there are so incomprehensible reactions by adults. Sometimes I have been asked whether the parents can show the correct treatment to their children or they told their child that he/she has to ask me before touching an unknown dog. These are positive and rare events. More often I heard sentences like "no, do not touch the dog, it will bite", "no, dogs are dirty", "don't touch the dog, there are perhaps fleas around" (our dogs lives with usin the flat, she never had fleas and the coat is -except after playing - white and combed). The worst I heard was "if you touch dogs, you will become very ill".

An adult White Shepherd (like all bigger breeds) is a danger in the eyes of some parents. However, you are the owner and know your dog. You should think that many children are afraid of dogs for one or another reason. It is often a result of education but nevertheless, it does not change the FACT itself. When you let your dog run free and the child runs away just because of it's fear your dog probably will forget everything you have taught him (especially when he is still young) and think here is a new game to play. He will follow the child, perhaps barking loudly. The child's parents are obviously no longer your friends after such a "hunt game". Of course, every dog fancier will know and accept the natural behavior of your dog and understand the reason, but, the child itself will survive this situation as extremely dangerous. This scene will certainly intensify the fear against dogs. This cannot be right because this child will never be a dog-lover.

I usually tell Fiala to come at my side as soon as children are appearing. I know she will stay there but nevertheless, I am always prepared to take her necklace. After a certain time you know the fearful children and you can see when they are afraid. In this case it is really wise to take the leash for a moment.

It would be great if both sides, parents and dog-owners, could try to get along with each other without any prejudices. It could be a big advantage for the children and for the dogs.