Dog safety is a huge issue in today's society, and yet it is one of many programs that isn't supported financially by many public schools. Many of these schools depend on the benevolence of volunteers from local shelters to offer free dog-safety programs to children. However, shelter staff members are often already spread so thin that they can't possibly cover all the elementary, intermediate, and middle schools in their areas without a lot of help.
This is where you and your shepherd might be of assistance. If your dog loves children of all sizes, doesn't mind being crowded around for pats, and has a wonderful, even temperament, he might be just perfect for a public education job. You will most likely be required to have a CGC certificate and possibly an AAT certification. If the local Humane Society does not have a program in place, consider helping them to develop one that can be offered to the schools. Alternately, you can contact local obedience training clubs and AAT organizations; you might be able to obtain some leads for contacts through these people.
As a public educator, your work would involve teaching children the correct way to treat their own pets: humanely and with kindness. Children also need to recognize some very basic aspects of dog body language. So many children — and even adults — don't recognize the difference between a friendly dog with a gently wagging tail and a taught-bodied dog that is braced to attack. They don't realize that a dog might interpret a kiss on the nose as an act of aggression, or that plopping down on top of a dog is not the same as plopping down on a pillow. Teaching children just a few basics can reduce the number of dog bites substantially — especially if you have their undivided attention, which you will when you walk in with your dog.
An estimated 800,000 people are bitten by dogs annually. Of this number, more than half are children. In cases of dog bite fatalities, almost all victims are infants or children, with very few teens and adults, and only slightly more elderly people in the statistics. The reason for these high numbers is that very few children are taught how to behave around their own pets, and almost none know how to act around a stray or unfamiliar dog.
If you can teach your shepherd a few tricks to amuse the children, this can be a great icebreaker. It will also help children feel more comfortable around your shepherd. Unfortunately, shepherds are watched with a wary eye, especially among children in urban areas who may not have had good experiences with German shepherds in the past. But your presence as a responsible owner with a well-trained shepherd can break down those stereotypes and help the children learn some valuable lessons.