Footage has surfaced online of a young child growing up alongside her parents’ five German shepherds.
In a video shared on TikTok under the account Jakoba German Shepherds, a 14-month-old girl named River can be seen growing and learning in the company of her dog siblings.
“My baby was raised with five dogs, and sometimes I think she thinks she’s a dog,” the on-screen caption reads.
The clip was uploaded by River’s mother, Ashley Shell, and captures the tot enjoying a taste of the dog life. “She’s drawn to all the dog stuff,” Shell told Newsweek. “We put up the dog’s water and food when she’s crawling around, but there were a few times we forgot and she’d be splashing in the dog’s water or trying to eat their food.”
As well as sampling a little canine chow, River will often crawl inside the dog crate (when the animals are not inside) and listen to music, Shell said.
“She likes to follow them around and see what they’re up to,” Shell continued. “She also loves to throw her food down when she’s done eating it, so the dogs absolutely love her for that. Every morning I make her eggs, and the dogs know she’ll throw it down to them after a while.”
When River is not feeding the dogs her unwanted meals, she also likes to sit near them and “occasionally give them gentle hugs and kisses.”
There’s certainly a sense of affinity between the toddler and her canine friends. That’s not necessarily a surprise when you consider that some experts think dogs possess intelligence that is equivalent to that of a 2-year-old.
That’s the belief of canine researcher Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia, who told the American Psychology Association that canines are capable of understanding more than 150 words and can intentionally deceive other dogs and even people to get treats.
River will eventually outstrip her dog friends’ mental capacities, but the bond formed during these formative years is important to her family.
“Our dogs are part of our family,” Shell explained. “They’re high energy but have wonderful temperaments and are great family dogs. They love to go on hikes, wander our 20 acres, play fetch and swim.”
She admitted she felt some trepidation about having a young child while also looking after a pack of dogs. “When we found out I was pregnant, we were nervous about how they’d do with our daughter, River,” Shell said. “But they’ve been so good.”
It was love at first sight for River. Shell recalled how her daughter has “always been used to seeing our dogs from the start, so it’s all she knows.” The video shared online captured an early meeting between the dogs and River as a newborn baby. There are “certain dogs” River is more drawn to, Shell said.
Her canine pals have clearly had an effect on her, if the video posted to TikTok is anything to go by. As well as eating their food, she can be seen walking like a dog and even enjoying a dip in a puddle.
The unique nature of their companionship has helped propel the video to over 9 million views on social media. “This is too cute,” one viewer wrote, with another commenting that River was “the only baby that can actually say they were raised by wolves.”
“I think you may have 6 dogs,” a third joked, A fourth wrote: “This baby is living her best life.”
Although Shell and her family have been delighted by the response online, she stressed that River was never in any danger.
“People need to realize that short clips on social media should be taken at face value,” she said. “We have always been very careful with the interactions between River and our dogs. We’re teaching her to respect dogs by calmly petting them and not to pull hair and ears or climb on them. If they’re in their safe place [like their kennel], we don’t let her crawl in with them.
“It’s all about teaching respect and boundaries for both the dogs and River.”