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It’s no secret that most dog owners LOVE to cuddle with their pups. Whether the cuddles are to bring us comfort, to show our affection for our beloved four-legged friends, or just because we enjoy the act of cuddling with our pets, most owners will find themselves wanting to cuddle with their pups at some point.
Some breeds of dogs are more open to cuddling sessions than others, though, and even individual dogs may have their own preference for cuddling time.
German Shepherds are one of the most popular breeds of dog, and it’s likely that first-time (or even seasoned) German Shepherd owners may be wondering about the breed’s affinity (or lack thereof) for cuddling and hugs, and how that may play into their daily lives and the owner’s need for affection and cuddles from their pups.
But do German Shepherds even like to cuddle?
German Shepherds are an affectionate breed of dog, and many enjoy cuddling with their owners. However, most German Shepherds do not do well with hugs though they can be taught to tolerate them. Individual German Shepherds may have their owner tolerance levels for cuddling based on their personality or socialization level.
Below we’ll take a deep dive into the German Shepherd’s interest in cuddling and showing affection for their owners, as well as what factors might influence an individual German Shepherd’s tolerance or interest in cuddling.
We’ll also discuss why German Shepherds don’t usually do well with hugs, but how you can help teach them to at least tolerate them so that they do not react fearfully or aggressively if a well-meaning individual attempts to cuddle or hug them.
Do German Shepherds Like To Cuddle?
German Shepherds are considered an affectionate breed of dog, however, individual dogs vary in their tolerance and interest in cuddling. German Shepherds are more likely to want to cuddle and be affectionate with their owners rather than with strangers, and there is usually one owner in particular that they form a stronger bond with and who they prefer cuddling with.
German Shepherds may choose to cuddle with their owner unprovoked or if their owner initiates the cuddle session. Dogs are very perceptive of our body language and energy levels, and if your German Shepherd feels you are in need of some affection, they may attempt to cuddle with you, or if they are feeling like they want some attention themselves they may seek you out for some cuddles.
Do German Shepherds Like To Be Hugged?
While many German Shepherds do enjoy cuddling (their affectionate natures are a pro of the breed), most dogs do not prefer hugs or having their body restricted in any way. While individual German Shepherds may enjoy hugs, most do not and can only be taught to tolerate hugs or give/accept a hug as part of a training routine.
In dog language, “hugs” are often seen only during play, sexual encounters, or as part of establishing a social hierarchy between two dogs (or a group of dogs). They are not usually seen in the same light as we humans see them, and thus many dogs can misinterpret them and respond fearfully or even aggressively.
Dogs also do not like having their bodies restricted, and hugs can feel like a form of restriction and induce panic in German Shepherds who have not been taught to tolerate them or who do not naturally enjoy them.
Do Male Or Female German Shepherds Enjoy Cuddling More?
There is no difference between male and female German Shepherds and their interest in cuddling. The exception to this may be intact female German Shepherds who are going through an estrous cycle, or who have recently had puppies.
These dogs may show an elevated interest in providing and receiving affection, OR they may also show the opposite and show a decreased interest in cuddling with their owners. In general, though, a German Shepherd’s interest in cuddling is related more to their individual personalities rather than their gender.
Do German Shepherd Puppies Enjoy Cuddling?
German Shepherd puppies may or may not enjoy cuddling, and initially they may even have a fear of being held and cuddled as it is a new experience to them.
German Shepherd puppies who are in the critical socialization period will need frequent (but short) cuddle sessions that are combined with extensive positive reinforcement to teach them that cuddling and being held is a good thing and not a scary thing.
German Shepherd puppies who did not receive adequate socialization during that critical period are usually less likely to tolerate and enjoy cuddling, and are more likely to react with anxiety, fear, or aggression if cuddling is forced upon them or if the cuddle session goes beyond their current individual physical contact preferences.
Is It Bad If My German Shepherd Does Not Want To Cuddle With Me?
No, it is not (usually) a bad thing if your German Shepherd does not want to cuddle with you. Each individual dog has their own interest and tolerance level for what they consider appropriate cuddling.
There are a few circumstances in which your German Shepherd may not want to cuddle with you, though, and some of them may warrant a trip to the vet.
German Shepherds who normally tolerate or enjoy cuddling and who suddenly become uninterested in it or shy away from their owner may be suffering from an underlying illness or injury. While we humans may seek out comfort when we are feeling unwell, dogs are usually the opposite and tend to hide away and limit their contact.
Dogs can also have bad days just like people can and may seek out more alone time than normal. This is especially true if your German Shepherd had an abnormally busy day, and they’d rather rest by themselves rather than cuddle with you.
As they age, a German Shepherd may also show a decreased disinterest in cuddling versus when they were a puppy or an adult. If the disinterest in cuddling continues for more than a day or two, or there are other signs and symptoms of an underlying illness or injury, then a trip to the vet is probably in order.
In rare cases, if your German Shepherd shows a sudden disinterest in cuddling when they previously seemed to enjoy it (or at least tolerate it), it could be because they recently had a traumatic experience while cuddling with someone or even if something traumatic happened to them while in the vicinity of their owner.
Dogs learn primarily through association, and if something happened around their owner that scared or injured the dog, then there is a possibility that they associated that negative thing to the presence of the owner.
What a German Shepherd views as traumatic could be vastly different from what we humans classify as traumatic and could be as simple as a loud bang from a bookcase falling over while your pup was cuddling with you.
The less socialized your German Shepherd, the more likely they will react negatively to things they find troubling and the longer it will take them to go back to their normal behaviors.
If your German Shepherd did not receive adequate socialization and exposure to cuddling behaviors during their critical socialization period as a puppy, they may be less tolerant (or even avoidant of) any cuddling or affectionate behaviors as an adult dog.
As much of what happens during that critical period becomes ingrained in their behaviors and personalities as they age, it is very difficult to change their interest later on in life. While it can be done, it is usually very time consuming, and your German Shepherd may never truly enjoy cuddling.
Similarly, some individual German Shepherds just don’t have an interest in cuddling! It is important to respect this and utilize positive reinforcement to at least help them tolerate brief cuddle sessions or hugs, especially if you have children in the household.
Can I Teach My German Shepherd To Cuddle With Me?
You can teach your German Shepherd to tolerate hugs and to give or receive a hug as part of a training routine, but it is unlikely you’d be able to teach them to actually enjoy cuddling.
It is important to never force our dogs into doing anything they don’t want, and if we are asking them to do something that goes against their natural instincts or something that they generally do not perform as a natural behavior, we must always combine it with positive reinforcement.
Punishment and fear-based training to force a dog to cuddle or be affectionate with us is never a good idea and could result in unintended consequences such as aggression.
It is also important to not punish a dog if they resist cuddling or react fearfully when suddenly confronted with a hug. This will only increase their resistance and could lead to them reacting aggressively towards anyone that comes near them.
That being said, it is wise to encourage your German Shepherd to at least tolerate hugs and to remain neutral when they are cuddled or hugged, especially if you have children in the household or if your dog is frequently around children.
You can pair high value treat rewards with brief hugs or cuddle sessions with your pup to further encourage them to associate the cuddling as a good thing that results in a reward.
Similarly, it’s also important to teach children what is and is not appropriate when interacting with your German Shepherd, and to help them understand how to be respectful of a dog’s personal space and their interest in cuddling or being hugged.
Young children should NEVER be left unsupervised with a dog (any dog), even if the dog has been taught to tolerate hugs and cuddles.
While German Shepherds are known for being an affectionate breed of dog, individual German Shepherds may show different tolerance levels for cuddling or hugging.
Most German Shepherds can be taught to tolerate hugs or brief cuddle sessions, but it is unlikely you can teach them to actually enjoy hugs or cuddling if they do not already enjoy them naturally.
German Shepherd puppies require exposure to hugs and cuddles from a young age to be more tolerant of them as they age, and those dogs who do not receive adequate socialization during that critical period may react to cuddling and hugs in a fearful or even aggressive way.
But for the most part, German Shepherds do enjoy cuddling with their owners!