Ask any German Shepherd parent and you’re likely to hear that their dog is more than just a pet; they’re an integral part of the family.
In fact, many people treat their dogs as if they’re children! It’s not uncommon to see people spoiling their dogs, giving them as much love, attention, and affection as possible.
But even though you know how much you love your German Shepherd, you might have doubts about your dog’s feelings towards you. After all, it’s not like you can ask!
Instead, you have to look for the displays of affection your German Shepherd offers.
German Shepherds can show affection towards their owners in a variety of ways, most of which are different from how humans show affection.
Some of the more common ways include excitement when interacting with you, responding to obedience cues more quickly and with more enthusiasm, seeking you out for attention, and even just choosing to be around you.
Below, I’ve included a list of some of the top ways in which your German Shepherd might show their affection towards you.
1. They Actively Seek You Out
While German Shepherds do have a tendency to be kind of clingy dogs, this can also be interpreted as a sign of affection for their owners.
Even if you aren’t actively doing anything with your pup and are just lounging around on the couch, the fact that your German Shepherd is seeking you out to spend time in your vicinity is probably one of the most obvious ways in which they show affection.
With my own German Shepherds, they’ll frequently make their way into my office and will spend their day with me rather than doing something else, even if I’m busy with work and not paying them much attention. I take this as a sign that they enjoy my company and feel relaxed in my presence!
German Shepherds who love their owners may also choose to sleep by them, cuddle with them more frequently and without prompting, or seek out their favorite person when they are feeling playful and wanting attention.
2. They Enjoy Interacting With You
While most dogs will interact with their owners to some extent (especially if they are getting something good out of it, like a treat or a walk), a German Shepherd that shows enthusiasm while interacting with you is a surefire way to tell if they actually enjoy being with you.
This enthusiasm could look like excitement when you arrive home, or a happy tail wag whenever you give your pup some love and attention.
It could also look a little more subdued, such as when your German Shepherd quietly curls up next to you to chew on a bone, or for a cuddle session.
Your German Shepherd may also be more protective of you, especially when in new or unusual situations.
3. They Are More Enthusiastic During Training
If you are using positive reinforcement training methods, then it’s likely your pup is already quite excited to be working with you in exchange for a fun reward.
But an extra enthusiastic German Shepherd may be showing more “oomph” during your training sessions because they are happy to be around you and enjoy working with you.
Their enthusiasm could show itself by extra quick response times to cues, exaggerated body movements and tail wagging, relaxed but focused attention on you throughout the session, and overall relaxed and happy body language that indicates your pup’s genuine interest in what you want them to do.
4. They Go To You When They Need Something
Dogs usually hide their pain or illness as much as possible as part of their self-preservation instincts, but if your German Shepherd seeks you out when they are feeling under the weather, this could be considered a sign of affection.
They trust that you will help them, and thus they are more likely to go to you sooner when they aren’t feeling their best, or if they’ve sustained an injury in some way.
This can be very subtle sometimes and not seem very out of the ordinary (especially if you’ve already got a clingy German Shepherd), but it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for.
As an example of this, my German Shepherds will always come find me if they get a sticker in their paw. While they may try to remove it on their own at first, if they are unable to (or if it’s particularly painful), they’ll limp their way to wherever I’m at and I’ll be able to remove it.
The fact that they’ve learned that they can trust that I can help them is a huge sign of affection!
5. They Try To Comfort You
While we may expect that our pups will comfort us when we are feeling down, the truth is that they don’t really understand those emotions and they may actually avoid us instead.
But if your German Shepherd sticks close to you while you are sad, upset, or sick, it could be their way of showing that they care for you.
If I am feeling unwell or upset, all of my German Shepherds will monitor me and pay closer attention to my body language and movements, but only my youngest (and the one I have the closest bond with) will go out of her way to try and comfort me.
She’ll climb up next to me and press against me, gently lick my hands or arms, and show various body language that indicates she is paying attention to me and wants to do what she can to try and change the mood I am in (and it often works!).
6. They Use Physical Contact
If your German Shepherd is continuously positioning themselves so that they maintain physical contact with you, this could be their way of saying that they feel safe and comfortable with you.
This physical contact is actually one of the more powerful ways in which we can tell our German Shepherds care for us, but it often goes unnoticed because it can be so subtle.
If your German Shepherd tends to show their affection through physical contact, they may lean against you, choose a sleeping spot that is in close vicinity to you, step on your feet slightly if they are feeling anxious and need reassurance, place their heads onto your lap, or even bury their faces into your body.
7. They Display Happy Body Language
Body language is one of the primary ways in which our dogs communicate with us, and a relaxed dog is a happy dog! If your German Shepherd always seems to relax around you, that is likely their way of saying that they love and trust you.
They may also display play behaviors such as a play bow, rolling over to expose their bellies, or hops and leaps around you to indicate how happy they are to be in your presence.
In general, looseness and a lack of tension in the body are all indicators that your German Shepherd is happy to be with you.
8. They Like Things With Your Scent On Them
German Shepherds have keen noses (which is often why they’re used for police and military work), and will often seek out places or things that have your scent on them, especially if you aren’t around.
I’ll often catch my youngest Shepherd lying in my usual spot on the couch if she’s not able to be with me. She also frequently takes any clothing or even my washcloths and keeps them in her crate!
Do German Shepherd Puppies Show Affection the Same Way?
While the above list includes many of the most common ways in which your adult German Shepherd may show affection towards you, there are a few differences in how a German Shepherd puppy may show affection towards you.
Many of these differences are a result of general puppy excitement and a lack of manners, such as peeing when they see you or jumping up and grabbing at you with their mouths.
While these are signs of affection (and a common way for puppies to play and socialize), they aren’t usually the most appropriate way to interact with people.
As you work on building a good training foundation for your German Shepherd puppy, they’ll learn more appropriate and gentle ways of showing their affection for you.
Affection From Male VS Female German Shepherds
Overall, many of the affectionate behaviors displayed by male and female German Shepherds will be similar, but there may still be some behavioral differences between the sexes.
Having said that, it’s important to note that temperamental and personality differences between individuals will vary drastically based on their upbringing and genetics. These differences will likely have more of an effect than the differences caused by sex.
There’s no scientific proof that a male or female German Shepherd is more affectionate towards their owner on a daily basis, though intact females in heat, pregnant, or those in the whelping period may show an increased level of affection for their owners.
Behaviors that Aren’t Displays of Affection
Though there are many ways your German Shepherd can show their affection for you, there are also some behaviors that are commonly mistaken for displays of affection that actually aren’t.
Any behavior that is performed excessively or causes harm, irritation, or has a negative impact (on the dog or the person) is something that should be discouraged. Alternative, more appropriate behaviors can be taught through training.
While German Shepherds are herding dogs, the herding of their owners or of children in the household is not considered a sign of affection. This type of behavior, while normal, can potentially cause injury and create fear (especially in a child or someone who is afraid of dogs).
Herding behaviors should be discouraged during puppyhood, with the exception of working dogs who are being taught to herd livestock (either as a livelihood or for competition).
When in doubt about a behavior your German Shepherd is showing, reaching out to a local, reputable trainer might help you decipher your pup’s behaviors.
How To Show Affection Towards Your German Shepherd
If you’d like to reciprocate your German Shepherd’s affection towards you, the best way to do this is to just be responsive to them.
If they want to play, play with them! If they want a cuddle session, sit down with them for a few minutes and give them some attention.
Most of the time our dogs are very happy to just be around us, so carving out a few minutes each day to play, walk, train, or just sit with them are all great ways to show them that we love them.
Positive reinforcement and reward-based training methods are another great way to show your German Shepherd that you care, and are the best way to improve your bond with your pup.
German Shepherds often show their love for you by just choosing to be around you whenever they can.
They may also be more responsive to you, or seek you out if they need something.
While the list above includes some of the most common ways in which your German Shepherd may show you affection, individual dogs may have their own unique ways of showing that they care about.
What unique way does your German Shepherd show their affection for you?