25 Ways German Shepherds Show Affection

How Do German Shepherds Show Affection

NotABully.org is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

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.

This begs the question: how do German Shepherds show affection?

Many of your German Shepherd’s normal behaviors are actually signs of affection. Some of the most common ways that German Shepherds show affection include getting excited when you come home, wagging their tail, leaning against you, snuggling with you, acting protectively towards you, and rolling over to expose their belly for some rubs!

In total, I’ve listed 25 ways that these dogs show affection for their human parents. After we discuss them, we’ll even cover a few behaviors that might seem affectionate but really aren’t.

Are German Shepherds Affectionate Dogs?

German Shepherds were bred for intelligence, bravery, and loyalty, which is why they’re so commonly used for police and military work around the world. But those traits won’t necessarily make for a loving and affectionate canine.

On the other hand, German Shepherds are known for how well they work with people, driven by a deep desire to please their human companions.

And don’t forget that we’re talking about one of the smartest dog breeds there is. GSDs (German Shepherd dogs) are ranked third in canine intelligence, surpassed only by Poodles and Border Collies.

Altogether, this adds up to a dog that bonds strongly with their human companions and shows lots of love and affection.

Of course, the way a GSD shows affection for their family is far different than how their family shows affection for them.

Even so, there are good reasons why German Shepherds have been the second most popular breed of dog for the last decade, starting with their loving and affectionate natures.

Are German Shepherds Affectionate with the Whole Family?

As mentioned, German Shepherds were bred, in part, for loyalty. When performing the type of jobs that these dogs are often employed in, loyalty and obedience are vital qualities.

However, these traits don’t necessarily make for the best family pets since such dogs don’t always bond with the whole family.

German Shepherds are one of the breeds that tend to bond closest with a single person. A GSD will pick one person in the family, usually the person they view as the leader, and form the closest bond with them.

That doesn’t mean your GSD won’t love the rest of the family. They’ll still be friendly and even affectionate with other family members, but it will probably be pretty obvious who their favorite is.

Don’t let that deter you from adding a German Shepherd to your family though.

They’re such popular pets for good reasons, and even though they do bond strongest with just one person, they’re still great family dogs with naturally protective instincts and impressive intelligence.

And German Shepherds can still be loving with the rest of the family, even the kids!

It might be hard to imagine an intimidating German Shepherd as a great dog for kids, but here’s a video showing multiple German Shepherds interacting with babies so you can see how gentle, playful, and affectionate they can be!

25 Ways German Shepherds Show Affection

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve established the German Shepherd as an affectionate and loving breed.

If you’re a German Shepherd parent, you’re probably wondering what signs you can take as clear indications of your dog’s love for you. So, here are 25 behaviors that indicate your German Shepherd’s affection.

1: They Lean Against You

When your GSD loves you, they’ll try their hardest to touch you as much as possible.

While you can simply pet your pooch, they can’t just pet you back. Instead, they’ll try to get up against you, leaning their bodyweight on you and letting you hold them up, or even just slumping down on the floor or couch against your side. They’re certainly not the only dog to show their affection by leaning either!

So long as they’re making firm physical contact, they’re happy, and this is a sure sign of your German Shepherd’s affection for you.

2: Your German Shepherd Follows You Around

You know how your GSD gets up at the same time you do, following you out of the room to see what you’re up to?

For many, this behavior is annoying, but it’s actually communicating your German Shepherd’s affection for you.

Because your GSD feels so closely connected to you, they want to be beside you all the time- whether that’s just on the other side of the house or in the deep end of the pool your GSD wants to be near you. They also want to be a part of everything you do. After all, you’re pack mates!

Having said that, there’s a fine line between affectionately following you to see what you’re doing and refusing to leave your side because of separation anxiety.

It’s perfectly acceptable for your dog to follow you and keep tabs on what you’re doing, but it’s not ok for them to be unable to leave your side or to exhibit negative behaviors when you leave.

3: They Maintain Eye Contact

It’s considered a basic rule not to hold eye contact with unfamiliar dogs as this can be a sign of aggression.

However, your own German Shepherd is a different matter. If your GSD maintains your eye contact with you, it’s a sign that they trust you deeply.

Look for eye contact lasting three seconds or longer to indicate the deep affection and trust your German Shepherd feels for you.

4. Tail Wagging

Though our German Shepherds can’t speak in the way that we do, they still have many tools for communication; chief of which is their body language.

Dogs use body language, primarily through their tail movement, to communicate with each other. If you can learn to read the signs that your dog’s tail is offering up, then you should be able to discern your dog’s current feelings.

Granted, tail position can differ between breeds since some breeds’ tails will naturally sit in different positions.

Still, certain tail movements can be interpreted to have specific meanings.

For instance, when your German Shepherd’s tail is up and wagging, it’s most likely a sign that your dog is happy. The faster their tail is wagging, the more excited they are about the current situation.

If you see that your GSD’s tail wags when you walk by or goes crazy when they see you, then you can take it as a sign of your Shepherd’s love for you.

But researchers have discovered that communication through tail movements goes even deeper.

As it turns out, you can even learn a lot from simply observing which side of the body your GSD’s tail is wagging on and how vigorously it’s wagging.

According to this study, your dog’s tail wags on the right side when they encounter a human, but it wags on the left side when they encounter a dominant canine.

Similarly, you can tell how comfortable they are with that human by the amplitude of the tail wagging.

When it’s a person they love and are comfortable with, the tail will wag fast and hard, but it will wag much slower when it’s an unknown person.

So, if your German Shepherd constantly wags their tail when you’re around, particularly if they wag it on the right side of their body at a high amplitude, you can be pretty sure it’s a sign that your pooch loves you!

5: They Lick and Groom You

Does your German Shepherd ever approach you while you’re sitting on the couch and just start licking you? They might be licking your legs, your arms, or even your face!

People have various feelings about such behaviors. Some people love sloppy kisses from their best friend, but other people don’t like the sticky, slimy sensation of being covered in their dog’s saliva!

Either way, you should take this behavior as a positive sign. You might not like being sticky and wet, but one of the main reasons that German Shepherds lick and groom their owners is that they love them!

Communal grooming is common in the animal kingdom, and your GSD thinks they’re doing right by you by helping you to groom and stay clean.

Additionally, it’s a great way to bond, and your GSD probably feels extra close to you when you let them lick you!

Of course, sometimes, German Shepherds lick their owners just for the flavor! All of that salt on your skin might not be so appealing to you, but it’s like a delicacy for your dog!

Even though there are many reasons why your German Shepherd might be licking you, it’s most commonly a sign of affection, and you can take it to mean that your dog returns your deep love for them!

6. Your GSD is Always Excited When You Get Home

There are few better feelings than opening your front door to return home after a long day of work and seeing your German Shepherd’s wagging tail and smiling face, all full of excitement to see you.

Many times, your GSD can’t even contain their excitement, like the one in this video that just can’t wait for their human to walk in the door!

But your pooch isn’t excited to see you just because you smell good. Truthfully, after a long day of work, you probably don’t!

Instead, they’re happy to see you because of how much they love you! So, you should certainly take that excitement as a positive sign of affection.

Few people in your life, human or otherwise, will ever be as excited to see you as your German Shepherd!

7: They Like to Play and Roughhouse with You

German Shepherds have a bit of a reputation as no-nonsense, hard-working, and sometimes even aggressive dogs, and it’s a reputation that has some root in truth. These dogs are used for a litany of canine jobs, after all, ranging from police and military work to search and rescue or even therapy work.

But despite their generally calm dispositions and exceptional work ethic, German Shepherds can be extremely playful pups, particularly with their favorite people!

If you find that your GSD is always wanting to play with you and even roughhouse, it’s because they love you!

Watch how two dogs that love each other play together. They always get rough and rambunctious!

When your GSD tries to play with you in a similar manner, it’s a sign that they accept you as a packmate.

For dogs, playing is a vital form of bonding, and playing with your GSD in such a way will help to continually improve the bond between you.

8: Your GSD is Tuned Into Your Emotions

Have you ever noticed that your GSD seems to mirror your emotions? Or perhaps you’ve been sad or upset before and your German Shepherd came over to comfort you?

These are common experiences for all dog owners, but especially those with dogs as intelligent and empathetic as German Shepherds.

Because of the close bond you share with your GSD, they can actually feel the emotions you’re feeling. So, when you’re sad or angry, your German Shepherd can feel that as well.

But your dog loves you and doesn’t want you to be upset. That’s why you can always count on your German Shepherd to be there when you need them most, and you can take their empathy and assistance as a sign of their deep affection and love for you.

9: They Sleep Close to You

If you don’t love someone, you don’t want to be near them all the time. But your German Shepherd wants to be around you all the time.

Literally, all the time!

They’re not even satisfied with just being around you.

Nope.

Your German Shepherd wants to be right up against you, pressed against your side, practically on top of you!

Even when you’re sleeping, your GSD is comforted by sleeping beside you.

Not everyone likes to sleep with their pooch, and if you don’t, that’s perfectly acceptable.

However, many German Shepherd parents do let their dogs sleep in bed with them, and the fact that your Shepherd prefers to sleep in bed beside you is a major sign of affection. Especially since your dog probably already has a bed of their own, they’d just rather be beside their favorite person instead.

10: They Lay Their Head in Your Lap

It’s a common experience shared by many German Shepherd parents. You’re sitting in a chair, maybe watching television or getting a little work done. Your GSD moseys over and places their head squarely in your lap.

Naturally, you reach your hand down and give your GSD a little scratch behind the ears and pet them under the chin. Though satisfied, your dog simply keeps their head there.

When your German Shepherd does this, it’s just because they want to be close to you, which is only because they love you so much.

11: Nudging with the Head or Nose

Sometimes, your German Shepherd’s behavior won’t seem all that different from a child’s, as is the case with nudging.

When your German Shepherd starts nudging you with their head or nose repeatedly, it feels very similar to your toddler saying “daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy” over and over but having nothing to ask!

Thankfully, when your GSD does it, it’s pretty clear what they want: more attention!

Whenever your German Shepherd wants attention, they’ll pester you for it. And though this has the potential to be annoying, it’s actually a sign of affection.

Why else would your GSD want so much of your attention?

12: They Jump On You

This is a behavior that most dog owners prefer to eliminate, but it can still be a clear indication of how your German Shepherd feels about you.

When you come home, does your German Shepherd jump up on you, putting their front paws up on your belly or chest?

While this behavior is undesirable to many, it occurs because your GSD is so excited to see you that they can’t contain their emotions and they end up jumping on you!

Generally, this is a behavior that you’ll only really see in puppies since most people will train their GSD not to jump by the time it’s an adult.

So, even though you’ll probably want to put an end to this behavior (a fully-grown GSD can actually hurt someone by jumping up on them), it can still be a sign of your German Shepherd’s affection for you.

13: Your GSD Climbs into Your Lap

When your German Shepherd loves you, physical touch becomes vitally important. This is why it feels like your GSD is looking for every opportunity to be as close to you as possible…they are!

Ever notice that whenever you sit down, your German Shepherd suddenly appears, seeming to believe that your lap is the perfect place to lay down?

While your GSD is a puppy, this is cute and you probably like it.

Once your GSD is full-sized, however, it can be much more difficult to let them up on your lap! Males can weigh up to 90 pounds as adults, and that’s a lot of canine to keep in your lap! While it’s not as intense as having a loving Great Dane crawl into your lap, it’s still a lot!

The truth is, your German Shepherd loves you so much that they’ll never stop trying to be a lap dog!

This is a sign of affection, so it can be cute, but at the same time, a giant German Shepherd hopping up on your lap can be crushing!

In case you need proof that even fully mature German Shepherds still think they’re lapdogs, here’s a video of a straight-up giant German Shepherd that clearly still thinks they belong in mommy’s lap!

14: They Bring You Their Toys

German Shepherds can be rather possessive of their toys. If you have more than one, you might notice that they often fight over toys, as one or the other may claim particular toys as their own.

Even so, your GSD can be very giving and sharing.

Has your GSD ever brought you their favorite toy as an offering?

Usually, this feels like they’re just bringing it so you’ll play with them, and that is often the case.

Sometimes, however, this is actually an offering.

Your German Shepherd knows how much they love that toy, so they’re offering it to you hoping that it will bring you as much joy as it brings them.

This is one of the ultimate signs of affection that your German Shepherd can display.

15: Sighs of Contentment

A sigh is a universal language, though sighs can signify many different emotions.

Sighs can be emitted when bored, sad, or even when content.

Your GSD comes and lays beside you. You start to pet them. They reposition a little, and as they get comfortable, they take in a deep breath before letting out a long and relieving sigh.

Does this sound familiar?

That sigh isn’t a sign of boredom. Rather, it’s a sign of just how content your GSD feels in that moment. This is because of your presence and touch.

Your German Shepherd loves you so much that just your presence can make their whole world feel content and complete! If you work in some petting, you may even get a few grunts mixed in with their sighs!

16: They Roll Over and Expose Their Belly

In the wild, exposing your belly could mean death, so it’s something that canines don’t do frequently.

When you see a dog exposing their belly to another dog or to a person, it’s a sign of submission and trust.

Even though your German Shepherd might roll over for you to pet them, the underlying meaning is the same. It’s not just that your GSD wants to be rubbed, it’s also a display of complete trust and acceptance of your position as leader of the pack.

17: Your GSD Comes to Check on You

Some dogs will be practically stuck to their owner’s side whenever they’re in the home. German Shepherds tend to be a bit more independent, so they’re less likely to be glued to you, following you everywhere you go.

What you’ll often see instead is that your GSD will come to check on you frequently. They do this to keep an eye on you and make sure that you’re still home, safe, and that everything’s ok.

Remember, your GSD doesn’t really view you as a parent. You’re packmates, and they feel that it’s part of their duty to protect you because they love you so much.

Of course, you can’t keep someone safe if you don’t know what they’re up to, and that’s why your German Shepherd checking in on you is a sign of affection.

18: They Lay on Things that Smell Like You

Your German Shepherd will lay just about anywhere when it’s time to relax, but they still tend to have certain spots that become favorites.

Often, those spots have smells that are associated with you.

For instance, does your GSD ever lay on your dirty laundry? Or maybe they prefer to lay on your bed?

Usually, your German Shepherd is laying on these items because they’re attracted to things that smell like you. These items bring comfort to your pooch since they love you so much.

19: Chewing Items with Your Scent

Sometimes, your German Shepherd will go even further than just laying items that are imbued with your scent. When this happens, your dog might even lick or chew items just because they smell and taste like you.

For instance, your dog might lick the sheets on your bed or they could lick the floor where you’ve been walking.

While these behaviors might seem a little gross to you, they help your dog to feel closer to you.

Remember, you’re the most important part of your German Shepherd’s life, and when they’re not around you, they miss you.

That’s why items with your scent or taste are so appealing to your GSD. It’s just because they love you so much!

20: They Snuggle or Cuddle with You

Most of your German Shepherd’s acts of gentle physical touch between you can be taken as signs of affection.

Having you near makes your GSD feel safe and content, especially when you’re touching.

Ever notice the way that two dogs that are close with each other tend to lay on top of each other when they sleep?

Well, your GSD will do the same with you, wanting to lay down with their body against yours while they relax or even while they sleep so they can be comforted by your presence. They may not be as cuddly a Pittie but most German Shepherds will enjoy a good snuggle!

21: Putting Their Paw on You

When you’re petting your GSD, particularly around the ears and head, do they ever lift their paw and place it on you?

If so, it’s a sign of your dog’s affection for you.

Your dog does this to prolong the physical touch between you because it makes them feel content and relaxed. That’s why your German Shepherd will usually settle for placing their paw on any part of you that they can reach, whether it’s your arm, leg, or anything else!

It should go without saying that the only reason physical touch between you and your German Shepherd makes them feel so good is because they love you so much!

22: They Obey Your Commands

To be fair, German Shepherds are naturally loyal and obedient dogs with a long history of following commands to perform various jobs. That’s why they’ve been used in so many different jobs throughout the years.

Furthermore, once your dog has undergone obedience training, they’re already more likely to obey you.

Still, the fact that your German Shepherd does obey you is a clear sign of their respect and love for you.

German Shepherds are incredibly smart dogs. Remember, researchers discovered that German Shepherds are the third smartest of all breeds, as I mentioned earlier.

That is to say that these dogs are smart enough to make up their own minds about who or what to listen to, which is why you’ll often meet German Shepherds that follow commands extremely well but only for a single person.

For your German Shepherd to follow your commands, they must love and trust you deeply.

Your German Shepherd obeys you because they want to, not to because they feel that they have to, which is why it’s an act of affection and not just from training.

23: They Don’t Run or Hide from You

This one applies in particular to German Shepherds that have been adopted.

Often, dogs from animal shelters and humane societies have had less-than-ideal lives. Many have been abused or at least found reasons to become fearful and distrusting.

If your German Shepherd is a rescue, then it may have the natural inclination to display such behaviors.

But if your GSD instead tries to be around you and doesn’t run or hide from you when you look for them, it’s a clear indication of their trust in you.

If they were afraid, they’d try to run or hide, but since they trust you, they feel safe when you’re around instead of scared.

24: Your GSD Is Protective of You and Your Family

Many positive traits combine to make German Shepherds the second most popular of all breeds in America.

Namely, their intelligence, loyalty, and natural protective instincts.

But even though German Shepherds are naturally protective, it doesn’t mean that every German Shepherd will willingly protect every person they meet.

Rather, they’ll only protect the people they love and consider to be part of their pack.

So, even if you have a German Shepherd, they might not be very protective of you if they don’t love you.

Of course, your German Shepherd loves you and your family, which is why they’re so protective of you all, barking whenever strangers show up at the front door and trying to put themselves between you and the potential danger!

25: They Smile at You!

Some dog breeds have faces that naturally appear to be smiling. German Shepherds aren’t one of those breeds.

Instead, GSD faces often seem intimidating!

Even so, many GSD owners have seen their dogs exhibit facial expressions that look an awful lot like smiling.

In truth, they are smiling! And although some people think dogs’ smiles don’t indicate happiness, new studies seem to indicate that they do.

Your German Shepherd will only smile when they’re feeling happy, so you can take that smile to mean exactly what you think it does.

Do German Shepherd Puppies Show Affection the Same Way?

As you can see, there are many ways that your German Shepherd shows their affection for you. But things change as your GSD matures, which often includes behavioral changes.

These changes also extend to the way that your German Shepherd shows affection for you.

Puppies may behave in the following ways to express their love for you, but generally, they either grow out of these behaviors or are trained out of them by the time they reach adulthood.

Peeing When they See You

German Shepherds of all ages get excited. Adult German Shepherds can contain their excitement to displays of intense tail wagging, for the most part.

Puppies, on the other hand, don’t know how to contain their excitement when they see you!

Sometimes, this leads to accidents, and if you’ve got a young GSD that doesn’t know how to hold it in, they might pee a little when they see you!

Don’t worry, this behavior will likely correct itself as your puppy grows and learns to have better control over their bodily functions.

But if your adult German Shepherd is still peeing when they see you, then you might have bigger problems on your hands!

Jumping on You

If you visit many houses with dogs, you’re likely to see adult dogs jumping on people as well as puppies.

Well-trained dogs usually won’t do this though, which is why it’s a behavior generally relegated to puppies.

Most people really don’t want their dogs jumping on them or anyone else, so this behavior is usually trained out by the time a dog reaches maturity.

Still, your German Shepherd is very likely to jump on you as a puppy.

When they’re still a puppy, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. They’re small and can’t do much damage.

Even so, you should put an end to this behavior as early as possible. It’s easier to train your GSD not to jump from the start than it is to train them to cease jumping on you after years or even months of allowing it.

Chewing Things that Smell Like You

Puppies are known to chew things up, and many German Shepherds will destroy plenty of their owners’ items before they get out of the chewing phase.

Most commonly, you’ll find that the items your German Shepherd chews aren’t random. They’re usually items that smell like you.

Your dog chooses to chew these items up because it makes them feel close to you, especially when you’re away.

This can also help to ease anxiety; particularly separation anxiety, which many German Shepherds experience when their human isn’t home.

You’ll want to put an end to this behavior as early as possible to avoid having lots of your items destroyed!

Also, be aware of the difference between chewing a few of your items and obsessively chewing, licking, and eating non-food items, which is a condition known as pica.

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.

These behaviors are negative, and if you see your German Shepherd behaving in the following ways, you should put a stop to it through training.

Excessive Licking

As we discussed earlier, it’s perfectly natural and acceptable for your German Shepherd to lick and groom you.

Under normal circumstances, this is a sign of affection, but when this behavior becomes excessive, it’s no longer ok.

Not only is excessive licking annoying, but it can also be a sign of pica or anxiety.

That said, it’s often just licking and not a sign of any underlying issue. You’ll still probably want to put an end to this behavior through training though, just because of how annoying it can be.

Herding

When your German Shepherd herds the children to keep them in the yard, the behavior is cute and harmless.

But when your German Shepherd tries to herd you or other adults, it’s no longer such a cute behavior and they aren’t the only breed to have this problem from time to time.

Now, it’s something you need to put a stop to, and it’s certainly not a sign of affection. It’s a sign of domination!

German Shepherds are members of the herding group, so herding behavior is natural to the breed. Still, it’s not a behavior that should be acted out on 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.

Anecdotally, some people have noticed that males tend to be more affectionate than females in general. There’s no scientific proof for this though.

It has also been observed that females tend to be more territorial than males, a trait that is often noted to become stronger after giving birth.

How to Show Your German Shepherd Affection

Most people will have their own natural ways of expressing their affection for their German Shepherd.

But today, you’re constantly seeing articles about how our dogs don’t like many of our behaviors. This can leave you wondering about how you can show your GSD affection in a way that they’ll appreciate.

Cuddle with Your GSD

It’s true that not all dogs like to cuddle. But many German Shepherds love nothing more than to cuddle up with their favorite human!

You should be able to tell pretty easily whether your GSD likes to cuddle or not. Most German Shepherds that like to cuddle will come and cuddle with you first, so you won’t have to wonder!

If your German Shepherd comes and lays against you while you’re sitting or laying down, then you can bet that they like to snuggle!

Devote Plenty of Time to Play and Exercise

For your German Shepherd, few things are more fun and enjoyable than a good play session with their favorite person!

German Shepherds are extremely energetic dogs that need a lot of activity. Playing with your GSD and taking them on walks, jogs, hikes, and other activities is great for their health, but it also shows them how much you love them.

Your German Shepherd wants to be part of everything you do, and you make them feel loved and included when you let them accompany you on your trips or you make special trips just for them.

You don’t even have to go anywhere. Play a game of tug-of-war or fetch with your German Shepherd and see how happy they get!

Again, this is not just for the positive health benefits, though there are plenty of those. Playing together or doing physical activities can help strengthen the bond between you and your German Shepherd and really shows them how much you care.

Pet them Whenever Possible

One of the best ways you can show your German Shepherd how much you love them is something you’re probably already doing plenty…pet them all the time!

Your German Shepherd will love a good scratch or pet, whether it’s a tummy rub or a scratch behind the ears, they’re sure to love it every time you pet them!

Along the same lines, you can use grooming as another form of petting. Your German Shepherd will love it, and you’ll get multiple benefits.

First, you’ll get to make your GSD happy and strengthen the bond between you. Additionally, you’ll be helping to prevent your German Shepherd from shedding so much, which we all know is a problem for every family with a GSD!

Closing Thoughts

There are nearly countless ways that your German Shepherd shows their affection for you.

On this list we’ve covered 25, but how many more affectionate behaviors have you seen from your GSD?

And of course, never forget to return your German Shepherd’s love by providing plenty of playtime, exercise, cuddles, and pet them whenever you can!