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How do German Shepherds show affection?

German Shepherds are known for being intelligent, obedient dogs which is part of the reason they’re often used as K9 unit dogs by police squads.

Beyond their stern reputation, you may be surprised to know that German Shepherds can be affectionate too. The most common affection signs include staying by your side, licking and sleeping close to you. Given how loyal they are, they can form a special bond with their owners.

Are German Shepherds very affectionate?

While it takes time for German Shepherds to warm up to strangers, with their owners, they’re gentle and loving. German Shepherds can have a particular soft spot for children.

Every dog is different, of course, so some German Shepherds may be more affectionate than others. In a German Shepherd forum, one user mentioned having three of them.

They described the first one as very affectionate, the second one as somewhat affectionate, and the third one as more independent and aloof. One other owner suggested if you’re affectionate early with a German Shepherd puppy, they may end up being very affectionate as an adult.

German Shepherd affection

Still, one other food for thought to consider is that German Shepherds may just be affectionate in an unconventional way. As an example, they can be very protective of owners when around strangers.

While the behavior itself comes across as aggressive (for the stranger at least), for the owner, it’s a loving gesture because the dog wants to keep them safe. So while German Shepherds may not always be interested in cuddling, they will display their affection in other ways.

Do German Shepherds bond with one person?

Most sources describe the German Shepherd as a dog that develops a close attachment to one person over everyone else. But German Shepherds can still be family dogs if they’re socialized and trained as puppies.

One other source suggests that German Shepherds are one-person dogs only if one person in the family takes care of them. If multiple people put in time training and exercising the dog, they may get close with more than one person.

What are the ways German Shepherds show affection?

Beyond being protective and wagging their tail, German Shepherds show affection in several other ways. Here are signs of affection to look out for when you’re spending time with your pet.

1. Following you

It’s not uncommon for German Shepherds to follow their owners wherever they go. Given being protective is a part of their nature, they’ll want to keep watch over you. It can also be a way for them to declare that being in your presence is in their best interest.

If your German Shepherd shows signs of separation anxiety when you’re not around, give them a special treat before you leave to calm their nerves. It might also help to leave clothes out with your scent.

2. Jumping on you

German Shepherds that are happy to see their owners again sometimes jump on them. Dogs, in general, do this to get attention. Keep in mind that if it’s a behavior you’re not happy with, it is possible to train them from jumping.

3. Licking

Licking can be a sign of affection for dogs, including German Shepherds. Dogs groom each other by licking or when they are being submissive. By licking you, your Shepherd lets you know you are a member of the pack who is respected.

The American Kennel Club mentions that over time licking has become a ritualized greeting for most dogs. Just like wild dogs will lick pack members to welcome them back home, your German Shepherd may do the same every time you return to them.

4. Leaning

German Shepherds will sometimes lean on their owners as a sign of affection. It’s suggested that they may do this as a way of being protective. It can also display how much they trust you.

5. Tail wagging

Tail-wagging is another sign of how a Germany Shepherd expresses affection and joy towards you. Their tail-wagging is somewhat different from other breeds.

German Shepherds tend to wag their tails slowly. The tail-wagging of a German Shepherd has been described as low swishing without so much body-wiggling. Though the tail-wagging may be more intense than usual around a human they’re happy to see.

6. Laying their head on your lap

German Shepherds, like other breeds, can show affection by laying their heads on your lap. It’s generally a way of seeking your attention or getting you to pet them.

7. Raising their eyebrows

Researchers recently discovered that dogs raising their eyebrows at you could be a sign of happiness. Pay attention to whether your German Shepherd raises their eyebrow when they see you. The research shows that the higher a dog raises their eyebrows, the happier they are to see you.

8. Eye contact

It was found in one study that dogs and humans get an increase in oxytocin when engaging in eye contact. It’s often known as the love hormone because it’s released when two individuals are bonding socially. A German Shepherd maintaining a gaze with you is a sign of feeling comfortable.

9. High pitch sounds

In a popular YouTube video, a German Shepherd made high-pitched sounds when she saw her owner again after being apart for months. The dog then ran towards her owner quickly as a further sign of deep affection.

10. Sighing

In some cases, a German Shepherd sighing can indicate affection. If you’re petting them while they’re lying down and they let out a sigh, they might be letting out a feeling of relief and pleasure. Some sources also note it can mean they feel comfortable and safe.


The German Shepherd has a reputation for being a strong, independent dog. But they’ve also been proven to be warm and affectionate pets too. Taking an active role in taking care of them will help an owner slowly earn the German Shepherd’s loyal affection over time.