Skip to Content

Are German Shepherds Affectionate?

Are German Shepherds Affectionate?

Perhaps you’re thinking about adding a new fur member to your family and have narrowed down your list of dog breeds to German Shepherds, among others. You’re probably asking yourself, “are German Shepherds affectionate dogs?”

While German Shepherds have a controversial reputation because of their protective and loyal nature, they are surprisingly affectionate and gentle companions.

The rest of this article will dive deeper into the temperament of the German Shepherd, common misconceptions about the breed, and how we as owners can show love and affection back.

Are German Shepherds Affectionate?

Loyal, protective, alert, intelligent, and obedient: These are arguably the most used terms to describe a German Shepherd’s personality and temperament. Not surprising if you think about what German Shepherds were bred to do.

As working dogs were initially bred to herd sheep and later primarily used in the military and police force, it’s no wonder these dogs are also athletic, responsive to their owners, and highly trainable.

But are German Shepherds affectionate? Yes! These dogs have a deep desire to please their owners. This means that German Shepherds develop a strong bond with their owners while maintaining affection and loyalty to the rest of the family members.

This is a key thing to remember if considering adopting a German Shepherd; they tend to bond closest with one person that they view as the leader of the pack. But don’t let that deter you as they make amazing family pets and are incredibly loving even to children.

5 Ways German Shepherds Show Affection

If you’re a new parent to a German Shepherd, or about to adopt one, there are many ways in which these dogs show their affection — and probably many you overlooked for something else. Let’s take a look at 5 ways German Shepherds  are affectionate

1.    They follow you around

Whether you find it endearing or annoying, if you’ve noticed your German Shepherd is constantly following you around the house — even to the bathroom — it’s a sign of affection and that they want to be close to you.

Most of the time, your dog will stay by your side because they have developed the strongest bond with you and want to stay nearby. There are some cases when this can be a result of anxiety or nervousness, but most of the time it’s nothing to worry about.

Similarly, if your German Shepherd is not constantly following you around but is rather routinely checking where you are, it means he recognizes you are the pack leader. It’s also his protective nature to check you are safe and there’s no danger.

2.    They lean on you

Another sign that German Shepherds are affectionate is if they lean their body weight against you. Simply put, this is another way of your dog trying to snuggle up as close to you as possible.

You also notice this type of behavior is more common in larger breeds than smaller ones — most likely because smaller breeds are easier to pick up and cuddle.

As pack animals, dogs naturally crave physical touch with their human family members and this is just another way for them to signal they need some affection from you too.

Rewarding this behavior with pets and cuddles will also teach German Shepherds to repeat the behavior — and because of their high intelligence, they’re likely to pick up on this extremely quickly.

3.    They wag their tail

A sign of a dog happy and excited to see you! Tail wagging has long been seen as a form of communication for all dogs.

Granted, dogs wag their tails in many ways to communicate different things and feelings, and learning these can go a long way in understanding what your dog is thinking.

For German Shepherds specifically, when they wag their tails in a fast and wide motion it generally means they are happy to see their owner — a sure sign of love and affection.

Scientifically speaking, if German Shepherds wag their tails more toward the right signals positive emotions compared to if they wag their tails more towards the left.

4.    They groom you (licking)

Love it or hate it, if your German Shepherds try to groom you through licking or sloppy kisses it means they love you.

As with the rest of the animal kingdom, grooming is an important activity to reinforce hierarchies (your place in the pack), family links, and bonding.

For dogs, and German Shepherds specifically, it’s a form of social bonding and another way for them to show their affection and strengthen their connection to you. 

5.    They sleep close to you

In the animal kingdom, and especially in packs, sleeping together is a sign of safety and security, showing mutual trust and support. In fact, even though dogs are domesticated, it’s still very much in their genes to sleep as close to you as possible.

Asides from protection, German Shepherds want to sleep with you to further strengthen their bond with you.

Common misconceptions

Even though German Shepherds are a popular breed, there still seems to be a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about them — the implications of which can result in fewer German Shepherds being adopted.

In this section, we’ll explore 3 of the most common misconceptions related to German Shepherds:

  1. German Shepherds are dangerous to children
  2. German Shepherds are aggressive
  3. Adult German Shepherds can’t be trained

1.    German Shepherds are dangerous to children

Because German Shepherds are trained as military and police dogs, it’s easy to understand why some people believe them a danger to children.

However, because of their loyal and protective nature, German Shepherds are actually considered to be fantastic family pets and especially good with children (and welcoming new babies into the family).

If they’ve been properly trained and socialized, German Shepherds can be extremely patient and tolerant with small children, but remember to always keep watch and take it slow.

The fact of the matter is that any dog can snap at a child if they feel frightened or threatened in some way. It’s important to teach your children how to interact and approach dogs safely.

2.    German Shepherds are aggressive

Another common misconception, most likely also a result of their reputation as police dogs. According to the American Temperament Test Society, German Shepherds are actually about as aggressive as a Golden Retriever.

So long as you take the time to train and socialize your German Shepherd, because of their lovely temperament they should be just as safe and tolerating as any other dog you’d consider adopting.

3.    Adult German Shepherds can’t be trained

German Shepherds are actually one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world and have been bred to retain this trait. As working dogs, they needed to not only be athletic but also have the ability to learn new commands quickly.

Regardless of their age — and this is a common misconception with most other dog breeds too — if you put in the time and effort, your German Shepherd will pick up new commands easily.

However, unlearning bad habits may prove tricker among the older dogs (but not impossible!)

How to show affection back

If you’re wondering whether your German Shepherd companion knows you love him, the answer is of course! While dogs may not understand all the nuances of showing affection as a human (like smiles,  hugs, and kisses), they can learn to make associations.

Three great ways to show affection back include:

  1. Allow your German Shepherd to remain near you
  2. Give belly rubs and soft touches
  3. Lean into them

Let’s dive into these quickly:

4.    Allow your German Shepherd to remain near you

German Shepherds like all dogs are pack animals, and pack animals like to stick together. Letting your dog hang out with you while you work from home, watch TV or relax in bed goes a long way toward reinforcing that strong bond.

5.    Give belly rubs and soft touches

As humans, our instincts tell us to hug and kiss our loved ones to show affection. When it comes to dogs, however, it’s important to understand that this is not natural for them and they may not like it.

Instead, giving them belly rubs and softly stroking or brushing their fur (try avoid patting their head as it can be confused for a sign of dominance rather than affection) to show affection.

6.    Lean into them

For the same reason German Shepherds lean into their owners as a sign of affection, we can do this to our furry friends as well. It may not be as easy though because you are bigger in size, so try this while sitting instead!


So, are German Shepherds affectionate? Yes — they are a remarkably affectionate breed, but an amazing addition to your family. They provide unwavering loyalty and a protective nature toward their loved ones. Remember that while they are eager to please, they do still require proper training and socialization