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Do German Shepherds Like to Cuddle? Breed Facts & FAQ

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

smiling woman hugging her german shepherd dog

German Shepherd dogs (GSDs) are immensely popular dogs. In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, German Shepherds are the fourth most popular dogs in the U.S. But have you ever wondered exactly why GSDs are so popular? Are they cuddly and affectionate dogs?

German Shepherds can absolutely be loving and affectionate dogs that are down for a good cuddle. But this depends on the individual dog and how well they were socialized as puppies, along with a few other factors.

If you’re interested in learning more about what makes the German Shepherd affectionate and how to encourage a GSD to be more accepting of cuddles, we cover these topics and more.

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A Word on Cuddling

The word “cuddling” is defined as holding someone close for comfort, affection, or warmth. However, studies have shown that most dogs don’t actually enjoy being hugged, as it can cause them stress and discomfort.

The most common indications that a dog is stressed are:
  • Turning their heads away and avoiding eye contact
  • Ears down and flat against the head
  • Whites of the eyes showing (half-moon eye)
  • Eyes closed or partially closed
  • Licking of the chops and yawning

These signs can be quite subtle, and most dog owners won’t be able to tell that their dog is stressed. If your dog seems to enjoy hugs and isn’t exhibiting any of those stress signs, then by all means, hug away. Just be sure because you don’t want to cause your dog any undue discomfort.

So, the best kind of cuddling with German Shepherds would be letting them come to you. They’re big dogs, but if they want to lie across your lap while you give them plenty of scratches and belly rubs, that will be an activity that can be mutually enjoyed by you both.

Image Credit: Stone36, Shutterstock

The German Shepherd

German Shepherds are known to be fiercely devoted and loyal to those they love. They are highly intelligent, courageous, and confident dogs that are famous for being police and guard dogs. In fact, their fierceness while on duty can make them intimidating dogs for those who don’t know them well!

However, while GSDs do make excellent security and military dogs, they also make amazing family dogs. Above all else, German Shepherds are loyal to those whom they love. This also means being exceptionally protective of their families, and German Shepherds tend to provide constant companionship. They will stick to you like glue.

The Affectionate German Shepherd

German Shepherds are social dogs with their families, although they are known to be somewhat aloof with strangers. They prefer to spend as much time with their families as possible and thrive on your love and affection. They are loving and gentle with their loved ones, including children, and are willing to put their lives on the line to protect their families.

If your German Shepherd loves you, you’ll know. Common signs that your GSD loves you include:
  • Keeps prolonged eye contact: Your GSD engaging in comfortable eye contact for several seconds is a sign of trust.
  • Has relaxed body language: When dogs expose their bellies and are just generally relaxed in your presence, this is also a sign of trust and love.
  • Gives you a happy greeting: This is an obvious one, but when you’re away and come home, dogs that greet you with great exuberance clearly love their owners. Even a wagging tail when you come back into a room that you just momentarily left is a good indication of a loving relationship.
  • Takes your personal things: If your dog seems to always take your things, like shoes, clothing, and even socks, this might be due to your scent being attached to these items.
  • Follows you everywhere: GSDs enjoy companionship and can show their affection by following you around as you walk around your household.
  • Licks your face: While this might not be the most enjoyable moment with your dog, it’s a sure-fire sign that you’re loved.
german shepherd dog
Image Credit: Rob Wee, Pixabay

How Do German Shepherds Cuddle?

These are large dogs, and they aren’t known for being lap dogs, so how would German Shepherds cuddle?

For one, they will sometimes lean against you, and GSDs can lean quite heavily, which is a physical action that shows that they want to be near you. This might also include placing their paw or head on you.

They might try to crawl into your lap, which might not seem that cuddly, given their size, but they are definitely seeking attention and affection.

Some GSDs will also show their love by covering you with kisses and seeking belly rubs and ear scratches. They might also sleep with you in your bed, which is a great way to cuddle with your dog.

While some of these methods might not always be considered a cuddle, they are still physical ways that your GSD is demonstrating affection.

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Why German Shepherds Won’t Cuddle

Many German Shepherds form strong and loving bonds with their owners, but is there ever an occasion when these dogs aren’t that affectionate?

Protective Nature

Since these are working dogs, they take their jobs quite seriously, which can mean protecting the home and family. All German Shepherds have protective natures, but some might take their guard dog duties seriously enough that there’s not as much room for being playful and affectionate.


This is a common reason that a GSD might not be affectionate. GSDs (or any dog, really) that were not properly socialized while puppies are less likely to seek out affection and cuddles. As puppies, they should have the opportunity to interact with as many people, pets, and places as possible. Their upbringing plays a key role in their temperament as adults.


If you’ve adopted an adult GSD, chances are that they may have come from a neglectful or abusive background, which will give them major trust issues. It will take a great deal of your energy, time, and patience to build up trust and form a strong bond with your dog.

Health Issue

If your GSD was cuddly but has suddenly stopped, it could be a medical issue or possibly an injury. If you suspect that your GSD is sick or injured, you should consult your vet as soon as possible. While your dog starts to heal, just be sure to respect their need for quiet and alone time.

scared german shepherd
Image Credit: Brett_Hondow, Pixabay

How Can I Encourage My German Shepherd to Cuddle?

There are a few methods that you can use to encourage your GSD to be more affectionate and possibly cuddlier.

Avoid Inflicting Punishment

Whether you’re dealing with a situation in which your GSD has done something wrong or are just training your dog, avoid enforcing punishment. Scolding (or hitting) your dog is not the right method that you should be using, as this will make your dog possibly more fearful or even hostile toward you.

Use Positive Reinforcement

You should be using positive reinforcement instead of punishment. Reward your dog with treats and praise for good behavior, and consider offering plenty of affection too.

Use Affection

The most important factor here is strengthening your bond with your GSD. The more you pet and verbally praise your dog, the more you’re demonstrating the affection that they may want to start to show you. Lead by example, but don’t forget to not push any affection if your dog is clearly not enjoying it.

Joyful teens with lovely pet German Shepherd
Image Credit: Vagengeim, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

German Shepherds are gorgeous dogs that just want to make sure you are well protected and well-loved. If you happen to have a GSD that just doesn’t seem interested in physically cuddling with you, that’s okay. They might be showing you non-physical signs of their love, as those might be what they are most comfortable doing.

The most essential thing to remember is that as long as you take great care of your German Shepherd and respect the times when they need to be left alone, they will protect and love you unreservedly for the rest of their lives.

Featured Image Credit: Sam Wordley, Shutterstock

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