For the most part, it’s pretty obvious when a German Shepherd likes you. The licks, the wags, the smiles! But just like people, some pups have reserved personalities. If you’re worried whether or not your German Shepherd is connected to you, take a look at their body language and then read the tell-tail signs below. Canines thrive on human companionship and love, so chances are, your pup would hold your hand if he could.
1. They sniff you
Canines explore and interpret their environments through scent (they greet each other by sniffing butts, after all). When your German Shepherd sniffs you, it’s a strong indication they’re happy to see you. Since your smell is unique, not only does breathing in your essence ensure it’s really you, it triggers pleasure centers in your dog’s brain. Researchers from Emory University safely administered MRIs to dogs to determine what happens to their brains when presented with familiar scents. The result? Lots of activity in the caudate nucleus, the area of the brain linked to rewards and pleasure. In fact, nothing made the dog’s brain light up more than the smell of a human they knew well (that’s you!).
2. They greet you at the door
This may seem obvious, but it’s still a strong sign your dog feels connected to you. Sure, the greeting might be motivated by the promise of a potty break or dinner, but the alternative is a dog who retreats, which is a bad sign. A dog greeting you at the door means they’re happy to see you—and that’s a major win for the human-animal bond.
3. They sleep next to you
Canines, even when asleep, protect themselves from potential predators. In the wild, they typically sleep in what VCA Animal Hospitals calls a “defensive position.” Picture a dog with its nose out (to smell anything unusual) and an entire pack with their backs facing in, forming a little circle of safety. Sleep is vulnerable! If your dog chooses to sleep with you or next to your bed, this means they trust you. You’re basically a pack member.
4. They give you gifts
Like cats, dogs enjoy giving gifts to people they love. Unlike cats, who tend to present family members with nothing more than dead birds, dogs prefer toys. Of course, this is also a way to ask for something. It could be a cry for attention (“Look at me!”) or a bid for playtime (“Throw this please!”). What’s sweet about this behavior is your dog’s interest in you. They want you to pay attention to them. They want to play with you. Sometimes, they are simply sharing their favorite stuff with you, like a kid at recess! Essentially, you’re friends and your dog is texting you to hang out.
5. They follow you around
According to The Kennel Club of the U.K., “If your dog follows you everywhere then it’s a sign that they trust and love you and that you make them feel safe.” As social animals, canines typically enjoy being around others (even dogs who are more reserved with other dogs tend to enjoy the company of humans they feel connected to). Similarly, if your dog follows you from room to room, snoozing in close proximity to you but not necessarily right on your heels, it’s still a sign they love ya. There are definitely some dogs who suffer from separation anxiety, though that behavior is more often characterized by what happens when you aren’t around.
6. They ignore you sometimes
On the flip side, dogs who trust their people don’t feel the need to be on high alert all the time. If your dog seems tense around you or keeps her distance while surveilling your movements, this could mean she doesn’t feel comfortable around you. Dogs who can relax, sleep and even leave you alone when you’re going about your business likely feel connected to you and trust you won’t ambush or abandon them.
7. They make eye contact with you
Now, similarly to cats, dogs will make direct and prolonged eye contact with you if they feel safe around you. While some research shows young puppies and playful dogs are most likely to make strong eye contact a habit, the American Kennel Club says all types of dogs lock eyes to figure out what’s going on with us. They’re literally trying to read our minds. Other studies have discovered dogs (especially females) pick up on and mirror human emotions and this bond deepens over time. Canine brains have even been known to release oxytocin, the hormone partly responsible for empathy, trust and love, while making eye contact with their favorite people.
8. They perk up at your name
Yes, dogs know to come when they hear their names, but what about yours? If you see your dog’s ears perk up (or their whole head swivel, if you’re lucky) when someone says your name, this means they are so connected to you they want to be involved at the mere mention of you. Whether you’re physically present or simply spoken of in passing, your dog is all ears.