How To Read German Shepherd Body Language (9 Must-Know Signs)

German Shepherd body language
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The German Shepherd is known for being active, courageous, and extremely intelligent because this animal can use body language to express its emotions and communicate with humans. You can rely on signs to take care of this dog.

Not all four-legged friends manifest in the same way. Their expressions do not stop at changes in the tailor’s ears but are more prosperous than you think. That’s why you should learn about German shepherd body language.

The information below will help you bond better with your loyal friend. Please scroll down to read more information!

Some Facts You Should Know

If you own a German Shepherd, you probably know some of the habits and characteristics of this breed. Yet, there is some information related to this breed that you may not have known. Here are some interesting facts.

Similar to Humans to processing information

German Shepherd body language

He is similar to Humans in processing information (link)

German Shepherds in particular and dogs, in general, do not say the same thing to humans. However, many studies have proven that the dog’s brain is active enough for this creature to make sense of the world around it.

Specifically, in 2014, a dog’s brain response test was born. This test is on having 13 similar dogs hear a variety of sounds. These sounds include the groans, barks, hisses, and screams of humans and other animals of the same species.

The results showed that any sound could activate the dog’s brain areas that express happiness or fear. However, the above results cannot confirm that dogs understand what humans say because human speech is a much more complex category than ordinary sounds.

It wasn’t until 2016 that a team of researchers published in the journal Science demonstrated that the dog’s brain processes info in a similar way to humans.

Specifically, the left brain part is responsible for processing the content of the sound, and the right part of the brain handles the intonation of the voice.

Based on the above theory, the dog’s communication process with humans will be, in turn: recognizing the content of the owner’s praise through the brain’s left hemisphere, confirming the tone with the right hemisphere of the brain, and then responding in language. 

Fast Repertoire of Signals

Before delving into the German Shepherd’s behavior, it’s essential to have a brief understanding of the types of signals your four-legged friend may be sent:


Visual - German Shepherd body language

The visual (link)

This type of signal is usually expressed by controlling the body’s muscles, changing the lying position, changing the state of the ears or tail to express emotions and thoughts.

In 2006, Turid Rugaas published On Talking Terms with Dogs. In the book, the author has come up with a system of 30 signals that indicate comfort. 

Some actions indicate that your four-legged friend wants to calm down, such as Kissing, turning your head, sitting down, yawning, etc. Even the same ear state changes, but each different design is an additional signal.


Sound, wildly barking, is one of the main channels for dog feedback. However, not all barks have the same meaning. Usually, barking with a high-pitched tone indicates joy and cheerfulness, while a low tone indicates caution or denial.

The howl – often seen in wolves, the ancestors of sheepdogs – is an automatic action but sometimes a way of marking territory. In some cases, howling is also a sign of emotional distress or simply that the dog remembers their distant owner.

In addition to natural sounds, dogs can also learn and create new sound cues.

For example, your German Shepherd may bark in different tones and intensities to let you know it’s time to take them for a walk or exercise. This breed is highly active and will need a lot of practice instead of spending most of the time in a cage.


German Shepherd body language

The Olfactory (link)

Human sensitivity to scent is so special that no other species can match it. However, with the German Shepherd breed, the sensitivity to the smell of this creature can be 10,000 times that of a human.

With these outstanding advantages, your four-legged friend can communicate with humans through the sense of smell without too many obstacles.

Precisely, these dogs can lick the owner’s face or sniff around to detect unusual expressions. From how your lunch was to whether you’ve come into contact with another dog while away, your four-legged friend can catch and react to it.


Like humans, tactile communication plays a vital role in the canine connection. T tactile communication may involve placing a paw on its back or grasping its snout among creatures of the same animal. 

These two actions often mean domination. Meanwhile, putting your head on your shoulder is a form of greeting. As for showing closeness, dogs often choose to lie down together.

When communicating, the tactile signals are even more pronounced. Dogs often love to be petted and always find a way to rub their heads on you. 

Besides, some researchers think your loyal friend will also perform the above actions when feeling scared and stressed.

Your communication signals must have a specific meaning.

Although the principle of processing information across the two hemispheres of the brain is similar to that of humans, it does not mean that dogs can understand all the signals you share.

To communicate effectively with your four-legged friend, you need to give clear, meaningful signals. In particular, you need to make sure your German Shepherd dog understands or is about the information you provide.

One of the best ways to help your dog understand the information you give is early training. Especially in the period of 3 to 12 weeks of age, dogs need to adapt to the environment and receive all stimuli actively.

If you want to communicate with your pet yourself, you can start with basic commands like “sit” and “come.” In addition, you can also find products and equipment to support dog training.

In training, you will have difficulty and do not get a noticeable change. Your task is to review the orders given, instruct, when to praise, and the command order.

Eye Communication

After learning about the different types of signals and how you communicate commands, it’s time to learn about changes in your dog’s body parts.

In particular, changes in the eyes contract will be a significant sign for you to recognize and communicate effectively with your pet:

Intense Staring

Intense Staring

Intense Staring (link)

When a sheepdog stares at you, it’s usually to get the owner’s attention.

Sometimes this expression also means that your dog detects danger nearby. In particular, when you notice dogs starting with slightly dilated eyes, it’s time for you to pay attention to the unusual expressions around.

During training, the dog’s wide eyes and intense, focused gaze demonstrated focus on the commands being taught. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand that these dogs will achieve good results after training.

Blinking Eyes

Blinking is an interesting nonverbal signal because this expression will have different meanings depending on the case.

Sometimes sheepdogs will blink their eyes in search of your attention. The above action shows that the animal is worried about the owner in some other cases.

If you’re in an area where dogs perceive danger or don’t like the place, your four-legged friend uses eye contact to signal you should leave the location.

Dilated Pupils

Dilated Pupils

Dilated Pupils (link)

Like humans, sheepdogs’ pupils can change size depending on light conditions.

In some cases, dilation is a signal that you can determine the state of your dog. For example, if your dog’s pupils dilate even in normal lighting conditions, this could be a sign of stress.

In the above case, you need to examine your surroundings to determine the cause of your anxiety. In an external cause, your dog may be having an eye problem instead of trying to send a message through the pupils.


There are many possible causes for your dog’s bright eyes. One of the leading causes of these probing eyes is that dogs need to assess their surroundings to ensure no threats.

If you regularly take your shepherd dog to new places, you will probably not be unfamiliar with this expression.


In the wild, the ancestor of the German Shepherd breed – wolves would use a look of avoidance to show submission. For example, an average wolf in the pack will lower its gaze instead of looking directly into the eyes of the leader.

Today, the upper body language of the shepherd dog, in some cases, still carries the connotation of submission.

However, in other cases, especially when communicating with people, avoiding eye contact represents boredom. It’s almost impossible to walk your pet or continue training when your dog avoids eye contact.

This sign also carries some special meaning when in a different context. For example, if a male dog receives the female dog’s dodging gaze and lies down, the message here is blunt repulsion.

Half Moon

Suppose your German Shepherd’s eyes are facing the opposite direction of its head, and the whites of its eyes are visible (what’s known as a “semicircular eye” or “whale eye”). 

In that case, it is on the lookout for some noise or movement or is worried about something happening around him. Your German Shepherd will turn his head slightly, but his eyes will still be fixable on something else.

Ear Positions Meaning

Unlike humans, the muscular system in dogs’ ears is quite flexible, allowing the animal to change its ears in many different ways to meet communication needs.

Changing the dog’s ear position will express interest and submission. Sometimes dogs also change ear state when standing in front of enemies competitors.

Therefore, when considering signs related to the ear and other parts, you should put them in a specific situation and environment.

After keeping the above rule in mind, it’s time for you to learn about some ear positions and their meanings behind them.

Up – Down

Up - Down ear meaning

Up – Down ear meaning (link)

This action is always positive in most situations. Precisely, when sheepdogs want to greet their owners or other dogs, their ears will move up and down. 

Not only stopping there, but the happy mood of the dog will also show through wagging its tail or licking its face.


Tilting the ear forward is a sign of confidence and focus. You will want to see your dog in this state when training.



Backward-Tilted (link)

In contrast to leaning forward, ears tilted back indicate that the animal is insecure and afraid. Even this action, lowering your eyes, is a sign of submission, anxiety, and lack of concentration.


The ears are standard, with a certain softness and comfort, which is a good sign. Because in this case, your shepherd dog does not feel threatened or distracted by external factors. Instead, he was just enjoying this relaxed state.

Tail Positions meaning

The tail is one of the most valuable parts of a sheepdog’s communication. The tail changes are also accompanied by signals from other parts, helping the dog express more emotions and states.


Tail wagging isn’t just to show your Sheepdog’s happy mood. In some cases, dogs may wag their tails when feeling nervous or stressed.

To decipher the above action and rely on frequency and tail wagging, you also have to rely a lot on context. For example, if you come home from a long trip, wagging your tail is a sign of joy, greeting, and affection.

However, if the dog is in an unfamiliar place, with too many people and noisy things, the dog may subconsciously wag its tail as a way to express concern.

If the setting is a training session, tail wagging is sometimes a sign of the animal’s lack of concentration. 

Specifically, based on several tests, dogs that do not wag their tails have better training results than dogs that wag their tails unconsciously.


When the tail is loose, your dog is relaxing and has a feeling of absolute security. This expression is also often accompanied by the relaxation of muscles in other parts, including the ears.

Tucked Between Legs

You will rarely encounter this pose unless you see your dog has lost a fight.

Wagging its tail in its paws is often a sign that the Shepherd is uncomfortable before the opponent but is extremely afraid and forced to submit. This sense of defeat makes them feel humiliated, which leads to this expression.

Carried High

The high tail is a case that you have quite a few ways to decode this expression.

Some possible explanations include: the dog is angry at his fellow human beings or the surrounding dangers, the dog is in a state of alertness and can join the fight at any time.

Or sometimes, a high tail is a sign that the dog is trying to impress a nearby female or simply that your four-legged friend is ready to practice.

For more details about its tail meaning, check this video below!

Mouth Positions meaning

You’re probably familiar with the image of dogs panting or licking and wondering if the above expressions are a type of communication and, if so, what they mean. Some information below is the answer.

Open or Close

The act of opening and closing the mouth is quite natural and usually does not carry too much communication meaning. German Shepherds will open their mouths when active, especially during intense activities.

Meanwhile, if the dog is relaxed, there is no reason for the dog to growl open its mouth. If under your eyes, the dog is in an environment with no threat and absolute comfort but still has its mouth open, the problem may be with the animal being nervous or simply hungry.


Panting is one-way dogs can release heat from their bodies. Therefore, it is normal for this phenomenon to appear after exercise sessions or active games.

However, gasping can sometimes be a sign of fear. In this case, the dog may drool, and the ears and tail are in the position of stress. Also, the possibility of your shepherd dog panting from excitement or hyperactivity can’t be out.


When dogs yawn, dogs have indirectly expressed boredom and fatigue. However, if calls accompany yawning, yawning is a sign that the animal is too stressed or is trying to resist other objects.


Licking is more than just a way to communicate. Licking is also a way to build relationships with different objects, including humans.

If your four-legged friend regularly licks you affectionately, congratulations, you’re getting on pretty well with your pet.

However, not in most cases, licking indicates connection or appeasement. The dog’s behavior is mixed with the signs of anxiety you’ve found in the previous sections; it’s probably a request to rest.

In addition, according to some studies, this action is a sign that your dog is feeling uncomfortable, even stressed. Lip licking is sometimes an automatic reflex when dogs think that a meal is coming, thanks to a series of cues such as the sound of bowls’ scent.

Tactile Gestures

Tactile Gestures

Tactile Gestures (link)

Close contact is always indicative of a deep relationship. To learn more about the causes and meanings behind this type of body language, here are some things you should know.


Closeness affection is one of the most common layers of meaning of this expression. In addition, if you bring home some other pets, the shepherd dog does this to assert sovereignty and get your attention.


To explain this action, it is necessary to go back to when the puppy stroked its paw to find its mother and suckle milk. 

By adulthood, this behavior has become a habit and is manifested when the Shepherd wants to get the owner’s attention and tries to maintain communication.

Fur Movement

You may not notice it too much, but the change in the state of the coat is a sign that Shepherd’s emotions have changed. To explain, you can rely on some information such as:

Raised Hackles

Raised Hackles is a phenomenon in which the hair all over the spine and shoulders of the Shepherd Dog is erect. You can compare this phenomenon with some similarities with goosebumps in humans.

But unlike humans, there are quite a few possible causes for this reaction. For example, dogs may be about to fight with competitors, thereby building up their fur as a display of aggression and arousal.

But sometimes, you can also decipher this phenomenon as a manifestation of the dog’s fear, feeling of danger.

Extreme Shedding

If you own a sheepdog, you’re probably familiar with their post-shedding grooming. Especially in the fall and spring, you have more hair to handle than ever before.

However, if it is not during the molt, but your four-legged friend has a drastic decrease in hair count, this could be a sign that your pet is under stress, fear, and anxiety.

Some Other Sign Meaning 

Although unable to communicate verbally, the Sheepdog has a rich body language system that can tell you about feelings, states, likes, and dislikes with particular objects and phenomena.

And the signs below are just a few of the helpful ways to help you better connect with your pet.

Stare At You

When your four-legged friend stares at objects, animals, even you, you must check all the surrounding factors. All of the above is to make sure that nothing stimulates the aggression of this particular dog. 

Accompanying the staring is often several other signs, such as hairs down the spine standing up, barking, orbiting.

Learn more Why Does My German Shepherd Stare At Me?


Excessive thinness is always a warning for nutritional deficiencies or health problems. To check your dog’s thinness, you should stroke and feel the dog’s spine. Or, more simply, you can directly observe and evaluate the weight and balance of the animal.

A dog with the perfect shape will have a waist that fits behind the ribs. Meanwhile, if you notice that your dog’s waistline is much smaller than this ribcage, your dog may be a little overweight.


By some comparisons, German Shepherds purr a lot more than traditional breeds. Perhaps this is because the main task is to protect, so dogs use whining to attract attention.

In addition to getting attention, the sheepdog whining is also to let you know what it wants. Dogs sometimes purr when scared or sick. In this case, in addition to whining, the dog also has some signs such as anorexia, lethargy, not moving.

In addition to the above reasons, a sheepdog whining could be because it wants to boost morale, show affection and warmth when it sees you again.

Shedding so much

As mentioned, shedding is a normal phenomenon of shepherd dogs. The abnormality only occurs when your four-legged friend sheds too much hair during an average time of year.

The cause of the above abnormality is mainly because the dog is too worried or scared. To fix it, you need to give your pet a feeling of absolute peace of mind.

If you don’t have a good enough space to avoid distractions, you may have to send your Sheepdog to a veterinary facility.

Flapped back ears

A dog may drop its ears to show excitement if something attracts attention. Accompanying this expression is a series of other exciting actions such as tail wagging, foot manipulations, etc.

The drooping of the ears in a sheepdog is a good sign for the animal’s peace of mind and excitement. To maintain this excellent state for as long as possible, you need to make sure not to make any loud noises. 

At the same time, you also need to create a comfortable atmosphere so that your dog can also be aware.

Standing ears

Standing ears

Standing ears (link)

You may be quite surprised, but the ears of the German Shepherd can stand upright in some cases.

The German Shepherd’s ears can stand upright thanks to solid ligaments. And you may not know, the ancestors of this dog had naturally erect ears. 

Therefore, genetic factors are also one of the reasons why today’s sheepdogs can adjust the position and state of the ears.

It does not mean that the ear-pumping expression carries no communicative meaning. 

In fact, this expression is a kind of body language that has a lot to do with the animal’s mood. Curiosity, fear, and vigilance are some explanations for the occurrence of this manifestation.

A dog with its ears erect shows concentration, interest, and curiosity about the information it hears. When it comes to an unfamiliar area, dogs may straighten their ears as a way to heighten their vigilance and show anxiety and fear.

Snarling and baring teeth

This expression usually does not carry a social connotation because every type of growl accompanied by bared teeth makes the owner immediately recognize the discomfort and ferocity of the shepherd dog.

To deal with it, you need to remove the factor that makes this friend uncomfortable. It could be an object with a scent that the dog has an aversion to or the presence of enemies or dangers.

You can also calm your dog’s anger with toys; you should also not be too harsh or exercise control in this case. Instead, remember to use a calm, confident tone of voice to communicate with your dog, and you’ll be sure to succeed.

Slow tail wagging

Slow tail wagging

Slow tail wagging (link)

In the previous section, you had an overview of the Sheepdog’s position and mood. The question is that in addition to work, waving speed is also one of the body languages that helps to express state?

The answer is yes. You have more grounds to confirm that the above statement is accompanied by slow tail wagging speed, avoiding eye contact, refusing food, or not paying attention to what is happening around you.

Sometimes a slow tail wag is a sign of unfriendliness. Meanwhile, sometimes the speed of tail wagging does not show too much change in mood.

The above conclusion is not without foundation. Each individual has a difference in wagging speed as well as tail wagging is a completely normal thing. So your job is to spend more time with your pet to discover their new body language.

Lying on the back

If your German Shepherd is lying in this position, congratulations: your four-legged friend has wholly trusted you and the environment.

The prone position is inherently the favorite position of dogs in general. However, not many dogs choose to rest in this position for safety reasons.

Once your Sheepdog is confident to relax, sleeping in the most vulnerable but most comfortable way means that he completely trusts, submits, relies on you.

Low head to ground

This behavior only shows up when your four-legged friend is comfortable and ready for all sorts of fun activities. At this time, the dog wants to express his joy and wants to find an object to play with.

If you want to interact more with the dog, you can simulate the action above. The dog’s brain will process and conclude that you want to play with them too. And this will make your dog more excited than ever.


The above sharing has presented the behaviors commonly used by German Shepherds to try to connect with people. If you still have some doubts, the following frequently asked questions are for you.

Why do German Shepherds pin their ears back?

Putting your ears back is a sign with many meanings that you have to rely on to give the correct answer.

When dealing with stronger individuals, for example, putting the ears back is a way for the German Shepherd to show submission or anxiety.

Meanwhile, if you live in a non-competitive environment, a dog’s ears may drop due to the dog trying to protect its ears. More simply, lowering the ears is also an expression used to gain attention and wait for a head rub.

Why do German Shepherds go between your legs?

There are quite a few reasons why your four-legged friend has such a strange gait. Some of them include:

  • Anxiety when being around people or animals leaves a wrong impression.
  • Submissiveness: The feeling of being suppressed by more dominant individuals makes German Shepherds self-conscious, uncomfortable, and subdued by aggression. 

And one of the most apparent manifestations of this state is hanging the tail and trying to hide it between the legs.

  • Anxiety: if your Sheepdog finds out that he will be from you, is left behind, or has similar feelings of anxiety, strabismus may occur.

Sometimes this sign can be accompanied by a series of hostile actions such as biting, destroying furniture, or urinating in the wrong place.

Why do German Shepherds follow you everywhere?

In the past, the main task of this breed’s ancestors was to protect livestock from prying eyes. The nature of the job requires the shepherd dog to always be watching, observing, even staring.

Although the main task of this breed is no longer protecting livestock, the protective instinct is still present in this four-legged friend. That is also why dogs always follow you closely to watch in a very intuitive way.

The reason for the above follow-up can come from emotional reasons. When your Shepherd is constantly worried or has had bad experiences with separation, he may miss you and feel unsafe when you’re apart.

The above behavior can be more simply understood as your dog is trying to get attention, want food, or even because there is nothing to do.

This problem is related to the dynamic nature of dogs in general and German Shepherds in particular. 

If they can’t participate in physical exercise to improve their mental health, it is easy for dogs to become confused and will look to you for fun or calm.

You can learn more about this here.

Can you touch German Shepherd ears?

The answer depends on the age, health, and individual preferences of each dog. For example, you should not touch, bend, or rub a puppy’s ears because the improper application of force can cause pain for small dogs.

Meanwhile, some dogs with sensitive ears may not be interested or even react harshly when you rub their ears. In particular, dogs with ear infections can be highly aggressive when you try to deal with the problem for them.

Are German Shepherd double coats?

Yes, German Shepherds have two coats. In particular, the layer of hair closest to the skin is down. This undercoat is up of relatively short hair. The main task of this layer is to retain heat, helping the dog to survive in cold climates.

The topcoat is considered a protective layer. This place is a collection of long hairs, and it helps prevent dirt or harmful agents from affecting the skin.

Do German Shepherds get cold?

Despite having two coats and surviving a wide range of temperatures, German Shepherds can feel cold. 

Sheepdogs can withstand temperatures as low as 30 degrees F (-1 degrees C). This range can cause the dog to feel cold and have difficulty getting the job done.

The above figures are for reference only because cold tolerance also depends on several factors such as age, weight, health status. 

To confirm if your four-legged friend needs warmth, you can watch for signs like shivering or moodiness.

Why do German Shepherds paw at you?

This expression carries its special sentiment. If you pay close attention, they also often express their feelings for each other in these ways.

Specifically, when many dogs meet, they often use this movement to approach each other positively. Sometimes they put their feet on top of each other or lick each other’s necks and faces.

You may find it quite inconvenient or even uncomfortable or scary. However, there will be no problem with these friendly acts!

Why are German Shepherds so clingy?

This type of dog will often cling to its owner excessively. This action occurs most often in cases where its owner is in a dangerous situation and needs assistance.

It is also a manifestation of the loyalty and robust nature of the breed.

Sometimes, this sign is also common when it has to part with you. Then, try to stroke and express your sincerity to ease its anxiety.


Through the above useful information, you must have had a lot of practical knowledge and can confidently answer all questions about the German Shepherd dog.

You also need to keep in mind that mastering the basics doesn’t mean you can completely decipher your four-legged friend’s expressions to communicate.

The reason is quite simple; each dog has its unique features. To understand and build strong bonds, you will need to spend a lot of time understanding and communicating.

The final advice is to observe, monitor, and share with your Sheepdog. Only then can you create trust, thereby building a good relationship.

If you have any other related questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment in the section below. We will try to answer with all our enthusiasm and knowledge.

Do not forget to share this article with your relatives or close friends because maybe they intend to raise a similar pet. Thank you for reading!

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