How Do I Know if My German Shepherd Is Happy?

Dogs communicate with their particular language, a combination of sounds, and above all, through body language. By observing your canine best friend, he or she will be telling you quite a bit through posture, tails, facial expressions, and more. 

If you are the lucky pet parent of a German Shepherd, this noble breed of heroic working dogs will use his or her body to let you know just what he or she is thinking and how he or she is feeling.

How Do I Know if My German Shepherd Is Happy

German Shepherds

This breed is known as a hard-working canine. They are physically muscular and agile, exceptionally loyal, and super intelligent. Among America’s favorite and most beloved dogs, the German Shepherd is an easily recognizable canine.

Originally bred to be a shepherd to flocks, these are high-energy dogs. With a particular affinity for training, German shepherds are recognized as hero canines due to their exceptional work alongside policemen, firemen, military personnel, and search and rescue professionals.

Communicating Happiness, the Canine Way

One of the most common and obvious methods that your dog will use to demonstrate happiness at seeing you is by jumping up and down. Dogs will jump on you. This is an attempt to be close to you, as close as physically possible.

Dogs may also make an attempt at a facial expression that resembles our smile. In the case of a Shepherd, they will most likely show some teeth. But smiling teeth and snarling or growling are two completely different expressions.

Dogs will also wag their tail, however in this case, much like “smiling” depending on exactly how they wag their tails, they will be sending a message.

These are several of the most common and easily identifiable messaging methods that German Shepherds use, however they are not the only “happy” signals they will send.

Body Language, Gestures, and Signals

1.) Tail Wagging

Canines use the tail to express a number of feelings. They may be conveying anxiety, excitement, submission, nervousness, and yes, happiness at seeing you.

The speed and the position of the wagging will express a specific feeling. If a dog is submissive, he may wag his tail, but it may be positioned between his legs, or a German Shepherd that wags his tail slowly may simply be tired. 

A high position of the tail while wagging will usually indicate excitement and happiness. This will especially be true if the dog is also jumping around.

2.) Eye Expression

All dogs use their eyes to communicate, and German Shepherds are in no way an exception. They are appreciated for their very expressive eyes. If your dog uses a traditional “puppy eyes” expression, it will usually mean your canine BFF is content.

German Shepherds Eye Expression

When expressing puppy eyes, your Shepherd will raise his eyebrows and eyes will appear larger. From a very young age, your dog will have perceived that this particular expression solicits a positive response from his favorite human.

See also: 9 Reasons German Shepherd Puts Its Ears Back

3.) Relaxation of the Body

This is a telltale sign of canine contentment. A Happy German Shepherd will have a relaxed body and will demonstrate no signs of aggression or alertness.

A relaxed tongue will also indicate that a dog is happy. In fact, when dogs are asleep, tongues will be relaxed and may stick out of the mouth.

German Shepherd will have a relaxed body

When German Shepherds are not happy, they will usually exhibit an alert upright posture, the contrary of expressing relaxation.

4.) Gifts

When your German Shepherd brings you his or her favorite toys, they may want to play, or they may be bringing you a gift to express affection.

A favorite toy is a source of happiness for your pooch, so by carrying it around or bringing it to you they are sharing a source of their happiness and demonstrating trust.

This is also true if they bring you a stick or a rock when out walking or hiking. Your dog thinks of you as a member of his or her pack.

5.) An Invitation to Play 

When your dog invites you or another dog to play, it is definitely a sign of happiness. Dogs will usually bow to communicate that it’s time for fun. 

The play bow or incline is an important method of communication between canines that is often extended to human buddies.

6.) Licking

German Shepherds begin licking while still puppies because they learn this behavior from mom. Even in adulthood, dogs will use this infantile behavior to express pacification or affection.

7.) Cuddling

When your German Shepherd wants to cuddle, it means your dog wants to be close to you and that you are part of their pack. Snuggling is a sign of affection and happiness. Your pooch will lie next to you, sit next to you, or rub up against you to be near you.

8.) Sighing

Sighing is a verbal sign of contentment by your pooch. While a sigh for humans may indicate boredom, in the case of canines it will be evidence of contentment.

This is a common means of expression when your pooch is settling down, relaxing, or stretching. It shows that your dog is not preoccupied.

9.) Leaning

Dogs express happiness by leaning up against you with their full body weight because they want to be close to you. It can also represent an indication of insecurity, but they look to you in any case.

10.) Rolling on Their Backs for a Belly Rub

German Shepherd roll on his back

For a dog to roll on its back and ask for a belly rub is the height of contentment. For your German Shepherd to ask for a rub, means he or she is one happy dog.

Signs Your German Shepherd Is Not Happy

German Shepherds will also communicate when they are not happy, or feeling anxiety, stress, apprehension, anger, or even depression.

Signs to watch your furry friend for include:

      • Aggressiveness
      • Boredom or lack of interest
      • Crying
      • Destructive behavior
      • Excessive licking
      • Growling
      • Howling
      • Problems sleeping
      • Reduced appetite
      • Unresponsive
      • Whimpering

Final Thoughts

Although dogs do not communicate in the same way that we do, they do communicate. Sometimes it may be difficult to understand what a dog is feeling or thinking, and we may even inadvertently attribute human emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to our canine friends.  

Dogs read us and what we are thinking and feeling through our voice, our body language, and our facial expressions.

Were we to observe more closely the body language of our German Shepherds, we would understand much more of what our dogs are thinking and feeling.

In any event, every dog is an individual, and despite this fact, exceptions do exist. If your dog does not exhibit these behaviors, or at least not often, this does not mean that he or she is not happy or experiencing happy moments.

Every dog will express their happiness in his or her own way. Tune into your German Shepherd’s body movements, and you’ll realize just how much your best friend has to tell you.

Susan R Elliston

I have over 11 years of experience as a vet working with a wonderful variety of species of innocent and lovely animals. Whilst I still work two days a week for a local practice, I realized that I could help more people by sharing my knowledge and experience with my readers.

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