German Shepherds are known to be some of the toughest dogs out there.
They’re a mainstay in the army, law enforcement and security, but despite their tough exterior, they’re still lovable doggos who enjoy human interaction.
That’s why when you find your GSD laying his head on you, you shouldn’t act too surprised.
He does this out of his love for you or simply because you’re a safe space for him to rest on or to go to if he’s scared of something, at least most of the time.
Other times he’ll just do it because he seeks your attention for playing, cuddles or otherwise.
In a majority of cases, it’s nothing to worry about as it’s just one of the many signs of how big your German Shepherd’s trust in you really is.
But even with that in mind, it’s still useful to know why exactly he lays his head on you, so let’s find all the reasons out, shall we?
1. He Just Wants Some Attention
Whether it’s cuddles or just an acknowledgment of his presence, your German Sheppie wants to be noticed or pampered, or both.
Despite these gruff portrayals of GSDs, most domesticated ones are big cuddly babies who want nothing more than to hang out and spend time with you.
And, of course, a little belly rub won’t hurt.
This method of attention seeking is often used to try and get you to check something out or for the dog to signal that he’s hungry.
Though that varies depending on what you’ve trained him to do to get your attention.
2. He’s Marking His Scent
An odd reason, for sure, but dogs are often territorial, German Shepherds in particular, and you’re part of that territory, in a sense.
If you ever come into contact with another dog and don’t wash up properly, or, well, even if you do, you’ll have your dog marching over to get that sorted.
He’ll likely rub his face all over your lap to re-mark you with his own scent.
Nobody takes his pet parent away from him!
3. He Wants To Secure Warmth And Safety
A logical reason this time around, one that’s stuck around with the German Shepherd since his ancient ancestors back in the day.
Back when they were pack animals, wolves would often huddle together for warmth, and your GSD is trying to do exactly that with you now as you’re part of his pack.
On top of that, there’s safety in numbers, so he sticks to you because it makes him feel safe.
Make sure you live up to that expectation.
4. It Helps Him Relieve Anxiety
Once again, a German Shepherd can be tough, but he too needs someplace to help relieve his stress, not to mention help with dealing with some fears he may have.
Don’t be surprised if you have your normally protective and stoic Sheppie run over to you during a thunderstorm, and make sure to provide him with the relief that he’s looking for.
Just be there for him to help him overcome these tough canine times.
5. Your GSD Wants To Relax
One of the most common reasons for your German Shepherd occupying your lap or any other part of your body is because you’re his favorite rest stop.
That’s a pretty honorable position if you ask me, and you should provide it as an option for your dog whenever possible.
It allows you two to bond after a long day out without needing to do so through further physical exertion.
Just two friends, chilling and enjoying life.
6. He’s Going Through A Depressive Episode
While somewhat related to the fear, depression can manifest in dogs from other sources too, similarly to that of humans.
If your dog has undergone a recent traumatic life experience, then you may find that he’s a lot clingier, but all he wants is a shoulder (or lap) to cry on and vent.
Make sure to provide him with exactly that. It doesn’t take that much effort and your dog will be thankful for you ‘listening’ to his problem.
7. Coping With Separation Anxiety
Though well trained GSDs aren’t as prone to separation anxiety as some other dogs, there’s still a high likelihood of it happening if you’re not around the house for long periods of time.
Be it work or some other obligation that’s keeping you, it doesn’t matter, but if you’re not around, your dog will miss you.
What may seem like a few hours in the day for you is an eternity for our dogs, so it’s only natural for him to want to be next to you and lay his head on your lap.
He just wants to enjoy the precious moments that he does get with you and they shouldn’t be taken away from him.
8. It’s A Show Of Trust
If you’re just undergoing training and you’ve been having a hard time getting your GSD to be on friendly terms with you, him placing his head in your lap without any lip whatsoever is a great step forward.
It means that he’s gotten to the point where he trusts you enough to not need to feel guarded.
It also means that his training is progressing apace and that you’re about to have a very loyal pooch on your hands.
On top of the trust benefits, it’ll make you feel accomplished and fulfilled, so relish that moment when it comes.
9. A Sign That He Loves You
Similar to #8, but more of the next step of the relationship between German Shepherd and owner.
That initial trust will, at one point, progress into full on love and affection toward you as the owner and he’ll be doing this just to score some cuddle time with you.
He’ll appreciate the closeness as will you when those feel good chemicals start firing.
It’s one of the many other ways that he’ll be expressing his love and respect for you on top of licking away at you and always jumping with joy when he’s with you.
10. He’s Doing His Job
At his core, a German Shepherd is a very protective breed of dog.
Part of it comes from his early lupine ancestors and the pack mentality while the other part comes from their shepherding nature.
If he ever senses that you may be in danger, he’ll interpose himself between the source of it and you.
He does this by either putting his paw on you to show that you’re under his charge, or by pressing his head against you while staring the source of the problem down.
11. He’s Trying To Indicate That Something Is Wrong
The final reason revolves around him trying to relay to you that he feels off. When your German Shepherd trusts you, he’ll also trust you to take care of him if something ever feels off.
So, when he feels in pain or is suffering from some other symptoms that aren’t immediately noticeable, he’ll try grabbing your attention by either
How Can I Tell The Difference Between Intent?
Easy. It’s all in the context. All of these reasons don’t exist in a vacuum.
Your German Shepherd’s demeanor when approaching you can tell you a lot about what the reason behind him laying his head in your lap is.
Anything from facial expression, the walk and the tail wag to the sounds that he’s producing can all be clear signs.
Is his tail wagging high up and is his tongue out? He’s very likely eager to see you and is looking to score some cuddle points.
Is he coming in looking a bit jumpy and perturbed? He’s very likely scared of something.
Is he silently whining or exhibiting symptoms of a potential health issue? Then you know that he’s coming over to complain about said health problem and that something needs to be done about it.
Is Him Laying His Head On Me Ever A Problem?
Not a major one, but it can be a nuisance if your own space isn’t respected, especially if he’s insisting on it while you’re busy with something else.
Make sure you teach him when it’s okay to come over to you and when it isn’t. Create some ground rules for this particular interaction.
It may seem like it’s a bit over the top, but trust me, it’s better to do so early than having to deal with a dog who doesn’t understand personal space and who may grow overly needy.
Doing it early helps smooth things out later without confusing him by adding an extra rule all of a sudden.
The people who most often ask “Why does my German Shepherd lay his head on me?” are ones who believe that to be something unorthodox for them.
On the contrary though, German Shepherds can be just as loving as any other dog breed, it all depends on the training they go through and the owner’s intent for his role in the family.
Obviously, guard dogs may be a bit more reserved in their emotional expressions, but family dogs are a lot more open in that regard.
Though, both of them will exhibit at least some of the many reasons listed in this article and none are mutually exclusive to the other.
As long as your dog trusts you, he’ll clearly show you his intent, just make sure to take care of him as best you can.
Until next time, pet parents.