If you’re a proud German Shepherd owner, then you definitely know what it’s like to be slobbered on every once in a while by your dog. Licking is an unavoidable part of your canine’s behavior and it generally doesn’t represent a bad thing.
GSDs lick to show their affection, express gratitude, or due to their parental instincts. But, what else can their licking mean? And, is there any way you can stop it if you’re just not into being constantly slobbered on?
Let’s find out!
Why Do German Shepherds Lick?
According to Siniscalchi et al1, dogs “use their whole body to communicate.” Their body language doesn’t entirely rely on eye contact, ear position, or body position.
They can also use other forms of body language, such as licking or mouthing to communicate their emotions or their attitude.
Most of the time, their licking doesn’t have anything to do with bad behavior. However, in some rare cases, German Shepherds can resort to licking if they’re suffering from stress or OCD. This sort of behavior usually differs from ordinary licking in frequency.
While healthy family GSDs lick their loved ones only to communicate emotions, which is not all the time – stressed out canines can do it a lot more often.
If you notice this type of behavior in your pooch, the best you can do is subject your four-legged companion to therapy under professional supervision.
If, however, your dog is perfectly healthy and doesn’t display any signs of stress, then these are the most common reasons why they resort to licking!
#1 Licking Is Their Hello
In ninety-nine percent of the cases, German Shepherds use licking as a way of greeting their owners. If you have been apart from your canine more than usual or you haven’t seen him in several hours – your GSD licking you is nothing unusual!
Still, GSDs that have been separated from their owners for more than they’re used to may exhibit weird behavior once they meet with them, such as clinginess or hyperactivity.
These German boys are extremely attached to their hoomans, which is why being apart from them isn’t exactly their favorite part of the day.
#2 They Love You, Hooman
Needless to say – GSDs are known as one of the best family dogs in the world! They’re known for their loyalty and affection towards their owners worldwide, which is why Shepherds are not only great in homes, but in the field, too!
They might resort to occasional licking every once in a while to express their deepest love and affection to you. If they’re doing this during their resting period – you have your signal that your GSD is really deeply into you!
#3 You Taste Good
If you have just been busy in the kitchen preparing a nice meal and your GSD can’t stop licking you – it’s probably because you still have the food scent on your hands.
All dogs, including German Shepherds, have an extremely high sense of smell, which is why it’s not hard for them to figure out a particular scent.
If, however, they do it after a training session, when your hands are sweaty, it might be due to the fact that we release salt or acidic chemicals that may taste delicious to our GSD.
Sometimes, your GSD licking you outside the house can be problematic or even hazardous, especially if they lick your face after they have been touching different objects with their mouth or their nose.
According to Tammemagi,2 numerous infections are transmitted to humans via pet saliva.
#4 The Grooming Session Is About To Start
Even though this sort of behavior is generally more related to cats, it is not uncommon for dogs to resort to it, too.
Both male and female GSDs feel the occasional need to groom you. Dogs groom with their tongue and they do it to preserve their sharp look. If, however, they do the same to you – it’s because they love you and they feel the need to “keep you sharp, too.”
#5 They’re Trying To Comfort You
GSDs are one of the smartest dogs in the world for a reason. Not only do they perfect their training skills easily, they’re also great at reading humans’ emotions.
If your pet licks you when you cry or when you’re feeling down, it’s because it is trying to comfort you.
They easily read your sorrow and want to make you feel better. Part of the German Shepherd’s loyalty is sympathizing with its owner’s emotions. So, basically, if you’re not feeling okay, the chances of your GSD not feeling okay, too, are pretty high.
#6 They’re Communicating
Even though a dog’s body language is mainly based on facial expression, tail motion, ear and eye position, and body position, according to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, dogs also lick hands to communicate their needs or their attitude!
They often do it when they’re hungry and they’re trying to tell you to feed them. However, they can also do it to communicate other emotions such as anxiety, fear, love, or happiness.
What Should I Do If I Don’t Like It?
One way to stop their constant slobbering on your hands is to simply put a stop to it. Every time they resort to licking – just move your hands away.
This will create an association in their head that licking your hands isn’t exactly what you approve of. Encouraging good behavior in your dog is all about setting boundaries and acknowledging what they do right.
Distracting Might Help
Even though their licking is usually the sign of their deepest affection, you don’t always feel like being slobbered on your hands. That’s why you can try distracting your canine with treats or toys.
While this might be a temporary solution, distraction doesn’t always work in the long run.
Keep Your Hands Clean
There is an explanation for every behavioral pattern in your dog. They don’t put their paw on you, nudge you with their nose, or lick you without a good reason.
Sometimes, they will lick your hands because you still have the scent of food on them or you’re still sweaty after a walk or a training session. So, if you want to stop it – make sure your hands are clean in the first place.
Consistency Is The Key
According to the AKC, consistency is the key to dog training. Even though German Shepherds are naturally smart and obedient dogs, they need consistent and committed owners in order to excel their manners.
You can’t just encourage your GSD’s licking one day and then disapprove of it the day after that. That’s simply not how they learn.
A German Shepherd licking your hands is not necessarily a bad thing. They do it mostly because they love you and they are trying to express their deepest affection. This particular behavior is not only related to German Shepherds, but to all dogs, especially the family ones.
If you’re intending to get a GS dog or you have just got one for the first time – don’t get surprised if your puppy resorts to this sort of behavior. It’s perfectly normal for your puppy to “kiss” you on the hands every once in a while.
- Siniscalchi, M., D’Ingeo, S., Minunno, M., and Quaranta, A. (2018). Communication in Dogs. Animals, 8, 131. DOI
- Tammemagi, M. (1989). Hazards of dogs licking humans’ faces. Can Vet J. (12): 929–931.