Close this search box.

Why Do German Shepherds Lick So Much?

Last Updated: February 5, 2024

As a German Shepherd owner, I’ve often been asked, “Why do German Shepherds lick so much?” This question isn’t just about curiosity; it’s crucial for understanding your dogs’ well-being and communication. It’s a search that touches on affection, health, and how they interact with us.

German Shepherds lick frequently for reasons like showing affection, seeking attention, or tasting something interesting. It can also be a sign of anxiety, a way to soothe themselves, or indicate underlying health issues. Understanding the context of licking helps address any concerns.

The frequent licking from your German Shepherds can be puzzling, raising concerns or annoyance. Is it affection, a health issue, or a behavioral signal? Understanding this behavior is key to improving your relationship with your loyal companion.

With my experience and interest in canine behavior, I’ve crafted this article for those looking to deepen their connection with their pet. It offers a clear perspective on why your dog engages in this licking behavior.

Key Takeaways

  • German Shepherds may lick as an expression of affection and to communicate.
  • A dog’s licking can be a way for them to gather information about their surroundings.
  • Excessive licking might warrant further investigation into your dog’s health and environment.
A German Shepherd licking the floor

Understanding German Shepherd Licking Behavior

Licking is a multifaceted behavior for German Shepherds. It serves as a means of expressing affection, exploring their environment, and sometimes indicating stress or medical issues.

Understanding their licking habits can strengthen the bond between you and your furry companion.

Communication and Affection

German Shepherds use licking as a key form of communication with their human families and other animals. It’s an instinctual gesture that can signal anything from love and affection to respect and submission.

When your German Shepherd licks you, it is a sign of bonding, often called a “dog kiss.” Puppies learn this behavior from their mothers and continue it throughout their lives as a comforting gesture.

“Willow, my German Shepherd, has a habit of licking that goes beyond simple affection. It’s her way of seeking comfort or telling me something’s off.” – World of Dogz

Exploration and Sensory Stimulation

Your German Shepherd uses its tongue to explore the world. The act of licking allows them to experience different scents and tastes, providing mental stimulation.

This sensory stimulation is essential to their cognitive well-being and can prevent boredom. Remember, a curious dog is a happy dog, and by licking things, they engage with their surroundings in one of the few ways they can.

Stress, Anxiety, and Comfort Seeking

Licking can also be a response to stress, anxiety, or discomfort. In times of unease, German Shepherds may lick themselves or objects around them as a self-soothing behavior.

Consistent, repetitive licking could be a sign of an underlying medical issue or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Look for excessive licking combined with other behaviors, such as whining or pacing, and consult your vet if you’re concerned. Your dog might be trying to find comfort, and this behavior can help them feel calm.

German Shepherd staring at its owner

Health and Environmental Factors Influencing Licking

When you notice your German Shepherd licking more than usual, it could be a response to a health condition or the result of certain environmental factors.

Licking can be a soothing behavior, but it’s important to understand why it might be happening to properly address the issue.

Allergies, Injuries, and Health Issues

If your German Shepherd is licking excessively, particularly at their paws or skin, it might indicate allergies or skin irritation.

Dogs can experience allergic reactions to food, plants, or household products, which can lead to persistent licking as they try to alleviate the itchiness.

Injuries such as cuts or abrasions may also drive your pup to lick the affected areas as a natural healing aid, which helps to clean the wound.

Another crucial aspect to watch out for is hot spots, which are areas of bacterial infections that can cause intense itching and discomfort.

Additionally, conditions like arthritis can cause your dog to lick at its joints to cope with pain. Parasites like fleas or internal issues like fungus or bacterial infections are also known culprits for excessive licking behaviors.

Effects of the Living Environment

The environment you create for your German Shepherd can significantly impact their behavior. When introduced to a new environment, your dog might lick to self-comfort due to stress or anxiety.

Spaces that are too confined or lack stimulation may also lead to your pet developing repetitive licking as a coping mechanism.

Environmental factors such as extreme heat or cold can cause skin irritation, which prompts your dog to lick to try to soothe the discomfort.

Additionally, ensure your pet’s living area is free from irritants like cleaning chemicals or pest-control substances that could trigger an allergic reaction or skin irritation, leading to more licking.

A young German Shepherd laying on the grass

Training and Managing Licking Behavior

Licking is a natural behavior for dogs, but when your German Shepherd does it excessively, it’s important to understand how to manage it effectively through training and, if necessary, with professional help.

Positive Reinforcement and Alternative Behaviors

Positive reinforcement training is a powerful method to manage your German Shepherd’s licking behavior.

By rewarding your dog for exhibiting alternative behaviors, you can effectively redirect unwanted licking into more acceptable actions.

Here’s how you can put this into practice:

  1. Identify triggers: Determine what prompts your German Shepherd to lick excessively.
  2. Offer alternatives: Introduce an acceptable object for them to lick, like a stuffed toy or a dog-appropriate puzzle.
  3. Implement rewards: When your dog chooses the alternative over licking you or inappropriate objects, reward them with their favorite treats or praise.
  4. Be consistent: Consistency is key in training, so provide rewards promptly and regularly to reinforce the desired behavior.

Using distractions can also be beneficial.

When you notice your German Shepherd starting to lick, divert their attention with a command or a physical activity they enjoy, reinforcing this with rewards to cement the alternative behavior.

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, specialized intervention may be necessary. Here’s when you should consider seeking professional help:

  • Ongoing Issues: If excessive licking persists despite consistent positive reinforcement training.
  • Stress-Induced Behavior: If the licking seems to result from anxiety or stress.
  • Medical Concerns: Should there be any possibility of underlying medical issues contributing to the behavior.

Professionals such as veterinarians or certified animal behaviorists can offer targeted strategies for managing excessive licking.

They can rule out medical causes and design a tailored approach suitable for your German Shepherd’s specific needs.

You must seek professional help if you feel your efforts are not leading to the desired outcome.


In this section, you’ll find answers to the most common questions about the licking behavior of German Shepherds, helping you understand your furry companion’s habits better.

What are common indicators of affection in German Shepherds?

German Shepherds show affection through various behaviors, including gentle licking, nuzzling, and following you closely. When your German Shepherd licks your face or hands, it’s often a sign of love and respect.

Could excessive paw licking be a sign of an issue in German Shepherds?

Yes, if your German Shepherd licks their paws excessively, it could indicate underlying issues such as allergies, stress, or boredom. It’s important to monitor this behavior and consult your vet if it persists.

What does it mean when a German Shepherd consistently licks human faces?

When a German Shepherd licks human faces, it’s often a gesture of familiarity and affection. This behavior stems from their natural instincts and socialization habits.

How can I interpret my German Shepherd’s habit of licking my feet?

Licking your feet can be your German Shepherd’s way of showing submission or seeking attention. It’s also a sensory exploration to understand your scent and where you’ve been.

Related Posts You May Like:

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

Leave a Comment

Image for Newsletter Signup

Rehabilitate. Repeat.

Get the best in dog rescue news, care, and health tips, and be a part of the rescue dog revolution.