Why Australian Shepherds are so affectionate [13 ways it shows]

The Australian Shepherd is an active high energy herding breed that loves to be outside playing and keeping busy. They require a reasonable amount of daily exercise. Aussies are also very smart dogs that require as much exercise for their brain as they do their body. An Australian Shepherd that doesn’t receive the physical and mental exercise they require can become hyper. For more on how to calm an Aussie see here. But are they the type of dog that loves to spend quiet time sharing cuddles and affection and snuggling with their owners?

Are Australian Shepherds affectionate?

Australian Shepherds are very loyal and affectionate dogs to the people they are closely bonded with. They can be very wary and suspicious of strangers and will generally show little or no affection towards people they consider to be outsiders.

How affectionate any individual Australian Shepherd is will depend upon their personality, whether they have been socialized, and how well they are bonded with their family. The vast majority of Australian Shepherds love giving and receiving affection from those in their inner circle.

They are also very social with other dogs and enjoy having a companion. For more on Australian Shepherds with other dogs see here.

Aussie Shepherds can be quite strong-willed and independent and usually will choose when and who they will want to be affectionate towards.

Do Australian Shepherds like to cuddle?

Aussies can be wary of strangers so it is unlikely they would cuddle with someone they don’t have a close bond and trust for. Every dog is an individual even of the same breed. However, most Aussie Shepherds love to cuddle and be petted by their owners and family. Cuddling for dogs is an instinctive behavior that has numerous benefits for them.

  • Dogs in a pack would cuddle and lay close to each other for warmth. In nature, they would rely on each other’s body heat to stay warm in cold weather.
  • Cuddling and close contact also provides stress relief. When your Australian Shepherd is cuddling with you it releases hormones (oxytocin) to the brain. This gives them a relaxed and happy feeling.
  • Cuddling is also part of the bonding experience with your Aussie and creates trust and a safe feeling.
  • It can be a form of offering you protection. Australian Shepherds were bred not only for herding but to guard and protect the herd. By being close to you it is easier for them to protect you.
  • Having contact with you is one way that Australian Shepherds show affection. This can be putting their head on your leg or laying against you.

Often an Australian Shepherd likes to be the one that initiates the cuddling and affection rather than have it forced upon them. Sometimes they may not be in the mood to cuddle but when they are they will come up to. They may nudge you or even jump on to you and leave you in no doubt they are ready for lots of attention and fuss.

Cuddling and snuggling should be a calm relaxed activity with an exchange of affection and petting. It is important to note the difference between cuddling and hugging. Many Australian Shepherds will not like being held tight with your arms wrapped closely around them. This is a vulnerable position and they may feel threatened.

Why does my Australian Shepherd need so much attention?

Australian Shepherds are a breed that requires plenty of attention. Many Aussie owners say their dog is very needy. They not only need lots of attention by way of cuddles, affection, and fuss.

They are a very active working breed and do need to be kept busy. A working dog desires a job to do.

They are also extremely smart dogs that require lots of mental challenges and enrichment. Failure to provide for their exercise needs, both physical and mental will cause them to become bored easily. This in turn usually results in problem behavior such as chewing and destructive behavior, barking, and digging.

Next time your Australian Shepherd comes to you demanding attention, don’t just assume that it is the pats and cuddles they want. They are possibly bored and frustrated with excessive pent-up energy. Take the time to go to the park for an energy-burning play or provide other activities. They probably wouldn’t say no to cuddles and fuss either once they have had a good workout.

Do Australian Shepherds get jealous?

Australian Shepherds are fiercely loyal and have a strong protective instinct. Without proper training and socialization, an Aussie Shepherd can become very possessive and jealous. This can show itself at times they feel someone is taking away your attention from them.

It is important to recognize and be aware of the signs that your Australian Shepherd is becoming jealous. In some cases, they may even go to extreme lengths to gain your attention or even become aggressive towards the perceived source of the threat.

Signs that your Australian Shepherd is jealous can include –

  • Over-the-top attention-seeking behaviors like getting between you and the other person, barking or whining, or nudging or nipping you.
  • They may be acting overly clingy and following you everywhere. Australian Shepherds do tend to be “velcro dogs” (stuck to you like velcro). If they are jealous there may be an escalation in the behavior.
  • Sulking behavior in which they withdraw and pout.
  • Resource guarding their food or toys. They may fear that someone or another dog is trying to take away their possessions.
  • Chasing away the perceived challenger of your attention. This can be a child, your partner, or another pet. This is dominant behavior and they are staking their territory.
  • Aggressive behavior such as growling, bearing their teeth, air snapping, or even actual biting. This can be either jealousy or they feel the need to protect you from a perceived threat. Either way, it is behavior that needs to be sorted.

In serious cases, jealous behavior like this should be dealt with ideally by consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

Are Australian Shepherds attached to one person?

Yes, Australian Shepherds bond very closely with their families and usually have a particular attachment to one or two people. This is the person they see as their pack leader. They will usually give this person extra attention and affection.

They are extremely loyal and protective of this person and their small group of pack members. They will show affection to their close group of people but rarely be interested in even acknowledging other people. With the people, they are bonded with they want and reward their affection and relish in receiving attention.

This trait of attaching to just one or a small number of people can become an issue at times. It can lead to separation anxiety when their special person is not there. They may even become overprotective of this person showing jealousy and even potentially aggression toward other people or pets.

It is best if everyone in the family tries to form a close bond with an Australian Shepherd to prevent this from becoming an issue in your home.

How to bond with an Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are very loyal and loving dogs. However, a close bond doesn’t necessarily come naturally and will require a little work to develop the relationship. Building a good healthy bond means spending quality time with your Australian Shepherd. This should include –

  • Training – taking the time to do training with your Australian Shepherd will not only make them more obedient and provide them with exercise and enrichment for their brain. It will help to develop a close bond. A good example of this is to work on loose leash walking. This requires that they are paying attention to you to avoid the leash going tight.
  • Purposeful playtime – spend time playing with your Australian Shepherd. This can include any game they enjoy such as fetch.
  • Exercise them – Australian Shepherds are a high-energy working breed and need daily exercise. Time spent exercising them is also quality bonding time.
  • Calm energy – Whenever you are with your Australian Shepherd show calm energy to them. Yelling and losing your temper will make them question if you are the stable leader they require. It may also cause them to become fearful of you.
  • Understand their body language – any relationship requires communication. Your Australian Shepherd obviously can’t talk to you with words. However, their body language will speak volumes.

13 ways Australian Shepherds show affection

Australian Shepherds show affection in many different ways to their family members and those closest to them. They usually show little interest or affection to others whom they consider to be outsiders. So if your Australian Shepherd shows some or all of these signs of affection towards you it means they are closely bonded and truly love you.

Eager to please

Australian Shepherds are a working dog breed bred to follow the instructions of a handler. They have a strong work ethic and are willing to perform well for the person they respect. When your Australian Shepherd is obedient to your commands it is a sign that they respect and love you.

Bring you gifts

Your Australian Shepherd may often bring things to you by way of a gift. This can be a favorite toy or something they value.


Licking is a very common way a dog shows affection. This is a behavior they learn when they are a puppy. The mother dog licks the newborn puppy to clean them and stimulate blood flow.  She also licks her pups to show affection. The puppies will lick the mother dog when they want to suckle and also show affection.

There are many reasons a dog licks a person including they like the taste of your skin, boredom, or it has become a habit.

In most cases, it is a way to communicate respect and communicate that they love you.

Soft eyes

When your Australian Shepherd is looking at you with those gentle happy eyes with slow blinking they are showing respect and affection. A dog that feels threatened will never close their eyes or even blink. To communicate back to them the same message give them a couple of slow blinks.

Excited to see you return

Whether you are gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours, your Australian Shepherd will always be excited to see you. They will greet you with a happy wagging bottom and lots of bouncing.

Following you everywhere

This following you around behavior is another sign that your Australian Shepherd loves you and wants to be near you. They are often called “velcro dogs” because they are stuck to you like velcro.

Sometimes this behavior can become excessive and may require a little training to reduce them constantly being under your feet. It can also be an indication that they are suffering from separation anxiety.

Invitations to play

If your Australian Shepherd often tries to initiate a game with you it is not just because they just want to play. They want to play with you. That is because you are their special person.

Sitting on you

Many Australian Shepherds owners ask why my Australian Shepherd sits on me all the time. This is typically something they will only do with the special person they are most bonded with. They may sit on your feet or take it all the way and sit on your lap. They don’t realize they aren’t lap dogs.

They do this because they want to be as close to you as possible and you can’t get closer than being on top of you.

Nudging you with their nose

If your Australian Shepherd nudges or pokes you with their nose they are wanting your attention. Most likely they want a head scratch or cuddles. It is showing they see you as their special person and trust that you will give it to them.

Putting their head in your lap

When your Australian Shepherd puts their head in your lap and looks up at you with those loving eyes again they are indicating that they love and trust you. They are also probably wanting a head scratch and a little attention.

Pawing at you for attention

Touch is a common way for an Australian Shepherd to communicate with you and express their feelings. Pawing at your hand can also be a demand for attention and get a little fuss. If the behavior becomes excessive you may need to correct them until they stop. Then reward them with praise.

Exposing their belly

When your Australian Shepherd rolls onto their back and exposes its belly it is a sign of calmness and true trust. It is a very vulnerable and submissive position and they wouldn’t do it if they felt unsafe. They are probably wanting a belly rub also.


Although dogs don’t technically smile most people can recognize the loose posture and happy face of their Australian Shepherd. A true sign they are happy and content.

How many of these shows of love and affection does your Australian Shepherd do to you?