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German Shepherd Communication Secrets

This is what a Top dog expert says:
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Communication with our GSDs is two-way: We want our dog to understand us, and we want to understand our dog.

In this MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL we are going to look at both these areas, to see if you can improve the two-way communication between you and your dog.

Can you relate to a situation like the following?

You sit down to relax after a long work day, and your GSD is coming to join you. You are saying a few things to your dog, and you expect that (s)he understands you. You see and hear your dog's reaction, and you believe (s)he understood what you said.

Sounds familiar?

Of course it does. This is an ordinary situation when you have a dog.

It's always easier to learn from an example, so let's assume the following:

  • You just changed into your house shoes and sat down in your favourite chair, opening up the newspaper while saying "Good dog!"
  • Your GSD is coming after you and sits down about a meter away, eyes aiming to meet your eyes, while saying nothing.

Regardless what you are saying, and regardless what you intend to say, this is what your German Shepherd is likely to understand in that moment:

"My pack buddy is calm and not in bad mood. (S)he doesn't want me to disturb now. I shall just sit here quietly. I may also lie down, as long as I am not disturbing my pack buddy.

My pack buddy won't play with me now, and I won't get food now. (S)he is likely to pet me though, but absent-minded.

This may last a few minutes, or it may take an hour. An hour of no play, no feeding, no walk, and no focus on me. My pack buddy will hardly look at me. (S)he will not notice how I feel and what I'd like.

At least, (s)he won't scold. (S)he's calm and not in bad mood. (S)he just doesn't want me to disturb now. I will have to abide..."

And this is what your German Shepherd replies:

"Okay, I sit here for a few moments, then I will lie down. Every now and then I will wag my tail to tell you that I am ready for you, waiting.

Once in a while I look up at you, hoping that you look at me too, so that you will understand me. I know that you can only understand me when you look at me. And even then, often you don't.

When you do look at me, I will come closer and huddle against your legs. But soon thereafter I will walk away from you a few steps, to encourage you to get up from your chair and to follow me.

I repeat this sequence between huddling against your legs and taking a few steps away, until I can win your attention.

Though, I can't resist, every now and then I will have to whine a bit, so that maybe I can get your attention any sooner?"

Closely studying ordinary situations like the above, as well as more unusual situations, allows to gain incredible insight into dog language, communication between dog and human, and dog communication secrets:

  • What you are telling your dog is ALWAYS much more than what you are saying and/or gesturing to your dog.
  • What you are telling your dog is ALWAYS much more than what you intend to tell your dog.
  • What you are saying and/or gesturing to your dog may sometimes be very different to, or even the opposite of, what you intend to tell your dog.

  • Almost all your GSD is telling you is in complete quiet.
  • Almost all your GSD is telling you requires that you look at your dog to have a chance to understand.

  • Your dog only intends to tell you something when you are either looking at your dog or when your dog wants you to look.
  • What your dog is telling you is ALWAYS much more than what your dog intends to tell you.
  • To understand more, you need not only look at your dog when your dog intends to tell you something but also when your dog doesn't intend to tell you something.

  • When you are looking at your GSD, your dog will use a different language than when you don't look at your dog.
  • The language your GSD uses ranges from pure body language, to eye contact, to non-verbal sounds, to barking.
  • The more your GSD desires to tell you something, the higher your dog will move up in this language range.

  • Your GSD knows that you are aware of every modality of your dog's language range.
  • Your GSD is fully aware that your understanding of your dog's language is weakest at its lower end.

Puuh! This is probably something to savour (or to chew on, depending on the amount of outright agreement).

In future PERIODICALS we will come back to many of these insights. Once discussed, you will probably agree that our dogs understand us much better than we understand our dogs!

The common view which we learn everywhere is that we shall use short dog commands of one or two words only, because presumably:

  • "Dogs cannot understand full sentences"
  • "Dogs only react to specific cues like a short dog command or a gesture with the hand or finger"
  • "If we provide more information to dogs, we confuse them"

Yes, trained dogs DO react to a short dog command or a gesture with the hand or finger, BUT this doesn't mean that they don't understand much more.

Likewise, the fact that dogs BARK in order to tell about their feelings doesn't mean that they don't communicate much more.

When your German Shepherd barks, (s)he uses verbal communication, (s)he 'talks'. Barking is DOG TALK. But at other times, when your German Shepherd does NOT bark, (s)he may nonetheless be communicating with you, either through non-verbal sounds like whining or growling, or through eye contact, or most likely through body language!

My favorite dog body language expert, Brenda Aloff, has compiled a wonderful photographic guide on canine body language - the one every other book is judged by. If ever you want to learn canine body language, I suggest you get this photographic guide first. Another great book that taught me a lot is Jan Fennell's The Dog Listener.

Indeed, if the above long list of insights into dog communication secrets bears any truth then the common view of what dogs understand and what dogs communicate couldn't be further from the truth!

I'd claim that, in general, dogs understand much more (and communicate much more) than most dog owners and dog experts can imagine. This is all the more the case for dogs with a genetic heritage to LEAD, to ORGANIZE, and to MANAGE: German Shepherd Dogs.

Your relationship with your GSD grows and improves, all because of two-way COMMUNICATION. The more you learn to communicate with your dog, the healthier your relationship and the better the bonding between you two will be.


  • HOW your German Shepherd stands
  • HOW your dog holds and wags its tail
  • HOW (s)he moves the ears
  • HOW (s)he turns the head
  • HOW (s)he changes posture
  • HOW (s)he paws the paws
  • When (s)he licks the mouth
  • HOW your GSD looks
  • HOW your dog whines
  • HOW (s)he snarls
  • HOW (s)he growls
  • HOW your dog barks
  • etc

All this, and much more, is part of dog language! The more of this we understand, the better we will understand our dog. Dogs are telling us an entire 'story' if we can just listen! Ahem, LOOK.

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==> Next edition: German Shepherd Traveling <==

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 32 Site Comments , ZERO SPAM Add one


    awesome insight on GSD communication, being a new GSD owner your articals are extremely useful. Had now idea that much could be going through his head.


    Great advice I had no idea what goes through his head when im busy doing things that dont include him. I will certinly be watching him closer. Thanks



    I wanted to let you know that I make it a practice to read these articles each day. The information is usually something I can relate to and reminds me of things I may have forgotten from previous trainings.

    Thanks again for all that you provide us!


    Great !!!!!!!


    on the german shepherd communication secrets periodical i am unable locate the link to view this information. I have a box indicating the content is locked. I'm very interested in this subject. Please let me know how I can access this information. Thanks.


      Adrienne, simply choose any of the 3 buttons you prefer. After sharing the Periodicals open up instantly. Sharing is caring. Spammers don't care, so this has successfully stopped them (finally)! :-)


        Great !!!.. Very useful articles. I love my GSD so much. Can't wait for your coming great articles. Thanks Tim... ;)


    I really don't care for this method of dealing with spam. None of my friends has a GSD, and I'm sure they don't care that I'm reading this (excellent) newsletter. I myself don't enjoy seeing my feed spammed up with things my friends obviously have shared just in order to get something. I often end up hiding that person, and I don't want to make my friends consider hiding me from their feeds.

    I know you have to do something about spam, and I greatly appreciate this newsletter. I'm just writing this on the assumption that you will want to know what your readers think about the new system.


      Yes, that's great Eric, thanks. If you haven't noticed: All Periodicals now open up after time lapse.

      I do care immensely about the spam flood - cause I have to steer through it, and it costs my personal money (server fees)! The spam subsided entirely during the seven days sharing was mandatory. Now, with the time lapse, it has gone up again. So I will certainly increase the time interval, as a minimum. If it's insufficient, it will revert to mandatory sharing.

      Sadly I cannot worry about those who leave because of that: I have to worry more about those who stay that they get great content, and I don't have the time to work on great content if I have to clear floods of spam. Understandable?

      If someone wants to sift through the spam for me, raise your hand.


    Like I said Tim, I understand that you're not charging for this great newsletter and you've got to take care of business however you can. I was just trying to make the most constructive response I could to this passage above:

    "Please note: If you are ever unhappy with anything we write, do or don't do, we want to be the first to know. Thanks!"

    It's generous of you to share your insight and effort free of charge. I wasn't suggesting that you or your newsletter will suffer if I stop reading. I was just taking the time to share some information that it seemed you had asked for.

    Thanks again for doing what you're doing.


      Yes Eric I understood. Comments like yours are MUCH appreciated. That's why I wrote above: "Yes, that’s great Eric, thanks."
      Let's see how it goes when the time lapse becomes a minute. At least flexible the tool is.


    I am waiting for my GSD puppy to be born and then I'll have first pick of the litter. I have had dogs and cats all my life. The GS is my favorite breed and I am elated to be in the process of finally having one. I signed up to get your periodically and am learning so much in preparation for the arrival of my new pup. Thank you so much for all the insight. I knew Shepherds were smart, but didn't realize they are THAT smart. Thanks again for all the work you put into making this information accessible.


      You are welcome Wanda!
      I didn't see when your pup arrives, but I assume it's sooner than 7 weeks? So here's the Puppy Training Essentials for you - which you would otherwise get in 7 weeks.
      Prepare with them now, then you'll have it so much easier when the pup arrives!


    I really enjoy reading your periodical but I agree the sharing on social network isn't for me. Is there any possible way of creating a user log in? Or a specific link from the notification email that would let subscribed users in and keep spam out. I fully understand dealing with spam, just throwing suggestions out there to possibly help.


      Please have a look at the message, it clearly says what it does.

      Edit 3 July 14:
      Troy wrote: "the sharing on social network isn’t for me. Is there any possible way of creating a user log in?"
      Yes Troy, now (finally) there is a user login :-)
      Please see our brand-new Membership Options page.


    Thank-you so much for this article, my 5 month old gives me his "baby eyes" look often. I will pay more attention to what he is really asking for! You have been a big help so far! Sher


    Hi Tim! Just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying the periodicals. I am learning so much! and I have purchased my first of your books, "Puppy Training in a Nutshell". It was a Christmas gift to myself. I have been doing my best to follow your advice and it really has been paying off. My relationship with my GSD Tia gets better and better. She is a very good communicator. I get a wet nose is the face or a lick if I neglect to pay attention when she wants something. I can not believe how smart she is. I definitely need your help to keep a good understanding of what she needs to be healthy and happy. I sincerely hope you can find time to keep writing those books because it is my goal to read them all! Thank you so much sharing your knowledge of GSD with me. Hang in there! I would wait a half an hour for the periodical to open if I had to. They are worth the wait. :)


      Thanks Estella. Honestly I'd prefer you shared them instead ;-)
      Have you left a review for the book then?


    Of course I did! And do share! I don't know anyone else in my community with a GSD but I let all my friends know about my GDS and about your site! Im a sharer, like you :)


      Great! I can't wait to see what you write what you thought about the Puppy Nutshell then :-)


    So glad to see another of your periodicals come out. I have no problem with waiting for the subject matter to open and would wait longer if necessary. I am not a social media type. I find your insight to the GS to be fascinating, and hope some day to be able to communicate better with my Matt. I am struggling with the pack leader thing, but am rapidly seeing improvements. He will be stubborn about things one day, and completely obedient the next. Amazing learning curve, (for me more than him, in think.) Hope to see more periodicals and thank you so much for your help in striving for the perfect companion.


    This is Great material.Thanks for putting it out.The wait time is nothing compared to the benifits my GSD pup and I gain.


    I really enjoy reading what you say! I'm having trouble with Shelby always biting. She is 4 months old. I have a doggy door and and she goes out it just to go outside but she will not go out it to go pee. She will come in and pee. So I have to go outside a lot with her to go pee. Do you have any advice on how I can get her to quit biting and peeing. I appreciate it


      Charlotte, it doesn't fit on this page but we could say a way to solve your concerns is: Communicate through showing (primarily) that peeing is only allowed outside. Meaning, ignore her when she does it inside (no attention at all, eg for 5 min at that age; remember then call her to you), and reward her when she does it outside (praise and affection are good, food treats not). The rest is consistency (the more consistent the quicker the improvement).
      The biting almost certainly is just nipping (differences are in the Puppy 101). I have no information when she does it, thus I don't know what to suggest.


    Hi Tim,
    I noticed that Jedai (17 weeks) behaves differently with some of my visitors. With my parents and mother- in-law, he is Mr. Friendly (wagging of tail, greeting them at door, wanting to play).However, with my kid's piano teacher and her four kids ( they come once a week for 2 hrs. ) He is much more cautious. He is not unfriendly, just very careful and watchful. He will interact with her kids somewhat, but seems more content to observe. She (piano teacher) commented that he seemed "skittery" around them. This kind of bugged me. Should I be concerned? I will tell you that when they come, I am always a bit more stressed because it means there are a total of 10 kids in the house b/w hers and mine. She has a baby that usually ends up fussing at some point and I sometimes help with the baby so she can give lessons. Do you think he could be picking up on my stress during this time?


      Jessica, Tim has bigger worries, have you not seen the main page? I would strongly suggest that you become supporting site member at expert dog level if you need his answers. With 20k+ free Periodical subscribers none of them can expect special attention. Support requires reciprocity. Thank you.
      Have you really read the post on the main page linked for you?
      If you have, your next reply you wouldn't have wanted to write, not be embarassed.
      Tim will not read anything for some time. I cannot believe you don't understand that when you read the post!
      No heart?
      I'll make sure he doesn't see that.


    Thank you so much for the articles. It really is very help full. Great material and had help me very much. Great job !!!


    Thanks for this periodical, Tim. I'm looking forward to further periodicals on communication.


    What a timely article for me and my GSD, especially the Critical Forms of Dog Communication. I've been trying to pay much more attention to body language and demeanor, and we both are happier for it.

    Thank you for the tips on books to check out, too. Definitely will add them to my must-read list.



    Thanks for the great information. Looking forward to more periodicals on the subjection of GSD communication.



    Hey Tim

    This is really great. I m always wondering if my gsd speaks with me and now I am sure abt it. Thanks a lot .Keep it up buddy.


    Hi Tim,
    You hit the nail right on the head with this one. A lot of people don't realize that dogs can read body language (not just other dogs body language either), and even a puppy can figure out what kind of mood you are in by just watching. Dogs have great empathy, and can tell if you are sad, or angry, or in a playful mood by just watching. I can see most everything I need to know by just looking in Jordans eyes. She has a very expressive face which is usually telling me she wants to do something fun!!!! Jordan is rarely an unhappy dog, but when she is unhappy I know it right away! These kinds of articles about connecting with your dog are priceless! Especially if you own a German Shepherd, who, as you said, are genetically predisposed to be independent thinkers, and leaders.

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