==> What is your GSD's favourite TREAT?

No, definitely not food - Find out more here

German Shepherd TOP TREATS

Say the word "treat", and almost every dog owner will instantly think of foods for their dog.

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

A food treat is always welcome, yes, no question. Both, the dog loves to get a food treat, and we as the dog owner outright love to give one, right?

Why is that? Have you thought about it?

Dog owners love to give their dog a food treat because:

  • It makes us feel important as we care for our dog
  • It gives us the feeling of having some authority over someone (for once?)!
  • It makes us feel that we match the social norm that is convincingly communicated to us through a flood of advertisements on TV etc
  • It lets us feel that we care about our dog
  • and we subconsciously hope that our dog will love us even more! ;-)

However, this is what food treats actually mean to most dogs:

  • Mmmhhh, my pack buddy has something yummy for me again!
  • I really wanna get that yummy piece into my mouth
  • But I'll have to work harder then to show my pack buddy that I am the pack leader nonetheless!
  • My pack buddy must not think that (s)he can control me just because (s)he has something yummy for me!
This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

Point three and four above indicate that giving food treats the wrong way can increase the Pack conflict - this crucial point will be the topic of a special Periodical in 6 weeks!

And food treats typically aren't TOP TREATS for a dog anyway - whether German Shepherd or another dog breed. But WHAT dog treat is it then?

The answer is quite simple, it is:

HOW you treat your German Shepherd

When you treat your GSD, you provide your dog with unusual PLEASURE. For dogs, pleasure is more short-lived than for us humans, but still it's the product of intensity times duration:

Pleasure = Intensity * Duration

Therefore, a really good treat for your German Shepherd does not have to be something edible at all. Just give it a few moments and think:

  • When is your dog wagging its tail most feverishly?
  • What makes your GSD all playful and excited?
  • Which place is your dog crazy about?
  • What gives you regularly the most successful Recall?

Questions like these can help you to identify what your dog really LOVES. These are your dog's TOP TREATS.

Treat your GSD with what (s)he loves most. Rather than a tasty morsel, this is probably some kind of ACTIVITY with you.

Edible treats are NOT Top Treats

tasty morselLet's assume you have prepared the most tastiest morsel for your GSD. Still, the amount of pleasure your GSD takes from the tasty morsel is exactly limited to the time it takes your dog to swallow that morsel. :-D

Conversely, the amount of pleasure your GSD takes from an activity with you that (s)he LOVES is guaranteed to be much greater: Because it lasts so much longer!

To provide your dog with the same amount of pleasure through tasty morsels as through one of the dog's favourite activities would require so many tasty morsels that you would rear an obese German Shepherd!

More: You would get the chance to witness a unique situation - one where your dog would STOP snatching the tasty morsels, being FED UP with your tasty morsels(!), regardless how immensely tasty they were in the beginning.

WARNING to any and all kids who might read this:

Do NOT try the above on your dog!

Do NOT super-size your dog with tasty morsels! This will make your dog VERY SICK and may lead to sudden death as a consequence of Pancreatitis, Diabetes, Heart failure, and Kidney failure - long before Obesity can take its toll!

Conclusion of the above:

Even the tastiest morsel is NOT a top treat

Now the question is all the more: What are the German Shepherd TOP TREATS?

[wpsharely id="4431"]

Here are some ideas for the TOP TREATS that your dog is bound to LOVE:


Yes! Wherever you can, without a risk to your dog, other people or animals, take your GSD off-leash! Only running around FREELY will make a herding dog like the GSD really happy.

'Running around FREELY' also means: Don't stress out your dog with commands all the time. In case of doubt, your dog will be fine! Again: Your dog will be fine. :-D

(S)he WILL come back to you, (s)he will not kill a cat or anything, and (s)he will not get lost, no worries! So, just let the dog wander around on its own, as much as is sensible, given the environment you are in. You will experience just how relaxing this is, both for your dog and for yourself.

This freedom really is CRUCIAL. Herding dogs like the German Shepherd were never bred to be on-leash at all! And in many situations and environments a leash is certainly not needed. - Of course, subject to your dog being well-trained!?

In far fewer, but nonetheless in some situations indoors, take off the collar too. The ideal environment for a German Shepherd is where all forms of physical restraint are substituted by trained restraints.

But note: Do not take off the collar if you have a puppy (in terms of behavior, ie probably until age around 15 months). Such young dogs - no matter how well-trained (seemingly) - are prone to sudden erratic behavior, and this could be dangerous even in environments where a trained adult dog would be 100% safe. When the situation requires it, you must have something to securely grab and hold onto: the collar.

And, at all other times, if only you choose the right collar, then your dog won't even notice it. For outside, and certainly in the dark, a reflective collar is indispensable, but a bright-colored strong and soft leather collar can be even better, thanks to its unbeatable feel-good factor. - Again, we have the one just linked, it's awesome.

So, OFF-LEASH is a TOP treat!



A day at the beach (or just an hour) will be both exciting and relaxing for your German Shepherd (and for you too). You both deserve this, so: Enjoy it!

Your dog will get the freedom to enjoy a totally different environment, and learn a lot too. You on the other hand will get a chance to explore your dog's needs, and also to train your GSD in a new setting.

A trip to the beach once in a while is energizing, both for you and your GSD, and a perfect outlet for your dog's excess energy. A LOT of varied exercise is what will relax your German Shepherd.

You may have felt this yourself: "A bath in the ocean is a bath for the soul".

As much for you as for your dog. You both need it and deserve it. So really, just do it! (copied from Nike) ;-)

However, do shower off the saltwater when your dog finished swimming. Once back home, our own dogs always got a bit of our favourite cream-conditioner. A personal treatment like this perfectly rounds-off the day for the dogs, and keeps them calm and relaxed, and they look very happy indeed.

For us a day on the beach has become an enjoyable routine, but the dogs enjoy it everytime as if it was their first time, right?

So, BEACH is a TOP treat!



Hiking on some diverse grounds (meadows, woods, creeks, hills and valleys) is bound to make your German Shepherd happy too! GSDs LOVE energetic walks and adventure. By all means, find a route where you can let your dog off-leash (see above). Only running around freely will make your GSD really happy.

So, do plan out a hiking trip once a while, and choose a nice route. As diverse as possible. If you haven't been hiking with your dog yet, start easy. A full two or three hours though, even if it's the first time. Because:

  1. don't be in a rush when you go hiking
  2. and let your dog experience the difference to your every-day walk.

Do take plenty of water with you on every hike.

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

There's no need that you carry all the stuff though. In fact, because of my spine problem, I bought the Mountainsmith dog pack for our hikes, and I put one water bottle on each side for the dog to carry. We use this collapsible fabric travel bowl on hikes (works for both, drink and food), and every 10 to 15 min we stop for the dog to get a drink (and myself too).

Nice side effect: Wearing and carrying the dog backpack calms down the dogs and makes them feel like they got a job to do. German Shepherds love feeling useful! (Later we will have a dedicated Periodical on hiking with your dog)

Anyway, make it exciting by letting your GSD have a great time during the entire trip. Play with your dog, alternate who takes lead, and let the dog engage in adventurous games during the hike.

So, HIKING WITH YOU is a TOP treat!



Most German Shepherds love to swim. Swimming also is healthy for your GSD. It tones the muscles, and it helps release excess energy. Most important, it is GREAT FUN for your dog, all the more if you take for example a Hurley or Floppy Disc with you.

No question, you need to find clean and clear waters though! Since dogs are likely to ingest water while swimming, the water should be cleaner than what is required of swimming water. Although it's quick and easy to test the water quality with this popular drinking water tester, note that a quick outdoor test for E.coli has only just been developed (bioactive paper strips).

Clean and clear water? With clear I mean: NEVER let your dog jump into unknown territory, in this case, water where you can't see what is beneath its surface!

Maybe someone dumped an old fence, bicycle, or TV in there (I've seen it all!), or the water is infested. So, if you are unsure about the water quality and suitability for swimming, then check the water first (which, admittedly, sometimes is not easy at all).

After swimming outdoors in standing water or in salt water, lead your dog under a shower/hose (ie running water) to clear off potential parasites or salt respectively.

A Hurley or Floppy Disc are excellent to play FETCH in the water, but if you don't have these favorite toys you can always let your dog just swim around or fetch a branch or whatever.

If you can't easily get to a beach but you can find a clean and clear lake or river, swimming can be the best treat for your German Shepherd, especially if you live somewhere hot.


The above were just some of the activities that German Shepherds are bound to experience as TOP TREATS! We identified these when we thought about the questions mentioned earlier, applied to our own dogs. You can (and should) do the same for your dog.

You see, TOP TREATS go well beyond the daily praise, pat, and play.


Identify YOUR dog's TOP TREATS

What do you come up with when you consider questions like the above?

Now, just in case you still wonder what kind of food treat may be a German Shepherd's favourite...?


Experience shows that this you better find out yourself with the following FUN EXERCISE:

  • Engage all the family - with kids this is most fun!
  • Prepare 5 - 10 food treats that you think might be a favourite
  • The total amount of treats should roughly equal a normal meal
  • At your dog's regular meal time get ready :-D
  • Get pen and paper, and a stop watch
  • Make your GSD stand in front of you (or your kid)
  • Give your dog HALF of a treat, and visibly hold up the other half
  • Now count the NUMBER OF TAIL-WAGS until 10 seconds have passed
  • Give your dog the OTHER HALF, note down the seconds, and wait another 10 seconds
  • Now give the second treat (HALF!) etc, until all are eaten!

Now your German Shepherd got its standard amount of food at the regular meal time(!) - just more tasty than normal if you successfully chose your dog's favourite treats...?

And you got a phantastic, and reliable, list of TAIL-WAGS for each such treat!

TOP tail-wagger = Your GSD's TOP TREAT!

What a FUN exercise too! Try it! :-)

You'll have noticed that only the last top treat we mentioned is a food treat because, as explained in the beginning, more important to your dog (and healthier too!) are NON-food treats.

Anyway, all the above treats can be considered TOP DOG TREATS that are bound to make your German Shepherd REALLY HAPPY! And hence yourself too. :-)

Spend more time with your dog to learn more about what (s)he really favors as TOP TREATS!


Checklist * (see note at the bottom)

  • HOW you treat your German Shepherd is more important than WHAT you treat with
  • Pleasure = Intensity times Duration
  • Edible treats are not Top Treats
  • For your dog, an ACTIVITY with you is a Top Treat
  • Accordingly, one item that we take with us almost everywhere we go is the Hurley - because it even floats on the water!
  • And of course (sadly often not realized by dog owners!) off-leash outdoors time is a Top Treat, particularly for a herding dog breed like the German Shepherd!
  • But when outside and away from your fenced grounds, always leave a quality collar on - either a reflective collar or a bright-colored tough and soft leather collar (we have both)
  • See above for a tail-wagging FUN exercise to identify - and even measure(!) - your dog's Top Treats!
  • Now go and identify your own dog's Top Treats :-)


==> Next edition: German Shepherd Communication Secrets <==

Miguel at 28w Can you give back a bit today?



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  51 Site Comments, ZERO SPAM Add one


    How do you get a Shepherd to swim ? I have read Shepherds can swim. Radar will go into the water, but stops dead in his track before he would have to swim. I have tried sticks ,balls , treats and other dogs. He wants all of the things out of his reach. He barks and whines and is clearly frustrated when things go beyond his reach. Sometimes he will move the water with his paw or body to make the water move until the object floats back to him. That has become a favorite thing for him to do. Make waves around himself. I have a couple dogs that come to my home for doggy daycare that swim. He chases things into the water and always overthinks and stops. Then he gets mad at them for going to get the object.


      I had the same problem with my GSD when I first tried to get him to swim. I walked into the water and talked him gently in until he started to swim. He made several loops back to where he could touch bottom but eventually started to swim around me. I still have to go in first, but he is now secure in ability and trust.


    Swim training is not a common need because most GSDs will learn to swim out of interest.

    Apparently Radar doesn't though.

    Note that some dogs (regardless of breed) just don't LIKE to swim (some humans neither), and we shouldn't force them to! Further, GSDs are smart enough to know if they shouldn't swim. Depending on when you got your dog and how (s)he was socialised from week 7/8 onwards, your dog may not want to swim at all - whether for psychological reasons (incl fear) or maybe because the dog suffered an ear infection or bladder infection early on which it associates with the inflow of water. You might not know!

    How can you gently motivate your dog to swim?

    It seems you've tried already what I would do myself:
    - throw an attractive toy (NO food treats!)
    - have other dogs playing in the water

    From what you write - if good reasons like the ones I mentioned above can be ruled out (??) - I assume he experiences fear. Then you would need to address this fear FIRST. Why is there fear?

    I assume the water is not clear? The dog cannot see what's under the surface. Doesn't know how deep it is, and: if he CAN swim.

    So, I suggest in THIS case (is it?), you should swim-train your dog in a swimming pool style environment with a low bank: Clear water, and slowly increasing depth. Then gently motivate your dog to make step by step further into the water.

    Do not make it stressful. Then it will never work!
    Even with the above, you may need to do this training (socialisation with swimming) 5 or 10 times over a period of weeks before it bears fruit.

    Other than that, Doggy DDan has a great video about training a dog to swim.

    Let me know how it goes!


    I have just recently acquired a 2 YO female GSD and this info is very important to me and helping her to become a pet. She was originally in training to be a service animal and had trouble transitioning so she is now my "Service Pet" since I am disabled and have plenty of time to spend with her every day. The info in the weekly dispatches is timely and definitely well thought and helps us immensely. Thanks a ton!!!!
    Bob and "Indi" the wonder dog....


      You are welcome, Bob! In that case you should be even happier with many of the Periodicals you're about to receive...


    Very informed and ineresting guidance


    Another fantastic periodical!! Thanks Tim. I can't wait to try the 'treat test' with Chief!! :0)


    My 5 month old GSD does not eat at meal times, but rather inhales his dinner. The only time he actually chews is when I feed him a bite or two at a time. He has his meals separate from the other dogs, but this does not seem to matter. Any suggestions to get him to slow down and enjoy the food??


      Yes Sher, this issue is not uncommon, but there is a simple solution. I thought I mentioned it too often already, but maybe not:
      Pl perform the Feeding Routine exactly as I decribed in the Training Essentials. This will immediately stop his present "table manners".

      Note that in your case you may want to (temporarily?) replace the best stainless eat-slow bowl with the overall best eat-slowl bowl, because that one makes it most difficult to gobble the food.

      Do you have the Puppy Training Essentials?


    No not yet, funds have been tight so far but I'm hoping it will be a Christmas present from someone or I'll get it for myself. I enjoyed the top 10 dog treats, Kai loves walking so far the best!


      Has nothing to do with funds here. The Training Essentials are training essentials so they should be free, and are free :-)
      Here they are: Puppy Training Essentials

      Enjoy! Before Christmas, I'd apply them immediately!


    Our 8 year old GSD has just been diagnosed with hip displacia. After several visits to our vet, they have given us pain meds (to use as needed) and put him on a prescription food which they say works great (not sure yet since it's only been a couple of days that he's been on it). While he is not overweight they want him to lose about ten pounds to reduce any extra stress on his hips (we are half way there already). We prefer to leave surgery as a last resort if we can manage any pain he may be in since most of the time he seems to be his normal self. I am wondering if you have any suggestions on things we can do to help manage this? Any info you gave give us would be greatly appreciated. Thanks :-)


    Thanks Tim for this information.., This is very helpful.., I got the wrong idea that giving food is more important that walk my dog!


    My gsd loves swimming.....once in the water she won't come out unless she sees me leaving the area....I'm talking hours .....its great for her and fun for me.


    I have a six month old GSD. She is very skiddish and does not like people coming into my home. She barks constantly and does not like my son. She accepts my two daughters, myself, and my husband but that is all. She refuses to stop barking at others who come over. Is there something I can do to socialize her or is there something my son can do to make her accept him too.


      Yes Patricia, there is. A lot. Hopefully you downloaded the Puppy Love Bundle last week when it was free? It's ALL in there.
      Else at the moment it's still only 2.99 but will go back up to 9.99 shortly (because shelters earn income from my books, yep!).
      In your case pay particular attention to all aspects of becoming the accepted Pack leader, incl. Bite Inhibition and controlled puppy play. Make sure your son immediately becomes accepted Pack leader too, more important than for you (risk!). Oh and socialization is in there as well of course.
      Pl let me know in 4 days how it goes.


    My 11 week old GSD has gotten in his water bowl to drink and play since we've had him. Now that the weather is warming, we get out a small kiddie pool we have for our other dog. He will first take out any toys we put in it then he jumps in and plays. We wondered if he'd actually enjoy more water, so this article is very helpful!


    Samson loves football he plays every chance he gets. With this hot weather he likes to cool down under the sprinkler. He is such a loving dog and I can't imagine life without him.


    Leila is a year old and simply loves her walks and being in the park where she can "herd" all the other dogs. An absolute treat for her and us. we love seeing her interact so freely, we are often the last to leave the park. We do not food treat her at all. It was suggested to us during her puppy training but we soon realized it didn't work and became too expensive in any case. Her favorite treat is actually Labradors, she thinks they are sheep and need to be kept in line :-)


      Teresita, I can't say how much I appreciate that you (as one in a thousand!) finally wrote a comment on the site - and what a comment! I hope everyone reads this.

      You wrote 6 (six) sentences, and every GSD owner should read each of your 6 sentences multiple times. Because they apply - oh so much! - to their dog too.

      Choose a book that you'd like to have, and I gift it to you. :-D


    just a quick word to thank you for all the periodicals ive recieved, every one has been an insight and improved my knowledge to be a better pack buddy for Leo.

    once again thanks and i look foward to the next.


    by far the most insightful has got to be the psychology issue. having a better understanding of Leo' can only improve things for him and the hole family.


      and so which book you'd like?
      Given Leo is 12 weeks, if you don't have it(?), I'd strongly suggest the PDG?


    PDG it is



      Good choice! - If you apply what you read ;-)
      Pl see my email with the coupon.

      You wrote here both times "wetsfield" but I'm pretty you meant "westfield", as I'm from London too. Let me know if you don't receive it. Thanks.


    got it thanks, westfield is right. i have a question tim about collor freezing. Imagine Leos face is a clock, what time should my hand be? if that makes any sense. loving the book by the way.


      You lend people a hand (read: another free book), and they take your arm. :-(
      Becoming a site member would really help both sides ;-)



    ok Tim will do


      I like that you get my humor :-) Not many do. They seem to think "bad person". Maybe that's true too: I eat dog food. ;-)
      But it's very tough at this size, not sustainable.


    Glad I found this site thanks very helpful info. Dasher never swam until I brought him to the beach on leash and his kids were out of his direct sight line. He started to walk into the ocean and within seconds was dog paddling towards them truly the best breed ever!
    Your tips on top treats I think I just found a better way to walk him without using kangaroo treats hopefully he will focus more on me during the walk and minimize his anxiety he loves to tug so I will use his tug toy on the walk in place of the treat.


      Yes David, no food treats in a dog walk. Let's leave the kangaroos alive. ;-)
      What do you need the tug toy for during a walk? To play, or to lure him to come to you?
      Former: great. Latter: no, I wouldn't lure.
      (I provided a matrix showing all possibilities, and why not lure)


    Firstly thankyou for your periodicals.
    Mia really loves playing ball so that is what i use for her treat. It also works well as a distraction when she does some thing unwanted. ( barking at next doors dog / jumping up at people)
    She seems to love nothing more than playing with people and the ball.

    The only time i use food (kibble from her meal) is for training inbetween praise and fussing as the ball just gets her too excited to concentrate on new tricks.


    Every time I try to look at the top treats, it tells me my email address is not recognized.. Yet I have received 2 periodicals so far in my email. What am I doing wrong?


      I have no idea what you mean?
      You post a comment, thus you can access the page. If not ALL of it, you may need to share it too, like I do with you. But an email address? Why?
      You don't need one, you are not a paying site member, thus not SITE access anyway.
      Hope this helps?


    Excellent insight. Never thought about an activity as a treat, but agree completely. Stasi loves to walk and play ball. I always considered that a necessity (and still do), but will put more emphasis on the activity as a treat.


      Thanks for taking a moment to give your feedback, Crystal, much appreciated.


    Hi Tim!

    Thanks for another great article! Wick is far more interested in playing than food, and although exhausting I just love how excited he gets when he gets his favorite "treats". It feels so good to do something that makes him so incredibly joyful! His favorite thing of all is when we play "come and sit" outside. This is where I call him enthusiastically while running backwards and he runs as fast as he can then jumps up at my side, gets riled up then I ask him to sit (to calm down) then we begin again! He thinks it's the coolest game in the world and actually likes the sitting part because he gets to do it all again. Plus side : this saved his life once when he shot off towards the road after a bird... When I yelled come he assume we were playing our game and ran as fast as he could back to me (his leash had been yanked out of my hand) I love reading what other people's dogs like best! Hope more people post them :)


      This is very interesting indeed. I shall try that myself to see how he likes it. Thanks


    Thank you for another great Periodical!! I remember a rat terrier I had that loved to go to Doggy School (Obedience Training). She would totally ignore the treats I had for her! All she wanted was one on one time with me and the praise I gave her after a job well done. That was my first experience of an edible treat isn't always the favorite for a dog! New puppy arrives in just 2 days!! I will be sure to incorporate this knowledge as we progress!! I can't thank you enough Tim!


    Thanks for another great article !!!! As Axel gets older, I am finding out what he enjoys which has been an amazing experience. At 11 weeks now, his fav thing to do is to play with his Vista ball which I purchased a couple of weeks ago. I got the large one and he loves to "herd" it throughout the backyard. We have specific play times and I use this as his "treat". We do not use food treats with him at all. Love reading your info .... Keep them coming!!!!


      Thanks Kim! No food treats, right! How's house training going?


        Tim .... Training is going good. Am still working on the potty training ... We have a few accidents but getting better!! No food treats at all. Only love and respect !! As he gets older I can see how much more of a handful he can become so very strict on the feeding schedule and play times .... Is making a difference thanks to your advice !!!!


    I'm so glad I found this site, I'm a first time dog owner and welcome any advice I can find. I adopted an older dog, not that she would know it, but I'm finding the puppy advice helpful too. We're learning together! Zoey's favorite treat is a walk; she was my partner in crime as I trained for a 4 day hike...we walked 7-8 miles for months. The cold temps are limiting us to 3-4.


    I have been trying to follow a 'food treat training' regime with my dog based on a book I was given by a trainer. My dog loves the treats so much that he bites my pockets!! Bite inhibition is our main problem right now and we have decided that the treats are actually encouraging biting. Rude awakening time for the dog.


      Renee, I'd shoot that (zoo) "trainer" to the moon.
      With the right info you can do MUCH better training yourself.
      And if you can't, a real dog trainer shows you how. This is a real, a TOP trainer (but at a fraction of your local trainer). He rarely uses foods. And certainly not to lure a dog. :roll:


    My Shepherd Aida DOES NOT like water. She gets very anxious when we go in our pool and circles it and cries as if she thinks something will happen to us when we are in it. I have had other shepherds in the past who loved the water and would swim at any chance, its what they are used to and I never acclimated mine (current) to the water.


    Super periodical Tim, thanks so much!

    I love swimming and playing with Kiera off leash. I have to say your book Dog's Unleashed has worked wonders for our free play time together. She really understands her off leash time as a real treat. Although her number one has to be jumping off the dock after her ball, tail wags consistent for as long as we play.

    She also loves going into the hardware store with me. The counter people have Milkbone treats for dogs. I started home making my own treats so Kiera doesn't get fed "crap" at the store, they can give her a home made treat or a carrot haha

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