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Dog TOP Treats

 Reviewed 17 August 2019 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto

==> Favorite Treats for German Shepherds and other dogs?

No, definitely not food - Find out more here

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

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! wink

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!

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 dog

When you treat your dog, you provide your dog with unusual, unexpected 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 dog 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. grin

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 a dog's TOP TREATS?

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, let your dog off-leash with the right guidance f! 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. grin

(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!

Dogs are SAFE off-leash - like in the wild

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 f is indispensable, but a bright-colored strong and soft leather collar f 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) wink

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 f. 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.

There's no need that you carry all the stuff though. In fact, because of my spine problem, I bought the Mountainsmith dog pack f for our hikes, and I put one water bottle on each side for the dog to carry. We use this collapsible fabric travel bowl f 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 f or Floppy Disc f 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 f, 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 f or Floppy Disc f 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 grin
  • Get pen and paper, and a stop watch
  • Make your dog 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 dog 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! smile

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 dog REALLY HAPPY! And yourself too. smile

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



  • 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 f - 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 f or a bright-colored tough and soft leather collar f (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 smile



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