Real ‘Secrets’ to GSD Training You Don’t Know

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You’ve heard from everyone and their mother online that they have the secrets to GSD training.

I know, because I’ve heard them too.


These ‘secrets’ might tell you what to do but rarely do they tell you why.  

It’s understanding the ‘why’ that really deepens the dog-owner bond.

Most of those secrets are told over and over again.  So, they’re not really secrets anymore.  I’m not saying everything out there is good or bad.

No, wait…

Actually, there are good and bad.  If you’ve been hanging out here you know I support force-free training methods, based on psychology and science.  

And so do many other great bloggers.

The Holy Grail of GSD Training

GSD Training secrets

There is more to GSD Training than you think

There are some fantastic truths about dog training out there.

And I don’t have the Holy Grail to dog training.

But I want to share an experience I had recently that put a different spin on this thing called ‘secrets’ to GSD Training…

Why do I want to do this?


  • As trainers of our dogs, we don’t always see what’s in front of us.
  • This can make us frustrated and despondent.
  • We forget that as guardians of our German Shepherds we have what it takes to train our dogs.

If you train your best friend with 3 things in mind…

  1. The 8 core secrets of GSD training.
  2. You’re embarking on a journey to discover your dog’s incredible potential.
  3. Your German Shepherd is highly intelligent and complex, with his/her own personality.

If you keep this in mind, you’re doing right by your dog in ways you can’t imagine.

What Opened My Eyes?

After a Game of Fetch

Tongues Lolling Out After a High Energy Game of Fetch

My male, Zeze – 3 4 years old – has developed this weird behavior when we play fetch.

Each time I’d throw the frisbee he’d run to fetch it but would not bring it back to me.

Instead, he’d stop in his tracks a few meters away.

He’s fully trained from a young pup to bring a fetch toy back to me.  So this behavior confused me.

Especially until then, any fetch toy ended up at my feet.  It was almost like he’d un-learned anything to do with ‘fetch’.

Just for a second, I should digress here…

Zeze and Lexi play fetch together and it’s always worked well.  They each have their own toy, Zeze adores frizbees and Lexi loves a ball.

There are 3 rules for playing with these toys…

  • They don’t have access to these toys without me.
  • I’m the only human who interacts with them and these specific toys.
  • They are not allowed to chase each other’s flying objects.

You might not believe this, but they never fail on the last rule!

Now back to my dilemma…

A Slap in the Face with a Wet Fish

I knew I was missing something, I needed another angle. And I was beginning to feel like a failure.

Then about 2 weeks ago I read an article about resource guarding on a fellow blogger’s site.  

It’s written by Hindy Pearson and it’s a great article.  You can find it at

Finally, the penny dropped…

The change in Zeze’s behavior is not because of him – I was looking in the wrong place. I’m dealing with a case of resource guarding.  

Lexi is guarding the space between Zeze and me through subtle body language. And so, indirectly guarding me in this scenario.

It’s Lexi – not Zeze – I have to work with first to resolve this issue. And then see what Zeze needs – if anything – to feel included and comfortable again.

I have worked with Lexi on her resource guarding for the past 18 months and thought I had it sorted.

I still don’t know why this old behavior popped up in another situation.  Maybe it was something I did without realizing it.

Maybe it’s because Lexi comes from a background where survival depended on closely guarding what she had.

It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is teaching Lexi that there’s no reason to resource guard.

And freeing Zeze from the isolation Lexi’s resource guarding causes.

So, I took a whole bunch of steps back.  And began watching their body language to work out a training plan.

This is a work in progress, so I’ll write about my plan and success once we have worked through this.

GSD Training - 8 Core Secrets

9 Core ‘Secrets’ to GSD Training

My dogs teach me a heck of a lot in and outside of training.  Through reading, learning from other experts, experimenting, training with, and studying my own dogs these are the 8 core ‘secrets’ that have stuck with me.

See these as the weaving loom.  And any interactions in or outside training as the threads that make the tapestry of the dog-owner relationship.

  1. Your German Shepherd is context-bound. As your dog’s trainer, you must generalize any behaviors you teach. Teach a behavior and then repeat it in many different scenarios.  Also, be aware that old behaviors can pop up again.
  2. Your German Shepherd has triggers and thresholds. You should know what your dog’s triggers are and how to work with your dog if they cross that threshold.
  3. First and foremost, your German Shepherd is a working dog.  Even my ‘limited edition’, Lexi thrives when she’s working.
  4. Reward-based training is NOT bribing your dog, it’s giving your dog something to work for.
  5. Your dog wants to please you. This is powerful! And if you understand it, you will have great success in training your German Shepherd.
  6. You are training them, even when you think you’re not.
  7. They will give you their trust. You owe it to them to use training methods that are no-force and respectful of their trust.
  8. Always set your dog up for success. Be fluid; structure your training around them, not you.
  9. Learn to manage training sessions like a pro and these experiences will always be fun and engaging.

And always remember;

  • Start small and take baby steps.
  • Gradually make training more challenging.
  • Acknowledge your German Shepherd’s small victories.
  • Be persistent – even if it means for several weeks.

So What Can We Do With The Knowledge?

Put it all together, and experiment with it.  Weave it into your training programs and use it to gain a better understanding of your dog, you, and your training relationship.

These are all things I already know and maybe you do too.

But working with my dogs on this is giving me a whole new perspective and so the dog-owner bond becomes deeper as understanding increases.

One phrase sums up what the canine race means to us humans. “Man’s Best Friend”.

They chose us and we chose them to evolve with us for thousands of years.  And they have a loyalty that no other being from the Animal Kingdom has.

Some people might say I’m anthropomorphizing canines. But, to be honest, I don’t care.

Because what they teach us is immeasurable in comparison to what we teach them.

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About the author: Gabriella is a certified professional dog trainer with the Victoria Stilwell Academy. She has a special passion for teaching GSD guardians to train their dogs with kindness and clarity using positive reinforcement methods without force, pain, or fear. Join “Dog Speak” for free dog training tips and advice from a professional dog trainer.


    Hi, I recently took in a 1 yr old GSD from a random person. Now i don’t know if he was abused or anything like that. He is scared at just about everything, i managed to gain his trust he follows me everywhere, take him for walks, seems happier. One thing i noticed, i don’t know if just does not want to play or if he doesn’t know how, well i think he does but like i said i don’t know if he does or not. Im thinking over time he will. I have never had a GSD but i have alot of experience with Boxers, Pitbulls, and golden doodle(VERY VERY HIGH MAINTENANCE) lol. He is very sweet and i see him wanting to trust the rest of the family but only wants to be with me at the moment. Any tips? oh and he has scars as well. How would i approach this?

    • Hi Mario,

      Thank you for your comment and for opening your heart and home to a GSD in need. As you’ve already noticed they have a tendency to pick their favorite human and it sounds like you’re that person for your new best friend.

      I have worked with many rescues and the thing they all desperately need besides love and patience is to build their self-confidence because often they lacked training or were abused previously. This affects their self-confidence tremendously in my opinion.

      I recommend checking out an online dog training program I have used extensively for all my dogs including my rescues. It uses games to tap into our dogs natural intelligence. This not only teaches them how to live in harmony with us but also boosts their confidence and helps them along their way to trusting again.

      I’ve written about the program and my experiences with it here, I also had the privilege of interviewing the dog trainer who created the program and I think you’ll find some of her advice positive and encouraging as your work to teach your boy that it’s safe to trust again.

      Feel free to drop me any questions as you work with him, I’m happy to help. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Stormy

    Good site. Thanks!

  • Michael

    My GSD does the same thing his frisbee, except it’s just me and him in the yard. Don’t think he’s guarding me.

  • Robert Reicher

    This is a great article I will be adding this into my training regimen. It is always nice to see overlapping ideas of things that work for other people also. Old behaviors will come back time and time again, but being persistent always helps your GSD succeed.

    • Hi Robert,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m pleased you’ve found this helpful. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mel

    Im reading your articles with much interest. I had a GSD years ago,well our family did. And back then every thing was dominance training. That dog turned out to be an amazing dog,very intelligent. Skip forward and my husband and I got a GSD. She’s a beautiful dog. I have an illness where Im not able to train her in dominance and I realize that it is not the approach being used by trainers now days.

    My issue is this.Ive taken her to two different trainers,one who handed me a clicker and charged me $100 for something I could have gotten for a buck at the store. She gave me little to no info on how to use a clicker and my dog is afraid of it anyway so I tossed it. Then I took her to “Sit Means Sit” which went fine as she got basic training but with her issue of jumping on people they said for $700 they’d use a shock collar on her and she’d learned right quick.

    Bottom line is Im more confused than the poor dog. My family is upset that she jumps up and want the old dominance training. I dont want to use that training but everyone kicked up such a fuss that I got a training collar that both buzzes and shocks. Honestly I feel like a total failure as an owner. Ive had dogs all my life and never had trouble training away bad behaviors like biting and jumping. Anyhow Im just reading all I can and after two failures with dog trainers Im at wits end and Im not helping the dog at all. I feel myself getting frustrated and angry with her,then I feel horrible because I cant seem to unlock her potential.I know she’d be a wonderful dog if I could. Sorry for the long post and thanks for the tips.

    • Hi Mel,

      Sorry for my late reply.

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve had bad luck with trainers. It’s not always easy to find someone that’s really committed to helping owners with issues.

      So for jumping there are a few things you could try.

      Firstly ‘make like a tree’. So when she jumps just stand dead still like a tree. Don’t move or make a sound. And don’t look at her. Any of these reactions from you would be a reward for jumping. You could even take it one step further and turn your upper body away from her. So if she’s jumping up the front turn your head to the side. And it helps to close your eyes too.

      As soon as she stops jumping give her attention. You attention is her reward. Give it in a calm manner and don’t make sudden or fast movements and watch not to have a high excited pitch in your voice when you give her attention.

      It is a method that most people find works best but it can take some time. I waited for 20 minutes once waiting for a dog to stop jumping. But it only took a couple of goes before they got it.

      The other method is to carry food rewards and as you’re going about things or coming home from being away drop them on the ground. She can’t eat the rewards if all 4 her paws are not on the ground. So she can’t jump. This method will teach her that having a 4’s on the ground means great things happen for her. And so it’ll break the habit of jumping.

      Hope this helps.

  • Carol

    Hi Gabriella!
    Your site is amazing!
    we just got GSD, she is 2 months old. we were told that we should not train our dog while she is young (wait until she is 4 months) because if not it would change her personality. What do you think about that?
    And also my kids usually run around her, and I know that because of her breed she would herd the sheep and bite them in the hinds. the problem is that she does that to my children and her teeth are quite sharp! any suggestions?
    Thank you so much!!

    • Hi Carol!

      Thanks for the compliment on my work! It means I’m doing something right. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I don’t agree with the advice not to train until 4 months. A pup can be trained from as young as 6 weeks. And the sooner, the better. They are so easy to mold and shape when they are young. Or course 8 weeks is still young so you haven’t lost out on the amazing time of puppy hood.

      As for the herding, I’d firstly recommend that when your young ones are playing and running around you keep your pup separate so that the behavior is not reinforced. Kiddies have exciting voices and quick movements which will compel your pup to react. This won’t be a long term thing because at the same time I recommend using a game called build-a-bridge which you can find in this article on biting.

      Teach your kids how to play this game with their new best friend. It’s an excellent way to show her that their little limbs are off limits and teaches her to be calm when being handled by your kids.

      Let me know how you get on with this game and if you have other questions, just drop them in the comments.

      Chat soon,

  • Nina

    I just found your wonderful website. I am a professional dog trainer in the USA and love my job. Your website is full of common sense, great training guidance and good reminders about my favorite breed.
    My husband and I have two GSDs. Our sweet calm girl is 11+ years old and our male is a very energetic 3 year old sable. He is the 8th GSD we have had in our home. Every dog teaches us something new and our male is totally dedicated to that idea ๐Ÿ™‚ He is a joy to work with and has provided challenges we haven’t personally encountered before. He is the best teacher I have had and my students are benefitting from his influence in my life.
    Thank you for being here! I have signed up for your emails and will be checking in often.

    • Hi Nina,

      Thanks for your compliment on my work, I’m totally blown away! And thanks for signing up to receive my emails.

      Yup, once you’re into German Shepherds it tends to stay that way. I’m biased when I say this but, they are the most awesome breed! LOL! They have an everlasting influence on our lives. Mine are 9 years, 3.5 years and 18 months. So I’m immersed across all the age groups and it’s interesting!

      What better teachers than our dogs!?

      Chat soon,

  • Alex

    Hey! Im here again

    Going to get the GSD in a few weeks, I am stocked, thanks for all the help you’ve given to me. I looked up “How to tell if a hip ir elbow grade is good” – at least I tried, but obviously I didn’t understand it. So i was wondering if you can make it easy on me and explain? Thanks

    Alex ?

    • Hey Alex!!

      That’s awesome,congrats!!

      So for your pup it’s not possible to tell 100% what his hips are like. I believe in Oz they recommend hip x-rays at 12 months but I guess you could do 6. Although, I also recommend 12 months because then the hips are fully developed.

      You can however make a judgement call based on the parents hips. And this should be recorded in the pedigree papers for you own pup. Here’s a really good resource you can check out. The x-rays won’t be too much help to you now. But the grading right at the bottom of the page will help you compare to the hip grading of you new pup’s parents. You’ll see the middle column has the gradings for Oz.

      Hope this help! Please send me a pic of your new pup!

  • Ashley

    Hey, i have a 8 month old female GSD, She is my baby. I love her very much, she is doing okay with her training but i am noticing that she is becoming aggressive with my other dog when he comes into my room, also she has food aggression towards him but not me or other people. Also she is still nipping and sometimes she bites. She bites my pants legs too. I just dont know what i should do. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Ashley,

      Sounds like you have a lot going on there. The biting issue is easy enough to sort out with the right methods. Check out this article on biting, it describes 4 games you can use to teach bite inhibition.

      The other issue is resource guarding. And that’s a much trickier problem to deal with. In all honesty, the safest route is to get a dog behaviorist in to help you. And one that uses only positive reinforcement. I say safest because resource guarding can end up in an ugly mess if not handled correctly or if it’s ignored.

  • Alex

    Hello again, I will return to Sydney in 8 days hopefully, I was just looking at some farms close to Sydney online, and I haven’t seen any pups for $800 AUD I’ve mostly seen GSD for $1500 – $2200 AUD, and these are breeders as you said with farms are 4.4/5 star ratings, am I looking incorrectly? I just needed to know what I was doing wrong, please ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hey Alex!

      It could be that pups are more expensive in and around the Sydney area. Have you checked out what the prices look like in areas further from major cities? Often, breeders online are targeting an international market. There are many places where decent dogs are not available and people want to import them. So prices are often higher.

      Also, have you tried getting in touch with any of the clubs like we spoke about before? You might have better luck getting in touch with a breeder that way. Also, when you’re back in Sydney, give a few vets in your area a visit and ask for referrals. There are probably a few reputable local breeders that don’t advertise online.

      Let me know how you get on with your search.

  • Alex

    Hello again,
    I’ve been thinking about the “to be” dog at home for a sort of “simulation” of him being there. For example, I pretended like he was at my home for a day to find even more questions.
    1. I live in Sydney, I’ve been looking up some breeders in Australia, I’m not that good, I barely found anything, I might do what you role me too and go to a vet and ask.
    2. I almost 100% sure I am getting the standard line, I still need to look into that message you send me about the registered breeder and all the paperwork, it’s a bit hard since I am not used to it but with your help, it’s much easier, thanks. Also I need to be committed as I want me and the dog to be best of friends
    3. Also I read that you shouldn’t walk or exercise the GSD when it’s a pup cause if it’s bones, is that true? They also said the GSD should only go upstairs and uphill for the bones is that right? And if that’s right when do I start and finish? Thanks
    4.I think I am down with the brushing technique, I am just wondering how man times a day I should do it, and if it varies in seasons.
    5. How do you also choose the right puppy out of like 9, I dont want the ears to flop down ?? Sorry if that sound rude
    6. How can I also include the dog with a lot of other dogs so it won’t have problems, and at watch age will I introduce him to other dogs? Does he need to be trained before he meets them? (By trained I meant not a nipper)

    Sorry I typed a lot, it’s just you assist me a lot

    • Hey Alex

      1. Yes, if you’re struggling to find a reputable breeder see if you can get a referral from a good vet. But like I said, you could also try GSD clubs. They are mostly very helpful.

      2. If you’ve got more questions when it comes to choosing a breeder, you’re more than welcome to ‘pick my brain’, I’m happy to help where I can.

      3. Yes, you are absolutely right in saying that walking or exercising a GSD pup should be kept to a minimum. German Shepherds are big breeds and they mature slowly. Males even more so than females. So you’ll do better by taking things easy. I only started allowing my boy to catch the frizbee in the air when he turned 3. That might be very conservative but prevention is better than cure. Also, I don’t play frizbee everyday, so this keeps him from catching things in the air all the time. On other days we play ball or tug.

      Start out slowly in your back yard for at least the first 4 months when it comes to physical exercise. But for the first 12 weeks do only gentle strolls in the yard – you can use this time to teach your pup leash walking skills and recall skills. But, no jumping in the air or onto things. You can play fetch too, but throw the ball only a short distance. And keep the fetch sessions short.

      Once your boy is fully developed you can do quite a bit with him. They are excellent at agility courses! I put together a home made agility course that I pack out in my back yard. You could buy a bunch of equipment but it turns into an expensive hobby. And if you’re not going to take part in agility as a sport, there’s no need to fork out all that money.

      4. Grooming should be done everyday. But during coat blowing season it’s best to groom twice a day. If you’ve got the technique mastered you won’t have to worry about irritating his skin when you groom twice a day. You live in the Southern Hemisphere like I do so for you coat blowing season will be during Spring (September/October) and just before Winter (April/May). Coat blowing could take a little longer than the 2 months I mentioned.

      You’ll know immediately when he starts blowing his coat. You’ll find clumps of fine fluffy hair, almost like tumble weeds all over the floor. They usually collect in the corners of a room. Also, you’ll see clumps of hair in his coat, if you pull on them they slide out because they are already lose and not attached to the skin anymore.

      5. There are a few things to look out for when choosing a pup in terms of ears. And there are a bunch of things you can do to make sure those ears have the best chance of perking up. Here’s an article I wrote about German Shepherd Puppies Ears. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.

      6. Socializing a puppy is very important. You can begin socializing after your pup has had all his shots. I’m not sure what the rules are in Oz about when this is but your vet will be able to tell you. So you have 2 options when it comes to socializing. You can either take your pup to puppy classes where socializing is done along with basic obedience. If you’re not up for that you can have play dates with friends that have dogs or you can go to a dog park. Doggy people at dog parks are usually very helpful if you tell them you’re helping your boy socialize.

      The benefit of puppy classes is that your pup is mingling with pups his own age. Where as at a dog park there are adult dogs and dogs that are much bigger than your pup that could try to dominate, bite or attack your little one. I’m not saying it will happen, but if it does you’ll have a whole different problem on your hands. Because a dog attack can make your boy dog reactive, where he thinks any dog is a threat. So he’ll be aggressive to any dog that crosses his path. My suggestion is puppy classes.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Chat soon,

  • Alex

    Hey, it’s me again, sorry
    Thanks for the video that you sent me, I watch it everyday so I can try and perfect my technique when I get my first GSD, just have a few more questions I am asking a lot so I can be very prepared . It’s my first dog and you’ve answered most questions, I appreciate that. Would it be ok if my dogs home was outside, in a big shed, huge actually with a bed in it? And what line of German shepherd do you think I should get? Thanks

    • Hi Alex!

      I’m pleased you’re finding the video useful!

      Yes, it’s fine if you want your dog’s home to be outside. But keep in mind dogs are a rule are social animals and the German Shepherd in particular needs a lot of social interaction with his or her family.

      The outside home you’ve described sounds comfortable but you should consider allowing your dog to come indoors too so that there’s family interaction inside and outside. Also, make sure the shed is not too hot in the summer months or too cold in the winter months. Just like us humans, extreme weather conditions can be dangerous and sometimes life threatening.

      In terms of what line of Shepherd you should get depends entirely on your circumstances, what you can offer and of course what you like and need. Keep in mind though that all German Shepherds, even the show lines are working dogs.

      Both my Shepherds are West German Show line dogs. They are more chilled out that the Czech, DDR or West German working lines. But they are still high drive and high maintenance dogs so don’t be fooled by their laid back nature. The American and Canadian show line German Shepherds are the most laid back of all the lines. But they too have drives that must be stimulated or they will become depressed and destructive just like any of the other lines.

      If you haven’t already, read this article on the 5 breed types. It might give you a better idea of what you want and need.

      The most important and best advice I can give you is to make sure you buy your pup from a reputable breeder and not some back yard breeder or a puppy mill.

      I always like to ask my vet for a referral to a reputable breeder. Depending on where you are in the world and what is available you might want to consider importing a GSD if there are no reputable breeders where you live.

      Here are a few characteristics of a reputable breeder:
      They breed only one type of dog. Maybe two types but then it’ll be a similar type of dog. For example; German Shepherds and Swiss Shepherds.
      In most cases they require that you sign a contract where you agree to return the dog to them if you can no longer care for it.
      They have extensive knowledge of the breed. Such as health issues, temperament and training.
      They have a solid breeding program and breed only once or twice a year – maximum of 3 litters a year.
      They can provide registration papers for BOTH the mother and the father of the puppy.
      They will provide you with the registration papers and lineage of your puppy.
      They can provide you with the hip grading of the mother AND the father of your puppy.
      They will allow you on to their property so that you can see the living conditions of the breeding pairs and the puppies.
      In most cases you will be able to meet the mother and the father. Unless one of the parents belong to another breeder. If that’s the case they should still be able to provide you with the registration papers of the missing parent.
      I’m not sure where you live but from what I know all registered German Shepherds have a tattoo on the inside of their right ear.

      Here are some characteristics of a puppy mill or back yard breeder:

      They breed many different breeds. For example; GSD, Husky, Yorkies.
      They want to deliver the puppy to you or meet you somewhere. So you won’t be able to see the living conditions of their dogs or meet the parents.
      They can’t provide you with registration papers for BOTH parents. Or in some cases not even for one parent.
      They have very little knowledge of the breed.
      They have no breeding program and can’t discuss a breeding program with you.
      They have no hip grading documentation for the parents.
      The have no record of your puppy’s lineage.
      They have no registration papers for you puppy.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Heidi

    New comer to your blog and just love and agree whole heartedly. Long time dog owner of Golden Retrievers but was raised as were you with GSDs, two completely different breed characters I know but just love the GSD breed. My 10 mth old GSD has been to puppy school out socializing and GSD club obediance (which I stopped due to control freaks) I have put so much hard work and training into her only for her to be attacked at our local dog pack. She had no aggression in her at all, lovely nature. Consequently on our walks every other dog is a threat and she just pulls and barks. Having a hard time regaining her confidence and our walks arent as fun. So sad for her, any ideas would be much appreciated for me and my Shadow.

    • Hi Heidi,

      I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to Shadow, it must have been traumatic for both you and Shadow. Often when a dog is attacked by another dog or a pack of dogs they develop dog on dog aggression. You might find that Shadow is more aggressive towards other dogs that look like or have the same ‘vibe’ as the dog/dogs who attacked her.

      You could try and work with her to help recondition her behavior. But you may find it difficult if the presence of other dogs because they are triggers that send Shadow over her threshold.

      If you’d like to know more about thresholds and triggers read this article.

      If I was in your shoes, I’d get help from a certified dog trainer. One that uses force-free, reward training. It’s the best chance you have to help Shadow work through her fear. I suggest this because dog on dog aggression can lead to other serious scenarios. Avoid trainers that use any aversive techniques like leash pops, shock collars or any methods that involve force. These kinds of methods will only worsen Shadow’s aggression.

      The silver lining is that shadow already has a strong foundation of socializing from her previous training which will be a big help in getting her back to her old self when it comes to other dogs.

      I hope this helps you. I wish I could give you a quick fix because I know how it feels. But this is going to take time and I believe with a professional trainer who’s worth their salt you can change things around for Shadow.

      Please keep me posted.

      Chat soon,

  • Alex

    Hey, sorry it’s me again, I dont mean to ask a lot or push it because that’s rude, I was just wondering how you were going with posting the gsd shedding tutorial you said you’ll post, thanks sorry again

    • Hi Alex!

      I’m finishing up the editing. Had a bunch of guests for Christmas, so should have it done for you tomorrow.

      I’ll drop a link here in the comments.

      Chat soon.

  • Alex

    Hey Gabriella,
    Thanks again for everything that you’ve already done, I feel like with all this advice I could at least be an ok parent. Thank you very much for the video and for the email in advance, means a lot. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I was wondering, I am extremely fascinated by how dogs can track by scent, I’ve done a lot of research and there are a few videos but I can’t seem to find a good one, it’s like the dog finds something then sits, I am not a professional or anything but that’s why I’m asking you. I am asking you this because I love to have fun with my dog in the future and hopefully it can be my best friend.

    Thanks for all the help
    Merry Christmas

    Sorry again, I am trying my best not to spam on your website, its just so helpful!

    • Hi Alex!

      Don’t worry about spam, your questions are all valid and will be useful to other readers too.

      So what you’re interested in here is nose work. And you can have a whole lot of fun with this kind of training!

      As a matter of interest, the part of a dog’s brain that processes scents is 40 times larger than ours. We have about 5 million scent glands where theirs range from 125 to 300 million.

      Starting nose work is really easy and you can invent so many variations your dog will never get bored.

      I started getting interested in nose work when I realized my male GSD Zรจ always had his snout glued to the ground. He’d walk around in patterns that looked ‘aimless’ to me. But then I realized he was following the scent of some garden critter that had passed this way.

      After some research I got my hands on a book someone recommended. We play nose work games from this book all the time, and we’ve still not done everything there is in the book, which is great because that means I’ve still got a lot of new games stashed in my ‘game bank’ to keep things spiced up for the dogs.

      Check out the book, you might find it useful in your quest for fun and games.

      Chat soon,

  • Alex

    Thanks for replying again, I really appreciate the time you are putting in to make my first GSD a beautiful experience. Thanks again for the video that you’re going to put up and thanks for sending me that email, means a lot!

    You’re a great person!

  • Alex

    Hey Gabriella,
    I really appreciate how you answered my questions, it really means a lot to me, and I would like to thank you for all your helpful articles you type, I can really tell you put a lot of effort and heart into it, which makes it beautiful to read.

    I just have a few more questions if that’s ok with you, thanks.

    1. How do you deal with the constant shedding, do you have a sort of “life hack”:)
    I heard that you need to brush their coats every day, I am fine with that, and I will be committed to doing so. If we do need to brush their coats, daily, may you please explain how? Thanks again

    2. There will always be somebody with the dog as long as he is a puppy, but when he is older, I am afraid of leaving him at home, I truly don’t want him to get grumpy and angry, that is the only thing stopping me from buying a german shepherd this instance.

    I think that’s it for now, if I had anymore it would be cool if you would answer them, if you had time of course, thanks again for everything!

    • Hey Alex!

      Ah, shedding! That’s a GSD thing. They have double coats – a fluffy undercoat which acts like waterproofing and a rougher top coat which protects the undercoat and acts as insulation. which they needed when their primary function was guarding sheep and the shepherd. They originated in Germany but guarded all over Europe. Europe experiences cold snowy winters and rain. The mountainous regions have a lot of streams and rivers.

      They shed all year round and blow their undercoats twice a year – in Spring and Fall/Autumn. They shed less during the winter months. Yes, the GSD must be groomed daily but during coat blowing seasons even more so.

      Daily grooming should be done carefully to keep the skin from becoming irritated or raw. You don’t need a lot of fancy tools for this. I have 2 basic tools I use for grooming coats.

      Give me a few days and I’ll put together a video to show you how. I’ll drop a link here in the comments.

      So your pup will always have someone around during his younger phase. This is very convenient. But having company all the time is a double-edged sword. If your pup doesn’t get used to being alone he could develop separation anxiety. And this you want to avoid.

      Luckily, dog training can be used to prevent problems as much as it can be used to fix problems. But prevention is better than cure.

      It’s quite a lengthy step-by-step process. So if you don’t mind, I’ll use your email address to send you a short guide on what to do.

      Chat soon,

      P.S. Thanks for the compliment on my work!

  • Alex

    Hi there!

    I just have a few questions, I would really appreciate it if you answered them ๐Ÿ™‚
    I am planning on getting a GSD thanks to your vids
    I have a few questions, so I numbered them ๐Ÿ™‚
    1. From when the puppy is 8 weeks to 1 year of age what sort of food are we supposed to give it? I looked it up and it said every month you need to give it different food until it’s 1 year old, is that true?
    2. I can walk the dog in the morning after University and before I go to bed, is that ok?
    3. If I keep the dog home alone for 6 hours 5 times a week, will it start getting angry and have issues, I will play with the dog constantly and so will my family, and I will also train it well.
    4. Did you take your dog to any classes.

    Sorry for all the questions, I needed to ask you because you’re the only active GSD blogger I know of, and you answer all comments, it would mean a lot if you answered all the questions, Sorry again, Merry Christmas ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Hi Alex!

      Thanks for sharing your questions here.

      I’m so pleased I had an impact on your choice to love the German Shepherd breed. You won’t regret it – they are awesome dogs!

      1. No, you should not give your pup different food every month. German Shepherds have especially sensitive digestive tracts so changing their food that often will cause upsets. In fact, with any dog, changing a diet should be gradual.

      German Shepherds are large breed dogs which means they mature slower than small and medium breeds – making them pups for longer. So they need puppy food. You should be feeding puppy food until at least 18 months. I feed a raw diet but I recommend you find a food that’s free from grains and one that has high quality ingredients. The feeding protocol when raising a GSD puppy is very important because they’re developing big bones, muscles and tendons. And grain can cause problems with German Shepherds because they have such sensitive tummies and skin.

      As an example, this is what you’re looking for:

      2. Yes, I recommend walking your GSD twice a day. I also recommend keeping the walks gentle and not too far while your pup is still so young. A walk or drive to the dog park is ideal. Then a little walk in the dog park should be fine. Once your pup is a little older you can increase the distance.

      3. 6 hours is a little long to be alone but perhaps you can ask a neighbor or a family member to pop in for a visit and a potty run. Dogs are very social especially GSD’s so they need human interaction. If that’s not possible, make sure your pup has safe toys to play with to keep him/her busy. Also, if you make the morning walk count it might tire him/her out.

      Here’s an article I wrote on the toys I think are great and recommend.

      4. No I’ve never taken my dogs to training classes, but I’ve been training my own dogs for years. But if you’re new to training a pup the positive way, I recommend finding a training class where positive reinforcement is used. And of course, exposure to other dogs and people is a fantastic way to socialize your pup. Once you’ve got the hang of training you’ll be able to do more and more at home. Making things more challenging which will stimulate your pup’s mental and physical needs. Remember, your GSD is a working dog and he/she needs to feel they have a job. Training is a great way to do this.

      If you’re interested, I have a few programs I recommend:

      I don’t recommend the Doggy Dan Program but here are 2 I do recommend:

      I hope this helps to clear some things up. You’re welcome to ask as many questions as you need to. Just drop them here in the comments. I usually answer in 12 hours.

      Chat soon,

  • Mandy

    Hello there!

    The points you made here are very valid and all part of a good training regime. However, I do use corrections when training my dogs. Corrections and rewards, depending on the situation.

    I feel that using only rewards is a form of bribing and therefore I choose to use a mix.

    Nonetheless, this is good-all-round information.

    • Hi Mandy,

      I’ll keep this short…

      Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion and healthy dialogue is important to educate. I’m sure you are aware that I advocate for force-free training on this blog.

      And I am in total disagreement with the method you briefly outlined. Using corrections in itself destroys a dog and using them along with rewards only confuses a dog. They never know what to expect.

      If you’re interested in finding out more about force-free only training there’s an article I wrote which, since you’re a trainer, should highlight the issues with correction training. There are also links to studies proving the damage corrections cause.

      I hope you will take the time to read through it.

  • Terry


    I really enjoyed this article. It’s so nice to see people going deeper into dog training than just the same-old-same-old rote training.

    I’ve owned, bred and trained White Swiss German for over 40 years so I know a thing or two. I’ve had to stop my breeding program due to cancer, but I still train Kelly my WSS everyday. And she trains me too – like you mentioned.

    The thing that stood out the most for me from your 8 secrets is rewarding is not bribing. It saddens me when I come across people who believe otherwise. It’s sad because both their dog and themselves miss out on a lifetime of wonderful experiences.

    If they’re not rewarding during training then what are they doing? The alternative is bleak to say the least. Training their dog to avoid punishment.

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful insights.

    • Hey Terry!

      Thanks for your insightful contribution.

      Yes! Reward training is so fruitful for both dog and owner. I guess all people like us can do is educate, educate, educate. Of course I know just as well as you that those owners and trainers who use corrections and force get quick results in the beginning. Dogs are smart and they quickly learn to avoid punishment.

      But studies have proven that the long term damage is a destroyed relationship and low self confidence in the dog. And also, at some point the percieved gains of corrections peak out and cause behavior problems or cause problems where there weren’t any before.

  • Cooper

    Hi Gabriella,

    I enjoyed the challenge you set in your email asking us what our own secrets to GSD training are!

    I’m reasonably new to dog training so I’m still figuring out what mine are. But even as an amateur, I can see how your 8 points make total sense!

    I’ll definitely keep these is mind and hopefully soon I’ll be able to share some of my own insights.


    • Hi Cooper!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for taking up the challenge.

      It’s great that as someone new to dog training you already have a sense of what works and what doesn’t. And you’re right that in time you’ll be able to define your own secrets that are unique to you and your German Shepherd. It’s a natural progression.

      If you have any questions, just drop them in the comments, I’m happy to help.

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