The German Shepherd Bark | Reasons Why & How To Get Them To Stop
Do you have a German Shepherd barking excessively? Then this guide will help you address that problem. We will explore different potential causes and then offer specific training advice for each case.
In addition, we will recommend some great books and toys so you can follow up with more in-depth information from reliable sources and find the best tools for successful training.
German Shepherd Barking: It's In The Breed
German Shepherd Dogs (GSD), also known as Alsatians were originally bred to be herding dogs. However, their intelligence, loyalty and strength has led them into all kinds of work including police work, guarding, bomb and drug sniffing and military work.
German Shepherds show deep loyalty to their family and have a strong drive to guard and protect. Left unchecked, particularly in GSDs that are not properly socialized as puppies, this behavior can become a liability.
In fact, GSDs are one of the breeds most notorious for biting people and can easily develop aggression issues when in the hands of inexperienced dog owners. It is critical that positive training methods are used with GSDs to make sure that they develop trust and confidence.
If you want to learn how to stop your German Shepherd from barking, you should first consider what the causes are (there can be more than one) and then use these recommended training techniques to curb the behavior.
GSD Barking: Separation Anxiety
In general, GSDs are bred to be working alongside their human companions. They are prone to having issues with separation anxiety, and barking is one of the ways they may show their discomfort at being left alone.
If your German Shepherd barks incessantly while you are away, then separation anxiety is likely to be at least a factor in your dog’s barking.
The best way to combat separation anxiety is to crate train your GSD when they are a puppy. Proper crate training will give your GSD a sense of peace and serenity when crated while you are away from them.
If you have an adult GSD barking because of separation anxiety, crate training may still be an excellent option as part of a treatment plan.
Firstly, if your dog is destructive in addition to barking while you are gone, then a crate is safer than letting them have the run of the house where they might get into dangerous chemicals or swallow sharp objects in a destructive fit.
Secondly, using lots of positive reinforcement when your German Shepherd spends time in their crate will eventually condition the crate as a positive place that makes your GSD feel safe. For more on crate training, we highly recommend the book Crate Training Puppies: Learn How to Crate Train Your Dog the Fast and Easy Way by Cesar Lopez.
If you want to learn more about separation anxiety, and positive and effective training methods to deal with it, we recommend you check out this excellent book: Don't Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog's Separation Anxiety by Nicole Wilde.
Alsatian Barking: Guarding.
German Shepherds often bark because they have a strong guarding behavior as part of their breeding. If your dog tends to stand at the window and bark when you are home, or by the door if you live in an apartment, then guarding behavior may be the main reason.
The solution to this kind of barking is to first identify the triggers of the guarding behavior, then condition (train) a new response to that trigger using positive reinforcement techniques.
Let’s look at an example to make this clearer:
Let’s say your GSD runs to the window and barks whenever someone walks along the sidewalk outside. This is one of their guarding “triggers.”
What you will need to do is to have a strong alternative behavior already trained in a low stress environment, such as a sit. Then you will need to have some high value treats on the ready.
Have a friend help you by walking down the sidewalk and before your friend even comes into view, ask for the sit and generously reward your dog for the quiet sit. Try to reward fast enough to hold your dog’s attention. The whole purpose is to be MORE engaging than the friend walking down the sidewalk.
This will take a lot of practice. The key is to over time look to decrease the rate of reward, and move away from the sit command to a volunteered sit at the sight of the person on the sidewalk. Eventually you will remove the command all together and the sit will be triggered by the person walking down the street.
This is your ultimate training goal: A new alternative behavior for a known guarding trigger.
Finally, never leave German Shepherds crated, confined or tied in view of windows or where people may be approaching or walking by. If you are not able to interrupt guarding behavior, your dog will self-reward when you are away by expressing this form of barking. This will deepen the problem considerably and make it much more difficult to fix.
All intelligent dog breeds, and the German Shepherd is among the top 3, are prone to boredom if not properly stimulated.
There is a common misconception that exercise alone is enough to satisfy dogs, but intelligent dogs require mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise in order to stay balanced. Sometimes barking is a means to just kill time, and do something other than sit around and do nothing. Left unchecked, this self-rewarding behavior can become compulsive.
Here are some tips for making sure your dog is getting the mental stimulation they need to keep from developing boredom barking as a habit:
- Make it a goal to train your German Shepherd a new trick or skill at least once a week. Practice old tricks for at least 30 minutes each day. Need some ideas for some new and fun tricks? We love this book: 101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog by Kyra Sundance.
- Socialize your dog with other dogs either in unstructured environments like the local dog park, by joining a dog sport such as agility, sniffing dog sports or flyball, or by taking obedience classes. If you find ways to engage your dog’s body and mind in the same activity, all the better.
- Engaging dog toys can be a fun way to challenge your dog’s mind without leaving your apartment. With smart dogs like German Shepherds, it is critical to have a few great doggy Einstein toys on the ready for a rainy day. We love this one because it engages mind and body: OurPets IQ Treat Ball Interactive Food Dispensing Dog Toy.
Stop German Shepherd From Barking : Tips & Ideas
Putting Bark And Quiet On Command.
Regardless of why your German Shepherd is barking, one of the most important things you can do is to put both “Speak!” and “Quiet!” on command. As working dogs, German Shepherds are very responsive to this technique.
It may sound strange to teach a dog to bark if they already have a barking problem. However, pairing opposite commands is actually a fantastic way to give your dog room to express their bark drive appropriately, and also learn how to respond to your signal when it needs to stop.
We suggest you use both hand signals and voice commands. If you do the hand signal first, followed by the voice command within a second or two, in association with positive reinforcement immediately following the correct behavior, then you will be training both simultaneously.
Open and closed “duck bill” hands are a fun way to make this into a game because now you have a funny trick: Open hands and your dog barks to their hearts content, closed and they clam up.
If you have a clicker and know how to use it, all the better. If you don’t, we recommend this book by Karen Pryor a pioneer in the field of clicker training: Karen Pryor, Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs.
A Note On Anti-Barking Collars
Most dog trainers do not recommend anti-barking dog collars. In addition to being confusing and outdated, they can erode your dog’s sense of safety and confidence. In fact, any training program that involves physically hurting your dog, or even just startling them, is a recipe for potentially developing dog aggression issues.
Anti-barking dog collars may seem to be a tempting easy fix for barking problems, but the damage it can do to the relationship between you and your dog is not worth it.
If your German Shephard barking has become a nuisance in your life, we recommend the following path toward fixing this problem.
- Identify the problems: Separation anxiety, guarding and/or boredom have different solutions.
- Address the barking problem at the root by addressing the causes.
- Put “Speak!” and “Quiet!” on command. Make it a fun game that teaches a skill you can rely on to stop barking in its tracks.