German Shepherd barking can become a problem for a variety of reasons.
But as dog owners, we’d be unreasonable to expect our dogs never to bark.
Dogs are made to bark, it’s an essential method of communication that dogs can’t do without.
The trick is rather to get excessive barking under control.
Before we can work on how to get German Shepherd barking under control…
Let’s first wrap our heads around the reasons why dogs bark.
6 Reasons for Excessive German Shepherd Barking
All dogs have a breed specific function. In your German Shepherd’s case, it’s guarding and herding.
In a working environment barking is the way your German Shepherd fulfills this role.
German Shepherds also find barking self-rewarding. It burns excess energy and satisfies your dog’s natural guarding instinct.
Because of this, excessive German Shepherd barking is a problem many owners struggle with.
Protecting their Territory
Dogs are territorial and will without fail bark at a threat to his territory. Often as the threat moves closer the barking will become more intense.
Your German Shepherd’s body language will be aggressive like a raised tail and raised hackles along the spine.
Alarmed or Startled
Sometimes your dog will bark at a sound or an object, usually when he is startled.
For example, my male GSD was once startled by a date that fell from a tree onto an object he was investigating. Although the sound wasn’t loud it startled him into barking.
Saying Hello and Playing
This is always a happy bark accompanied by tail wagging and running around.
Asking for Attention
Some dogs will use barking to communicate if they want something.
For example, the need to go outside, asking for food or playing. In this case, there are certain times an owner should not reinforce barking.
Separation anxiety is a subject all on its own. In most cases, it is excessive barking accompanied by compulsive behavior. This could be; running in circles, pacing and destructive behavior.
Are you a kind and loving trainer? Check out these force-free training programs for your German Shepherd.
3 Things that will Never Get German Shepherd Barking Under Control
Punishing your dog by hitting, kicking or a raised hand in the ‘ready to smack’ position. This will scare your dog and cause mistrust.
And in the case of attention seeking barking, it will only reinforce the behavior.
Shouting at your dog will make him think you’re joining in with the barking. Shouting will not make your dog stop barking.
In most cases, your dog will turn a deaf ear and continue barking.
Using a bark collar. This will cause your dog considerable pain and discomfort. It is not a proven method to stop barking.
It will also cause negative feelings in your dog. These feelings can be associated with a person or animal present when the shock is applied. This equals aggression.
By now you’re asking:
What should I do to get rid of German Shepherd Barking problems?
Using a paired or opposite cue is the most effective method to get rid of German Shepherd barking. There are two different ways you can use this technique.
So how does this work?
#1 Teach Your German Shepherd to Bark on Command
Teaching Your German Shepherd the ‘speak’ ‘quiet’ cues. Speaking or barking on command is a method that is also associated with trick training. But it’s just as effective in altering excessive barking behavior.
To begin with, the trick is to only reward your dog when you want him to bark. This will ensure that you don’t reinforce the excessive barking.
6 Steps I used to alter Charley’s excessive barking…
- Get your dog excited. Throw his toy, jump up and down or make barking noises. The point here is to get him over-the-top excited!
- Once your dog is barking open and close your hand as shown in the pictures – this is your hand signal. Do this while saying the word ‘speak’.
- Mark and reward each time your dog barks.
Note: This is one of the few times giving a hand signal and a voice command from the start is a good idea.
Your German Shepherd will soon make the connection. You can learn more about Mark and Reward here.
Note: If it takes a while just be patient and persistent. Some dogs are shy when it comes to barking at their owners.
Once your dog ‘gets it’, the next step is not to reward for more than one bark at a time. Mark and reward are important to show him you only want one bark.
Once your dog fully understands the ‘speak command’ it’s time to teach the opposite cue, ‘quiet’.
- Follow the same steps by getting your dog excited and revved up. This will make him bark.
- Once your dog is barking put your open hand just in front of his nose. Now say the word ‘quiet’ in a firm but kind voice.
- The second your dog stops barking mark and reward his behavior.
Your German Shepherd will soon have the ‘a-ha moment’. He’ll quickly make the connection that ‘quiet’ and your hand signal means ‘stop barking’.
#2 Counter-Conditioning and Desensitization
Counter-conditioning and desensitization also work on the principle of pairing. In this case, you’ll pair something your dog regards as good – like cheese – in the presence of the thing that’s causing your dog to bark.
- So your first step is to pinpoint the exact thing that makes your dog bark. Like the postman, motorcycles, joggers, cyclists etc.
Let’s use a mail van in this example…
- The next step is to start counter-conditioning your dog in the presence of the mail van. It’s important to start at a distance your dog still feels comfortable at.
If you get too close, too soon it might feel like waterboarding to your dog. She could become more agitated and even fearful, so go slowly.
- Keep a close eye on your dog’s body language. If your dog starts barking, immediately call her attention to you and treat her.
Your treats MUST be high value – more valuable than the satisfaction of reacting to the mail van.
If you want to find out which treats your dog finds the highest value, check out my post on dog learning and do the little experiment. Your dog will let you know which treats she likes best!
Follow these steps and be consistent, as your dog becomes more desensitized, you can move closer and closer to the mail van.
I found this explanation of these steps in picture form on Facebook. If you’re new to this technique this is an excellent resource to understand the process.
The pairing technique is a super effective tool to have in your training toolbox. You can use it to change behaviors in the kindest and humane way.
If done correctly and always with your dog’s well-being in mind first and foremost, the chances are very good that you’ll curb your German Shepherd barking. And your dog will have learned a neat new trick to show off with!
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