The German Shepherd or GSD (German Shepherd dog) is a brave, loyal, intelligent, and loving dog. They were originally bred as herding and guard dogs. For this reason, barking is a breed-specific function for German Shepherds.
However, the barking should be for a reason. When the barking becomes excessive it is a behavioral issue. But don’t worry. With the correct training, this nuisance barking behavior can be fixed. We will look at causes and solutions to German Shepherd barking issues.
Do German Shepherds bark a lot
Being a herding and guard dog breed, barking has a important communication function for a German Shepherd. When trained properly, a German Shepherd will only bark when necessary. Nuisance barking is usually the result of a training and behavior issue.
German Shepherds can be quite protective and territorial and will bark to warn off a threat, either real or perceived. This is why German Shepherds are an excellent guard dog.
This is not to say that a German Shepherd can not develop a nuisance barking problem. They obviously bark when they feel the need arises. If your GSD is barking a lot at anything that moves or every sound they hear it is a training or other behavior issue.
There are many reasons a dog may bark. This includes a perceived threat, boredom, pent up energy, and excitement. We will go into more detail about the causes of nuisance barking below.
Why does my German Shepherd bark so much
When a dog barks, whines, howls, or vocalizes in some way they are communicating. Don’t just assume that they are being bad. They may be trying to tell you something. There are times that you want your dog to bark.
Your German Shepherd may bark for a number of reasons such as an invite to play, discipline young, warn of danger, threaten intruders, or it may bark because it’s curious. None of these reasons tend to result in excessive or annoying barking. The barking is usually short-lived and specific to an occasion.
If your German Shepherd has a nuisance barking issue, you need to find the reason and triggers for the behavior. Knowing why your German Shepherd is barking and what is triggering the behavior is halfway to solving the issue.
Possible reasons a German Shepherd may be barking all the time can be categorized into three types of communication. These are
- Physical Need
They are hot, cold, hungry, or thirsty. This is the dog’s way of communicating for you to accommodate one of their needs. It can also be a sign of pain or discomfort. If you have concerns that your GSD may not be well, consult your vet.
- Emotional Need
The dog is bored, overexcited, or anxious. This is a way of requesting attention. Attention seeking behavior can become a problem if not managed. It is often the result of their psychological or social needs not being met.
Excessive barking may be triggered by environmental cues such as other dogs barking, passing cars, sirens, thunder, and so on. It can also be from being confined, tied up, or left alone for long periods of time. For a guide to leaving a dog home alone see here.
Causes and triggers of German Shepherd barking
The three categories above give a general indication for the reason a dog may bark. We will go into more detail and take a look at specific causes.
Your German Shepherd may be trying to communicate that they are in pain or not well. This type of barking when sounds different and has a tone of distress.
If your German Shepherd is suddenly barking and vocalizing when they normally don’t, something may be wrong. There will usually be other indications if this is the case. If you have any doubts, have your vet check them over.
Pent up energy
German Shepherds are an active high energy dog. They require at least 1 hour of exercise a day, but will never say no to more. For a guide to exercise for a German Shepherd see here.
Without the opportunity to release all that pent up energy and to challenge their minds they can develop behavior problems. These behavior problems are not only limited to nuisance barking.
They can also include digging, destructive behavior and escaping to explore on their own. In some cases, frustration can lead to aggressive behavior.
German Shepherds are a smart and clever dog. They require plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment to challenge and tire their minds.
Boredom is one of the main causes of many dog behavior problems including nuisance barking. For more on mental stimulation and enrichment for dogs see here.
Territorial and protective barking
When a person or an animal comes into an area your dog considers their territory they will usually bark excessively. As the threat gets closer, the barking often gets louder.
German Shepherds make excellent guard dogs and will warn you of any perceived threats. You don’t necessarily want to stop all warning barking. However, they should learn to stop when you tell them it is ok.
Many dogs will bark at any person, other animals, or objects that startles them or they are not sure of. This is fear-based behavior and may need to be managed. It can result in behaviors such as lunging and barking at people or dogs and anxiety such as separation anxiety. Some German Shepherds can be prone to fear aggression.
Dogs will often bark when playing or greeting someone. This can lead to them becoming overexcited and the barking tends to increase and become more frantic.
Overexcitement is a state of mind. A dog doesn’t go from 0 to 100 in one step. The key is to catch the state of mind early and calm them. The higher the level of excitement, the more difficult it becomes to settle them.
Separation or isolation anxiety
Many dog owners get complaints that their dog is barking all day while they are not home. This type of issue normally has other behaviors associated with it including destructive behavior, pacing, whining, escaping and toileting in the house.
For more on anxiety in dogs when home alone see here.
How do I get my German Shepherd to stop barking
Yelling at your German Shepherd to stop usually doesn’t work and often makes them bark more. To a dog you yelling is like barking. They think you are barking so they think they should bark some more.
Physical punishment is also not a good approach to take. This is more likely to make your German Shepherd fearful and can result in anxiety or even aggression.
There are many different suggested ways to fix a dog with a nuisance barking issue. Every dog is different and what works with one dog may not with another.
If you are dealing with an extreme barking issue or nothing has worked you may want to consider working with an experienced and qualified dog trainer or behaviorist.
These are some possible approaches to take to fix a nuisance barking issue with your German Shepherd. The approach you take will depend on what you have determined to be the causes and triggers.
Teach the quiet command
There is a number of ways to teach this command. The simplest way is to say “quiet” and hold a treat in front of their nose when they bark. Praise them for being quiet and give them the treat.
Alternatively, a highly effective way of teaching this to a German Shepherd is to teach them to bark on command.This may seem counter intuitive but once they can bark on command they will quickly learn to be quiet on command.
There are several ways to approach this. The first is to use a capture technique. When you catch your German Shepherd barking, reward them and give the “speak” command. Alternatively, you can provoke them to bark and them reward.
It is often a good idea to train a puppy using crate training. Crate training can assist in potty training and avoiding destructive behavior. It also helps to teach a puppy or even an adult dog not to bark.
The puppy or dog soon learns that they are not released from the crate while they are making a noise.
Increase exercise and mental enrichment
As stated above, pent up energy and boredom are a common cause of a barking issue. Increase the amount of daily exercise and provide more mental stimulation and enrichment for your German Shepherd.
Suggest ways to increase enrichment and stimulation for your German Shepherd include
- Puzzle toys – see here for suggested puzzle toys
- Learning new commands and tricks
- Chewing see here for the psychological benefits of chewing for dogs
- Food enrichment – see here to learn more
- Enrich their environment – see here to learn more
Use calming techniques
A calm hold is a technique used to settle and calm a dog. Simply place your hand on the side of your dog’s shoulder just holding them still. Don’t make eye contact with them and you don’t even need to say anything.
You can hold your German Shepherd by the collar if you wish to hold them in place with your other hand on the shoulder. If you wish you can say something like “Relax” in a calm monotone unemotional tone. Once your GSD has relaxed you can remove your hand. This video also shows a similar technique you can try.
Distract or redirect behavior
When your German Shepherd barks, distract their attention from the trigger. This can simply be something like throwing a toy for them. Another trick is to have them lay down. It is difficult for them to bark while laying.
Remove them from the situation
If your German Shepherd barks at people or animals passing by the window close the curtains or put your dog in another room. Alternatively, if they are in the yard, bring them inside.
Ignore the behavior
If your German Shepherd is barking to get your attention you should ignore them. You can even turn your back and cross your arms or simply walk away. They will soon learn that barking does not get them what they want – attention.
Desensitize your German Shepherd to the stimulus
Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing them to bark. Start with the stimulus at a distance. Move the stimulus a little closer and feed treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to a good experience or reward.
Summary – German Shepherd barking problems
German Shepherds were originally bred as herding and guard dogs. For this reason, barking is a breed-specific function for German Shepherds.
They are not known for excessive barking for no reason. If your German Shepherd is barking a lot at anything that moves or every sound they hear it is a training or other behavior issue.
The tips and techniques discussed above will help to identify the causes and triggers of their barking and find a way to solve the issue.
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