Can you imagine a life without being able to talk? Would be pretty boring and miserable, right?
Well, apart from sniffing and body language, barking is a dog’s main form of communication. So, you have to allow some light barking every now and then.
But, sometimes you might want to know how to stop your German Shepherd’s excessive barking when they start barking at everything – at strangers, at other dogs, at night time, aggressive barking, excessive puppy barking + more!
Sometimes it just doesn’t stop, and it can not only irritate you, but your neighbours and the general public.
With this guide, we’ve tried to help you understand why your German Shepherd might bark, how to identify excessive barking, and how to stop excessive barking if you are at that point already.
In instances like aggressive barking for example, if you think either your dog or other animal and humans might be at risk of harm, go see a vet or professional trainer immediately.
You are ultimately responsible for your dog’s actions.
How To Stop A German Shepherd From Excessive Barking: At Other Dogs, At Strangers, At Night + More
Why Do German Shepherds Bark?
We’ve established that barking is a form of communication for dogs (so a dog could bark at or because of absolutely anything), but specific reasons a dog may may are:
1. Genetics – if you look at a German Shepherd’s genetics, they are a herding breed.
They may instinctually want to herd people or other animals up – which is what they were originally bred for.
Also, some dogs have a high prey drive which they used to chase down prey and attack (before being domesticated).
A German Shepherd may bark whilst herding or chasing people or other animals.
2. To Greet/Excitement – dogs might get excited when you get home, when they meet new people, when they meet new dogs, when they are in a new environment etc.
They may bark in excitement or as a greeting in these situations.
3. Boredom/Loneliness – like humans when they are left alone or have nothing to do, dogs get bored and lonely sometimes.
As a release and for something to stimulate their mind, they may bark.
4. Separation Anxiety – Separation anxiety can be serious – like any type of anxiety. So, you should see a vet if you expect the condition is bad.
But, separation anxiety is when your dog has built up a dependence on you, and when you have to leave them – to go to work, to go on holiday etc. – they get bad anxiety.
They may bark in this situation as part of their anxiety condition, until you return.
5. Fear – Dogs might get scared or experience fear in situations where they they have ben mistreated in the past, when they haven’t been socialised or trained properly, and generally when they either expect something bad is going to happen to them, or they don’t know what is going to happen at all.
Barking out of fear or being scared is a warning (usually to other animals and humans) that if they don’t back away, the dog might get aggressive and potentially nip or bite to defend itself.
Dogs might also bark out of fear at say thunder or loud noises for example where they feel vulnerable and barking is a way of communicating that.
6. Territoriality or Dominance – dogs are territorial by nature – some more than others.
When someone or something comes into your yard or house, your dog may bark as a way of saying “You’re on my property, and you need to leave”.
Some dogs might be super dominant. If the dog is dominant in an aggressive way – this can be dangerous.
7. To Get Your Attention – Some GSD’s like a lot of affection and attention, and some are more independent.
Your dog may bark to get your attention because they may want to play with you, they may want a pat, or they may just want to spend time with you.
8. As A Warning To Threats – Dogs may see strangers and other animals as a threat to themselves or you.
In this instance, they are trying to protect themselves or members of their pack, and bark to warn the threat to back off.
9. They Are In Pain – Maybe your dog is sick or has been injured.
Barking might be their way of communicating this to you.
What Is Excessive Barking, and What Is Acceptable Barking?
This can be subjective, as it comes down to the opinion of the owner or others that are effected by the barking.
Rather than list what acceptable barking is, it’s probably easier to identify what would be classified as excessive barking.
Excessive barking might be:
- When your dog barks at absolutely everything regularly (humans, other animals, inanimate objects)
- When the barking lasts longer than a few minutes at a time
- When the barking behavior is not justified in any reasonable way
- When your dog’s barking behavior is vastly different to most other dogs
- When the barking starts to hurt your ears or make you irritated on a consistent basis
- When other people (friends, neighbours etc.) begin to consistently complain about the barking
- When you no longer have control over the barking of your dog – they don’t listen when you give them the command to stop or leave the situation
- When the barking starts to transition into aggressive or undesirable behavior like snarling or nipping – especially towards humans
How To Stop Excessive Barking
Before you look at how to stop the barking, you might want to make sure you have done the following:
- Socialised the dog from a young age
- Taken the dog to basic obedience
- Spent regular time with the dog and built up a solid relationship with them where they respect you and trust you as their owner and leader
- Spent some time doing basic positive reinforcement or reward type training to minimise the barking
There is no reasonable way an owner can expect the dog to know acceptable behaviour if the proper time and training has not been put into the dog at any stage.
If you have done those things, and your dog still barks, you might look at the following:
- Identify if it’s an environmental factor that is making your dog bark – can you remove that environmental factor, or familiarise your dog with it safely, so your dog gradually stops the barking? Or, maybe you need to ADD something to the environment if your dog is bored, lonely, not getting enough socialisation etc. Can you walk them more, get them bones to chew on or toys to play with?
- Be completely honest with yourself – look at your lifestyle, and what your dog’s requirements are, and how much time and attention you actually give to your dog – are you a fit for each other? Although you should always make those considerations BEFORE getting a dog, there’s always a possibility it doesn’t quite work out – and you might looking for a new loving home where someone can give your dog the time and attention they deserve.
- Identify if there is an internal issue with your dog – if your dog barks at everything and its not something specific, there may be something going on inside the dog that triggers the barking. Keep note of your dog’s behaviors and the things they bark at.
The important thing from those steps is to pay attention to exactly what the dog barks at, what triggers the barking, and how the dog is reacting.
Are there things you can take away or add to the situation to stop the barking?
Are you actually a good fit for your dog?
Might there be something going on inside your dog that you need more help to manage or assess?
What You Might Do If You Can’t Stop Your German Shepherd’s Barking
If you either can’t remove the environmental factor, or you suspect there is something going on with the dog internally (maybe they have been mistreated in the past, or they have developed a mental condition for example), you might:
- Go to your vet (who may refer you to an animal behavior specialist). The vet could do any number of things like prescribe medication. An animal behaviour specialist might make an assessment on your dog’s personality/temperament and let you know if anything seems unnatural + come up with a plan for you and your dog
- Get the opinion of a professional dog trainer – they may suggest your dog go to specialised training to minimise the barking. They may even suggest training devices like an e collar or an anti bark collar
- Try non electronic bark control training strategies – such as positive reinforcement redirection training. Redirection training involves interrupting the barking, and redirecting your dog’s attention to another stimulus such as a toy for example. You can also try redirection training with a clicker or dog whistle.
- Try electronic bark control training strategies – as mentioned above, some people might use an e collar or an anti bark collar for bark training. These devices can deliver a static stimulation as a correction to deter against barking, or in the case of an e collar – even a tone or vibration. Read about the best bark collars in this guide, and about remote e collars in this guide
At this point if the barking persists – you should have enough information and the help of experts to make an informed decision on what is causing the barking and what you can do about it.
My German Shepherd Is Barking At Other Dogs
This could be due to:
- Wanting to greet the dog
- Territorial behavior or dominance
- Your dog sees the other dog as a threat
Socialisation and basic training should fix most of this – but sometimes dog’s just don’t like other specific dogs.
If the other dog belongs to a stranger, the best way to deal with it (if socialisation is not an option) is to keep the dogs apart, or out of each other’s vision and/or hearing.
If the dog is a new dog you want to bring into the family, you should always let the dogs meet each other first (on a leash and safely) before you buy.
My German Shepherd Is Barking At Strangers
Similar the above.
This could be due to:
- Wanting to greet the person
- Territorial behavior – like warning a stranger or the postman to leave the premises
- Fear of humans
- Your dog sees the human as a threat to themselves or you
Socialisation and basic obedience should deal with most of this.
If not, you may choose to see a professional if the barking becomes really irritating, or aggressive.
My German Shepherd Is Barking Aggressively
Aggressive barking can turn dangerous very quickly.
If you sense your dog, other animals or humans are in any sort of danger, you’d want to remove the dog from the situation immediately and seek professional help.
The reasons could be anything – but, the main ones are usually either that the dog is scared/in fear, or the dog is overly dominant.
My German Shepherd Is Barking At Night
This is where you get really irritated and your neighbours can too.
Barking at night specifically might be caused by:
- Your dog being left alone to sleep by themselves
- Your dog could associate the night time with any number of undesirable situations or factors
Try to provide your dog with a safe and comfortable dog bed to sleep in, a favorite toy, and get them used to the idea of sleeping by themselves.
If your dog really struggles, it’s possible they may have separation anxiety from being away from you at night.
My German Shepherd Puppy Is Barking Excessively
If your German Shepherd is still a puppy, you have to put up with a little bit of yapping and barking whilst they get used to the world and make sense of it.
Certainly make sure you socialise and give basic obedience training to your puppy, and that you spend adequate time with them so they get comfortable with you.
Give them enough time to familiarise themselves with you, your home, other humans and animals, walks etc.
Pay attention to what the other puppies in the obedience classes bark at, and how other puppies behave during socialisation – does your puppy stick out like a sore thumb with their barking?
If you think something out of the ordinary might be up after the first 3-6 months, you might decide to pay a visit to a professional.
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