The barking of our German Shepherd or any other breed of dog can become a problem for a variety of reasons.
But as dog owners it would be unreasonable to expect that our dogs never bark. Dogs are made to bark, it is an essential method of communication that dogs cannot do without.
The question is to get excessive barking under control and what we can avoid so as not to cause discomfort and at the same time not to disturb the normal behavior of our German Shepherd.
Before we can work on how to get a German Shepherd to stop barking, we must know and understand the reasons why dogs bark.
- 1 Reasons for Excessive Barking in German Shepherds
- 2 How NOT to Stop a German Shepherd from Barking
- 3 How to Get a German Shepherd to Stop Barking?
Reasons for Excessive Barking in German Shepherds
Breed specific function
All dog breeds have a specific function in their genes. In the case of the German Shepherd as a working dog it is guarding and herding.
In a work environment barking is your German Shepherd's way of fulfilling this role.
In general German Shepherds also find the barking to be self-gratifying. With them they burn excess energy and satisfy the natural guard instinct that this breed of dog has.
Because of this, excessive barking from a German Shepherd is a problem faced by many owners.
Protection of their territory
Dogs are territorial and without fail bark at a threat to their territory. Often times, as the threat approaches, the barking will intensify.
The body language of your German Shepherd in this situation will be aggressive, keeping the tail raised and the hair bristling along their spine.
Alarmed or scared
Sometimes your dog will bark at a sound or an object, usually when scared.
For example: my male German Shepherd was once surprised by a date that fell from a palm tree onto an object he was investigating. Although the sound that caused the date to fall was not loud, it surprised him and he began to bark.
Their way of greeting and playing
Barking is their way of saying hello and playing accompanied by tail wagging and running around.
Most dogs will use barking to try to communicate if they want something.
For example: the need to go outside (use a good dog harness when outsite), order food or want to play. In these cases, there are certain occasions when an owner should not reinforce the barking and attend to the needs of the dog.
Separation anxiety is a broad topic that if only an article could cover. In most cases it represents excessive barking accompanied by compulsive behavior.
This could be; running in circles, pacing back and forth without stopping or destructive behavior.
How NOT to Stop a German Shepherd from Barking
Punishing your dog by hitting them, or hinting at punishment with a raised hand in the “ready to hit” position. This will scare your dog and make them distrustful.
And in the event that they are barking to get attention, punishing them will only reinforce the behavior.
Yelling at your dog will make them think you are joining in on the barking. Yelling will not stop your dog from barking.
In most cases, your dog will turn a deaf ear and keep barking.
Making them wear an anti-bark collar. This contraption can 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 may be associated with a person or animal present when the shock is applied. And these situations can trigger aggressiveness.
At this point you are surely wondering:
How to Get a German Shepherd to Stop Barking?
Using a pair of opposing cues is the most effective method for controlling German Shepherd barking. There are two different ways to use this technique.
Well then how does this work?
a) Teach your German Shepherd to bark from a cue
Teaching your German Shepherd the “bark” and “quiet” commands. The “bark” command is a method that is also associated with training. But it is very effective in altering excessive barking behavior.
For starters, the trick is to only reward your dog when you want them to bark. This will ensure that you do not reinforce excessive barking behavior.
How to control the excessive barking of a German Shepherd:
- Get your dog excited. Throw their favorite toy up and down or make barking noises. The point here is to get the dog excited.
- Once your dog is barking, open and close your hand as you do to indicate that someone is speaking. Meanwhile pronounce the word “bark” (or whatever you have chosen for this action).
- Mark the action and reward the dog each time they bark, so they understand what you wanted. Your German Shepherd will soon learn the lesson and connect the action of the hand with the barking and its reward.
Once your dog ‘gets it', the next step is to reward them only when they bark just once. Recognition and reward are important to show them that you only want one bark.
Once your dog fully understands the command “bark” it is time to teach the opposite command, “quiet”.
- Follow the same steps when cheering your dog up and getting them excited. This will make them bark.
- Once your dog is barking put your open hand right in front of their nose. Now say the word “quiet” in a firm but kind voice.
- When your dog stops barking, reward them for their behavior.
Your German Shepherd will soon have the ‘a-ha moment'. They will quickly make the connection that “quiet” and your hand signal means “stop barking”.
b) Counter-conditioning and desensitization
Counter-conditioning and desensitization also work on the pairing principle. In this case, you have to pair something that your dog considers good – like cheese for example – in the presence of what is causing your dog to bark.
- So the first step is to know exactly what makes your dog bark, for example the postman, motorcycles, joggers, cyclists, etc.
We are going to use a mail van in this example…
- The next step is to start conditioning your dog in the presence of the mail van. It is important to start at a distance that your dog is still comfortable with and does not bark.
If you start and the van is too close, your dog might already be too excited. They could feel more agitated and even fearful, so go slow.
- Keep a close eye on your dog's body language. If they start barking, immediately get their attention and try to reward them.
The reward must be of high value – more valuable than the satisfaction of reacting to the mail van.
Follow these steps and be consistent, as your dog becomes more desensitized, and you can get closer and closer to the mail van.