Excessive dog barking is a commonly reported nuisance, both for the owner and for neighbors in particular. A barking German Shepherd can wake up the neighbors two roads away! In this public article we are looking at your barking dog, not how to stop the barking of a neighbor's dog.
Before we discuss causes and remedies for a barking dog, note that you should not aim to stop barking altogether because barking is a dog's natural way to vocalize feelings - like you speak to your spouse or children or friend, or priest or taxman.
The latter already indicates: Dog barking is dog talk, and as such barking may have an entirely friendly nature, or an entirely hostile nature, or anything in between. Genetically, dogs are meant to bark. However, this should not and need not become a nuisance for you or others!
To control dog barking you do not need a bark collar or such nonsense. That's a total waste of money! We are not saying that none of them work, we say: You don't need such nonsense, you can do much better: Identify the CAUSE of barking and then address that CAUSE. Everything else is short-term palliation, a fake solution.
So let's briefly go through here. First, why dogs bark?
Dog Barking Causes
- The dog may want to alert you of perceived "danger"
- The dog may be scared
- The dog may be hungry or thirsty
- The dog may need to relieve immediately
- The dog may bark to demonstrate dominance or possession of an item
- The dog may be bored and seek your attention
- The dog may be excited
- The dog may be communicating with a distant dog
- The dog may suffer pain and use the barking to serve as a valve
You see, there is quite a large number of very different reasons why dogs bark, and your German Shepherd barking may have any of these causes. Which cause for barking it is in your case, you can now identify through conscious observation! Nonetheless, more help with this you find at the end.
Dog Barking Control
Once you have identified the CAUSE of the German Shepherd barking with the help of the above, you are well on your way to control the dog barking. To help you with this as well, we will now systematize the above causes of dog barking into three main categories:
- Alarm barking
- Anxiety barking
- Barking for attention
These are dealt with in detail in our free MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL, so it makes no sense to copy that all out here.
Dog Barking Solutions
Note that Anxiety barking is always caused by lack of socialization (say, the determined postman is approaching the property). And excessive Alarm barking is caused by lack of socialization (say, the dog feels alarmed by a passing butterfly).
While Barking for attention is caused by something else, most times:
a) neglecting the dog's needs (hopefully not)
b) not being the accepted Pack leader for the dog
So now let's associate the dog barking causes with the three main categories of dog barking:
- Alarm barking: 1 only!
- Anxiety barking: 2 only!
- Barking for attention: 3a, 4a, 5b, and 6b!
Barking causes 7, 8, and 9 above are not part of the three main categories listed here, and they are short-lived anyway, so these barking causes will not be a nuisance to anyone.
How to stop excessive barking
With all the insight gained above we can now associate the barking causes with the barking solutions:
The dog may want to alert you of perceived "danger": This is Alarm barking, and as such very welcome! However, if you feel that often your dog's perceived "danger" is no real danger to you, then focus on dog socialization. Make sure that you accustom your dog to all the things that alarm your dog, such that your dog no longer feels alarmed!
The dog may be scared: This is Anxiety barking, and as such it's only fair - and health-wise and behavior-wise very important! - that again you focus on dog socialization: accustom your dog to all the things that make your dog anxious, such that you build up a confident GSD!
The dog may be hungry or thirsty: This is Barking for attention, and obviously this barking is very much justified. So make sure that there are always two fresh-water bowls available to your dog when you are away, and do not feed dry dog food! Consider taking the dog's rectal body temperature to rule out fever in case you feel your dog is drinking excessively. If you identified your dog is hungry, consider to increase feeding times as that is much healthier than serving larger meals.
The dog may need to relieve immediately: This is Barking for attention, and again this barking is very much justified. Take your dog for a walk straight away, and while you walk consider the two prime causes of unusual times or unusual frequency to relieve: a) diet change, and b) dog is unwell. Or otherwise maybe you simply forgot to take the dog out?
The dog may bark to demonstrate dominance or possession of an item: This is Barking for attention, and arguably this barking is not justified. Make sure that you establish yourself and every family member as accepted Pack leader - our famous Feeding Routine is the best means to do that. With a German Shepherd, we cannot risk that the dog thinks (s)he is the boss!
The dog may be bored and seek your attention: This is Barking for attention, and arguably this barking is not justified (assuming you are spending time with your dog once a while). In this case again most important is that you establish yourself as accepted Pack leader.
Excessive attention-seeking indicates two things: a) The dog is not a Solitaire (cannot occupy himself with Play), (s)he needs you to avoid boredom (boredom is poison for dogs); and b) The dog feels that (s)he can disturb you and get your attention at will, ie that (s)he is the Pack leader! Obviously both is not good, and so then you should work on both these points. To help a dog to learn to play (including alone), Pat Miller's Play with your dog is of great help.
Never forget that a bit of barking is healthy for your German Shepherd too, it clears the throat, releases tension, and significantly reduces other, more disturbing behaviors: chewing on forbidden items, jumping up, scratching on furniture, pacing through the house, and even attention-seeking. Barking is dog talk, so do not aim to stop barking altogether, only control barking times, duration, and frequency in different situations.
In the beginning you read: "Which cause for barking it is in your case, you can now identify through conscious observation", and I said you would find even more help at the end. This is here.
How to identify the CAUSE for a barking dog
Next time when your dog barks, first try to determine if the behaviour is warranted. Can you rule out that your dog is ill or suffers pain? Could it be that your dog urgently needs to relieve - again? Is someone or something intruding the dog's assumed territory? Could your GSD feel bored or lonely? Could your dog have noticed some form of danger that you haven't yet noticed or that you don't consider as such? Is there anything that might irritate or scare your dog?
You can almost bet that it is one such reason. In most of these cases you do not really have grounds to require your dog to be quiet. After all, a dog is a dog, not a human - and people don't always shut up either, do they? When you have a close bonding with your dog it is natural that you may sometimes forget this fact. Most dog owners do.
Clues for CAUSES of German Shepherd Barking
To rule out any of the earlier mentioned causes of dog barking, and to identify the specific cause in the present situation, you can seek out clues. For example, ask yourself:
- When does my dog bark?
- What is my dog barking at?
- Where is my German Shepherd when (s)he is barking?
- Has there been a specific trigger that made my dog start to bark?
- What did ultimately stop the dog barking?
- Are there any re-occurences of any of these factors?
This will go a LONG way to help you to control your dog's barking! If you want, take notes.
Also consider this: Just as much as you may sometimes not understand why your dog is barking, and not accept that (s)he is barking, your dog too will often not understand why you want to stop the barking at all! In fact, in many situations it must significantly confuse your German Shepherd that you are persistently trying to stop the barking. Because the dog feels (s)he has good reason to bark, maybe even instinctively in your own best interest!
In that case, the more you insist that your dog stops barking, the more your dog will suffer a conflict if the barking trigger remains.
German Shepherd Barking and Neighbors
Don't be afraid to ask your neighbors if your dog barks or whines when you are away. Separation Anxiety is a real problem for German Shepherds, and barking because of Separation Anxiety is a real nuisance for neighbors. But you can find out if you openly talk to your neighbors about it. They will appreciate that you are proactive in solving a potential problem for them!