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German Shepherd Barking


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

  1. The dog may want to alert you of perceived "danger"
  2. The dog may be scared
  3. The dog may be hungry or thirsty
  4. The dog may need to relieve immediately
  5. The dog may bark to demonstrate dominance or possession of an item
  6. The dog may be bored and seek your attention
  7. The dog may be excited
  8. The dog may be communicating with a distant dog
  9. 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:

oneThe 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!


twoThe 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!


threeThe 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 f f f f f f f f available to your dog when you are away, and do not feed dry dog food! Consider taking the dog's rectal body temperature f f f f f f f f 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.

fourThe 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? ;-)


fiveThe 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!


sixThe 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 f f f f f f f f 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!

  18 Responses to “German Shepherd Barking”


    This did not address the issue I have with my GSD’s. They bark at the neighbors dogs each and every time they come outside. My female will sound the alert and then stop but my male will not stop until I physically remove him from the fence line. The neighbor dogs are small dogs that bark back but are no threat. My dogs do not display this behavior with my small dogs or with other dogs at the vet or pet store. What reason causes this and how can I correct it?


      The article cannot address an individual situation I wasn’t told about ;-)

      Now that you are telling me of your problem, this is my advice:
      1) Find out if your neighbor’s small dogs have any ‘feature’ about them that all the other dogs you mention don’t have. (It sounds like some of the other dogs are small too? So then, that discriminating ‘feature’ is not size, it must be something else).

      2) If you cannot identify ANYthing, then I’d bet your dogs bark at those neighbor’s dogs due to territorial aggression!

      In that case, you need to desensitize your dogs from that territorial border (the fence). This is too much to explain in a comment form, but as MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG member you would learn about desensitization as well.

      Either case, it certainly is just a training issue, meaning you can and will get to grips with it.


    My 23mth GSD barks at anything and everything.
    especially people walking past the house who are never closer than 12-15mtrs away.
    Both my neighbours and I are at are our wits end.
    I’ve tried the Husher muzzle, a normal muzzle & citronella collar. I’ve resorted to keeping him indoors and for the most part crated, as if left unattended he will chew…anything.
    My partner doesn’t think there is an issue (regardless of the numerous neighbour complaints to me, the council and my landlord), however despite being ‘my’ dog he only responds to my partner.
    He’s been trained at a specialist center as a boarder (trainer described him as the most stubborn GSD he’s ever met).
    I’m selling him now but want to know the best home/owner for him to go to as I want him to happy and settled, which he clearly isn’t with me.


      ?? Do you WANT to keep him? If you do, why not putting a bit of effort into training him RIGHT? Won’t require more than a bit. Sounds like just too much was done wrong (partner/trainer).


    My GSD only barks inside the house. Whenever he hears (or thinks he hears as the TV confuses him at times!) a car door, door bell, person walking outside, etc. I actually don’t mind the alert, but he barks for minutes on end. I’d like to be able to end the barking after 10 seconds or so on command – especially when it’s 2am. Obviously its not possible to remove the outside stimulus that’s causing him to bark. Any ideas?


    I appreciate your article and recommendations for behavior change procedures that are not punitive. I must correct some terminology that has been misapplied:

    “First of all, if you for example realize that your GSD is barking to protect its territory or because it is alarmed by something, you certainly shouldn’t start yelling at your dog, kicking it or hitting it to make it stop barking. Any form of negative reinforcement is likely to ultimately result in German Shepherd Biting or German Shepherd Aggression of another form – and will make a stronger bonding with your dog very unlikely.”

    Sorry for the long quote but I wanted to show the context. “Negative reinforcement” actually refers to escape from or avoidance of an unpleasant situation so that the behavior increases. The actual behavioral terminology (I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst) of “negative” means removal of a stimulus and “reinforcement” means increasing behavior. Thus, to negatively reinforce a dog’s barking, you would remove an aversive stimulus in order that his barking would increase. I’m sure that is not what you meant to say above.

    So if you add a stimulus, like kicking, yelling, hitting, etc., and that decreases the behavior, the appropriate term is actually “positive punishment.”

    I know the terminology sounds funny. We always think “positive” = “good” and “negative” = “bad”. But really it’s just like math. “Positive” = “add” and “negative” = “remove”.

    “Reinforcement” = “increase behavior” and “punishment” = “decrease behavior”.

    I hope this helps you and other readers and I hope no offense was taken, as it surely was not intended. Cheers!


      First of all thanks so much for taking the time to read and I really appreciate your comment!

      As noted we are all academics at MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG and while our background allows us to publicize insights, findings, and concepts in our PERIODICALS that are established or about to be established in science, the language we use to communicate them needs to reflect how the general public speaks – or we won’t be understood.

      Further, although (or because?) I – Tim – am not an English native speaker, I aim to use all vocabulary in their original sense, ie based on their Etymology, not based on any interpretation instigated by some organization (or initially individual).

      “reinforcement means increasing behavior”: No. This is a modern interpretation.

      To “reinforce” means to strengthen, to refresh, and to support. Since to do any of this you need to add some form of resource, some people have shortened the meaning of the word “reinforcement” to “addition” or “increase”. This is an interpretation, not the meaning of the word. Further, “addition” and “increase” are semantically not even the same.

      “Positive = add” and “negative = remove”: No. This is how elementary school teachers try to get their young pupils to grasp basic mathematical calculations, namely addition and subtraction. But “positive” and “add” – and likewise “negative” and “remove” – are semantically not even the same: “positive” and “negative” is a state, “add” and “remove” is an action.

      “Positive” has multiple etymological meanings, and the only one sensible for our subject here is the one that’s customarily understood: beneficial, helpful, good.

      While I am well aware of the interpretation of certain terminology that you kindly quoted above, please appreciate that it doesn’t help dog owners and trainers if we confuse them with, what you call “funny” terminology.

      While I too desire to write in a “funny” way, I despise all interpretation of customary terminology that helps to confuse the general public (or academics for that matter). The mentioned interpretation I despise all the more, since I noticed that its emergence coincides with when the public started to heavily criticize a certain dog trainer for his harsh training methods. This suggests that it may have been him who then instigated the nonsensical interpretation of customary terminology that you above called “funny”.

      Sadly, like a few other organizations, the (young) BACB has opted to adopt this (possibly “funny” but clearly nonsensical) interpretation of customary terminology. Maybe you can help to convince them of the benefits of using clear language to educate dog owners and trainers, rather than to confuse them?

      I too hope this helps you and other readers and I trust no offense was taken, as it surely was not intended. After all, you and I, your organization and my organization, individual dog owners and trainers alike, we all are in the same boat: Improve the understanding of canines and the dog-human relationship!


    I’ve had my German Shepherd for 6wks now and he’s only 14wks old but he barks every night between 12am – 4am. I’m pretty sure its due to separation anxiety. I’ve tried ignoring him, disrupting his barking with louder noises, rewarding him when he’s quiet, spraying him, closing his mouth, shock collar (which he challenges) .. almost everything every night but he doesn’t stop. I’m worried our neighbors will file a complaint soon. What can I do?????? I’m running out of options.


      Oh Priscilla!
      > I’ve tried ignoring him, disrupting his barking with louder noises, rewarding him when he’s quiet, spraying him, closing his mouth, shock collar (which he challenges) .. almost everything every night but he doesn’t stop.

      Shock collar, closing his mouth, spraying him,… every night!? How can that possibly help? Other than ruining the dog-human relationship?
      You’ve now MUCH more work than you’d have had, had you applied the right advice from the start.

      I’d have subscribed here, studied the Periodicals each week, and be cheerful.
      Since you haven’t, here’s the Stop Barking Periodical for you as a courtesy: Stop Barking. Enjoy! :-)


    Hi there Tim! Glad to hear you weren’t offended. You know, you are really an excellent writer, and I absolutely appreciate your desire not to confuse people with “funny” terminology. I must say, it is not my terminology, nor is it that of the BACB. It is actually terminology that has been used in the scientific literature on human and non-human (animal) behavior for many decades. You can thank the behavioral psychologists for these interpretations on the English language. I’m not sure who you were referring to in your reply to me, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the right person.

    But on a related note, why bother with scientific terminology (such as “negative reinforcement”) at all if the public is likely to misunderstand it’s scientific meaning? Why not just say what you mean to say, which is “punishment”? I think we can all agree on the meaning of that word! :)


      Gosh, sometimes I can’t see the wood for the trees, you are damn right, I will just write “punishment” in future!! Punishment versus Motivation.

      Thanks so much Liz!


    Hi i adopted a 3 year old male gsd April 2013. He wasn’t socialised or walked very often at all. He has half an ear missing which owner said he was like it as a puppy (we’re not sure how true that is). He is good as gold except he always barks and pulls towards other dogs. He does this on walks and sat in the car. He has managed to be around a couple of dogs which he just wanted to play with but im struggling to control the barking behaviour. He is worse on lead than off lead but will only do as told if no dogs are around so he has to go on lead if anyone is in sight. Please advise me. He wont take treats or toy distraction once he has seen another dog


      >Hi i adopted a 3 year old male gsd
      Thank you Zoe! I am happy to give you access to our stop-barking training without subscribing (which apparently you don’t do) however I know that it won’t help you much since you lack the background/ the basic training (again, since you aren’t subscribed).
      So, I feel to really help you I’d better send you our Adult Dog Training Essentials as free pdf, and I will do that right now :-)

      Pl report back here once it has helped you to solve his issues, okay?


    We have a 9 month old purebred GSD. male, that we got @ 10 weeks old. His barking is increasing and we live in a neighborhood with neighbors that filed complaints requiring us to get rid of a dog many years ago. We don’t believe in shock collards but do not want to be forced to part with another dog. ): We have gone through extensive training with him and tried multiple other methods. The other barking he does is from inside the house, at anyone walking within a block of our house day or night. ): Advice?


      Loads. See the Barking Periodical.
      I am shocked by your neighbors reaction years ago. Is there no way to get rid of them? ;-)
      Seriously, it is easier to get dog barking under control than a litigious neighbor (although the latter would annoy me more).
      By all means, don’t get a shock collar – you will raise an aggressive dog!


    What if your GSD puppy is barking at anyone that comes in the house that they don’t know? Yes I expect it for the first few minutes when someone arrives, new or otherwise, but my GSD girl will keep barking at someone for up to 30 minutes.

    When watching her body language it would appear that she is not all hyped up, tail is not up or in any kind of flagging position. Usually quite level, wagging most times as well. But the fur on her withers will stand up and on her butt too slightly as if to starting to be defensive and look ‘bigger’.

    I have tried a few things so far, with not much success. I get the most success with just plain desensitization because the more someone comes over the less she barks at them. The first that I still use as it is the most effective is telling her that the person is OK, touching that person and of course letting her have her way with them sniffing them as much as she chooses, then ignoring her entirely until she calms down. This works, until the guest looks at her or tries to pet her after she has come up to them several times. Treats work sometimes, but it really depends on the person.

    I have also tried to make sure that she sees me open the door and invite the person in (as I am her ‘person’ currently, spend the most time with her, due to my flexibility with my job, and I have had more dog experience than my husband) so that she can see that I have granted them passage to the house. This didn’t help at all.

    What I fear is that I am creating a monster, that this is only the beginning and in some way I am allowing her to be ‘boss’ over me. As horse trainer I understand the need to put myself in the position of ‘leader’ and I fear that I am failing at this in some major way.

    I have always had rescue animals until this puppy, she is my first puppy ever. So while I am adept with the mature animals I fear that I am not doing my puppy justice because I just don’t know any better.

    Thoughts or ideas on what I could be doing differently to allow her to bark when I know she should be but to get her to settle more quickly when I tell her that it is OK that those people are there. I appreciate and love the GSD for their announcing folks, but they only have to do it for a few minutes, not 30. I have to say my last GSD granted he was barely 2 when I got him was not an alarm, he was a herding machine, never seen anything like it, never taught him a thing, but he would help with the sheep and when the cow got out, put them all back in without causing a stampede.


      Lara, thanks for saving my time.
      Your case is easy: You are NOT your pup’s accepted Pack leader – regardless what you are thinking you are. For acceptance only counts what your dog is thinking. Also, your pup is not properly socialized. I’d follow the Puppy Development Guide – Puppy 101 to the letter.

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