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End GSD Excessive Barking!

 Reviewed 11 March 2019 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto

==> Nerves wrecked? Neighbors complaining?

Address German Shepherd Excessive Barking immediately

Is your German Shepherd barking a lot? Too much for your liking?

Are your neighbors complaining, your nerves wrecked, or people scared? Or even the police closing in? wink

Or are you simply struggling to stop your GSD from barking at certain people or certain things your dog sees or hears?

No matter which issue you are facing, if it's about excessive barking, then this MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL should meet your needs.

  1. Why do dogs bark?
  2. Causes of Barking and your Response
  3. Benefits of Barking
  4. How to Stop excessive Barking

1. Why do dogs bark?

First of all, from your dog's standpoint:


Think about it: We talk about everything we feel, hear or see - even to ourselves. More so: Many people talk to some imaginary entity they hope or fear exists. And: Many people talk to their plants too. wink

To dogs, all this would appear outright insane (had dogs a concept of sanity versus insanity). Why? Because dogs typically only talk:

  • consciously to communicate with their environment (us or other people, another dog or other animal)
  • and consciously or subconsciously to warn and fend off perceived danger - including in their sleep!

So, dogs do not talk to plants, dogs do not talk to an imaginary entity, and dogs do not talk to themselves. Very different to people, indeed.

When dogs bark, they bark to communicate, or to warn and fend off perceived danger. That's it.

This is absolutely crucial insight, because it helps you to understand and appreciate your dog's barking!

Most dogs, including German Shepherds, really only bark (talk!) when they expect that their body language alone may go unnoticed!

Dogs normally avoid barking because it drains a lot of their energy - see Energy Tools in the Dog Training Toolkit. And because they know that their body language is much more precise - if only the people and other animals understand the dog's body language as well as the dog understands theirs?

Proof? Sure. Just look and listen how much and how easily dogs bark in moderate climate - and yes, how aggressive they are on average. Now compare this to the average dog behavior in hot climate: I've now been in the Algarve for a year, and even in winter when it's not so hot, I've not yet heard one of the many stray dogs bark. No aggression at all. Not even a fight among them when one of the dogs was able to secure some meat! In the heat, both barking and aggression would drain their energy! Energy that they feel they may need to retain to find some water.

Very different to dogs in London, New York, or Toronto.

2. Causes of Barking and your Response

It is our responsibility to understand our dog's needs and reasons for barking. Also, we need to realize that barking may be a nuisance to us, our neighbors, or whoever at that moment - but with the right training (listen above), barking actually can become a positive quality of our German Shepherd Dog.

Basically, like your spouse probably sometimes tells you to "Be quiet for a moment, will ya?", and other times asks you for your opinion "What do you think of this?" (ie the spouse/partner trains you when to talk and how much to talk - and possibly even what to talk about) - you can do the same with your dog. You can train your dog when to bark, how much to bark, and what to bark about. smile

Meaning, you can indeed train your dog to stop excessive barking, ie to stop barking for reasons you absolutely don't want to accept.

Now, since Barking is Talking:

If you want your GSD to bark less, first consider how much you talk to your dog?

Or more generally: How much attention do you give your dog?

Or more precisely: In what situation do you give attention to your dog?!

And is that attention with your body language or with your voice - possibly even resorting to commands??!

Your dog does indeed consider all of this, and (s)he will behave depending on how you behave. This will become very clear in about eight months.

Why is this the key consideration?

See above: Why do dogs bark - first point: to communicate with you like you do with the dog! Dogs adapt to us much more than we adapt to them.

Now the second point. This relates directly to a simple question - one that most dog owners find too difficult to answer correctly: Who is the accepted Pack leader? See again The Prime Secret about dogs, which you received already two months ago.

Because, if your German Shepherd is barking a lot, it is almost certainly because your dog feels as Pack leader - who aims to fend off all perceived danger from its Pack (ie you and your family) - unless in your case it's the first point, to communicate with you like you do with the dog?

It is only when you start to consistently demonstrate that you are the Pack leader that your GSD will become more submissive and accept your assessment of perceived 'danger'. Note that what a dog perceives as danger is not what we perceive as danger:

  • a neighbor coming 'too close' to our fence while cutting the bushes or mowing the lawn
  • a bird settling 'too close' to our house or us in person, while making excessive noise
  • another dog approaching 'too close' on the other side of the road
  • the postman getting 'too close' when delivering our mail
  • a passing motorbike
  • you name it!

You need not worry "If I demonstrate too much 'Pack' leadership then my dog may not defend me when there is real danger" (like assault, property invasion, and similar): If you consistently demonstrate Pack leadership in all situations like the ones listed above (and a dozen similar ones, each day) then your GSD will get used to accept your decision in all these situations.

Nonetheless, in a new and different situation, your dog will again attempt to act as Pack leader, and fend off the real danger (say, the mentioned assault, property invasion, and similar). This is because:

a) German Shepherds (and most other breeds) do notice the slightest difference in situation, and

b) all dogs attempt in every new situation to become Pack leader!

That's why I wrote above the word 'consistently'. If you consistently demonstrate Pack leadership in all situations where only your dog perceives 'danger', then you eliminate excessive barking in all such situations, while still being alerted and defended in any new situation. This is exactly what we want.

With the above we already touched on two major causes of a barking German Shepherd, namely Alarm Barking and Anxiety Barking. So, let's now explicitely address the key causes of barking:

Alarm Barking

Alarm Barking is very helpful. All guard dogs have this special ability to alarm everyone by barking, whenever they see or hear someone or something unusual and strange.

This is the most common cause of a barking German Shepherd. And if you train your German Shepherd properly, (s)he will provide you with protection and security at the risk of its life!

Your Response

  • When your GSD barks when (s)he sees a stranger coming or something unusual is happening which you feel might become a real danger (in future), then praise your dog briefly: Go to your dog, get in front of your dog, look in the same direction like your dog, and then briefly say "Thank you" - without looking at your dog, or patting your dog, or saying anything in addition! Now go back to do whatever you were doing.
  • When your GSD barks for any reason which you feel cannot become a real danger (in future), say like the list above, then ignore your dog: Do not go to your dog, do not speak to your dog, do not touch your dog. Completely ignore your dog! This may be hard at first if (s)he doesn't seem to stop barking, but the payoff in future is No More Barking in such situations. smile

Anxiety Barking

Anxiety (Separation Anxiety, Car Anxiety, and other causes of anxiety) causes your German Shepherd to be restless, nervous, or even aggressive. When your dog feels anxiety (s)he takes barking as a means of releasing negative energy. We already know that 'bottled-up' energy in your dog needs a positive way out, otherwise your dog will bark and bark until it has no more energy (or until the neighbors have called the police).

Your Response

  • The most positive way to release energy is exercise!
  • Your German Shepherd will never bark because of anxiety if you make your GSD exercise until (s)he is tired from exhaustion. Yes, it is that simple!

If your GSD consistently barks at the same barking stimulus (like, when the doorbell or phone rings, or a car passes), then you may want to address this with some targeted desensitization instead. For example, have a family member or friend ring the doorbell while you are with your dog.

Make sure that you stay completely calm when the doorbell rings, and if your dog barks, do a Collar Freeze: Hold your dog still, at the outer underside of the collar, for as long as it takes to calm down your dog (usually a few seconds only). While doing this, don't speak to your dog, don't look at your dog, and don't pat your dog at all!

Repeat the fake doorbell ringing a few times during the coming days, and always stay calm yourself. This will quickly desensitize your GSD!

Barking for Attention

For most German Shepherds, the third most common cause of barking is Barking for Attention. The GSD is a highly sociable dog breed (inside its Pack). If your GSD feels neglected, it may start barking to get your attention.

Of course, unless you are truly too negligent (your dog needs to urinate, or needs water or food), we don't want Barking for Attention! Because, if we give in here, it would demonstrate to our dog that (s)he is the Pack leader, not we. So, don't let your dog take control when it seemingly only wants your attention!

Your Response

  • Whenever you feel that your GSD is Barking for Attention, then ignore your dog.
  • Do not go to your dog, do not speak to your dog, do not touch your dog. And if your dog is trying to get on your lap, gently move your dog away with the outside of your hand/arm.

3. Benefits of Barking

Let's not forget: Barking is not only Dog Talk, it also is wonderfully helpful, and we may sooner or later much appreciate that our GSD started to bark intensely and did not want to stop! Eg, upon property invasion while we were sleeping, outbreak of a fire, or other situations that to us represent real danger.

In other words, we should only want to address excessive barking - what some people call a barking disorder.

I'd suggest you NEVER even try to eliminate barking altogether - even if you are dumb in terms of unable to speak yourself. Practice makes perfect! And a voluminous, deep and intense barking German Shepherd is a phantastic deterrent for all but the most prolific dog-experienced criminals. neutral

By all means, AVOID shock-collars and other such devices: They are both unnecessary and the wrong response. Conversely, the types of response mentioned here are entirely sufficient, appropriate, and most effective! With these types of response your GSD will quickly STOP excessive barking.

4. How to Stop excessive Barking

Barking only becomes a problem if it is excessive: Continuous barking, or barking for reasons that we don't want to accept as good reason (see above).

In such case: How do we stop excessive barking effectively?

The best ways to stop excessive barking I already introduced above and I summarize them here for you:

  • Totally ignore your dog's barking whenever you feel that ignoring the barking in the existing situation is likely to be an appropriate and safe response in future too - because consistency is key! The most obvious example when to ignore your dog are situations of barking for attention-seeking. If you are consistent, then after a short while your GSD will have 'got the message' and learned not to bark in such situations.
  • Conversely, briefly praise your dog's barking in a calm tone whenever you feel that the existing situation warrants praise to be safe in future too. Go to your dog, get in front of your dog, look in the same direction like your dog, and then briefly say "Thank you" - without looking at your dog, or patting your dog, or saying anything in addition.
  • When your dog consistently barks at a specific stimulus, desensitize your dog. Desensitization requires some specific dog training that fits to the existing stimulus.
  • Do the (almost magically effective!) Collar Freeze when you feel you cannot ignore your dog's barking although you find that ignoring would be the right response (see above), and even in situations where you do feel that an initial barking is very welcome, but you get annoyed by the consistent barking.
  • Alternatively you can do some SSCD work with your GSD (Start - Stop - Change Direction), particularly in situations when you are on a walk and your dog is on a short lead anyway. Typically, SSCD takes longer for your dog to calm down (and to 'sink in') than the Collar Freeze (if done right; see above).
  • Conversely, isolation - which is often recommended as response to barking - is generally an unsuitable response: Except in cases of stimulus-induced Anxiety Barking (where isolation 'hides' the stimulus), isolation will not normally stop the barking but may rather intensify it!
  • A phantastic way to stop excessive barking proactively is to exercise your GSD much more (all other responses above are reactively). A tired and exhausted dog does not bark!
  • For most dog owners it is fair to say that they simply don't have enough time(?) to exercise their dog as much as a German Shepherd needs daily exercise. In such cases the Varsity Ball is the ideal autonomous positive energy releaser.

Note that I did not suggest any gadgets anywhere! Like for example that bark collar thingy... This one bark collar alone sells better than hot pancakes in winter and ice-cream in summer combined!!

Why did I not suggest any gadgets whatsoever?

Isn't it crazy how many dog owners love to waste their money on totally useless/unnecessary stuff - but then pretend not to have a tiny amount to ... learn how to save this and so much more money on dog equipment, puppy classes, vet visits etc!!??

That's beyond me. rolleyes

Or can you explain it?



  • From the dog's standpoint, Barking is Talking!
  • Your dog wants to tell you something - or another person or animal.
  • If you can't understand what your dog is saying and why, you don't need to learn the bark language, only canine body language
  • As there are also wonderful benefits of barking, we should only aim to stop excessive barking (what inconsiderate people call a barking disorder)
  • The three major causes of a barking German Shepherd are:
    • Alarm Barking
    • Anxiety Barking
    • Barking for Attention
  • Any and every response we give when our dog is barking, directly impacts the degree of us or the dog becoming or remaining the accepted Pack leader! - Read again wink
  • Because the accepted Pack leader determines when barking is appropriate.
  • The right response depends on the situation, ie why the dog is barking.
  • If we feel that in the given situation barking is inappropriate, then we should aim to ignore the dog's barking. If we successfully ignore it, we have also strengthened our role as accepted Pack leader!
  • If we cannot ignore the dog's barking (yet we still find it inappropriate in the given situation), then Collar Freeze, SSCD, and/or trained desensitization are the easiest and most effective ways to reactively stop excessive barking (in this order)
  • In addition, the most effective way to proactively stop excessive barking is to provide the dog with much more exercise
  • If you don't have the time to regularly exercise this herding dog (eg because you aren't around), then probably the most effective - and possibly the only suitable - autonomous exercise instrument is the Varsity Ball
  • "My old friend" Stanley has a wonderful story about this topic: Born to Bark
  • Why is his story particularly wonderful? Because:

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