There’s nothing more embarrassing than a german shepherd barking at strangers. Not only are they incredibly loud, but because they’re so big they can also scare a lot of people.
While you know they’re not going to do any harm to people, other people aren’t so sure. And it can often result in people trying to avoid you.
If you want to stop your german shepherd from barking then keep reading to find out the 3 best ways to fix it, as well as the situations you should use each training method.
Why Do German Shepherds Bark At Strangers?
Before you learn how to stop your german shepherd barking at strangers, it’s important to know why they do it.
If you try to train them the wrong way then you’re only going to end up confusing them. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to have a great training program.
So what are the reasons your german shepherd could be barking at strangers?
Their Territorial Instinct
If your dog is barking at strangers while you’re at home whether it’s guests entering your house, or people he sees on the street then it could be their territorial instinct.
While you know that the people you bring into your home or who are walking past aren’t a threat, your dog doesn’t. All your german shepherd knows is that theirs a strange intruder entering their territory, and they don’t know what that intruder wants.
Remember, in your german shepherds mind any new creature is a threat to them.
This behavior is especially common in guard dogs such as german shepherds. And they’re trying to alert the pack (you) to the danger, or their trying to scare it away.
However, territorial barking doesn’t just stop in your home. If you walk your dog along the same routes every day then he may begin to see these routes as his territory as well. So when there’s a stranger there they’re going to see them as a threat.
And if you take your dog on a lot of car rides they can often associate the car with their territory as well. That’s why some dogs start barking like crazy the moment you put them in a car.
If they never used to bark, but now they’ve started, this is a typical sign that they’ve begun to see the area they’re barking in as their own territory.
They may not stop at strangers either. It’s not uncommon for german shepherds to bark at other dogs as well.
They’re Greeting New People
German shepherds don’t just bark at people when they think they’re in their territory, they also bark when they greet people.
However, if your dog is barking to greet people then their body language will be a lot different too, compared to when they’re barking for negative reasons.
If your german shepherd is barking at people he’s greeting then normally there will be positive body language associated with it as well. This includes a wagging tail, running in circles, jumping up, licking and pulling on their leash.
While this kind of behavior definitely needs to be dealt with, just remember that you have a really good-natured pup, who just needs a little bit of training to learn how to meet people properly.
They Haven’t Been Properly Socialized
When your German shepherd hasn’t spent much time around people they can often bark because they haven’t been socialized.
This happens most often for german shepherds that grew up on puppy mills and puppy farms as well as rescue dogs.
Even if this isn’t your german shepherd it can still happen. If you live in a remote area or your dog doesn’t get a lot of interaction with other people then he can forget how to act around them properly.
Once again you can spot a dog that hasn’t been socialized through their body language. In most cases, they’ll be frightened of anyone approaching them. You’ll feel them trying to pull away from the stranger, tucking their tail between their legs, trembling and whining.
As the stranger gets closer they’ll begin to bark angrily. This lets the strangers know they need to back away and helps your german shepherd to feel safe afterward.
(Find out more about socialising your german shepherd!)
Your German Shepherd May Just Have A Compulsion To Bark
Some german shepherds bark simply because they like to bark, or for no reason at all. They may bark when someones in their territory, when they’re excited to see people, when they’re scared.
This is one of the reasons it’s important you learn your german shepherd’s body language so you can figure out which barks they’re using and gauge how they’re feeling.
With compulsive barking your german shepherd may begin barking when a stranger is around however, they will continue barking even when no strangers are there anymore.
As well as that you’ll also notice other repetitive behaviors such as constantly nibbling their own body, and pacing.
There are also lots of different reasons behind compulsive barking including personality disorders and stress from past ordeals.
Unlike other types of barking on this list which you can solve yourself, if your german shepherd is a compulsive barker then it’s best to take them to a dog behaviorist.
3 Methods To Stop Your German Shepherd Barking
While there are lots of different methods you can use to stop your german shepherd barking some of them aren’t as effective or require the help of a professional. However, the 3 techniques you’re about to learn will help you control your german shepherds’ behavior more.
Distracting Your German Shepherd
This normally works best for territorial dogs, however, it can be used with all different types of barking.
The key to the distraction technique is to distract your dog’s attention before they even see the person they’re going to bark at.
There are a few common ways you can distract your dog. If you’re walking your dog with an extendable leash, or not on a leash at all, when you see a stranger approaching, begin throwing a ball for them
Your german shepherd will be so distracted trying to get the ball, that he won’t pay attention to the stranger approaching.
The second method is best used when you’re walking your dog on a lead. Take out some treats and let your dog know you have them. However, don’t let them eat them. Keep your German shepherd’s attention on the treats until the stranger has walked by.
Once the stranger has walked by you can then feed your german shepherd and congratulate them for being good.
Both methods can work even if your dog has started barking already. When your dog is barking firmly say the word you want them to associate with not barking before distracting them.
Once they’ve stopped barking say the same word again and reward them. German shepherds are smart and pretty soon they’ll understand what the word means.
When they have a good grasp of what it means, begin using it every time your dog is barking. If they stop barking reward them. Keep doing this until the command has sunk in deep enough.
Encouraging Calm Behavior
If your German shepherd is excitable and loves greeting new people, then this is the training method you should use.
Remember, that it’s important not to train their happiness to see people out of them, but rather train the way they exhibit that happiness.
The best way to stop your german shepherd barking is as follows.
When your dog sees someone and they become excited and start barking, turn the leash around and walk in another direction away from the person.
Don’t do this in an aggressive manner or show any sign of emotion, simply turn and walk somewhere else.
When you do this, you let your german shepherd know that if they start barking at people then they’re going to lose their reward (getting to greet new people)
It won’t take them long to realize that if they want to see new people then they need to do it calmly and without barking.
Reward Every Successful Interaction
If your german shepherd is barking because they’re scared then this is generally the best method to train them.
Just remember, that this method should only be used if you know your dog isn’t a danger to people. If you think there’s even a 1% chance that your german shepherd could hurt someone it’s important that you consult a dog behaviorist.
Exposing your german shepherd to lots of new people is the key to get them to lose their fear. If they bark at everyone when they’re on the street then start by bringing people into your house. Only introduce them to one or two people at a time, before increasing the number of people you bring to them.
When people come to your house make sure they don’t back away from your german shepherd if they’re barking. This will only reinforce the behavior. Instead, get them to give them love and affection and when your pup calms down a treat as well.
Once they seem better with meeting people in their home, take them to quiet areas where they’re going to bump into people on the street. For every successful interaction where they don’t bark make sure you congratulate them and give them a treat.
If you do this for long enough over time, eventually your german shepherd will realize people aren’t a threat and they actually bring lots of positive emotions.
What Not To Do When Your German Shepherd Barks At People
Knowing what not to do when your german shepherd is barking is just as important as knowing what to do. Here are the things that you should definitely avoid doing.
Don’t Ever Hit Your German Shepherd
You should never hit kick or hurt any dog. Not only is it cruel, but they won’t understand why you’re doing it. Any behavior their exhibiting isn’t bad behavior but rather their natural instinct. Hurting your dog isn’t going to help that.
Don’t Reward Your German Shepherds Barking
A lot of people get embarrassed when their german shepherd starts barking so they’ll immediately offer them a treat. However, this is another terrible idea. When you do this you’re only rewarding your german shepherd’s negative behavior.
Instead of stopping it you’re going to be reinforcing the idea that they should bark when they see strangers.
Don’t Hide Your German Shepherd
As well as rewarding their dog’s actions by accident, a lot of people also choose to hide their german shepherd. Instead of taking them out, they leave them in their homes where they don’t get socialized.
As you can imagine this often ends up causing them to become even more problematic. Especially in cases where they are barking because they’re scared or haven’t been socialized enough.
Not only will the chances of their behavior worsening increase, but they’ll also not get the exercise that they need.
What’s The Best Way To Train Your Dog?
Problems like a german shepherd barking at strangers are extremely common. The real trick is finding a training program that gets to the root cause of all the problems.
While it is possible that you can teach your german shepherd how to stop barking at strangers, the chances are the underlying causes of this behavior will still be there.
A great program I’d definitely recommend is Brain Training For Dogs. It uses a scientifically-based approach to dog training and relies on rewarding positive behavior instead of punishing negative behavior which is extremely important in a dog’s development!
If you haven’t already, you should definitely check out Brain Training For Dogs.
(Read an in-depth review of Brain Training For Dogs.)
Luckily, if your german shepherd is barking at strangers, the good news is in a lot of cases you’re going to be able to train them to stop.
Here’s a quick recap on how to do that, as well as why your german shepherd may be barking and what not to do.
- Your german shepherd may be barking because of his territorial instinct, when they’re excited, if they haven’t been socialized, or if they have a compulsion to bark.
- The best ways to stop your german shepherd from barking are by distracting them, encouraging calm behavior, and exposing them to new interactions and encouraging positive ones.
- You should never hit your german shepherd, reward bad behavior, or hide your german shepherd from the world.
- If you want to train your german shepherd, then the best training I know of is Brain Training For Dogs.
If you liked this article or you have any more questions feel free to leave a comment in the section below.
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