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There’s nothing worse than not knowing how to stop my German Shepherd from barking at strangers!
It’s frustrating, annoying to others, and prevents me from enjoying my dog.
If you have the same problem with your German Shepherd, then you need these easy solutions to help you feel confident controlling your dog’s behavior.
STEP 1: Understand the Cause of Your German Shepherd’s Barking
The first step helps you determine why your GSD is barking and then address the underlying issue rather than reprimand the behavior.
Top reasons your dog might bark at unknown people might include:
Trying to greet the person but having poor greeting manners.
Showing territorial behaviors, like protecting their home or yard.
Exhibiting fear of a strange person they aren’t familiar with.
Seeing strangers as potential threats.
A Shepherd’s instinct is to defend their family and home. So, they often bark when they notice strangers near their home or yard to protect and alert.
They warn their families to threats by barking at people, even when they are not near their home or close to their yard – yet your dog hears them.
Don’t worry that you may ruin your dog’s keen watchdog abilities by training them to not bark. Your dog will still remain watchful and aware of dangers, even if you discourage excessive barking.
STEP 2: Avoid Shouting or Yelling at Your German Shepherd
Shouting and yelling make the situation worse by adding to your dog’s stress.
They may already have anxiety and fear, and yelling doesn’t address those issues.
German Shepherds have one of the loudest barks and they may bark so loudly that they don’t even hear you. You cannot out yell or scream your German Shepherd while they’re barking at strangers, plus this doesn’t teach them anything except that you also have a strong reaction to the stranger.
Harsh punishment—such as hitting, kicking, or using shock—increases aggressiveness in some situations. So, don’t resort to these methods as they won’t help.
STEP 3: Avoid Using a Muzzle or Anti-Bark Collar to Prevent Your German Shepherd Barking
Some owners may use a muzzle to suppress their dog’s barking.
Other times, owners may use a shock anti-bark collar as a method of punishment for barking.
These tools aren’t effective in training your German Shepherd properly and can even cause behavioral problems such as aggression, anxiety, or fear reactions to worsen.
Using painful anti-bark collars and muzzles should be a last resort.
Contact your vet or a professional behaviorist if you’re considering using a muzzle or electronic collar to stop barking.
Try more positive methods first before adding in negative punishment.
STEP 4: Train Your German Shepherd to the “Speak” Command First
As counterintuitive as this sounds, teach your dog to “speak” first, before teaching the “quiet” command.
This way your dog understands the difference of “speak” and “quiet,” instead of you trying to teach them to “quiet” while they’re stressed out and barking at strangers.
Here’s how to teach your dog the “speak” and “quiet” command:
Allow your dog to bark and then stand in front of them and distract them from barking with a high-value reward. Put the treat right up to their nose and let them smell it.
Give the “speak” command when your dog stops barking to sniff the treat.
Praise him and give him the treat. Repeat this until he starts barking as soon as you say “speak.”
Next, go to a distraction-free environment and give the “speak” command, but now shove a treat in his face and say “quiet.”
Once they are quiet reward them.
This definitely takes practice and is a frustrating process, but stick with the training and work on both the “speak” and “quiet” so that your dog knows the difference.
STEP 5: Increase the Timing of the “Quiet” Command
Keep practicing the “quiet” command by increasing the length that your dog is quiet and the timing of your reward. The goal is to have longer periods of “quiet” in-between rewards and praise.
Repeat the techniques learned in Step 4, letting your German Shepherd bark two to three times, then moving towards them and giving the “quiet” command.
Repeat this procedure regularly over a period of several days until your dog starts understanding what the command means. Your goal is to have your German Shepherd stop barking at strangers almost immediately once you say the “quiet” command for as long as you need.
Give the “quiet” command and wait for a longer time before rewarding your GSD with treats and praise. Gradually extend the waiting period to five seconds, then 10 seconds, then 20 seconds and then 30 seconds and longer.
Finally, work up to the minute mark for the waiting time until the reward.
This is a long time for a dog, so have patience and keep working up to a longer and longer “quiet” time before offering your dog the reward.
STEP 6 Desensitize Your German Shepherd to Barking at Strangers with Positive Training
If your German Shepherd barks at strangers when he is outside the house, for example, during walks, then begin a desensitization program.
This is a way to find their threshold (when they start barking) and to work on decreasing the distance to the stimulus (the stranger they bark at).
Use treats that are soft, like cheese, tiny pieces of fresh-cooked chicken, or even homemade dog training fudge. Reserve these treats only for outside training times, which makes them more high value to your GSD.
They emit a heavy aroma, and this helps get your dog’s attention.
Learn how to read your dog’s body language and watch for any signs that suggest they are about to bark.
Be on the lookout for:
a stiff body
ears standing up high
hair standing erect on the back and shoulders
attentive staring at the stranger or nuisance object
When you see your dog showing these signs, move away from the stimulus (stranger).
Hold the treat in front of their nose so they can smell and see the treat. As he looks at the treat and walks past or away from the stranger, give him the treat before he has time to bark.
Get your German Shepherd’s attention BEFORE they have a chance to bark at strangers
Timing is everything, so have your treats readily available to offer your dog.
You are looking to get their attention away from the distraction.
If your dog is so focused on the stranger they can’t pay attention to the super tasty treat right in front of their nose, then move away from the stranger because you’ve surpassed your dog’s threshold.
Many times, I have my German Shepherd perform the “sit” when we’re coming upon strangers and I think she’s about to bark. I take a few feet back from the sidewalk with her and this distracts her to perform another activity, walking away and the “sit”, while she eats the treats and the stranger walks past.
Remember that learning a new behavior takes time, especially a self-rewarding behavior like barking. This means your dog may take weeks and weeks of training to curb its desire to bark at strangers.
Keep rewarding them with pea-size pieces of soft treats when outdoors and when they look at you and sit (or performs a command you ask), instead of barking.
Have patience and don’t lose your temper.
Eventually, you’ll be able to have your dog closer and closer to strangers without them barking.
STEP 7: Use Sight Barriers to Prevent Your German Shepherd from Barking at Strangers
Territorial and alarm barking arise when your dog sees or hears something that excites them. This is why your German Shepherd barks at the living room window or along the fence as strangers walk by.
The fastest method to stop barking at the window or in the yard is to control their environment. Block your dog’s view of potential barking triggers, like strangers or neighbors, by physically making it harder for them to see the excitement.
In your yard, install privacy fencing or place reed fencing to fill in the gaps in the fence and cut off views to adjoining yards or activity in the street. Indoors, leave the curtains or blinds closed.
Keep your dog away from the areas where strangers walk past, like your front door and rooms near the street or sidewalk. If your dog barks at strange noises, then install a white noise machine to help blur the background sounds that cause them to bark.
Changing a self-rewarding behavior like barking at strangers can take weeks or months of diligent practice.
Many forward-thinking German Shepherd owners, like yourself, who want to teach their dogs to listen to them and avoid unwanted behaviors with positive training did so by joining an online training program that uses scientifically-backed protocols found in the online Brain Training for Dogs program.
Imagine learning how to control your German Shepherd with kindness, compassion, and science. The step-by-step obedience videos help teach your dog to listen to you and, with time and training, to listen to your quiet command and stop them from barking at strangers.
Take a moment to look over the online training program and learn how to use brain training for better behavior.
You and your dog deserve a break from their barking to have some fun!
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