Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
No matter how much you adore dogs (and their barking), you appreciate peace and quiet at home from time to time.
So if you’re thinking of getting a German Shepherd, you may want to know if becoming a pet parent to one is something your lifestyle can handle.
German Shepherds do bark a lot because they’re naturally a vocal breed. Their barking is also closely intertwined with their strong guarding and protective instinct. However, excessive barking may be due to issues such as lack of exercise, feeling threatened, or separation anxiety.
To learn more about the barking behavior of German Shepherds, let’s talk about their barking by age and gender and the causes of excessive barking.
We will also look into how to tell if the barking is excessive and ways to reduce it.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Barking is normal behavior in dogs. In fact, if your dog never barks, it’s safe to assume that something is wrong and bring them straight to the vet.
This is because barking is the primary means dogs communicate with other dogs, animals, and humans.
There are different reasons why dogs bark.
You can differentiate each bark depending on the context, pitch, and other bodily behaviors accompanying the barking (such as tail wagging or erect ears).
Here are some of the reasons why dogs bark:
- They’re greeting familiar humans or other dogs/animals.
- They’re threatened or feel protective.
- They want to get your attention.
- They’ve been left alone for a long time.
While it’s normal for dogs to bark, this behavior should not be excessive, even with naturally vocal breeds like the German Shepherd.
Unless they’re anxious, uncomfortable, in pain, or feel threatened.
Barking Behavior by Age
The barking behavior of German Shepherds changes with age, just as the sound of their barking becomes deeper and louder as they mature.
To help you understand this behavior in your growing pet, here are common barking behaviors to expect.
A German Shepherd puppy can start vocalizing or making tiny whining sounds at 2 to 4 weeks, which then develops to yelping sounds at two months.
They are still unable to bark properly until they reach four months of age.
The puppy may bark a lot, especially if your home is a new environment.
The sudden change in setting may be cause for anxiety or excitement.
If your pup is barking excessively, observe them to figure out what’s triggering the behavior.
It could happen when strangers come to the house or if they’re hungry.
Take note of these triggers when beginning training to help prevent excessive barking.
It’s entirely normal for an adult German Shepherd to bark a lot.
As mentioned, being vocal is part of their nature.
There’s no changing this integral part of this breed’s behavior, although you can help your pet control their barking through training.
German Shepherds are a very smart breed, and they respond well to training and positive reinforcement.
Even the most unruly German Shepherds can be tamed through proper training.
When they become adults, they will also become more territorial or protective of you, making them bark more often.
As they mature, their bark will sound louder, fuller, and deeper than when they were puppies.
Barking Behavior by Gender
Every dog will have a different personality.
So, it’s important to remember that while there are behavior stereotypes depending on age or gender, your pet may be a little more aggressive or active than you expect. And that’s okay.
However, understanding typical barking behaviors based on gender will help you understand your pet better.
If you’re considering becoming a pet parent, knowing the barking differences between genders will also help you identify which will fit your personality and lifestyle best.
Male German Shepherds tend to be more aggressive and protective than females.
They are also more dominant and loyal. These qualities make them excellent guard dogs and even for babysitting kids!
That’s because they protect their family fiercely and are quick to alert you (aka bark) when something smells like danger.
Because of their more dominant qualities, they tend to bark more often, and every stranger that comes by will cause them to be in protective mode.
Unless trained to remain calm in grave situations (as in the case of security dogs), they’ll bark a lot and loudly at every perceived threat.
Female German Shepherds are also loyal and protective, just like the males.
But they’re not as aggressive or domineering. Because of their milder temperament, they’re easier to train and generally bark less.
Their sweet nature also makes them perfect family dogs, as they love every family member equally.
On the other hand, Males tend to focus their affection on one person.
Still, female German Shepherds can also be moody and aloof.
Therefore, when you catch them at a bad time, they may not like you invading their space, which could cause them to bark.
What Can Cause Excessive Barking in German Shepherds?
No matter how cute these pets are, their excessive barking can be a nuisance to pet parents and neighbors.
Unfortunately, German Shepherds are prone to barking excessively, as they are naturally a very protective, vocal breed.
This is especially true if the dog hasn’t been trained or has triggers that their pet parents are unaware of and unable to manage.
However, no matter the breed’s instinct, German shepherds are incredibly bright, trainable dogs whose barking can be managed.
But to do this, you first need to determine the exact cause of this behavior in your pet.
This takes time, lots of patience, and understanding.
The following are common causes of excessive barking in German Shepherds:
- Moving to a new environment
- Introducing a new pet
- Unfamiliar or loud noises
Moving to a New Environment
Did you recently move to a new place? If the answer is yes, the sudden change in environment could be causing your furry pet to feel anxious and fearful of its new, unfamiliar surroundings.
As a result, they may start barking loudly and excessively, seemingly for no apparent reason.
Introducing a New Pet
German Shepherds are incredibly territorial. As a result, introducing a new dog to the family can prove tricky as your dog will naturally want to protect their home.
Your pet may perceive the new dog to be a threat to their territory, and since they’re bound to protect their turf, the dog will resort to barking a lot.
Unfamiliar or Loud Noises
Changes in your German Shepherd’s environment, such as loud noises, can cause your pet to be on defense mode. For example, If there is construction work nearby, a school, or a busy road, your furry companion may perceive the loud sounds as danger signs.
German Shepherds are very active dogs. They like playing and running around.
Being home all day, every day, will bore them so much that they’ll constantly try to get your attention in the hopes that you will remember to take them out for a walk.
Hence the incessant barking.
Aside from being active, German Shepherds are also quite social.
They need to be around other people and animals.
They also need to play. And so, when they’re not given proper vent to this instinct, they’ll become aggressive instead and bark at every person or animal that passes by your door.
When Did the Barking Begin?
Your pet’s excessive barking could be a recent development. If so, you need to look for new changes in the pet’s environment. However, if your dog is a new pet barking excessively since you got them, they could be suffering from separation anxiety.
A previously quiet dog that is suddenly barking incessantly could be afraid of something that showed up or occurred recently.
For example, if a new person is in your home, you’ll need to show your pet that the new person is “safe” by being friendly to them.
This behavior will let your pet know that the individual is a friend.
Only then will your pet be able to relax.
However, if you just got your dog, and they have been barking non-stop since Day 1, they may be suffering from separation anxiety or are afraid of the new environment.
In this case, give them time to get familiar with their new home and shower them with lots of love.
Can Barking Indicate Health Problems?
Barking could indicate a health problem if your dog is suddenly barking too much while also displaying other behaviors. This could mean they are sick or in pain. In either case, it’s best to consult a vet right away.
Other behaviors to watch out for are:
- Excessive panting
- Lip licking
You may also want to check whether there are visible signs of physical trauma on your pet’s body, such as a wound, inflammation, or insect bites.
If your pet has a wound, clean and disinfect it right away to keep it from getting infected.
However, if there are already signs of infection (such as pus), refrain from giving any medication to your pet and see a vet instead.
How To Tell if the Barking Is Aggressive?
You can tell the barking is aggressive if it’s incessant and occurs alongside other harmful behaviors, like biting or attacking. However, aggression is often confused with roughhousing or normal territorial behavior, so it’s important to observe your pet carefully before calling them aggressive.
According to the American Kennel Club, aggression is hostile, harmful, or injurious behavior.
So, though your dog’s incessant barking may already be driving you nuts, be wary of jumping to conclude that your dog is aggressive.
They might be in pain, afraid, uncomfortable, or merely being protective.
Nonetheless, if you start noticing your dog attacking other animals or hurting members of your family, you may need the help of a professional to help tame your dog.
The earlier you can get such help, the better.
Take note that a fearful environment is one of the most significant factors that lead to dogs becoming aggressive.
If you notice that your dog is afraid, speak to them in calm or happy tones.
Don’t yell at them or hit them because this will make them more afraid and reactive.
How To Reduce Excessive Barking
If you’re a pet parent to a German Shepherd, barking sounds will be the norm in your home.
However, you don’t have to suffer constant, loud barking 24/7.
German Shepherds are very sharp and trainable, and there are things that you can do to make them bark less.
Here are ways you can reduce excessive barking:
- Identify what’s causing the barking and remove or manage it.
- Consistently train your pet with positive reinforcement.
- Give your dogs lots of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Allow your dog to socialize with other dogs and people.
Remember that the goal is to bring the barking to a normal level and not eliminate it.
A healthy German Shepherd barks–a lot. If you want a quiet dog, perhaps a German Shepherd is not the breed for you.
Avoid These Pitfalls in Your Quest for Some Peace and Quiet
If you’re bothered or annoyed at your dog’s incessant barking, you may be tempted to do the following things hoping to stop the barking.
However, avoid them because they will only worsen your problem.
Punishing Your Dog
Punishing your dog is never a good idea. This behavior is extremely cruel and shouldn’t even be considered by any pet parent.
You want your pet’s environment to be loving, not fearful.
Punishing your dog will cause them to fear you, which can quickly make them turn aggressive.
Making Your Dog Think You’re Going To Hit Them
Just as in any relationship, trust is vital. For them to trust you, it’s critical for your dog to know and feel that you won’t hurt them in any way.
So, even if you don’t hit them but make a gesture as if you’re going to, you’re only diminishing their ability to trust you. Eventually, they won’t.
Shouting and Verbal Aggression
This behavior is very similar to punishing your dog because it creates fear in your German Shepherd.
When they become afraid, they are less able to respond positively to training (should you attempt to do so later on) because they’re incapable of trusting you.
Barking is a natural instinct in dogs. And German Shepherds are an especially vocal breed.
It’s never okay to force a dog never to bark because you are essentially inhibiting their instinct—a healthy dog barks.
So if you want to be a pet parent, you need to be comfortable with this.
This is similar to punishing your dog. Placing a barking collar on the dog is a very cruel practice and should be avoided.
This is because it is hurtful and even traumatic to your pet.
You should never punish a dog for barking; it is like punishing a human being for speaking.
German Shepherds bark a lot, which is part of their charm. They’re friendly, protective, loyal dogs that will not think twice about alerting you when there’s danger.
They will also give you a warm, bark-ful welcome when you come home after a long day at work.
If it becomes excessive, you can help your dog reduce its barking, but always do so with love and positive reinforcement.
Your dog will appreciate you for it, and you’ll get to enjoy some peace and quiet.
- Wikipedia: Bark (sound)
- All Things Dog: Do German Shepherds Bark a Lot?
- Hepper: Do German Shepherds Bark a Lot? What You Need to Know!
- Anything German Shepherd: Go German Shepherds Bark a Lot? Your Guide to GSD Barking
- Fetch by WebMB: Why Dogs Bark and Curbing Excessive Barking
- PDSA: German Shepherd Breed Information
- PetHelpful: How to Teach German Shepherds Not to Bark
- AllShepherd: German Shepherd Barking Problems and Solutions
- Hepper: Male vs. Female German Shepherds: What Are the Differences?
- Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: Decoding Your Dog’s Excessive Barking
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Aggression in Dogs – Territorial
- American Kennel Club: What is Aggression? Dog Reactivity vs. Dog Aggression
Click here to read my post on whether or not GSDs are aggressive
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society