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How to Train a German Shepherd to Bark at Strangers

How to Train a German Shepherd to Bark at Strangers
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-3 Weeks
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

You welcomed your German Shepherd into your home for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they’re gorgeous dogs who are loyal, friendly and plenty of fun. Secondly, you wanted to train one to protect your house and family with its piercing bark. It’s a well-documented fact that houses with dogs are far less likely to attract intruders and with a German Shepherd on the property, those chances are probably even lower. However, your furball isn't so ferocious and just wants to say hello and cuddle everyone they meet. So some training is definitely needed.

Training your German Shepherd to bark at strangers comes with several other benefits. This type of training will enforce your position as pack leader making it easier to teach your dog any number of other commands. Furthermore, if you can train them to bark on command, you can also train them to fall silent.

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Defining Tasks

Training a German Shepherd to bark at strangers is actually much easier than many owners realize. The first thing you will need to do is find a situation which naturally triggers a bark. You then need to capitalize on that by introducing verbal cues and reinforcing the behavior with tasty treats. Training will then consists of getting your dog into a habit of barking at strangers.

If your German Shepherd is a puppy they should be particularly receptive. This means you could see results in just a few days to a week. But if they’re older and not so interested in learning then you may need two or three weeks. If training works you are on the path to having an effective guard dog. You’ll also have a great way to channel their energy into something productive, not to mention a fantastic way to bond with each other.

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Getting Started

Before you can start training you will need to gather a few things. Stock up on mouth-watering treats. Toys and a clicker will also be required, as will friends who can play the role of strangers.

Set aside 15 minutes each day for training. Try and train at a time where there aren’t other distractions around, such as noisy kids.

Once you have all that, just bring enthusiasm and some ear plugs, then work can begin!

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The ‘Bark’ Method

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1

Monitor

Watch your German Shepherd over a couple of days and look for a situation that triggers a bark. For example, when you give them their food or are about to take them for a walk.

2

‘Bark’

Now put your dog in the situation and just before or as they start to bark, issue a ‘speak’ command. You can use any word or phrase you like, just give it in playful tone. German Shepherds respond best when they think they’re playing a game.

3

Reward

As soon as they do come through and start barking, give some verbal praise and hand over a tasty treat. In fact, the happier they feel afterwards the more eager they will be to play again.

4

Application

Spend a few minutes practicing this for a few days and then start instructing your Shepherd to bark whenever strangers approach. If you do this every time, they will naturally get into a habit of barking whenever they meet a stranger.

5

Obedience classes

It’s also important you take your German Shepherd to obedience classes. It’s important they learn to socialize with other dogs and people too. You don’t want them to bark or be aggressive with everyone.

The Stranger Approach Method

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Tether

Secure your German Shepherd to a leash in the yard or by the front door. You are going to need the help of friends to bring about barking. Try and enlist the help of those your dog does not already know well.

2

The approach

Have the friends knock on the door or slowly approach you and your dog. Make sure they come slowly and are not talking in a playful voice. They must come approach like a stranger would.

3

Encouragement

Now point at the person approaching, talk in a high-pitched voice and try to get your dog as worked up as possible. This is the time-consuming part so be patient, they will eventually catch on and growl or bark.

4

Reward

As soon as a bark is released, quickly give them verbal praise and a treat. If you use a clicker when you train, now is the time to click. The more praise you give them the more likely it is they will repeat the behavior.

5

Practice

Try and practice several times a week with new people approaching each time. Also, make sure the person approaching actually shouts and runs away. It’s important your German Shepherd knows they need to bark until the person flees.

The Boundary Method

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Perimeter walk

The first thing you need to do is show your German Shepherd where their territory begins and ends. They will then naturally want to defend it and bark at those who approach. So secure them to a leash and walk them around the perimeter once in the morning and once in the evening.

2

Verbal cue

Now put your dog in a situation that is likely to trigger a bark, such as meal times or walkies. Start issuing a ‘bark’ command in a playful voice. But give the instruction just once, you don’t want them to think they can wait until you pester them before they have to respond.

3

Reward

Once they do start barking, you can hand over a tasty reward. Also give them some verbal praise and you may wish to play with a toy for a minute or so. Then practice this for 10 minutes each day.

4

Have someone knock

Now have someone approach the front door and knock. Have your Shepherd secured there and point at the door while you give the instruction to bark. Make sure they know what they are barking at by really drawing their attention to the door.

5

Reward & practice

Have the person shout and run away after the barking starts. Then give your dog another reward. Now all you need to do is practice this several times each week. Soon enough your pooch will be in the habit of naturally barking at all strangers.

By James Barra

Published: 03/15/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Smart

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German Shepherd

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9 Months

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Question

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I want him to be barking when stranger approach my house

June 16, 2022

Smart's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ola, To teach pup to bark and be more alert, first, teach pup the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property while pup watches from a window or fence. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is on the property, until pup barks on their own when the person enters without saying speak. At that point, have the person step onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 17, 2022

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Bullet

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German Shepherd

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2 Months

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Question

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He doesnt bark at strangers Especially at night And he is too friendly with everyone he sees

May 4, 2022

Bullet's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emmanual, Pup is actually doing exactly what you should want a good guard to do at that age. A protection dog should be socialized and get along with lots of people while in the young puppy stage. You want pup to be exposed to a lot of people and see what's normal and build their confidence with new things at this age. Many dogs will naturally guard if it's in their genetics and you have laid a good foundation of respect and obedience through obedience training with you, once they mature mentally between 1-2 years of age, when mental maturity and hormones (even when neutered) increase things like territorial instincts and defense drive. If pup doesn't, you can also teach pup to bark automatically when someone enters the property and be more watchful in general using reward based training. For the alerting, first teach pup to bark by teaching the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property or come to the door while pup watches from a window or inside somewhere. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is there, until pup barks on their own when the person tries to enter without saying speak. At that point, have the person come onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For anything that would involve bite work, you would need to pursue training with a professional protection trainer who knows how to utilize pup's defense drive, build confidence, utilize rewards like a bite bag and tug, and have the right staff and equipment to practice things like arms holds - this training should only be done with a professionals help and should not encourage fear or true aggression when done correctly - it's more like teaching pup a task, teaching alertness, obedience, building confidence, and encouraging a natural defense drive - opposed to poorly done training that encourages suspicion and fear to get a bite from the dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 4, 2022


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