How to Train a German Shepherd to Bark at Strangers

Medium
1-3 Weeks
Work

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.

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.

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!

The ‘Bark’ Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Stranger Approach Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Boundary Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Rome
German Shepherd
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rome
German Shepherd
1 Year

Rome is a beautiful German Shepherd. She’s very well behaved and we’ve done everything we can to socialize her. We’ve taken her on daily walks, to family functions, and even invite people over into her space. We’ve done everything we could think of, but Rome still barks at strangers.

We went to the vet yesterday. I did as much as to make it as calm of an experience as possible. Rome immediately knows that we’re at the vet, even before entering the building. So it’s a high stress situation for her. When in the waiting area, I got Rome to lay down at my feet and remain there until the Vet Tech came to call us back. As soon as the vet tech approached, Rome went crazy barking at her. The tech then made a comment at me saying “Rome shouldn’t be so aggressive, you need to socialize her more” and then continued to make judgements on how I was caring for Rome and that I “wasn’t doing enough”. What she said threw me. I’ve never had someone tell me I was doing at bad job at raising a dog. We’ve taken Rome to various places. She usually barks at the beginning, and then realizes there is no danger and settles down quickly.

I want Rome to still be weary of strangers. I don’t live in the best neighborhood and I like when she alerts me when someone is close to the house, she does what I call a “muffled bark” until they’re physically at the front door. I want to continue taking Rome places, but I would not like to have the same experience as I did at the vet. Any ideas on how to keep her from barking when we are around new people?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
111 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alyssa, Suspiciousness, aggression, and timidity can all be genetic traits. Dogs whose temperaments lean toward any of those things need socialization and training even more than other dogs, to help them cope with every day life. Do not worry about loosing Rome's protective abilities. The less suspicious a naturally protective dog is, the better protector she can be because you can actually take her with you to more places and because she has a broad enough understanding of what is normal human behavior, she can tell when something is not normal. The best bred, best trained Shepherds I know are very safe and friendly when the owner indicates that things are normal, but still quietly observe new people and surroundings constantly to see if things are what they should be. The better your dog understands what is normal and can relax, the better she will be able to understand when things are not normal. You have done the right thing by socializing her and your dog has learned through experience that the veterinarian's is an unpleasant place and she likely picked up on your own nervousness in the waiting room, which confirmed her fears. When the vet approached, she assumed he was untrustworthy. It sounds like you have worked hard and done a good job with her. She probably needs extra help in this area just because of who she is. If she is not reactive in other locations, then continue her socialization the way you have been and add in heavily rewarding all of her interactions with strangers by having them give her her favorite toys and tossing her treats that you give to them to give her. Practice this with as many people as you can and as often as you can. Recruit friends who she has not met to help. Start by having that person toss the treats from further away and letting Rome approach when she is friendly and relaxed, rather than the person approach her. You can tell her "Say Hi" too. This will help her learn an "Off" switch so that you can communicate to her when to relax around something in the future. For the Vet's, get her used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle. Choose one with holes that are large enough for you to pass tiny treats to her or a straw dipped in liver paste, soft cheese, or peanut butter if no one around her has an allergy. Avoid the ingredient Xylitol in Peanut Butter though. It's a sweetener substitute that is toxic to dogs. Practice trips to the Vet where you heavily reward her the entire time for calm behavior and interactions with any of the staff that is willing. You can even have a friend meet you there and pretend to be a staff member and heavily reward her. Start very slowly, with just the parking lot though and visit the vet's office often. Watch her body language to notice how tense she is. You want the entire experience to be pleasant, expect to feed her her entire dinner, one piece at a time while you are there. You will need your vet's permission for this though. If you feel like you need additional help, then look into hiring a private trainer who is very experienced to help you. It sounds like you are a great trainer, but aggression and fear are difficult, so don't feel bad about wanting a bit more help. If there is a chance she will bite your friends or other people while practicing this, even from a distance, then start by using the muzzle for all training. You can get her used to wearing a muzzle by introducing it to her with food. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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