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Life has been a whirlwind adventure since you introduced your German Shepherd into your life. His endless energy means he’s always charging around with the kids or at your lap begging for food and attention. You take him out for a decent walk each day, but he still has the energy to be watchful, alert, and protective of you and your home. Unfortunately, he also finds the energy to bark at anyone that approaches the door, or even walks past your window.
Training him not to bark will bring a number of benefits. Firstly, you will get some peace and quiet. You also won’t continue to put a strain on relations with the neighbors, who are fed up with the noise. Finally, guests and other dog walkers won’t be scared of him if he can remain quiet.
Once a German Shepherd has found his voice, training him to stay quiet can prove challenging. However, it is definitely possible. The first thing to do is employ a number of deterrence measures. You will also use obedience commands to teach him how to bark on command, so you can also train him to be quiet when instructed. The right incentive will play an essential role in training. Luckily, German Shepherds eat pretty much anything edible, so motivating him with delicious treats should be simple.
If he’s a puppy, he should be eager to please and receptive to training. You could see results in just a week or two. However, if he’s older and the barking habit has been years in the making, then you may need up to six weeks before silence is restored. Getting this training right is essential for both your eardrums and his social skills.
Before training can begin, you will need to collect a few things. A water spray bottle and a deterrence collar will be needed for one of the methods. You will also need a stockpile of treats or his favorite food broken into small chunks.
Set aside 10 minutes or so each day for training. But try and train at a time where you won’t be distracted by noisy kids charging around, getting ready for school.
Once you have ticked all those boxes, just bring patience, a proactive attitude, and some earplugs, then work can begin!
The Prevention Method
If he barks at people walking past the window, then closing the curtains and blinds so he can’t see them may help. You may also want to consider leaving the radio or TV on quietly. If he doesn’t know anyone is approaching, the temptation will be removed.
Water spray bottle
Whenever he barks, go over and give a firm ‘NO’. At the same time, give him a quick spray of water near his face. This will soon get him associating barking with negative consequences.
You can also get your hands on deterrence collars that are triggered when he barks. Each time he does, an unpleasant spray of citronella will be emitted. This will quickly make him think twice.
Don’t give in
If he barks for attention, it is important you don’t give in. You should give him the cold shoulder and turn away from him. If you give him what he wants (attention), you are only teaching him that barking is the right way to get his message across.
German Shepherds have a lot of energy. If he’s barking because he’s bored and needs to blow off steam, then you may want to consider giving him more exercise. An effective way of doing this is taking him out and throwing a ball for 10 minutes. A tired dog is a happy, but more importantly, silent dog.
The Verbal Command Method
Put him in a situation which you know will trigger a bark. When he is about to go for a walk or when you are preparing his food are likely occasions. Then issue a ‘bark’ command just before or as he starts barking.
When he does indeed start barking, quickly hand over a treat. You can also shower him in verbal praise. Practice this for a few minutes each day. Then start practicing when he isn’t already in a bark inducing situation. Continue training until he barks on command consistently.
Now put him back in a situation that will trigger a bark. However, as soon as he stops barking, issue a ‘quiet’ command. You can use any word or phrase you like. German Shepherds are highly intelligent and can learn hundreds of different commands.
Make sure he gets a tasty reward as soon as he falls silent. In fact, the greater the reward the more likely he is to repeat the behavior again. Practice this for a few minutes each day. After a week or two, you will then be able to instruct him to bark and then to be quiet again.
Once he responds to the ‘quiet’ command each time, you can start using it whenever he barks in an unwanted situation. Use it every time and you will slowly break his barking habit. At which point you can enjoy some peace and quiet.
The Distraction Method
If he’s barking because he’s bored, simply keeping him occupied may put an end to his barking. You may just need to channel his energy into something more productive.
Teach him basic obedience commands, from ‘sit’ to ‘down’. Again, this should stimulate him and stop any barking that is a result of boredom or attention-seeking behavior.
Make sure you spend a few minutes each day giving him attention. Play around with his toys, stroke him, and make sure he has all the love and attention he needs. This should reduce barking that’s a cry for attention.
You can encourage calm play and being quiet. Give him the odd treat, for example, whenever he meets someone new and doesn’t bark. Do this regularly and he will slowly start to associate being quiet with mouth-watering rewards.
Never punish him
Try not to punish him when he barks. If you terrify him, he may become aggressive. German Shepherds are incredibly strong, so you want to avoid this at all costs. Tackling aggression will be even more challenging than stopping him barking.
By James Barra
Published: 01/31/2018, edited: 01/08/2021