Do they bark a lot? I mean, is the Pope even Catholic? But on a serious note, it’s true that this is an oft-asked question about the second most popular dog breed in the world in conversations and pet forums.
To be honest, all bark and no bite is something you can try saying about any dog except the mighty German Shepherds, also called Alsatians in England and parts of Europe.
These canines evoke the respect of descriptors like guardians, protectors, loyal and intelligent. But do they bark that much and why?
What’s in a Bark?
Understanding our companion animals and their primary way of communicating is a very crucial part of being a pet parent. About 39 percent of households in the US own a dog, according to a 2017-18 study, making it about time to understand their bark (and perhaps their bite too) better.
There is no easy and convenient way to explain why a dog barks, German Shepherds or GSDs as they are called, included. But, over time, it is possible to read your dog’s needs and moods so that you can train them to understand the “quiet” signal.
While there is no easy glossary that explains how to read the barking, Stanley Coren, a psychology professor (emeritus) at the University of British Columbia has some tips after extensively studying them. According to him, you can decipher a bark based on three factors.
- Pitch: Growls in a low pitch often means they sense a threat and might get aggressive. High-pitched barking often means they are asking or saying that it is safe to approach.
- Duration: A growl, for example, of a longer duration means it has a specific cause to keep at it. In the same way, if the growl is for a shorter period of time, it is sensing an attack and generally means fear or worry.
- Frequency: This can be used to detect their sense of urgency. Is your GSD excited about something? Is there something in the vicinity that is causing alarm or hinting at a potential crisis? It’s all in the frequency of its bark.
When Do German Shepherds Bark?
German Shepherds are intelligent dogs. So, to discredit their barking as nothing or a nuisance is a mistake. Take the time to study the pitch, duration and frequency of their barks and find a solution.
- Lack of Exercise: German Shepherds are active dogs and demand to be kept that way. So when their daily exercise is missing or is not enough, they get irritated and you know what happens next.
- Boredom: Since these canines are herding dogs, often used as cadaver dogs to sniff out dead bodies or drugs and other hazardous items. They are used to doing a lot of work and if you don’t use them well, they get bored and will bark.
- Stranger Danger: Since they are protector dogs, you can throw them in a friendly household scenario and they will still be themselves. So if they see anyone who is new or doesn’t belong near the house, the barking will begin.
- To Convey Excitement, Anxiety or Loneliness: This is expected because, after all, barking is to dogs what speaking is to humans. They could be barking out of excitement when you come home or could be anxious about a neighborhood nemesis prancing around or be lonely because you’ve been gone too long. Listen to it and you’ll know what the reason is.
Finding a Fix
Not to worry because there are many solutions to each of these problems. The key is, however, to spend some time to understand why your GSD is barking.
Exercise is one of the best solutions and is a favorite of a lot of good dog trainers. It relaxes your GSD and puts them emotionally at ease. Be sure not to overdo it though.
Maybe they want more toys and treats or just different ones. It’s a trial-and-error exercise with toys but you can easily be much more selective with treats and give them human-grade meat or cheese treats even if your canine eats the basic dog store stuff.
Or does it happen when you leave them alone? One of the solutions is to leave them with familiar sounds like a television or radio. Something that you do when you are home so that they are tricked into believing that you are nearby.
Or get a citronella collar. These are collars made of lemongrass oils and are a kinder and a more humane alternative to shock bark collars that use negative reinforcement to change behavior.
But today in the market, you can also find other kinds of anti-barking devices that are not collars and are decent solutions to your problem. Some of these devices produce a high-frequency sound that only your dog can hear (and are available in waterproof models).
What kind of equipment you use is not exactly up to your fancy. The amount of barking is generally used to determine the type of equipment.
Whatever the reason, just be sure not to neglect it and it won’t turn into nuisance barking. Yes, that’s a thing you should read about.
Related: Are German Shepherds Good With Cats?
The Barking: Myth or Fact?
Yes. Studies have shown that German Shepherds are likely and known to be vocal canines. This is because they are guarding dogs, with inherent skills for such situations.
So, if you want one of these wonderful dogs, please be clear that you need to have the time, energy and patience to play with them, train them and all-in-all be able to manage them. They are not difficult dogs and in fact, can be a wonderful addition to your family but only if you do it right.
The Verdict: Does it Help or Hurt?
Whether it adds to your overall peace or takes away from it is up to you. They are guardian dogs with a high level of intelligence.
All you need to know is that there is a reason for each bark and a type by which you can tell the reason. It’s not the Da Vinci Code.
So if it doesn’t suit your living situation, like barking at strangers when your house is in a bustling neighborhood, find a way to train them without forcing a change on them.