If your German Shepherd has been barking at nothing, you’re probably wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might be doing it and how you can get it to stop barking at nothing.
So, why does my German Shepherd bark at nothing? Possible reasons are that it can hear something, it is frightened, it is in pain, it is bored, it is territorial barking, it’s seeking attention or it is compulsive barking.
There are a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might bark at nothing and there are a number of things that you can do about it.
Why your German Shepherd barks at nothing
Each of the different reasons why your German Shepherd barks at nothing will likely come with a number of clues in the way that it does it.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might bark at nothing and the signs to look for.
It can hear something
German Shepherds have much better hearing than humans do and it could be the case that it can hear something even if you cannot. This could be the reason why it, sometimes, barks at nothing.
This would be more likely to be the reason if it barks at nothing when there are noisy things going on such as when the garbage collectors are outside or when there is thunder.
Related post: Why is my German Shepherd afraid?
It could be the case that your German Shepherd is barking because it is in pain. This would be more likely if it doesn’t usually bark in the same way and if the barking only started suddenly.
It would also be more likely if the barking started after it did something that might have caused it to get injured and if it has been behaving differently in other ways as well.
If you think that it might be barking because it is in some kind of discomfort then the best option for you would be to take it to a vet.
German Shepherds are a very active breed that are meant to get a lot of exercise. The reason why your German Shepherd barks at nothing could be that it is bored.
Generally, German Shepherds are meant to get an hour of exercise per day. If your German Shepherd is not getting that much exercise then it would help a lot if you were to make sure that it does. You can do this by walking it, teaching it to play fetch or you could pay a dog walker to do it for you.
It could be the case that it barks because it is protecting its territory. This would be more likely if it barks when there are people or animals outside or if it does it when there are noises outside.
It’s seeking attention
It might bark at nothing because it wants to get attention from you. This would be more likely if it does it when you would normally feed it, walk it or when you have not given it much attention for a while.
In this case, it would help to give it attention throughout the day and to make sure to give it lots of exercise. It would also help to avoid leaving it alone for long periods if at all possible.
The barking could be compulsive barking. This is where your German Shepherd cannot seem to stop barking even though there doesn’t seem to be anything that is causing it.
This would be more likely if it does it repeatedly, excessively and it paces back and forth.
If you do think that your German Shepherd is barking compulsively then it would help to get the expert advice of a vet or a certified dog behaviorist.
You have been reinforcing it
It might be the case that you have been inadvertently rewarding it for barking at nothing.
If your method of getting it to stop barking is to give it things that it wants such as attention, toys, exercise or food then it would be likely that it would have learned that barking gets it what it wants.
Instead, it would be a better option to avoid giving it what it wants when it starts barking and to reward it with what it wants when it is being well behaved.
Consider when it first started doing it
If your German Shepherd didn’t always bark at nothing then it would help to consider what happened at around the time that it started doing it.
Somethings to consider would be:
- If you moved home
- If someone moved away
- If another pet died
- If someone mistreated it
Consider when and where it barks at nothing
It would also help to consider whether or not it only seems to start barking at certain times and in certain situations. If it does then it would likely have a lot to do with the barking.
For example, if you notice that your German Shepherd only seems to bark at nothing at night then it would be more likely that it is either frightened or it can hear something. In this case, it would help to try positive reinforcement training which is discussed below.
How to get it to stop barking at nothing
Below, I will mention a number of things that you can do if you want to get your German Shepherd to stop barking at nothing.
You can look at the book Training Your German Shepherd on Amazon to get more tips about how you can train your GSD.
Get it to pay attention to you
One option you have is to train it to look to you for guidance before it starts barking.
To do this you’ll need to get some treats that it really likes then when you think that your German Shepherd is about to bark you need to get
You might think that this is rewarding it for being about to bark but actually you’re getting it to look to you before it starts to bark.
If it has already started barking then you’ll want to get its attention on to you and then to give it a treat after it has stopped barking. You’ll want to keep repeating this until it stops barking.
You can watch the video below to see how this is done:
Positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training is where you reward the behaviors that you want to see with attention or treats.
To use positive reinforcement training to get your German Shepherd to not bark at nothing you would reward it with a treat whenever it stops barking or it shows signs of not barking.
You can watch how it is done in the video below:
Avoid reinforcing the behavior
It could be the case that you have inadvertently encouraged the behavior. If your current method to get your German Shepherd to stop barking is to give it things that it likes then this is likely to be reinforcing the behavior.
Instead, you could try rewarding it before it is about to bark or you could get it to pay attention to you and then to reward it when it is not barking.
Barking is natural
Something to consider is that barking is a natural way that German Shepherds communicate. To stop a German Shepherd from barking completely would be very difficult to do and it wouldn’t really be a good thing since it will make it harder for your German Shepherd to communicate with you when it wants to.
However, it will be possible to get it to bark less, if that is what you want, by following the tips above.
See a vet, dog behaviorist or trainer
If you are unsure of why your German Shepherd barks, you can’t get it to stop or you think that it is compulsive barking then it would help to seek the guidance of a vet or a certified dog behaviorist or trainer.
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Our favorite: The German Shepherd Handbook (on Amazon) - Shows you all you need to know to keep your GSD happy, healthy and well-behaved.