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Are German Shepherds Vocal?

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Are German Shepherds Vocal?

German Shepherds are one of America’s most popular dog breeds. If you’re new to the breed and you’re thinking of getting one, you may have a few questions, one of which being – are they vocal dogs? 

Usually – yes! But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as you know how to handle it. So let’s take a look at everything you need to know about German Shepherds & their voices.

Table of Contents

Why are German Shepherds vocal?

Many Shepherd dog breeds are known to be vocal because of their working background, and German Shepherds are no exception. They were originally bred to guard and herd livestock, both of which can require vocalization. German Shepherds are also very intelligent dogs, and clever breeds often like to tell you how they’re feeling. 

What age do they start barking?

German Shepherd puppies usually start making little whiny sounds at around 2 weeks old. This can progress to barking at around 7-8 weeks of age. Although, some won’t bark until a couple of months later and their voices will still sound like baby voices. Their bark will start to sound more grown-up when they enter puberty at around 5-6 months old.

What sounds do German Shepherds make?

Dogs make a lot of different noises, but they can all be categorized into barking, growling, whining, howling, sighing, and grunting or groaning – and they all have different meanings.

german shepherd close up

Why do Sheps bark and growl?

To anybody that’s unfamiliar with dogs, certain noises, such as barking and growling, may be interpreted as aggression. However, that is not necessarily the case. Your German Shepherd will probably bark or growl when they’re having fun, interacting with others, and when they want to get your attention or alert you to something. 

Of course, growling and barking can also signal aggression, but you should be able to tell whether or not a dog is on guard by looking at their body language. An aggressive German Shepherd will have a stiff, rigid body, a wide, fixed gaze, and possibly raised hackles. They may also wag their tail very slowly and show their teeth.

Why do German Shepherds whine?

All dogs whine; you may have seen a dog whining when reuniting with their owner after a long day or when they get separated. This is because whining usually indicates either excitement or anxiety. That said, it can also indicate that a dog is sad, scared, frustrated, in pain, or wants attention, depending on the context of their whining. 

Why do they howl?

Not all dogs howl like wolves, but some love a good howl! They do it to announce their presence, get attention, and make contact with other dogs. Dogs also sometimes howl in response to high-pitched sounds like ambulance sirens, phones ringing, and certain musical instruments. 

Why does my Shep sigh?

You may notice that your German Shepherd lets out a big sigh when they lie down to go to sleep at the end of a long, full day – or when they don’t get what they want. This is because, like humans, dogs sigh to convey both contentment and disappointment. 

Why does my German Shepherd grunt and groan?

Like people, dogs mostly grunt and groan to communicate that they are annoyed or in pain. It’s often reported by owners of older dogs with arthritis when making significant movements like getting up or lying down, or when they don’t get what they want.

german shepherd growls

Why doesn’t my German Shepherd bark?

If your German Shepherd doesn’t bark and you’ve had them from puppyhood, it could just be because they are naturally quiet. Different dogs have different personalities, and even if your dog is a typically excitable or noisy breed, they could just be naturally shy or reserved. 

Alternatively, if your German Shepherd is a rescue dog, it could be related to something in their past. Some rescue dogs don’t make much noise because, in their previous life, they were punished for doing so. 

How to make a German Shepherd bark

To teach your German Shepherd to bark on command, you need to find something that naturally triggers a bark. If you don’t know one already, watch them and try to find one. Once you find a trigger, for example, getting their dinner ready, do it and say “bark” or “speak” when they bark. Then, reward them. They will quickly make the association and learn the command. 

How to make a German Shepherd bark at strangers

It’s a known fact that intruders are less likely to invade a home if there is a dog barking inside. So, if you want to teach your German Shepherd to bark to protect your home, make sure you’ve taught your dog the basic “bark” or “speak” command. Then, ask a friend to come over and make sure your dog sees them coming. 

When they see the friend, say your command and reward them when they bark. Make sure you say it in a playful way so that your Shep doesn’t think they are a threat, and introduce them afterward to discourage aggression. Keep doing this until your Shep understands the association between barking and people entering your property. 

Should I train my German Shepherd to stop barking?

There’s no need to stop your German Shepherd from barking unless it becomes excessive or it’s related to a behavioral problem. For example, if your German Shepherd barks constantly during play and doesn’t respond to cues to stop, or their barking makes it difficult to concentrate on household tasks and neighbors have commented on the noise. 

german shepherd barks

What is excessive vocalization a sign of?

Excessive vocalization can just mean that your dog likes to talk too much and needs a little extra training. On the other hand, if it’s accompanied by other behaviors or only happens in certain situations, it could be a sign of a behavioral problem, such as anxiety or aggression. 

Other signs of anxiety include pacing, panting, drooling, shaking, stomach upsets, and destructive behaviors. Common causes of anxiety include separation, under-stimulation, a big life change, illness, trauma, phobias, and illness or death in the family. It’s more likely to occur in young pups, older dogs, ill dogs, rescue dogs, and breeds with high intelligence – like German Shepherds!

Aggression is also seen more often in German Shepherds than in some other popular breeds. It’s thought to relate to their working DNA, but rescue Sheps may also display aggression towards other dogs as a result of past trauma. Aggression can result in excessive vocalization towards other dogs on walks and in the home when they pass by, as well as aggressive body language and fighting. 

How to stop excessive barking in German Shepherds

If your German Shepherd barks too much during play, you can train them to quieten down by stopping the game whenever they start barking. This way, they learn that the fun stops when they start barking.

You can also create a cue to stop certain behaviors by turning away and crossing your arms to show your Shep that you don’t like them. If you associate your body language with a command such as “all done” – you can use this to let your dog know when the behavior has to stop.

How to stop anxiety-related vocalization

Once you’ve identified the root cause of your Shep’s anxiety, you can fix it by addressing any underlying medical issues with veterinary help, and addressing any behavioral issues with lifestyle changes and training.

Making sure your dog gets sufficient exercise, lots of social interaction, and plenty of mental stimulation with fun games and challenging toys will massively relieve their anxiety. 

If your dog’s anxiety is separation-related, build their confidence slowly by leaving the house for small periods of time and gradually increasing the length of time that you are gone. Introduce positive associations with alone time with solo-play toys like treat dispensers. 

In fact, positive association training is ideal for any type of anxiety that has specific triggers, whether i’s separation-related or to do with traumas and phobias. Anxiety with no obvious triggers that are to do with life changes can be relieved with lots of TLC and a stable daily routine. 

If your Shep’s anxiety is severe, you could also try investing in some anti-anxiety products, such as plug-in diffusers and supplements. They use natural ingredients like CBD and lavender to effectively reduce anxiety in dogs. There are even prescription medications for high-stress pets, so talk to your vet if you’re concerned. 

How to fix territorial & aggressive vocalization

You can prevent aggression and territorial behavior by practicing recall and doing lots of early socialization in puppyhood. Start at home by inviting close friends, family, and their dogs over so that your dog can learn the rules in a safe environment. You should also try to interact with as many friendly dogs and people as possible on walks, especially for the first few years of their lives. 

Practice recall by calling your dog randomly throughout the day and rewarding them heavily for coming to you. This should increase their impulse to come when called and overtake the need to investigate other dogs or bark at passersby. In fact, any kind of obedience training is great for stomping out aggression, because it means your dog is more likely to listen to you should you need to get them away from another dog. 

You can reduce dog aggression by reinforcing that socializing is good. If there are any family dogs that your German Shepherd gets along with, arrange supervised playdates in a safe, controlled environment and reward your Shep for their positive interactions. 

When approaching an unknown dog on a walk, do not tense up. Your Shep will sense your anxiety and assume the dog is a threat, which could encourage their aggression. Instead, keep calm and keep moving. Take a toy to distract them if necessary, and then reward them with a treat every time they manage to walk past another dog without reacting aggressively. 

If the other dog is aggressive, try to avoid them should you see them on future walks, and always call out to owners of dogs you haven’t seen before to ask if they are friendly. If they’re not, either walk the other way or ask your dog to sit and wait until they pass.

When your Shep is aggressive, don’t shout as this may make things worse. Instead, pull them away as gently as you can, move them on, use a firm tone of voice, and clear commands. 

If your dog just cannot get over their dislike of other dogs or a specific breed, don’t push it! It may be trauma-related. Try to avoid other dogs as much as possible and make as much space as you can between you and them when you need to pass by each other. 

Keep your German Shepherd on the leash to keep other dogs safe and let other owners know that your dog isn’t up for playing with theirs when they approach. If you’re concerned, consult a behaviorist or professional trainer.

german shepherd walking outside

Why has my German Shepherd stopped barking?

If your German Shepherd is ordinarily noisy but has suddenly quietened down, they may have strained their vocal cords. It’s not uncommon for dogs that are very vocal to overuse their voice and get a sore throat as a result. Other reasons for dogs to stop barking as much include grief, recovering from surgery, and not feeling well. 

Can a German Shepherd’s voice change?

Dogs can lose their voices as they get older. In fact, it’s quite common. Elderly dogs often have high-pitched or hoarse voices that are patchy or barely there. 

Certain illnesses can also cause changes in voice, including physical trauma to the throat from an injury or foreign body, bronchitis, laryngitis, laryngeal paralysis, infections, thyroid issues, autoimmune disorders, muscular disorders, and cancer.

The bottom line

German Shepherds are big dogs with big voices, but you shouldn’t let that put you off! So long as you train them well – it shouldn’t get out of control.

Laura <br> <h6>Writer and Border Collie Mom​</h6>

Laura

Writer and Border Collie Mom​

Laura is a dog-lover with an animal-related degree and plenty of hands on experience. She is passionate about dog health & welfare and wants to arm owners with all of the essential info they need!

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