Help Your German Shepherd Overcome His Phobias!

Is your dog over-anxious or excited about certain things, people or animals? Many are! Excessive barking, jumping or other over-wrought behaviors are unpleasant and unnecessary for both dog and  household. For such every action there is a cause; and, there’s a reason behind a dog behaving this way. It’s not about him being a “bad” dog. It takes a little understanding of how a dog’s mind works, in order to correctly diagnose the cause of such things as excessive barking. Once we understand this stuff we are in a position to help the dog to overcome faulty behaviors, replacing them with well ordered and peaceful conduct. Such outcomes are a wonderful thing for all concerned.

A Canine’s Worldview

His Thinking is Smart, Instinctive and Uncomplicated. He Takes Things at Face Value, and Responds Decisively

So, how does a dog perceive the world around him? In the event the dog is not well-socialized, and lacks a full security regarding his place in the family, or “pack”, he’s liable to interpret a casual encounter as a threat, a mailman as a trespasser, and a visitor as a hostile intruder. All this is very primal and very simplistic, but we are talking a dog’s mind, not a human’s. A domesticated dog is after all a creature transplanted from the wild – one with strong instincts,  who is fiercely loyal and highly protective of the pack.

Now that we’ve brought this wild and wooly being into our human world,  it’s our responsibility to help him adjust, interact well, and be at peace with his new environment

While I’m not a psychologist, it seems self evident that, for humans and dogs alike, the way we view the things and people around us has a profound effect on both our thinking and our behavior. One person views a policeman as a friend and protector; another as a threat to their freedom! A family with a dog represents one thing to us, and another to the dog. We need to understand these differences in perception. Let’s look at how a dog’s viewpoint concerning his human family may differ from ours:

  • Our take on family life encompasses the sense that we are a human household with a dog added. And, we are responsible to feed, nurture and protect all family members, both human and canine..
  • But the dog’s concept of his human family is something like this: Animal pack in need of a leader!!. His mind tells him: “I’m wired to absolutely lead or absolutely follow. If I don’t see an absolute pack leader amongst my humans, It becomes my responsibility to assume the role! So I’ll do so to the best of my ability. I’ll make is very clear when I consider it is time get up in the morning, when it’s time for food, for play, for a  walk etc. I’ll also guard my pack with vigilance, since that responsibility has been given me. I’ll aggressively preserve the territory of the pack, driving away intruders, and neutralizing every threat!

Realign the Roles

The kindest thing we can do for our dogs is to relieve them of the impossible, and false, burden of being pack leader over their human family. Nothing brings greater comfort and relief to a dog, than to know they are secure members of a functional, well-ordered human “pack”, an essential component of which must be the established, undisputed human leader.

A clear demonstration of leadership – put forth in a manner that will be understood by our dogs – is the way in which we go about relieving them from that burden of leadership. No longer can the dog dictate the workings of the household, or call the shots on any daily activity. As the human, you must:

  1. Eat first, and feed the dog afterwards
  2. Decide when it’s time for a walk, or any other activity involving canines
  3. Exit the house first, followed by the dog; reenter the house first, followed by the dog.
  4. Never give the dog what he/she wants, in response to barking. Ignore barking, then provide the thing needed on your terms, at the time of your choice.

A Corrective Action, Canine-Style

Initially, as you start to recondition your pooch to accept your leadership, while relinquishing that role himself, you must ignore his barks and other demands. If he gets on a role with barking, you may need to use distraction tactics to get him off his obsession. Cesar Millan will often use a little hiss to distract the dog. Other times he will mimic a corrective nip (a measured but unmistakeable bite to the side – a signal of authority used by pack leaders in the wild) by giving a swift tap to the dog’s side with the finger tips. This is  an effective training technique that can be helpful while you recondition your dog.

Follow these links for more guidance on canine behavior:

Treating Separation Anxiety

Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer Method


  1. Our GS is 7 months old and she barks non-stop at our other do, our cat and while looking out the window. How can we get this barking from non-stop to just sometimes?

    • Hi Shelley:
      The barking problem you describe is not unusual. With your young pup this can easily be addressed. A combination of good training, along with basic behavior remedies are what’s needed. First, follow this link for some basic guidance on helping your dog: Next, I would highly recommend a good training program. You’ll find articles here on GermanShepherdPlace (see “Articles” tab above), plus under “Training Videos” above you can get some great resources that you might consider taking advantage of.

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