1.5 Year Old German Shepherds Still Mouthing/Nipping? How to Handle This Behavior

Categorized as Training and Behavior
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As a German Shepherd owner, you’ve probably experienced your fair share of nips and bites, especially during those crazy puppy teething phases. However, once your German Shepherd hits 1.5 years old, you expect the mouthing and nipping behavior to stop. So what gives when your adolescent Shepherd is still biting and mouthing well after the puppy phase?

Here’s a quick answer:

Even after puppyhood, adolescent German Shepherds may continue mouthing due to delayed maturity, teething, herding instincts, or insufficient training. Use positive reinforcement to reward gentle mouth habits. Say “Ouch!” and withdraw attention when biting occurs. Redirect biting urges onto chew toys. Seek professional training help if biting persists or worsens despite consistent effort.

Why Your German Shepherd Pup Might Still Be Mouthing

While frustrating, there are perfectly reasonable explanations for why your 1.5 year old German Shepherd hasn’t quite kicked the biting habit. Firstly, German Shepherds are known for taking longer to mentally mature compared to other breeds. This means impulsive puppy behaviors can persist through adolescence before they attain full maturity around age 3.

Additionally, the path to maturity is not necessarily linear. You might experience periods of regression with any learned behaviors. Teething may resurface as adult teeth settle in around 9 to 12 months old. Or your Shepherd might relapse into attention-seeking mouthing when they feel insecure or overtired. Adolescence is a rollercoaster ride!

Other influencing factors include:

  • Strong herding instincts – Nipping or mouthing at heels and ankles is your Shepherd’s way of trying to control herd movement.
  • Insufficient bite inhibition – Without proper training, your pup may never develop adequate skills for controlling bite pressure.
  • Barrier frustration – Leashed walks or physical barriers like fences can trigger frustrated reactions like snapping and lunging.

So in summary, mouthing beyond the puppy phase is not completely abnormal in adolescent Shepherds due to their delayed mental development and extenuating circumstances. But that doesn’t mean you should simply resign yourself to living with a nippy dog! Let’s explore your options for effectively and humanely addressing this behavior.

Use Positive Reinforcement to Promote Good Behavior

While it may be tempting to punish your Shepherd for mouthing, this will likely just exacerbate any fear or aggression issues. Instead, focus on rewarding gentle, acceptable behavior. Provide ample praise, affection, playtime, or treats whenever your dog refrains from biting or mouths very softly.

This positive reinforcement helps your dog associate good behavior with positive outcomes. It also fulfills their needs for stimulation and bonding so they’re less prone to acting out with rough mouthing just to gain attention. Consistency is key though – everyone in the household should actively reinforce gentle mouth habits.

Redirect Your German Shepherd’s Urges

When your adolescent Shepherd gets worked up and starts mouthing you, quickly redirect their energy onto a toy instead. Have an arsenal of tempting chew toys on hand for play sessions so you can immediately swap your hands or clothing for a rubber bone.

This trains your dog that while chewing itself is fine, human flesh is off limits. It also fulfills their innate need to use their mouths without suppressing natural dog behaviors. Rotate novel toys to keep things interesting and try freezing a wet cloth for your dog to gnaw on if they’re teething.

Use the “Ouch” Method

While redirection works well for overly exuberant mouthing, sometimes your dog needs clearer communication that their biting hurts you. A high-pitched “Ouch!” mimics the yelp of a wounded pup, signaling to your dog that they’re biting too hard. Say it loudly the moment you feel teeth on skin, then immediately walk away and ignore them for 30 to 60 seconds.

This simulates how bite victims in a litter would react – by ceasing play and socially isolating the biter. Used consistently each time biting occurs, the “Ouch!” and isolation method teaches your Shepherd that rough mouthing has unpleasant ramifications. It inhibits their behavior without using confrontation or punishment.

Apply Brief Time-Outs When Needed

For more aggressive or persistent biting that could lead to broken skin or scarring even with redirection attempts, brief time-outs are warranted. After a firm “No bite!”, lead your German Shepherd by the collar (don’t drag them) to a boring room or pen where they can settle down isolated from people and toys for 1-2 minutes.

Leave matter-of-factly without making eye contact or further interaction. This removes attention, ends the play session, and denies access to biting targets, communicating that biting ruins all the fun without direct punishment. After the time-out, invite your dog to try again with a calm vibe and new toy. Keep sessions brief and avoid anger when applying this technique.

Get Professional Help If Needed

Despite your best efforts with positive reinforcement training, the mouthing and nipping continues or worsens. Now what? Seek personalized guidance from a certified dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist. An expert can evaluate if an underlying condition like separation anxiety or OCD causes the biting, or if genetics influence your dog’s reactivity.

Tailored training plans can then be developed to meet your Shepherd’s needs. Customized anti-biting programs may involve counterconditioning using high value treats to shift your dog’s emotional response and behavior over time. Or a trainer can identify and modify specific triggers contributing to reactions.

Getting professional assistance provides moral support too – a reminder that you and your dog aren’t alone as you navigate mouthing issues together. Custom training solutions make the process less frustrating compared to guessing what might work to curb biting.

Prevent Recurrence through Proper Care

In tandem with structured training protocols, it’s imperative to meet your adolescent German Shepherd’s fundamental needs through proper physical and mental exercise, steady leadership, and proactive healthcare.

Ensure your Shepherd gets adequate activity daily, such as long on-leash walks, runs in securely fenced areas, or playing fetch. Mentally stimulate them as well with obedience or trick training sessions, food puzzles that make them problem solve for kibble, and interactive toys like treat-dispensing balls.

Provide clear structure through a consistent daily routine and reasonable rules. Be a strong, trusted leader by responding firmly when rules are broken, rewarding obedience or proper manners, and creating a stable environment.

Don’t forget proactive veterinary dental care and other medical interventions too. Have your Shepherd’s mouth frequently evaluated fortooth issues and ensure their rabies vaccines plus parasite prevention stay current. Addressing any pain or illness minimizes undesirable behaviors.

Collectively, fulfilling your German Shepherd’s needs leaves less opportunity for them to act out through inappropriate mouthing just to get attention or self-soothe discomfort. It won’t solve existing behavioral issues overnight but engenders trust and stability.

In Conclusion

Dealing with a mouthy adolescent German Shepherd can be tiresome, especially when you thought the puppy nibbling days were done. But armed with an understanding of why mouthing persists paired with appropriate positive reinforcement training techniques, you can curb this behavior for good. Always seek expert advice and veterinary care if biting seems pathological. Most of all, remember to be patient with your Shepherd as you shape gentle manners together!

MethodWhat is it?When to UseRisks
Positive ReinforcementRewarding wanted behavior; providing affection, treats, playEncouraging any positive interactions without bites; building confidence and trustMust be very consistent in order for dog to make connection
RedirectionSwapping human contact for chew toysStopping play bites and nips through distraction before they occurDog may repeatedly seek human interaction if toys are insufficiently engaging
“Ouch” and isolationSaying “Ouch!” then withdrawing all attention when biting occursDiscouraging hardness of bites; clear communication that it causes “pain”Some dogs may interpret withdrawal as chase game instead of deterrent
Time-outsBrief isolation without attention or toysStopping aggressive or over-aroused biting when other methods failDog may associate proximity to handler with losing freedom if overused

FAQ

1. Why does my 1.5 year old German Shepherd still nip and bite?

Even after the puppy teething stage, some adolescent Shepherds continue mouthing due to teething flare-ups, attention-seeking, frustration, herding instincts, insufficient training, or simply delayed mental development typical of the breed. Maturity in German Shepherds comes gradually over time.

2. What’s the best way to react when my German Shepherd play bites?

Rather than punish or yell, use the “Ouch!” technique – say “Ouch!” loudly to signal pain, then withdraw all attention for 30-60 seconds. The social isolation mimics how puppies teach biting inhibition in litters. Pair this with redirecting your German Shepherd to a toy instead whenever their energy and urges to mouth arise.

3. Why does my German Shepherd nip at my feet and ankles?

Mouthing at feet or nipping ankles frequently stems from your German Shepherd’s innate herding instincts. This behavior activates when they attempt to control the movement of their human “herd”. Ensure you discourage it consistently so it doesn’t escalate through positive reinforcement training and impulse control exercises.

4. Is my German Shepherd being aggressive or just playful when biting?

Key differences signaling aggressive intent versus playfulness include focused stare, tense muscles, bared teeth, growling, lack of “play bow”, targeting vulnerable areas, self-isolation after being corrected, or drawing blood versus an energetic wiggly body, soft loose bite, and stopping when given feedback. Look for play bows, sneezes, tail wags or toys brought over as play invitations.

5. Are time-outs effective for reducing German Shepherd mouthing and biting?

Brief isolation time-outs of 1-2 minutes can suppress reward of handler interaction and teach adolescent German Shepherds that biting ends all fun. For best results, lead your German Shepherd gently to a calm spot right after biting occurs vs angrily dragging or forcing them. Time-outs should be humane deterrents not punishments when redirection fails. Pair them ongoing positive reinforcement.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.