Dealing with the Infamous German Shepherd Puppy Biting Phase

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As an owner of a German Shepherd puppy, you’ve likely already experienced those sharp little milk teeth piercing into your skin. It can be surprising (and painful!) but this biting behavior is completely normal during your pup’s development. While this stage will pass, it’s crucial you respond properly to set your dog up for success. This article covers everything you need to know about surviving the German Shepherd puppy biting phase.

Key Takeaways

1. German Shepherd puppy biting is normal exploratory behavior, not aggression. It’s how they learn bite inhibition and interact with littermates.
2. Use positive reinforcement, redirection, settle commands, and other reward-based approaches to reduce biting. Avoid physical punishment.
3. Signs of true aggression include bites that break skin, growling, lack of response to correction, and obsessive staring/focus. Seek professional help if aggression emerges.
4. Jumping and biting house guests stems from herding instinct. Use baby gates, “place” commands, and turning away to discourage this.
5. Be patient and consistently reward gentle play. With maturity, training, exercise, and age, the land shark phase will pass as your puppy bonds with you.

Why German Shepherd Puppies Bite

Before diving into solutions, it’s helpful to understand the cause behind the behavior. German Shepherd puppies generally bite and nip for a few key reasons:

  • Exploring Through Their Mouth – Since pups can’t use their hands, they resort to mouthing as a way to explore objects, people, and surroundings. It’s non-aggressive in nature.
  • Learning Bite Inhibition – By biting and nipping their littermates, puppies learn how to moderate the force of their jaws. Without this early education, controlling bite strength is much more difficult.
  • Teething Discomfort – Sore gums from emerging teeth also provoke more mouthing and chewing behaviors.
  • Playfighting Practice – For puppies, play looks much different than it does for adult dogs. Playfighting, chasing, and wrestling are all standard ways pups interact and bond with one another. Mouthing and nibbling are part of that process.

In most cases, German Shepherd puppy biting stems from normal behavioral development, not aggression. As the owner, your job is to gently reshape those behaviors into more appropriate alternatives.

Techniques to Curb German Shepherd Puppy Biting

Dealing with land shark tendencies in your German Shepherd puppy requires a multi-pronged approach. Here are some of the most effective ways to tackle the biting phase:

Use Positive Reinforcement

When your puppy plays gently without biting or mouths only very softly, be sure to reward that behavior with praise, affection, or a high-value treat. This positive reinforcement helps them associate human skin with soft jaws.

Encourage Chew Toys

Having an arsenal of enticing chew toys on hand helps satisfy your German Shepherd’s natural urge to bite and tug. Offer appropriate outlets that are even more exciting than human limbs! Rotate the toys to prevent boredom.

Teach Settle Commands

Commands like “settle” teach your puppy to calmly relax on cue. This helps modulate high energy and frenetic biting. Always reward calm behavior.

Redirect With Play

If your German Shepherd starts to nip or bite you, quickly redirect their mouth to a toy. Engage their desire to play with a non-human item. This reshapes the habit.

Withdraw Attention

When puppy teeth touch human skin, give a high-pitched “yelp,” then immediately withdraw all attention. Stand up, fold your arms, and ignore them for 30-60 seconds. This shows that biting makes the fun stop.

Enroll in Training

Sign up for formal puppy kindergarten classes right away. This allows your German Shepherd to learn bite inhibition from the instructor and other puppies. Developmental socialization is extremely valuable.

Table 1: Summary of techniques to stop German Shepherd puppy biting

TechniqueHow It Works
Positive reinforcementRewards gentle play without biting
Encourage chew toysSatisfies urge to bite on appropriate items
Teach settle commandsHelps puppy learn to control energy and calm down
Redirect with playTransfers biting impulse to toys instead of people
Withdraw attentionShows that biting ends all interaction and fun
Enroll in trainingAllows bite inhibition education from professionals and other puppies

Avoid Physical Punishment

It can be frustrating when those sharp puppy teeth break skin, but avoid physical discipline like hitting or shaking. Those approaches will only teach your dog to fear you and potentially worsen aggression. Stick to positive, reward-based strategies.

Be Patient and Consistent

German Shepherd puppy biting diminishes gradually over time, not overnight. As the pup’s adult teeth come in around 16 weeks, biting impulse typically decreases. But the training process takes persistence, consistency, and patience before you’ll see true progress.

Stopping Extreme Biting and Aggression

While German Shepherd puppies do grow out of most mouthing behaviors, some problematic biting may progress into true aggression if left unaddressed.

Signs of concern include:

  • Biting that seems predatory rather than playful
  • Growling, lunging, or stiffening of body when biting
  • Bites that break skin and cause punctures or bruising
  • Biting directed at faces
  • Obsessive focus and staring that precipitates attack
  • Failure to respond to correction attempts

If you observe those aggressive patterns emerging, immediately consult a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist. Getting veterinary exams to rule out health issues is also a smart first step.

In some cases, genetic predispositions, fear imprinting during sensitive developmental windows, or lack of bite inhibition education can create aggressive tendencies. The good news is that reinforcement-based training and desensitization therapy often helps dramatically – but the quicker you intervene the better.

Why German Shepherds Jump and Bite

If you have guests over, they may find themselves startled by your German Shepherd puppy leaping up to bite at face level. This dangerous and scary habit stems from over-excitement upon seeing new people.

Because German Shepherds were originally bred to herd flocks, that predisposition kicks in when they spot “new sheep” entering their territory. Lunging, nipping, and heel biting are all herding behaviors. Without proper training, your pup sees house guests as an exciting new herd to manage!

Here’s how to curb jumping and biting when meeting new people:

  • Use baby gates – Prevent access when guests first enter so your pup can’t practice the behavior
  • Teach “place” command – Instruct your German Shepherd to go to a designated spot and remain until released
  • Ask guests to fold arms and turn away – Removing attention helps calm your puppy down
  • Redirect to a toy – Once your puppy settles, offer a toy so they still have an outlet for energy
  • Reward four paws on the floor – Use treats to reinforce a seated position rather than jumping

With time, consistency, and effort, you can break the habit of your German Shepherd blurring the line between furry house guest and farm animal.

German Shepherd Biting by Age

While all German Shepherd puppies go through a mouthing and nipping phase, the duration and intensity varies quite a bit. Factors like the puppy’s inherited temperament, early life experiences, training consistency, teething timeline, and parole all impact the biting timeline.

However, some general timelines do exist:

8-12 weeks – Puppies taken from litters too early often bite harder and struggle more with bite inhibition. Wait until at least 8 weeks if possible.

3-5 months – Most field experts consider this the peak of puppy biting as teething reaches full swing. Thorough training should already be underway with progress happening.

5-7 months – Typically, biting severity decreases during this period as adult teeth finish erupting and early training kicks in. Important socialization should continue.

7+ months – While biting should be significantly declining, maturity and impulse control are still developing. Training reinforcement remains essential through the first 18-24 months.

Of course, individual dogs vary substantially, so use those ages only as a general guide. The most important things are properly socializing your German Shepherd puppy and consistently rewarding gentle manners.

When Do German Shepherds Calm Down?

If you’re currently struggling through the land shark phase, you may be desperately wondering when your energetic German Shepherd will settle down. Unfortunately, it’s not an exact science.

Calming factors that help:

  • Maturity – As German Shepherds grow older, they mellow
  • Exercise – Well exercised dogs are less likely to be restless and destructive
  • Training – Reinforcing calm behaviors helps them learn to settle
  • Neutering/Spaying – This surgery may reduce extreme energy levels

Realistically though, German Shepherds are working dogs bred for demanding jobs requiring vigor and intensity. They often maintain some degree of puppy-like liveliness up to 2-3 years old.

Many German Shepherds do eventually tend to calm somewhere between 2-4 years old, but others retain strong exuberance up to senior ages. Much depends on breeding lines, individual personality, and outlet for energy.

The key is channeling that lively spirit into appropriate outlets instead of attempting to snuff out innate intelligence and verve. With maturity, exercise, training, and age, you will eventually bond with a wonderful companion.

FAQs About the German Shepherd Puppy Biting Phase

Still have some lingering questions about curbing your land shark puppy? Check out these frequently asked questions:

What age do German Shepherds stop biting?

Most German Shepherd puppies significantly reduce biting behavior once full adult teeth emerge around 7 months old. However, training should continue well beyond to reinforce good manners.

Why does my German Shepherd play bite me?

Play biting or “mouthing” stems from normal investigative and play behaviors in puppies learning about their environment and physical abilities. It’s not intended to harm.

How do I discipline my German Shepherd puppy for biting?

Avoid physical punishment which can make behavior worse. Use positive reinforcement, redirection, withdrawal of attention, settle commands, puppy socialization classes and more.

Will my German Shepherd puppy grow out of biting?

Yes, with diligent training most German Shepherd puppies outgrow frequent hard biting as they mature past teething phase and better understand preferred human interaction norms.

What is the #1 tip for stopping German Shepherd puppy biting?

Consistently reward gentle play without teeth touching skin. Positive reinforcement for preferred behavior is the cornerstone for raising a well-mannered pup.

The End Goal: A Well-Mannered Companion

At the end of the day, you want your German Shepherd puppy to grow into a trusted companion who controls their impulses and understands how to interact gently with human hands and skin.

By weathering the land shark phase with consistent, compassionate training and socialization, you set your GSD up to thrive and form an unbreakable bond that will bring you joy for years to come. With your guidance, the biting monster turns into a best friend.

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.