How to Stop a German Shepherd Puppy from Biting & Nipping

Just like other dog owners, there was a time when my German shepherd puppy’s biting behavior really frustrated me. It is true that the “biting phase” is just part of having a puppy, but that doesn’t mean we can let him get away with it. Nobody likes when those sharp tiny teeth puncture their arms and hands. 

how to stop a german shepherd puppy from biting and nipping

Thus, our job as dog parents is to teach our puppy that hard biting is not okay. So how to stop a German shepherd puppy from biting? One of the simplest and most effective ways to stop puppy biting is to teach him bite inhibition. 

A Step-By-Step Guide to Teaching Bite Inhibition

When you just bring your German shepherd puppy home, he doesn’t know how sharp his teeth are. As he is several weeks too young to enroll in a puppy class, then it is you who is in charge of this vital training. 

To teach your pup that hard biting is not allowed, you need to explain it in a way that your puppy can understand—not by yelling or physically punishing your pup. Yelling or hitting your pup does not work because it will only leave him confused without getting your point across. In the worst case, it can forever shatter the bond you have with your dog.

Bite inhibition is a simple yet effective technique to teach your puppy the ability to control his biting through a means of communication that he can easily understand. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Start by playing with your puppy and putting your hand in his mouth.
  2. Say “ouch” when your pup bites too hard. Let out a yelp loud enough to get your puppy’s attention, but not so loud that it frightens him.
  3. Let your hand go limp but do not pull it away out of his mouth abruptly, or else he might think you want to play tug of war with your hand in his mouth.
  4. Praise him if he starts to lick your hand. If not, push your hand gently toward his mouth to trigger his gag-reflex to release your hand, then turn your back on him, and ignore him.
  5. After several minutes, you can resume playing with him.
  6. If he again bites too hard, repeats the same steps.

Sidenote: 

  • Bite inhibition steps that I listed above will work for most puppies less than six months old, but it is not the same for puppies more than 6 months old. If this is your case, you may want to ask for help from a professional trainer or canine behaviorist to help develop your dog’s bite inhibition protocol.
  • Remember, while doing this exercise, don’t punish your puppy, clamp his mouth shut, or force your fingers down his throat. The purpose of this exercise is to let your puppy figure it out on his own by reading your facial expressions and hearing your tone of voice.
  • The pace of learning may vary from puppy to puppy. Some puppies catch on after several attempts, while others can take two months to get it. Don’t get discouraged if your puppy seems slow to pick things up. Just be patient and keep trying. 

Other Variations of Bite Inhibition Training

Here are other variations of the bite inhibition technique.

Bite Inhibition Using Toys

Puppies mouth and bite to relieve their teething discomfort. Unfortunately, this means he may bite at things and people. One way to distract your shepherd pup from biting you or your children is to provide him with plenty of chew toys such as kong, rubber balls, knotted ropes, and so on. He can’t bite you while chewing a toy. 

  1. Whenever you see your pup getting excited, hand him a toy and tell him, “Get this toy. Play with it!” and make a big fuss over him when you see him pick up the toy.
  2. If your pup ignores the toy and grabs your hand instead, first yell “ouch” in a high pitched voice. Then stare at your pup as if you were his mother who would correct him when he misbehaved.
  3. If his biting stops, praise him and offer him his toys. If he continues to bite, take him to his crate until he calms down.

Also read: best chew toys for German shepherds

Bite Inhibition Using Your Puppy’s Favorite Treats

Another variation of this technique is to use your pup’s favorite treats. Here’s how you do this.

  1. Get a handful of your puppy’s favorite treats.
  2. Hold it in your hand and close your hand with the treats inside.
  3. Say “off” to your pup.
  4. After a few seconds, if your puppy does not try to take the treats out of your hand, say “take it,” and give the treats.

What you are teaching your puppy here is that “off” means not to touch. This command will stop your pup in his tracks the next time he is about to bite an object or person.

Why Does My German Shepherd Puppy Bite Me?

All puppies, regardless of their breed, are curious in nature and like to explore the world around them. The difference is, instead of using hands like a small child would, they use their mouth to do many things, including tasting new objects, grabbing things, and playing with their mother and littermates. So, biting is actually a natural behavior in the canine world.

When your German shepherd puppy with his mother and littermates, if he bit his littermate too hard, the other puppy would yelp and then stop playing or return the bite. If your puppy nipped his mom too hard, his mother would correct him with a growl and snarl, and even a flurry of harsh barks. 

Now your puppy has moved into your house, a new environment that he is not familiar with, far away from his mother and littermates. Because he doesn’t know anything about you at all, he needs to re-learn how much bite is enough and how much bite is too much for you.

And as you may notice right now, our bite inhibition technique mimics the pup’s natural way of learning bite inhibition from his mother and littermates.

That being said, some German shepherds do appear more aggressive and have more tendency to bite than others. Here are a few reasons that explain the reason behind this behavior.

They are coming from working lines. German shepherds from working lines are driven, fearless, and relentless, making them an ideal dog for police work. However, a working line German shepherd is not a good choice if you’re just looking for a family dog. 

This working shepherd requires constant mental and physical stimulation. He needs to be reminded over and over again that you’re the “leader of the pack.” If you fail to do it, your dog will take over control of your relationship with him. He will tell what you can or can’t do by growling, snarling, or biting.

There’s simply too much power and prey drive in them, particularly if you have never handled this type of dog before. 

They have strong herding instincts. German shepherds were initially bred to herd and guard livestock. And up until today, many of them still participate in herding work, making them one of the best herding dogs in the world.

Back when your German shepherd’s ancestors were herding, they chased and used a nip to lead or herd an animal to a different location. This same behavior is used by today’s German shepherds as well. At some time or another, you may have noticed how your dog nips at you or your children’s ankles to control their movement.

Granted, not every German shepherd has strong enough herding instincts to become a titled herding dog, but when he does, that instinct is responsible for his chasing and biting behavior.

They feel pain. Dogs who are in pain will bite you. Your German shepherd puppy can suffer from pain because of many things. He may trip and hurt himself while running after a squirrel.

Or if your puppy came from a rescue, you may not be aware of his past injury issues. He may look normal and fine, but when touched in a specific spot, he might yelp, snap, or bite you. This is why it’s always recommended to bring a new puppy to the vet to do a complete physical examination.

As time goes by and the bond deepens between you and your dog, he will not react so strongly and so quickly at the first sign of pain. But for now, just remember that biting is another indication that your dog could be in pain.

They have a phobia or fear. Dogs can also bite out of fear. There is a time in your puppy’s life (usually around 8 weeks old) when he is suddenly afraid of anything—or also called a fear period. He could be frightened by the sound of a vacuum cleaner, or a trip to the veterinarian, or even something absurd like a rolled newspaper.

During this time, you must know how to handle your shepherd pup correctly; otherwise, his fear will turn into an ongoing life-long fear. If you noticed your puppy hits a fear period, I would urge you to speak with a canine behaviorist to find the best course of action to take.

In general, the principle is to ignore your puppy whenever you notice a certain object upsets him. Don’t go after your pup and showering him with kindness and affection that only prompts him to continue his phobia. Only when your puppy has learned to behave appropriately you can reward him with pats and treats.

How to Stop a German Shepherd Puppy from Jumping and Biting?

If you watch a little of puppies, you will see them jumping and nipping at each other as part of the play. When things go out of hand and become too rough, his mother intervenes and regains control of the situation by growling at him.

Now when you brought your new puppy home, he likely wouldn’t have any idea how to treat you or your children and mistook you as one of his littermates. Here is how you can stop your shepherd puppy from jumping and biting.

  1. Play with your puppy.
  2. When he gets too excited during the game, stop the playtime.
  3. Get up and leave. 
  4. If he keeps jumping and biting at you, put him into his crate for a few minutes, then resume the game again.

How to Stop a German Shepherd Puppy from Chasing and Biting My Kids?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs annually (1). Of this number, about half of the victims are children. 

The reason for these high numbers is that many parents do a poor job of teaching their kids how to behave around dogs, whether pets or strays. Knowing just a few basics can reduce the number of bites that your children get substantially.

Here are some basic rules your children need to follow:

  • Do not let your kids pet the puppy when the pup is eating.
  • Do not try to ride the pup or lean on him.
  • Do not disturb the pup when he is sleeping.
  • Do not wiggle your fingers in front of the pup’s face.
  • Do not run, scream, hit each other, or play any rough games like tug-of-war or wrestling in the home.
  • Do not come near the pup’s crate or poke your finger inside.
  • Do not take anything out of the dog’s mouth forcefully.

The next thing to do is to teach your shepherd puppy how to behave around the children. Here’s how to do this. 

  1. Let your puppy play with your children with his leash dragging along behind him.
  2. When your pup gets too excited, steps on the leash and says, “No chase!” and “No bite!”
  3. Let your pup calm down a little before letting him go play again. 

Remember that you must supervise your children whenever they are interacting with their German shepherd puppy. 

Related Questions

1.What does it mean when someone says that your German shepherd is sharp? Breeders and trainers often used this term to describe dogs with a low bite threshold. These dogs are aggressive and likely to bite with little provocation when cornered or threatened and therefore deemed dangerous, especially if they haven’t been taught proper bite inhibition as puppies.

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