German Shepherd puppies are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and work ethic. However, their tendency to nip and bite, especially as puppies, can be problematic.
Puppy biting and nipping is a natural behavior, but it needs to be controlled early on to prevent it from becoming a bad habit. With proper training and management, you can curb biting and teach your German Shepherd puppy to play gently.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore 10 tips to stop German Shepherd puppies from biting and nipping.
Why Do German Shepherd Puppies Bite So Much?
Before learning how to stop German Shepherd puppy biting, it helps to understand why they do it in the first place.
Here are some of the main reasons German Shepherd puppies tend to bite a lot:
- Teething – Puppies begin teething at around 3-4 months old. The pain and discomfort from their growing teeth causes them to chew and bite at anything they can – including your hands and feet. Chewing helps relieve their sore gums.
- Exploring the World – For puppies, biting and mouthing is a way to explore their environment. They don’t have hands, so they use their mouths to interact with the world around them.
- Learning Bite Inhibition – Biting is how puppies learn bite inhibition, which is crucial for them to develop. When playing with their littermates, if they bite too hard, the other puppy will yelp and stop playing. This teaches them to control the force of their bites.
- Attention-Seeking – Puppies often nip and bite as a way to get your attention. It’s important not to reward this behavior by giving them attention when they do it.
- Excitement – When German Shepherd puppies get really excited, either in play or meeting new people, they may uncontrollably nip and bite at hands, feet, clothing, etc. This is totally normal puppy behavior.
- Herding Instincts – German Shepherds were bred to herd livestock by nipping at their heels. This instinct remains strong in the breed, so they may try to nip and herd people, especially children.
Now that you know why German Shepherd puppies are prone to biting and nipping, let’s cover some tips to curb it.
10 Tips to Stop German Shepherd Puppy Biting
1. Provide the Right Toys
One of the best ways to deal with a nippy German Shepherd puppy is to always have appropriate chew toys on hand.
Offer an acceptable chew toy whenever your pup starts to bite you. This redirects their desire to chew onto something appropriate, rather than your hands and feet. Praise them enthusiastically when they take the toy instead.
Having a variety of textures and sizes of toys will keep your German Shepherd entertained. Provide interactive toys that you can play tug with, as well as softer chews they can sink their teeth into.
Some great chew toy options include:
- Rope toys
- Rubber Kongs and other rubber chew toys
- Durable plastic chew toys (look for ones designed for powerful chewers)
- Plush toys (supervise so they don’t swallow any stuffing)
- Beef cheek rolls, bully sticks, Himalayan chews
- Frozen carrots or apples (the cold soothes sore gums when teething)
Rotate toys frequently so your pup doesn’t get bored. Always supervise them when playing with toys.
2. Use a Private Toy Basket
Keep a special basket or bin of puppy toys that are reserved just for you to use when directly interacting with your German Shepherd puppy.
These private toys are higher value to your puppy because access is limited. Bring out the toy basket during designated puppy playtime. Encourage them to chew the toys from the basket, and trade the toy for a treat when they bring it to you.
Put the toy basket away when playtime is over. This teaches your puppy that these special toys only come out when it’s time for positive, structured play with you.
3. Say “Ouch!” and Stop Play
When your German Shepherd puppy starts to nip or bite your hands, feet, or clothing, immediately say “Ouch!” in a high-pitched voice. This lets them know their bite hurt you.
Then, promptly end all play and attention. Stand up and walk away from your puppy for 15-30 seconds. Completely ignore any whining or attempts to keep playing.
This shows your pup that bites end fun playtime. When you return, redirect their energy onto a toy. If they bite again, repeat the “Ouch!” and withdrawal of attention. Be consistent, and they will learn that mouthing humans stops games.
Say “Ouch!” for light mouthing, but use a firm “No” for harder biting.
4. Use Timeouts
If your German Shepherd puppy continues to bite or nip despite saying “Ouch,” place them in a short timeout.
Lead them calmly but firmly by the collar to their crate or a bathroom. Give them 2-3 minutes of alone time to settle down. Make timeouts boring; don’t engage with or talk to your puppy during the timeout.
When you let them out, immediately engage them with a toy or game so they don’t associate being released with biting. With consistency, they will learn that biting and nipping leads to isolation, not fun play.
5. Withdraw Your Attention
Puppies often bite to get attention, even if it’s negative attention. That’s why you should withdraw your attention if your German Shepherd pup bites you.
As soon as their teeth touch your skin, turn away from them and ignore them completely for 30-60 seconds. Don’t make eye contact, talk to them, or engage with them at all. Leave the room if necessary.
This teaches them that biting makes you go away. They want to play with you, so will quickly learn that biting ends all your attention. Remember to praise and reward them when they stop biting.
6. Put Bitter Spray on Your Hands
When your German Shepherd is a persistent biter, lightly spraying bitter puppy training spray on your hands can deter biting.
The unpleasant bitter taste helps teach them that human skin is not something to be mouthed. However, this is only a temporary training tool. Always praise them when they lick instead of biting your bitter-tasting hands.
Bitter sprays also work to stop destructive chewing of furniture or shoes. Never spray it directly in your puppy’s mouth.
7. Use a House Line
Attach a 6-10 foot house line to your German Shepherd puppy’s collar so you can easily control them when they get nippy.
Having the handle of the leash allows you to quickly correct and distract overzealous biting by gently tugging on the leash and encouraging them to chew a toy instead. The leash also stops them from chasing you during biting frenzies.
Only use the house line when directly supervising your pup. Do not leave it on when unattended or sleeping. Make sure it does not catch on furniture and risk tangling.
8. Practice Obedience Commands
Consistently reinforcing obedience commands is a great way to curb nipping in German Shepherd puppies.
Teach cues like “look”, “sit”, “down”, and “stay” using positive reinforcement methods. Use tasty treats and practice these commands multiple times per day in short sessions.
When your puppy gets nippy or bites, tell them firmly “No bite!” then immediately redirect their energy into practicing a command like “sit” before rewarding with a treat. This constructively channels their need to bite.
9. Manage Their Energy
An overtired German Shepherd puppy with pent-up energy is more likely to bite and nip. Make sure yours gets adequate physical and mental exercise.
Take them for at least two 20-30 minute leashed walks per day. Additionally, have safe chew toys available so they can self-exercise when indoors. Feed them using puzzle toys for mental stimulation.
Crate your puppy for enforced naptimes after exercise and play to prevent them from getting over-tired and nippy. Puppies need 18-20 hours of sleep per day. An overtired puppy turns into a naughty, bitey puppy.
10. Socialize Them Properly
Proper socialization is crucial for teaching bite inhibition in German Shepherd puppies. Let them play and interact safely with other friendly, vaccinated puppies and tolerant adult dogs on a regular basis.
Other puppies will teach them that painful bites have consequences through appropriate feedback. Adult dogs also communicate when puppy biting becomes too much.
Additionally, get your German Shepherd puppy used to being gently handled and examined from a very young age. Touch their paws, ears, tail, and mouth frequently so they become desensitized to handling.
When to Be Concerned About Puppy Biting
While nipping and mouthing is normal in German Shepherd puppies, excessive biting can indicate issues that need to be addressed. Contact a professional dog trainer or behaviorist if your puppy shows these problematic biting behaviors:
- Breaking skin and drawing blood when they bite
- Biting hard and shaking their head aggressively while biting
- Biting frequently and intensely without response to correction
- Biting hard enough to cause bruises or scrapes
- Biting aggressively when you reach for their collar or touch them
- Biting or nipping at faces
- Biting during or after discipline
- Biting strangers or unfamiliar people only
Excessive puppy biting can stem from fear, lack of socialization, punishment-based training, lack of bite inhibition, or dominance issues. If your German Shepherd puppy starts to show these warning signs, don’t delay in seeking professional help.
Are German Shepherds Puppies Aggressive Biters?
While German Shepherd puppies do nip a lot, it’s rarely true aggression at this young age. True aggressive biting in puppies is very uncommon.
More often, excessive German Shepherd puppy biting stems from normal mouthing and exploration combined with insufficient training. They don’t understand that human skin is much more sensitive than another puppy’s fur.
Without boundaries, this normal puppy behavior can become a problematic habit. Proper socialization, training, exercise and replacing biting with acceptable chew toys helps set them up for success.
Signs of Aggressive Puppy Biting
True aggressive biting is characterized by:
- Biting without provocation or warning
- Deep puncture wounds from the bite
- Biting accompanied by growling or snarling
- Biting down and refusing to let go
- Biting paired with direct staring and stillness
- Attempts to intimidate and dominate through biting
- Continued intense biting despite correction
Puppies exhibiting clear aggression through biting need immediate intervention. Seek help from veterinary behaviorists or certified behavior consultants. Do not attempt physical punishment, which will only make the issue worse.
Management tools like crates, tethers, and separation may be needed for aggressive puppies. Medication can also help in extreme cases, combined with behavior modification plans.
What Age Does Puppy Biting Stop?
German Shepherd puppies can continue nipping behavior well into adolescence if boundaries are not set. Their adult teeth start coming in around 16 weeks, so mouthing often increases again temporarily during this time.
With diligent training, you can curb regular nibbling by about 5-6 months. However, when puppies get very excited or worked up, they may still revert to nipping until they mature mentally.
To get through the puppy biting phase as quickly as possible:
- Use the tips in this article consistently
- Avoid roughhousing or wrestling games
- Provide adequate physical and mental exercise
- Reinforce impulse control regularly
- Socialize them to promote good bite inhibition
- Manage excitement levels
The more diligent you are with training, the sooner your German Shepherd puppy will learn to play nice and stop viewing human hands and limbs as chew toys!
Puppy Biting Tips and Tricks
Beyond the main tips outlined above, here are some additional tried and true methods for curbing puppy biting during training and play.
Use handling exercises – Get your puppy accustomed to having their paws, ears, tail and other areas handled often so they become desensitized to touch. Touch them gently while offering treats so they associate handling with positivity. This prevents biting when handled.
Put peanut butter on your hands – Smear a dab of peanut butter or cream cheese on your hands for your puppy to lick off. Licking is an alternative behavior to biting that satisfies their oral fixation without hurting you. The taste will keep them occupied.
Freeze a wet washcloth – A frozen washcloth can help soothe teething discomfort. Let your puppy gently mouth on the cold washcloth. Be sure to tie a knot in the end for safety. Supervise so they don’t consume any pieces.
Try a shaker can – Put a few pennies or pebbles in an empty soda can, then tape the opening closed. When your puppy bites, shake the can loudly to startle them and stop the biting behavior. The noise interrupts and resets them.
Spray water – Keep a spray bottle on hand, and give your puppy a spritz of clean water if they bite. The sensation distracts without harming them. Only use sparingly so they don’t become accustomed.
Smear cheese spread on toys – Make approved chew toys more enticing than your extremities by smearing the toys with cream cheese, peanut butter or wet dog food. Your puppy will find their toys more interesting than your fingers when they have a tasty coating.
Give appropriate edibles – Treats like frozen carrots, apple slices and banana can curb biting because they provide an acceptable item to chew. Pick items that won’t pose a choking risk for your puppy’s size.
Blow in their face – When your puppy bites, blow a quick puff of air into their face. This harmless tactic surprises them and interrupts the biting long enough to redirect them to a toy.
What Not to Do About Puppy Biting
It’s important to avoid certain negative tactics when trying to teach your German Shepherd puppy not to bite. Here are some things to avoid:
- Hitting or slapping – Physical punishment will damage your bond with your puppy and can increase biting and aggression.
- Shouting – Loud yelling can intimidate puppies, and they don’t understand why you’re yelling. Use a firm calm tone instead.
- Grabbing their collar – Never lift your puppy by the collar to discipline them. This can provoke biting.
- Shoving your hand down their throat – Pushing your fingers down their throat to mimic a mother dog is outdated and unsafe. It can actually reward biting by giving them something to bite.
- Alpha rolls – Forcing your puppy onto their back and holding them there can induce fear that fuels biting behavior. It can also cause them to become hand-shy.
- Citrus tastes – Rubbing lemon juice or hot sauce in their mouth is an unsafe folk remedy that can cause pain, gastrointestinal issues and make them hand-shy.
- Biting back – Never use your teeth on a puppy to try and show them biting hurts. This sends mixed messages at best, and abuse at worst.
- Dominance techniques – Outdated and inhumane dominance tactics like the “alpha roll” do not address the source of puppy biting, and often worsen it. Kind, positive training is the answer.
Stick to the humane, positive training methods outlined in this guide to teach your German Shepherd puppy to curb biting and nippy behavior. Avoid punishment, intimidation and physical reprimands at all costs.
Puppy Biting Training Schedule
To fully curb biting, you need to begin training as soon as you bring home your German Shepherd puppy and continue reinforcing the lessons consistently. Expect the process to take weeks or months depending on your pup.
Here is a general timeline for German Shepherd puppy bite inhibition training:
- Provide lots of appropriate chew toys
- Start teaching them to take treats gently without nipping
- Say “Ouch!” then ignore; redirect biting to a toy
- Use hand tethers/house lines for control
- Socialize them carefully with vaccinated puppies
- Continue saying “Ouch!” but start using “No bite”
- Apply bitter spray for deterrence
- Use timeouts for continued biting (1-2 minutes)
- Practice basic obedience commands like “sit”
- Socialize them to experience correction from other puppies
- Keep using chew toys and “No bite”
- Use longer timeouts for biting (2-3 minutes)
- Practice impulse control games and commands heavily
- Socialize them with friendly adult dogs
- Praise gentle play often
- Your German Shepherd puppy’s bite should be significantly softened by now with training
- Manage situations that trigger excited biting
- Be very consistent with rules and corrections
- Reward gentle mouth behavior
Note that timeline is just a general guide, not set in stone. Progress through training steps based on your individual puppy’s response. Don’t move too quickly or expect overnight miracles. With consistency and patience, you’ll get there!
German Shepherd Puppy Biting – The Takeaway
Puppy biting and nipping is completely normal behavior, especially in mouthy breeds like German Shepherds. But it’s important to establish rules and boundaries immediately to prevent it from becoming a problem.
Use redirection, chew toys, positive reinforcement and structured play to teach your German Shepherd puppy to play nice. Be patient, yet firm and consistent. Proper socialization and exercise are also key in curbing biting tendencies.
While biting during puppyhood is expected, take it seriously if it progresses to true aggression. Seek professional help for excessive biting that causes injuries or persists despite training.