Factor One: What Was The German Shepherds Original Purpose
As with most dogs, German Shepherds were bred for a purpose. These magnificent dogs were bred and trained to herd and protect various herds of livestock.
When an animal was wandering away from the herd, the German Shepherds were trained to nip them on certain parts of their body as a warning to get back with the others.
They were trained to do this in a way that gets the drifters attention without doing physical harm to the animal.
My German Shepherd sometimes nips at my heels during playtime, mainly when walking away. Essentially she is herding me by mimicking the behavior of her ancestors. She tends to do this when she wants me to play for longer.
Why Do German Shepherds Bite Their Owners
One of the main reasons these pets attack, act aggressively, or bite their handlers/commanders is because they want to protect their resources.
Specifically, if you try to get its food while it is eating, affect its toys, or carry it to another area, it will often get angry and behave aggressively. This issue often happens with puppies when we try to guide them.
What Can I Do To Stop My German Shepherd Puppy From Biting
Because biting is normal canine behavior and GSDs are a breed that is more prone to it, the goal here is to inhibit the bite, not completely stop it.
At the end of your training, your GSD should have achieved that lovely soft mouth.
Below are the dos and donts to keep in mind when training your GSD puppy in bite inhibition.
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What Not To Do:
I want to take this moment to mention that there are RIGHT ways and WRONG ways to train your puppy not to bite.
I have seen so many people give bad advice to puppy owners including:
- Holding their mouth shut after they nip you
- Pinning them on their back to show them you are the dominant one
- Putting a muzzle on them
- Incorrect styles of time-outs
- Punishing or hitting the puppy
Gsd Puppies Bite Because Theyre Overstimulated
As youve already seen, German Shepherd puppies are likened to sharks and dinosaurs.
But often, their nipping is a manifestation of overstimulation and losing control of their bite force.
Sometimes, German shepherd puppies will get nippier and nippier when they are cranky and need a nap.
And considering they are a puppy with very little training in impulse control , its up to you to teach bite inhibition in a kind and clear way.
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Factor Six: Puppy Teething Phase
The final reason why your German Shepherd may be extra mouthy is due to the dreaded teething stage. From around 12 weeks of age, your pup will start to lose his baby teeth, and his adult teeth will come through. Teething is generally complete by around six months.
During this phase, your pups play biting can become extra annoying if you dont redirect the behavior and provide a good selection of chew toys that allow your puppy to relieve the soreness of his gums. Check out this article for some cool ideas, 15 Best Chew Toys For German Shepherds.
Consider Any Health Issues
When training your German Shepherd not to bite using the above methods and you arent progressing, it may be time to consider your dogs health, especially if your GSD only chews on one side of his mouth.
This may indicate that your dog is suffering from a broken tooth or an infected or swollen gum as he is only chewing on the side that isnt painful. Look out for other symptoms such as drooling more than usual, bad breath, loss of appetite, or sneezing.
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Expose Your Puppy To Loud Noises And Fearful Situations
As well as socialization, its also important to expose your German Shepherd puppy to situations that can spark fear and aggression such as vehicles, children, and busy public places they are capable, given how they make such great police dogs.
The sooner they can get used to things like this, the sooner they should learn not to bite out of fear.
Be Aware Of Body Language
Dogs use body language to communicate. Pay attention to what your dogs body language is telling you. A dog who is afraid or unhappy about having its territory invaded has the potential to bite. Behaviors such as bared teeth, raised hackles, a lowered head, or ears lying flat against the head are signs that a dog is uncomfortable and may bite. If you notice a dog displaying this type of body language, give it some space and advise others to do so as well. Remove your dog from the situation as soon as you feel safe to do so.
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Why German Shepherds Bite
Most German Shepherds will show some fear or aggression at some point in their lives. Most will let you know they are scared with a little bark, letting you know to keep away.
If you dont keep your distance, the barks can turn into a growl, with their little puppy teeth showing. If you continue to advance and upset them, the growl can then become a snap and possible bite.
Most German Shepherds will bite you with a little nip when scared, and hopefully wont cut you. But, with an older and more aggressive German Shepherd, that bite could be very painful, particularly to young children.
Do German Shepherds bite a lot?
When German Shepherd are puppies, they do tend to do a lot of biting. Most of the time its all about playing and teething, and most will grow out of the behavior.
Why German Shepherd puppies bite?
The teething phase is when you will notice your German Shepherd puppy biting the most. Ive written at length about the German Shepherd teething phase before, which explains how they explore their surroundings with little nips and chew on things to soothe their painful gums.
Some German Shepherds will also bite a bit too enthusiastically when they are playing with you. This is a hangover from their days with their siblings where mouth play would have been used.
An adult German Shepherd that bites is a problem
Play The Treat Toss Game
This game is a go-to for all positive reinforcement dog trainers. And its one that I teach all my clients and students too.
It does mean youll need to be armed with treats a lot of the time. But thats the nature of creating new behaviors.
Once thats done, the food rewards are replaced by real-life rewards. But thats for another article.
Now back to the treat toss game
As your puppy approaches with that Im looking to engage with my mouth look on their face, quickly toss a treat a few feet away from you and let your pup go after the treat.
Once they eat the treat, they will naturally come back into you, at which point you can rinse and repeat.
This is not only a low-key way to redirect your puppys intentions positively, but youll be amazed at the power of this game as the foundation of a solid recall!
And the cool thing is you can actually use a portion of your puppys daily food allowance for this, so youre not over-feeding them with extra treats.
And still, youre really getting the value out of each piece of food.
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Factor Two: Natural Prey Instinct Of A German Shepherd
As a result of their herding heritage, German Shepherds have a somewhat overly developed sense of prey. They cant help it its in their blood.
They want to chase, hunt, herd and investigate. They are constantly observing and ready to pounce. GSDs are incredibly observant dogs who are typically easy to train when given the correct instruction and care.
My GSD has a strong prey drive especially when the squirrels and deer are nearby. Theres no way she isnt chasing a squirrel if she has one in her sight!
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When To Get Help With Your German Shepherds Biting Problem
If even after using all these training methods to stop a German Shepherd biting, you still have problem behavior, do contact a professional vet.
They can very quickly tell you if its simply mouthing to do with teething, or something more behavioral or health-based that needs to be addressed.
There are also specialist animal behaviourists who can help with biting and fear aggression in German Shepherds. If you are in the United States you can find help from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist on the CAAB website .
Something to consider though is how long your German Shepherd could be teething for. It can last up until they are 8 months of age, so biting and chewing things is to be expected during this phase.
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Why Do German Shepherd Puppies Bite
Its important to understand that your fuzzy little friend isnt being aggressive this is just how your puppy plays. Up until this time, your puppy was with its littermates, and playtime meant lots of mouthy, nipping fun.
Accordingly, this is the only way your GSD knows how to play! As a new puppy parent, youll need to teach your dog other gentler ways to play.
A German Shepherd puppy also uses their mouths to explore different things like toys or hands, ankles, furniture pretty much anything they can get their mouth around.
Because dogs cant pick things up and examine them, they resort to using their mouths. While being mouthy isnt inherently a bad thing, youre in trouble when teeth start getting involved.
Your puppy could also be teething, which can increase their mouthy behavior.
Now that you understand a little more about why your pup is biting, you shouldnt be alarmed. Just be patient as you work through the German Shepherd puppy biting phase give your pup time to learn to be gentle when playing or seeking your attention.
Other Resources To Consider When Dealing With A Puppy That Bites
If you have a real problem with a German Shepherd puppy biting and growling or a German Shepherd puppy biting hard, you may need some expert help.
Resources like Doggy Dan the online dog trainer and the Secrets to Dog Training online program are a great starting point because these guides are full of tips and related issues. The former is now revered across the world because of its user-friendly advice and easy-to-follow steps. The latter is a great alternative approach that focuses on the behavior of the human owner as much as the pet. Both have strong sections about biting These resources may also be able to provide more information on German Shepherd puppy teething to help with appropriate solutions at this point of development.
With so many different opinions on the subject of German Shepherd puppy biting, it can be hard to know which route to take.
Opinion is split on the best way to stop a GSD puppy biting. It can be confusing trawling through the net for the best way to discourage these pups from biting because some will praise bite inhibition and pack-style training and criticize the use of toys. Other take the opposite view. These two opposing views dont have to be so conflicting. Simply look at these approaches as two separate options to an important problem. If one fits in with your training style and is more comfortable then work with that one.
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How To Stop My German Shepherd Puppy From Nipping My Children
70% of children that are bitten by a dog are actually bitten by a dog that they know and love.
Veterinarian Dr. Alex Avery
First, you need to understand your German Shepherds traits. These are hard-wired behavior that exists in the blood. And these instincts are also what make a German Shepherd a German Shepherd. Lets look at a couple of those.
The Bite Of A German Shepherd
Theres a saying that when a German Shepherd bites you, shes in it for the long haul. An aggressive 70-pound dog pouncing on you can get quite ugly fast.
Think broken bones, damaged muscles, deep lacerations, bruises, scars, and expensive medical bills. Although uncommon, it can sometimes lead to the victims death.
German Shepherds have a bite force of 238 PSI , compared to humans with a bite force of 162 PSI.
In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association lists the German Shepherd as one of the six breeds with the most dangerous bites, based on a US study.
Therefore, training your GSD to inhibit her bite is mandatory as it not only rewards you with a well-behaved dog, but also ensures your safety as well as the safety of the people around you.
A crucial step towards correcting this nasty behavior is to first understand why German Shepherd puppies bite.
Before we move on, take a look at some important and useful information that weve written for you in the following 2 articles:
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Is It Behavior Or Temperament
You need to realize the difference between behavior and temperament
Biting is a behavior, and its something all puppies do.
Biting, in general, regardless of age, is a behavior. And a natural one to boot.
The difference between a dog thats much more prone to biting and nipping has a lot to do with temperament.
And the following two factors play a significant role in temperament
Dont Use Force Coercion Or Any Type Of Physical Punishment
Some people use coercion-based methods such as the Alpha Roll to teach the dog that the human is the dominant one in the relationship.
In the Alpha Roll, the human pins down the dog on the floor on his side or back and holds that position to exert dominance.
This stemmed from early studies which deduced that wolves maintained a hierarchy in the wild where one member of the pack is an alpha.
In truth, this concept has been debunked by wolf experts of today who observed that wolves volunteered to pose submissively as a retreat.
Besides, it has also been proven in many studies that dogs have very different behavior from wolves.
The alpha roll is therefore an outdated training method that should be scrapped and never used on your pet, as it only leads to more behavioral problems.
Pinning your dog will cause him to freeze out of fear, which can also turn into aggression. It also teaches your dog that physical touch is something to be feared.
Your dog may never trust you this way, and you dont want this to happen if you want to form a healthy bond with your pet. Nobody wants to be punished by hand, not humans and certainly not dogs either.
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Popularity Of German Shepherds
German Shepherd Dogs are the second most popular dog in the United States. The American Kennel Club produces a breed popularity list every year using dog registration figures. The most up-to-date figures at the time of writing have German Shepherds at number two as the second most owned dog in the U.S., behind only Labradors. German Shepherds have held down a place in the top spots for many years.
More Ways To Reduce German Shepherd Puppy Biting
The truth is, teaching a soft mouth is not an overnight skill!
And honestly, its a skill that will require much back and forth until your puppy is done teething.
But, you can intentionally influence the environment to help your puppy make the best choices and reduce biting behavior dramatically.
This training requires a multi-pronged approach. Considering your puppys natural needs and clever training approaches, as learned in this article.
The eight ways that follow below and what youve already learned will encourage alternate and more desirable behaviors.
And over time, youll notice that these outweigh the nipping behaviors.
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They Have A High Prey Drive
Similar to what we discussed above, our German Shepherd puppies may see us as a big chew toy. Not only are our hands and feet tempting enough, but even more so when a puppy has a high prey drive.
A prey drive is an ingrained need to chase after moving objects, whether it is appropriate or not. A swinging hand as we walk by can be extremely tempting for a growing pup, causing them to jump up and nip.
If it seems like your Shepherd puppy is always biting you when you are in motion, it may be due to their high prey drive!
How Long Does The German Shepherd Puppy Biting Phase Last
Now that youve learnt some of the most common causes of puppy biting, you may be able to easily recognise which ones apply to your puppy.
But, this isnt always that comforting. What you really want to know is, when will it stop?
The length of each German Shepherd puppys biting phase depends on two things:
- The particular cause of biting
- How you and other people react to it
For most puppies, the biting phase will only last a few months, if not less. In fact, many owners dont even realise that the biting period has stopped, as it can happen quite gradually.
However, you can minimize the period by making a few easy changes to your behavior when biting occurs. Lets take a closer look.
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