How to Train a Doberman Puppy to Not Bite

Medium
1-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

A puppy is so much fun--when your Doberman plays he's all legs and floppy ears. It gives you such joy to see him lolloping over in that gangly way for a game of tug. But later the gloss has gone out of the games because he's becoming increasingly rough. He just doesn't seem to know his own strength, growling and shaking his head, but most worryingly sometimes nipping your clothing or even your hand. 

You've tried shouting at him to stop, but this only makes him more excited. Likewise, you smacked his rump but in a bizarre reaction, he redoubled his efforts at attacking your T-shirt. While this isn't a serious concern right now, what does worry you is that this behavior will continue into adulthood and he might accidentally hurt someone. 

You know this behavior needs nipping in the bud... but how?

Defining Tasks

Puppies investigate most things with their mouths, it's what they do. Thus, it's natural for a puppy to put anything and everything into his mouth, including your hand or skin. While a playful nip from a puppy isn't especially painful, the worrying thing is that it can set a precedent if the puppy isn't corrected. Then as an adult dog with much more powerful jaws, he may think it's OK to nip... and become labeled as aggressive. 

Therefore it's crucial to teach a puppy not to bite or 'bite inhibition'. This makes it second nature for him to never put his teeth on human skin, and makes for a much more reliable adult dog. 

Getting Started

Training a Doberman puppy not to bite requires knowledge of dog psychology and good timing, rather than needing specific equipment. You may find it helpful to have treats handy, to reward the dog when he calms down. However, this isn't always necessary as resuming a game of tug or playing with a toy is often reward enough in itself.

The Calm Play Method

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
Play is an important part of a puppy's development. Not only is it an outlet for energy but he develops social skills during play. However, it's also a time when many pups get over excited and in the heat of the moment are likely to confuse their owner with a toy and play bite. While this is not a disaster with a small pup, if he is not corrected he may believe this is acceptable behavior. An important way to reduce play biting is to teach the dog self-control by having him calm down when getting too rambunctious.
Step
2
Have a plan in place
Have a watch handy so that you can time 15 seconds. Pick a toy that the puppy likes-- a tug type toy is ideal as your hands aren't directly in contact with the puppy. Also, know what to do if the pup ignores the request to quiet down. The best strategy is to leave the room completely (see the 'Teaching Bite Inhibition' method).
Step
3
Play in 15 second bursts
Engage the puppy's attention with the toy (this shouldn't be too difficult!). Move the toy and he'll be keen to chase after it and grab hold. Try to hit the right level of engagement between making the toy appealing but without making the puppy over-excited and giddy. Play for 15 seconds and then stop.
Step
4
Wait for puppy to calm down
Now wait for the puppy to calm down, and only start the game again once he is calmly sitting. When he does this say "Good" in a happy voice, and restart the game. If the puppy keeps mobbing you for the toy then fold your arms, ignore the puppy and turn your back. If he still persists then end the game by leaving the room. Return only when he's calm. By restarting the game his good behavior gets a reward
Step
5
Play in bursts
Repeat the pattern above. By playing for 15 seconds and then having the pup stop, you are teaching him to have self-control and calm down. Again, if he bites or mouths you then the game stops immediately and only resumes when he's calm. As he gets better at this, slowly extend the amount of time he's allowed to play before the game stops. Try 20 seconds, and after several sessions, try 25 seconds. That way the puppy learns that while he plays nicely the game continues. By playing in controlled bursts he also avoids getting to a fever pitch of excitement where he loses control and bites.
Recommend training method?

The Do's and Don'ts Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
2 Votes
Step
1
Don't: Strike or punish the puppy
If the puppy bites you, never smack or strike him. This will only serve to further excite him, and he may take your moving hand as an invitation to pounce again.
Step
2
Do: Say "NO" in a firm voice
The puppy may need feedback that what he is doing with his mouth his wrong. It can be effective to say a firm "No!" as he goes to bite. Then if he backs down, say "Yes" in a happy voice. This instructs him on the right and wrong way to act, and helps him learn.
Step
3
Don't: Leave a puppy unattended with children
A puppy's teeth are sharp as needles. There is a real risk of excited children getting a puppy hyped up, at which point he may lose self-control and nip. It isn't fair to put him in this position and risk being labelled as aggressive through no fault of his own.
Step
4
Do: Work on basic obedience
Basic obedience training helps teach the puppy to listen to you and provides an outlet for mental energy. Never underestimate the value in short, but regular training sessions with a puppy in order to teach him to behave. Even a puppy aged 8 weeks or more can start learning rudimentary commands such as 'sit'.
Step
5
Do: Call in the experts
If you have a problem with your Doberman puppy being over-mouthy, then do ask for help from a certified animal behaviorist. It's never too late to teach a puppy the right way to behave, but this window of opportunity grows less as he gets older and his ability to learn slows up. So seek help sooner rather than later.
Recommend training method?

The Teach Bite Inhibition Method

ribbon-method-2
Least Recommended
3 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
Puppies learn not to bite through how their litter mates react during play. If a pup bites his brother, the pup responds with scream or squeal, giving the feedback that the bite was too hard. The first puppy didn't mean any harm and mainly wants the game to continue, so he learns to moderate his mouthiness so that it is gentle and doesn't interrupt the game. Owners can also teach bite inhibition, by mimicking the reaction of a litter mate.
Step
2
Don't be bashful
Your puppy doesn't speak English so be prepared to teach him with sounds and actions. This means squealing when the puppy's mouth makes contact with your skin. This may be alarming to other people in the room who may fear you have been badly injured. It's worth fore-warning them that you are only play acting in order to teach the dog to have a soft mouth.
Step
3
Act at every opportunity
A puppy is most likely to learn when he's not over-excited. Thus, if he's having a cuddle and casually puts your hand in his mouth, then squeal as if he's hurt you. Whimper and look hurt, perhaps even must a tear or two. The idea is to have him think "My, these humans are delicate, I'd better keep my mouth well away." Then when the pup is an adult dog, he will have a very gentle mouth.
Step
4
Be mindful during play
When playing with the puppy, be mindful of when he play bites and be sure to squeal. However, if the puppy is over-excited, then he may not register your cry. If this is the case, then work on the 'Calm Play' method, and play in shorter bursts so the pup doesn't get over excited and stop listening.
Step
5
Let your hand go dead
When puppy bites and you squeal, let your hand go dead. Don't pull it away, as this may trigger the pup to chase it. A limp hand is less fun to play with, so pup is more likely to register that the game stopped when he got too rough.
Step
6
The nuclear option
Puppy wants to play. If he isn't listening and takes your squeals as a super-interesting twist to the game, then end the game by getting up and walking away. Leave the room if necessary. Only by learning play stops when he's too rough, will the message strike home.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Pippa Elliott

Published: 02/09/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Zeta
Doberman Pinscher
3 Months
-1 found helpful
Question
-1 found helpful
Zeta
Doberman Pinscher
3 Months

Her biting has gotten out of hand. Every time we sternly say no she lunges forward to play bite again. We put her in time out (which we hate to do) and she will bark for 5 min then lays down and relaxes. Like all puppies she keeps stealing shoes but she has improved a lot when we calmly say “drop it” and she will drop the shoe. She also is trying to get into everything that is on a table or counter and isn’t listening when we say no

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Here is information on puppy nipping/biting. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

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Question
Chief
Doberman Pinscher
8 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Chief
Doberman Pinscher
8 Weeks

He turned 8 on 12/12/21. He is a handful at 19lbs . He loves to bite and he goes for blood and it hurts . I know leaving the room when he won’t stop biting but I have to nip this in the bud before he gets too big. Any tips?
Thanks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if he makes a good choice. If he disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told him not to. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also work on teaching the Out command, and then use the section from the article on How to Use Out to Deal with Pushiness, to enforce it when pup doesn't listen, especially around other animals or kids. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help him calm down and rest. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ruby
Doberman Pinscher
10 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ruby
Doberman Pinscher
10 Weeks

Play time means biting for her. How to stop biting?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sreedharan, Check out the Bite Inhibition method and Leave It method from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also switch how you play. If you are playing something like tug of war, of wrestling, I would switch to things that move pup away from you, like a flirt pole or fetching until pup has better control of her mouth and it good at Leave It. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Zarrow
Doberman Pinscher
2 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Zarrow
Doberman Pinscher
2 Months

He bites on hand

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Pratham, Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if he makes a good choice. If he disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told him not to. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help him calm down and rest. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ringo
Doberman Pinscher
11 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ringo
Doberman Pinscher
11 Weeks

Training well at home but when it comes to socialising with other dogs always biting ears and growling, is it possible to get this to stop? Have tried everything

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello. This is unfortunately just how puppies at this age play. They are learning what behaviors are ok, and what behaviors are not. Socializing is very important at this age as you know. So he learns by other dogs putting him in his place so to speak. I know the biting and growling seems very aggressive and inappropriate. But it is best left to the dogs to sort it out. One thing you can do is pull your dog to the side and have him calm down before you let him play again. That helps, but teaching to play nice with other dogs is nearly impossible for humans to do. He learns through the play time with the dogs.

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