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How to Train a German Shepherd Puppy to Not Bite

How to Train a German Shepherd Puppy to Not Bite
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon2-5 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

You love playing with your German Shepherd puppy. The little cutie runs around, nipping at your heels and pulling on the leg of your pants. You just can't resist his little face and let him nibble on your fingers too. Six months later, your little puppy has grown and a nip from him is not so cute anymore.

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Defining Tasks

Training your German Shepherd puppy not to bite is a crucial part of raising a well-mannered dog. German Shepherds have very strong hunting drives. Since this breed has been used historically as herding dogs, chasing and nipping to gather moving animal is pre-programmed into your puppy's genes. While he may not understand why he nips and bites, he is driven to do so. However, German Shepherds are also eager to please. Within a few weeks of consistent training with your puppy, you can show him when biting is acceptable and when he should keep his teeth to himself.

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Getting Started

An important part of teaching this behavior is not to expect your puppy to stop biting altogether. Instead, you should invest in some good alternative toys. Your puppy may prefer stuffed toys, pull ropes, or rubber toys, like Kongs. Find something well-suited for the age of your puppy, especially if he is still teething. You should also use some form of reward, such as training treats, or clicker training to reinforce the behavior you want from your puppy.

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The Play Method

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1

Get your puppy used to being touched

Some puppies bite because they see a human hand moving towards them as a threat. One way to stop your puppy from biting is by getting him used to being touched by human hands.

2

Build a bridge

Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Gather some treats and your clicker (if you are doing clicker training). Start with your puppy on one side of your legs.

3

Throw a treat

Toss a treat over your legs to the opposite side as your German Shepherd puppy so he has to walk over your legs to get it. As he crosses over your legs, gently touch his side. Click the clicker right before he gets the treat.

4

Repeat going the opposite way

Get your puppy's attention again and toss the treat to the other side. Gently touch your pup's side again as he passes over your legs. If he nips at you, don't let him get the treat.

5

Raise the criteria

As your puppy becomes comfortable with the touch, you can increase the level and frequency of touch required to earn the treat. Try touching his neck or tail. If at any point your puppy nips at you, go back to the previous level of touch and try again. Eventually, your German Shepherd puppy will become used to the touch and stop biting.

The Dog Language Method

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Speak your puppy's language

Dogs have a language all their own. By learning how to speak the same language as your German Shepherd puppy, you can better communicate what you do and do not want from him. For biting, you can mimic that puppies have with each other in litters.

2

Play with your puppy

Start a game with your puppy by encouraging him to chase your hands or a toy. Your puppy will likely try to nip or bite your fingers or hand.

3

Say "Ouch!"

As soon as your puppy bites your hand, say "ouch" in a loud, high-pitched voice to mimic the squealing noise his littermate would make. Then, take your hand away and tell your puppy "no."

4

Stop the game

Move away from your puppy and stop playing for at least 30 seconds or so.

5

Be consistent

Anytime you are playing with your puppy, repeat the same actions by saying "ouch" and stopping the game. Over time, your puppy will associate biting with the game ending and will learn not to bite.

The Scruff Method

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Take advice from Mama

When puppies are young, they learn how to behave from their moms. If a puppy acts up around his mom, she will grab him by the scruff of the neck to make him calm down and recognize that he did a bad thing. You can use this same technique to teach your German Shepherd puppy not to bite.

2

Encourage your puppy to play

Start a game with your puppy. You want to encourage him to play with a toy right off the bat, rather than give him your hand to chew on. He will likely still nip at your hand at some point though.

3

Grab the scruff

If your puppy bites you, say "no" right away in a calm but stern voice. Then, place your hand on the back of your puppy's neck and gently pinch. Your pup should instinctively go limp.

4

Start again

Start playing again and repeat the same behavior if your puppy bites. Over time, your puppy will associate biting with the pinch and recognize that biting is not a good thing.

5

No teeth on me

As your puppy gets the hang of not biting, say "no" anytime you feel his teeth on you. You want to encourage others who associate with your puppy. This consistency explains to your German Shepherd puppy that teeth shouldn't touch humans and encourages him only bite toys.

By Christina Gunning

Published: 03/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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K2

Dog breed icon

German Shepherd

Dog age icon

6 Months

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Question

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K2's greetings are too exuberant. He is so thrilled to see us when we return, no matter how long we've been gone. As he gets older his need to say hello to my hands with his mouth is painful. And the nips too.. he is not being mean or establishing hierarchy, just so excited!

Jan. 29, 2022

K2's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tonda, I recommend working on commands and games that help build pup's impulse control, so he can learn to calm himself down and respond to commands better even when excited. I would also ignore pup the first ten minutes after you get home so his anticipation isn't of something overly excited he is working himself up for before you even open the door, except when you are specifically ready to use leaving as a training exercise just to work on building pup's impulse control. Place - good for self-control practice when you are home and for pup to learn to stay on place while you go in and out of the door eventually too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Out - which means leave the area. Good for teaching personal space boundaries. Read the entire article. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method - good for addressing biting. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Jumping - Step Toward method or Leash method - if pup jumps: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump I suggest practicing something called "Jazz up and Settle Down". Which is a bit like red light, green light for dogs. During training, get pup a little excited, then command "Stop" or something puppy knows like "Sit", and freeze. Wait and completely ignore them until they calm back down. As soon as they get calm or sit, praise and give a treat. Tell pup "Let's Play!" again, and start playing and getting them a bit excited again. As soon as they start to get a little worked up (not too much at first), command "Stop" or "Sit" again, then wait, reward with a treat when they calm down, then continue the game after they are rewarded. Repeat this a few times each training session, then end the session (have lots of frequent shorter sessions throughout the day at this age). As pup improves, and can really calm down quickly, let them get a bit more excited before calling Stop. Gradually work up to pup becoming more and more excited and having to calm down quickly from a higher level of excitement as they improve. Also, understand that this will take some time and practice. Puppies have to learn self-control just like any other skill, while young. This game can help them develop it sooner though. Eventually, you want to be able to do things like jump up and down, squeal excitedly, and wave your arms around and pup still be under voice control since they have practiced so much and worked up to the point where even though they are excited they can still control themselves when told - so that when something truly exciting happens, like your arrival or a guest coming over, pup can obey then too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 31, 2022

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Jake

Dog breed icon

German Shepherd

Dog age icon

12 Weeks

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Jake is very smart but also has an attitude. He barks when you tell him no and argues with you. I'm his person yet he runs up and bites my legs and your hands . I need advice on how to stop his bad behavior

June 28, 2021

Jake's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Roxann, First, check out these article I have linked below. I would teach pup commands like Leave It and Out for the biting, and Quiet for barking. You need pup to clearly understand the boundaries and what commands mean before you can enforce them well. Come info: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Second, pup may have a strong defense drive. A lot of German Shepherds do. Essentially, instead of submitting or retreating when there is pressure in a situation, pup will hold his ground or move into the situation. An example would be someone who disciplines pup with their hands. Many pup's would back away and stop what they are doing. A dog with a strong defense drive is going to jump toward and try to bite the hand again right after, or at least hold his ground against it. With these dogs especially, be very mindful of how you are gaining pup's respect for you and following through with things. Instead of methods that are physically direct, work on engaging pup's mind to get them working for you to respect you. Check out the article I have linked below for some ways to do that. Listening article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you That doesn't mean you can't tell pup no or discipline, it just means that your level of consistency needs to be great, your interactions very calm but first with consistent follow through, and your methods of disciplining and enforcing commands proactive and thoughtful - so that you get pup's will working for you instead of against you when possible. Thomas Davis from The Canine Educator on yourtube is one example of how to do this with some of the dogs he works with. Teaching obedience to pup and regularly practicing that, so that pup clearly understands your expectation and how to earn things from you will be one of the biggest ways you accomplish this with pup. Interacting with pup calmly is also very important. It will be easier to get compliance if you are calm but clearly follow through. An example would be you telling pup to come and them disobeying you. Instead of yelling at pup or going over to them and swatting them on the bottom, calmly walk over to pup or wait until pup comes in on their own, then don't say anything even if you are mad - at that point they came so that's not the time to discipline, it's too late. Instead, go grab a 20 foot training leash, clip it onto pup and take pup back to the distraction pup ignored you for. Once pup is a bit distracted, call pup to come happily again. If pup comes, great! Praise and give a treat as if nothing happened. If pup ignores, now you have the leash on them, so calmly but quickly reel them in, have them Sit, give monotone praise, then release pup to go back to what they were doing again. Wait until they get distracted again, then repeat the Come, and reward if they come willingly and reeling in if they don't. Do this until you get five willing Come's in a row, then unclip the leash and let pup go back to their business. By doing that instead of yelling pup's attitude toward you was addressed, their obedience was improved, and they saw that you are consistent about following through with a command, instead of simply not wanting to come to you because you might be angry. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 29, 2021


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