How to Train a German Shepherd Puppy to Not Bite

Easy
2-5 Weeks
Behavior

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.

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.

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.

The Play Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Dog Language Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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."
Step
4
Stop the game
Move away from your puppy and stop playing for at least 30 seconds or so.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Scruff Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Christina Gunning

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

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Jake
German Shepherd
12 Weeks
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Jake
German Shepherd
12 Weeks

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

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 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

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Question
Rascal
German Shepherd
5 Years
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Rascal
German Shepherd
5 Years

We recently adopted a 5 year old male GSD so we can breed him with our female GSD. I have 4 kids, 9,7,3 years old and 9 month old. Our adopted dog nipped at our youngest child and seemed to be stressed when he's crawling towards him. What can I do?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, to give you peace of mind (and to keep everyone safe) I suggest a dog trainer come to the home and give you a hand right away. This is the safest bet for the kids and also, you do not want to stress Rascal out and cause a behavior that may not even be characteristic of him. I would separate the little children from Rascal by a gate - you will be allowing him to get to know them, but under safer circumstances. But I do think rather than try and fix the issue on your own, a trainer who is used to dogs that nip and bite is the best idea. Work on Rascal's obedience commands in the meantime: https://wagwalking.com/training/obedience-train-a-whippet. Good luck and all the best!

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Dana
German Shepherd
15 Weeks
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Dana
German Shepherd
15 Weeks

Despite professional advice, boop nose training, puzzle boxes, distraction/swapping for toys, crate calming, etc., etc., etc....This dog bites. She also jumps up on the counters, and harasses people for food. Not too concerned about the latter two behaviours at the moment, as she has learned many other things, and we’ll probably get these under control in time. Worried about the biting, though. She does her best to inhibit sometimes, but not nearly consistently enough. We’re intrigued by the Mama neck bite correction method, but have some concerns/questions. We are operating on a positive reinforcement/relationship building/communication model. It has been successful for many things, but not that. We wouldn’t want to undo the good work we’ve done with an unexpected result. Is she too old to benefit from the mama neck bite method? Last, but not least, this dog has given unexpected reactions to us when we have gotten authoritative with her about a month ago, when she was still a little puppy. When we have roared “No!” At her she has replied, “No! YOU no!”When we appear aggressive, she ramps up. Smart, sweet, loving, but the biting will become a very big problem if not nipped in the bud - pardon the pun.

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

Hi there! Since everything you have tried has failed, I have a suggestion for you and I am hoping you haven't already tried it. If so, please feel free to write back in. It's sometimes hard to answer these without me being able to ask follow up questions to get a clearer picture. Sometimes the reactive approach to biting is giving dogs exactly what they want, your attention. And they don't care if it's negative or positive attention. I have learned that some of the feistier dogs seem to enjoy our negative reactions! If you haven't tried doing "no contact" yet, that is the route I would go. When she jumps or bites, you fold your arms, avert eye contact, and leave the area, to the point where she can't follow you. Go into your room, and close the door behind you. And wait a good 5 minutes or so. The reason this method fails for some is because they will ignore the dog for a few seconds and then come back. So in a sense, this becomes ANOTHER fun little game that your dog gets to play! Give this a try and give it a good week, and you should see some results.

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Star
German Shepherd
3 Months
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Question
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Star
German Shepherd
3 Months

Puppy is biting me constantly. I always try to redirect her with toys but she’s more interested in biting me. I’ve done a lot of research online but nothing helps. I can’t even walk around her without her biting my ankles and legs. I also have a 3 year old child, she’s good with my child but I am a little concerned that she might nip him while playing one day.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lacota, 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 she attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if she makes a good choice. If she disobeys your leave it command, use the Out command from the second article linked below to make her leave the area as a consequence. 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 Out 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 playing (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 Out - which means leave the area, is also a good command for you to use if pup bites the kids. Check out the section on Using Out to Deal with Pushy Behavior for how to calmly enforce that command once it's taught. 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. Right now, an outside class may be best in a fenced area, or letting friends' pups play in someone's fence outside. 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, she 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 her calm down and rest. Practicing regular obedience commands or having pup earn what they get by performing commands like Sit and Down before feeding, petting, tossing a toy, opening the door for a walk, ect... can also help stimulate pup mentally to increase calmness and wear them out. Commands that practice focus, self-control, and learning something a bit new or harder than before can all tire out puppies. 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
Lady
German Shepherd
5 Months
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Question
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Lady
German Shepherd
5 Months

Nips and bites hands, feet, jumps on the kids, bites the kids , sharp teeth slices them causes them to bleed.

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

Hello! I am going to send you information on the nipping/biting, as well as jumping. Both of these behaviors are attention seeking/play engaging behaviors. The best you can do for both is to completely ignore. But I am sending information with much more detail than that! 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. Jumping: Teach your dog that they receive no attention for jumping on you or anyone else. Teach your dog to do something that is incompatible with jumping up, such as sitting. They can't sit and jump up at the same time. If they are not sitting, they get no attention. It is important to be consistent. Everyone in your family must follow the training program all the time. You can't let your dog jump on people in some circumstances, but not others. Training techniques: When your dog… Jumps on other people: Ask a family member or friend to assist with training. Your assistant must be someone your dog likes and wants to greet. Your dog should never be forced to greet someone who scares them. Give your dog the "sit" command. (This exercise assumes your dog already knows how to "sit.") The greeter approaches you and your dog. If your dog stands up, the greeter immediately turns and walks away. Ask your dog to "sit," and have the greeter approach again. Keep repeating until your dog remains seated as the greeter approaches. If your dog does remain seated, the greeter can give your dog a treat as a reward. When you encounter someone while out walking your dog, you must manage the situation and train your dog at the same time. Stop the person from approaching by telling them you don't want your dog to jump. Hand the person a treat. Ask your dog to "sit." Tell the person they can pet your dog and give them the treat as long as your dog remains seated. Some people will tell you they don't mind if your dog jumps on them, especially if your dog is small and fluffy or a puppy. But you should mind. Remember you need to be consistent in training. If you don't want your dog to jump on people, stick to your training and don't make exceptions. Jumps on you when you come in the door: Keep greetings quiet and low-key. If your dog jumps on you, ignore them. Turn and go out the door. Try again. You may have to come in and go out dozens of times before your dog learns they only gets your attention when they keep all four feet on the floor. Jumps on you when you're sitting: If you are sitting and your dog jumps up on you, stand up. Don't talk to your dog or push them away. Just ignore them until all four feet are on the ground. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thank you for writing in!

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