Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
If you are blessed with a German Shepherd puppy, you may at times feel at your wits' end when it comes to those constant nipping behaviors. Don't feel bad—you are not alone. This breed is indeed notorious for nipping, and those sharp puppy teeth hurt! If your arms are covered with bruises, scratches and teeth marks, you surely are upset about it and are looking for a way to decrease the nipping and finally allow those wounds to heal.
Why Do German Shepherd Puppies Bite So Much?
So what makes German Shepherd puppies in particular so nippy? There are a few possibilities. Please Note: The last two reasons depend highly on the context of your particular puppy.
They Have a Strong Prey Drive
For starters, many German shepherds have a very strong prey drive, so they are very attracted to movement. If you watch your puppy in the yard, you may notice how readily he captures the slightest movement of some critter in the grass.
His big ears will twitch to capture the faintest sounds, and his body will be ready to pounce into action in a split second.
Balls, small critters, and unfortunately, your arms, legs, ankles and pant-legs will soon become targets of his prey drive and turn into objects for a fun game.
And to make things worse, any movement you make to move your hand away when your pup comes to nip will further increase this drive and risks damaging your skin. That explains all those "teeth scratches" you have on your arms and legs!
They're a Herding Breed
On top of that, this is a herding breed, so the pups like to chase and gather moving things and they often accomplish this by using their mouths (a behavior known as gripping in herding lingo).
In the old days, the herding style of German Shepherds encompassed for a good part what was known as boundary patrol, or flock containment. These dogs had to ensure the sheep were properly contained and the rebellious sheep were controlled by gripping the top of the neck, the ribs or just above the hocks.
Breeder and herding expert Ellen Nickelsberg explains how puppy herding trials are conducted and how puppies are selected based on gripping style which may range between damaging and less damaging bites, full-mouth bites and puppies who bite and hold on. These preliminary tests are done when the pups are very young.
They're Exploring With Their Mouth
All puppies, regardless of breed, go through a stage where they will explore the world with their mouths. Puppy nipping is completely normal behavior most puppies go through. It's similar to the mouthing period babies go through when teething. However, in German Shepherds, the behavior may be more pronounced and more intense than in some other breeds of puppies.
For a good reason, many like to call their German Shepherd puppies "land sharks." Often, the nipping is a manifestation of a dog getting overstimulated and losing control of his bite force.
Sometimes, German shepherd puppies will get more and more nippy when they are cranky and in need of nap. It is ultimately up to the owner to teach proper bite inhibition through consistent rules.
They Were Raised in a Poor Environment
In some cases, the excessive nipping may be an indication of a puppy raised in a very poor breeding environment, where the puppy didn't get a chance to learn the ABCs of bite inhibition with his littermates and mom and the breeders did little about it.
Some of the worst cases of poor bite inhibition are often seen in puppies removed too early from the litter or singletons. In some cases, the biting may be genetic, due to a poor temperament and weak nerves.
Read More From Pethelpful
They Were Bred for Looks Rather Than Temperament
It's unfortunate that nowadays there are more and more cases of German Shepherds bred poorly. I am no longer surprised to see enormous German Shepherds, much taller than the standard warrants.
Often, I see many relinquished to shelters because they were bred poorly, with the breeders focusing more on looks than temperament.
This would certainly really be a disappointment for Max von Stephanitz if he was still alive as he worked so hard to get that versatile, well-tempered perfect German Shepherd specimen.
Games to Stop Your German Shepherd Puppy's Biting
A Word About Bite-Inhibition Methods
Following are some games I have used with success with German Shepherd pups. Before playing these games with your pup, I want to emphasize the importance of using only positive, reward-based methods.
This is a breed that is known for being fearless, that often won't back down when challenged. The German Shepherd was bred to persist and not give up when faced with rebellious sheep. Because of its courage, this breed is often used for police work.
According to the American Kennel Club standard, "the breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them." Yet, this breed is also very sensitive.
If the puppy nips, it may be tempting to use coercion-based methods such as squeezing the dog's muzzle tightly or roughly taking him by the scruff and pinning him down to show him "who's boss". This is known as an alpha roll, and it is something that should never be done unless you want to end up with a puppy that goes from playful nipping to defensive nipping.
Also, consider that coercion-based methods will negatively affect the dog/dog owner bond. The puppy will increase the nipping behavior as now the puppy will nip more, but now to defend himself from rough and inappropriate handling.
This is the best way to train a puppy that hands are bad and worth keeping away from their bodies! It may lead to puppies who nip when you need to check their paws, nip when you want to brush their coat and nip when you need to check their ears or teeth.
Fortunately, there are many better ways to teach proper bite inhibition to these pups. In the picture above, you can see a nippy German Shepherd nipping my arm before undergoing training and developing more "finesse." This was his stereotyped response to any type of touch.
Ironically, this pup's owner was advised by a veterinarian to alpha roll the puppy every time he was biting. This is outdated advice that is no longer recommended by most modern dog trainers. As mentioned, this only leads to trouble, and this is why this puppy was in need of help and the owner was desperate as she couldn't touch him or enjoy petting him without getting teeth marks.
Six Games to Train German Shepherd Puppies Bite Inhibition
1. Basic Handling (a.k.a. The Car Wash Game©)
It may look like some German Shepherd pups don't have a natural liking to being touched. Not too long ago in my Yellow Creek Training Center, I had a German Shepherd owner tell me "I haven't been able to pet my puppy for months!" When you touch them, they may basically try to nip your hand.
This may be based on fear, or simply the pup may be trying to play. It could just be though they're just not used to it. In any case, you can work on making touch something positive that your pup will look forward to. This game was invented by me casually one day as I was sitting on the floor with a very nippy German shepherd. It somewhat mimics your puppy going through a car wash with you giving him a nice " scrub" as he walks by.
- Sit on the floor and extend your legs.
- Arm yourself with tasty treats and a clicker. (If your dog is not clicker trained, you can just say "yes" to mark the wanted behavior.)
- With your pup on your left side, toss a treat over the right side, so that your puppy must walk across your body to get the treat.
- As he passes across your body to get the treat, pet him briefly on his sides and then click(or say yes) a second before he gets the treat.
- Then repeat the same from the opposite side, tossing the treat from right side towards the left, repeating the touching and clicking.
- As the pup gets used to getting touched, you can raise the bar and increase the level of touch, you can start from the neck, touch the sides and then the tail as he passes by.
- Leave the head for last as most dogs aren't too eager to be touched on top of the head.
- Go gradually. If at any time, your pup tries to nip, you are going too fast in the process and need to go back a few steps by touching less intensely.
2. Gentleness Pays
A puppy that needs to learn good bite inhibition needs to learn how to take treats gently.
Don't waste giving your puppy kibble all at once from the bowl! Those are many lost training opportunities! Reserve a part of your pup's meal to train how to take food gently from your hands. Do this every day.
To teach polite mouthing manners, get a handful of treats and keep them in your closed fist. If your dog bites your hand say "no bite" (or give a negative marker if you prefer or make a yelping sound—see note below about this ) and don't release the treat. When your dog gives up nipping and licks your hand, tell him what a good boy he is and release the treats.
For more on how to train your dog to take treats gently, read my article on training a dog to take treats gently.
3. Hand Targeting
If your puppy tends to come mouth at you when you are lying by the sofa, you may find training him an alternate behavior to replace the nipping helpful. In this case, try to play hand target. This way, your puppy won't focus anymore on nipping the hand but in targeting it. Here is how to play it:
- Extend your hand with the palm open.
- The moment your dog sniffs the hand without nipping, click (or say yes) and give a treat.
- Repeat several times.
- As your dog gets fluid, add the cue "target" and continue clicking and treating.
- Ad challenges by placing your hand higher, at distance, lower etc.
Tip: Don't move your hand too fast when presenting it as a target. Doing so may increase arousal and make your hands look like a toy again, which is not what you want; especially in the initial stages of training.
Fetch is another great game you can train your puppy so he can get his focus away from your hand and focused on a ball. This is quite easy to train and I usually have it trained in half a day or so. If your dog is predisposed to fetch, it will come naturally, otherwise, you can try to train it through back chaining.
- Toss the ball.
- Call your dog towards you.
- When he's by you, show a treat.
- In order to get the treat, your dog will drop the ball.
- Get the ball and toss it again.
- When dropping the ball becomes fluent, add the cue "drop it or give".
- Wean the treats gradually, as the new reinforcement should be tossing the ball over and over again.
5. Tug of War
The game tug-of-war is a subject of controversy. In my experience, when taught in a constructive and structured manner, it's a fun way to keep a dog's mind out of nipping. This is a great way to re-direct from hands to toy and release some pent-up energy. Here's how to teach it.
- Get a tug toy and wiggle it to get your dog interested in it.
- Grab the other side of the toy once your pup grabs it and pull.
- At some point, freeze and show a treat.
- When your dog drops the other side to get the treat, say "good' or click.
- Give the treat.
- Repeat several times.
- Once your dog gets good at dropping the tug toy, add the cue "give" or "drop it".
- Reward your dog by starting another round of tug.
As seen, there are many ways to help your pup learn proper bite inhibition the force-free way. If your puppy continues to nip or acts aggressively, don't hesitate to find a trainer near you employing positive-based methods and state-of-the art techniques based on science. A good resource is the Pet Professional Guild.
6. Touch and Treat
This games turns touching your puppy in different places into a fun game. The goal is to create positive associations. Aim for a lovely positive conditioned emotional response where your puppy goes from disliking or dreading being touched to looking forwards to it because of all the great associations.
- Start by touching your puppy briefly in areas he's less likely to react and feed a treat. Rinse and repeat several times looking for that lovely conditioned emotional response.
- Gradually move to areas where your puppy may dislike being touched like the top of the head, ears or paws. Always feeding a treat to create positive associations. If your puppy tries to nip, split the exercise into smaller steps. For example if your puppy tries nipping when you try to pat the top of the head, start petting the nose lightly or sides of the head and giving a treat until he's comfortable with that before progressing to petting the top of the head.
10 Extra Tips to Reduce German Shepherd Puppy Biting
Now, here's the stinky truth: you can't stop puppy nipping overnight! Actually to be honest not even in days or weeks. However, you can take steps to reduce its occurrence dramatically.
Here's the thing: For nippy puppies, it's important taking a multi-faceted approach. In other words, address all their needs at various levels and use some smart training methods that enforce alternate, more desirable behaviors. With time, these behaviors should start outranking the nipping.
1) Prevent Rehearsal
Many puppy behaviors become habit forming, as there's always some element of reinforcement at play. The more a puppy rehearses a behavior we find problematic, the more it puts roots and establishes. Practice makes perfect as the saying goes.
Nipping can therefore quickly get out of hand, becoming your German Shepherd's puppy default way of interacting.
Reducing your pup's reliance on mouth play is important. Don't wrestle with your puppy and don't play rough physical games. Avoid provocative gestures like tapping your puppy on the nose.
2) Encourage Independent Play
Bored dogs also often come to depend on us for play. Even if we keep them entertained, they may be craving that "physical play" that is ingrained in them and that they would naturally carry out through play with other dogs.
You can encourage more independent play through interactive toys and food puzzles. So if you haven't already, get your puppy a Kong to fill up with kibble, add some water and then freeze it for an extra long treat!
Organize fun treasure hunts in the yard where you hide your German shepherd puppy's kibble and let him go find it.
Offer an assortment of food puzzles and toys and rotate them to keep your pup interested and busy.
If your puppy is teething, don't forget to use puppy teething toys! Make sure all chew toys are OK for puppies. And always supervise your puppy when chewing any type of toy, no matter how safe or indestructible it's advertised to be!
3) Invest in a Flirt Pole
A flirt pole can become your best friend and take most of the nipping in place of you. Most pups find it irresistible!
As your German shepherd puppy therefore approaches you with an intent to bite (I can tell it from the pup's expression on the face) dangle the flirt pole in his face and let him play with it. I recommend training your puppy how to leave it and drop to add some structure to the game.
Please note: it is important to catch your German shepherd puppy *before* he actually bites. Once your puppy is already actively nipping and tugging on your clothes, he may not be easily redirected as when catching him *before* he hold on to you and tugs.
4) Toss a Ball the Opposite Way
Alternatively, as your puppy approaches, toss a ball the opposite way. When I am training a juvenile German shepherd puppy I like to be prepared. I will carry a ball in my pocket (gotta love those cargo pants) and keep several balls handy at random places out of the dog's reach (such as on a tall shelf).
5) Play the Kibble Toss Game
I came up with this game this past fall when working with a super nippy German shepherd puppy. Basically, as your puppy approaches you intently to bite, ask him to sit, and reward that with the toss of one kibble across the room.
Being that dogs have to eat their kibble during the day anyway, why not put it to good use? This allows you to perfect your German Shepherd pup's sit, while also giving him an opportunity to exercise, drain that extra energy and scavenge for kibble. Imagine how many reps of this you can do with just a handful of kibble!
6) Take Advantage of Baby Gates
I use tall baby gates and pet fences a lot when working with dogs. They give you the opportunity for some respite when things get a little too wild. The moment you notice your pup getting into nippy mood, rather than bringing your puppy into timeout zone (and risk making him nip more and dread being grabbed by the collar), put yourself in for a timeout by simply walking past the baby gate and closing it.
Make sure to give your pup something to do when you leave though. As I leave I'll ask the pup for a sit and then toss him a chew toy or frozen Kong to enjoy.
7) Train Impulse Control Games
These games help your puppy better learn how to control their impulses and gain better frustration tolerance. If your puppy is very young, be patient, it takes time for them to master this. Here are 10 impulse control games for dogs.
8) Skip Yelping if it's Not Working
You may have heard about yelping or saying ouch when a pup nips. However, this doesn't work with all dogs, and in my experience, some German shepherd pups will nip even more!
Why is it that some puppies get more hyper and excited after hearing people "yelp?" Most likely for the same reason they love squeaky toys: yelps and squeaks trigger a dog's predatory drive.
How fun is it to play with a live tug toy (you) which, on top of moving, emits squeaking and squawking noises too? Very fun! says a German Shepherd pup.
9) Capture the Calmness
Make it a habit of capturing your pup's calm behaviors, by telling in a calm tone of voice "good boy" every time he sits or calmly settles on his mat. You can even deliver a kibble or two when he's in this relaxed state. Skip treats as these may be too interesting and may arouse him from his relaxed state.
10) Encourage Naps
When puppies don't sleep enough they can get cranky and this leads to them turning into nipping machines. Many puppies and dogs are too overstimulated by things in their environment to fall asleep. Providing them with a quiet place to settle can help them relax. Here are several ways to get cranky puppies to sleep.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 13, 2020:
Hi Syndey, please stop doing alpha rolls, this is the worst thing to do with nippy German shepherd puppies. Please read the article, it explains why these methods are so deleterious. It makes the matters much worse! Please work on creating positive associations with touch. You many need a professional to guide you through as there's likely some level of defensive biting going on.
Sydney on July 27, 2020:
We got a M GS and we’ve had him for about a month now, he’s 4 months old. My parents have told us (the kids) to do the alpha roll when he bites us, but it only works for my parents. With us he just comes back and bites us harder, and thinks it’s a rough play time. Any time we try to take him by the collar (If he’s being too agressive or doing something bad) he also bites us. How do we stop all of this biting!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 16, 2020:
I would stop feeding him kibble from a bowl, I would place all the kibble in a treat bag that you carry around your waist and use every single piece of kibble to redirect him preferable before he has a chance to latch on. So say you see him approaching you with the intent to bite? You anticipate him and toss a kibble on the floor for him to chase. After several reps, you can try introducing a sit or hand target before tossing the treat.
Elina on July 15, 2020:
We have a 10 week old German Shepherd who constantly bites us on the ankles and likes to grab onto our pants. We’re doing everything we can but it just doesn’t seem to work, he isn’t interested in his toys and pays no attention when we say “ah ah”
In your article you mention that we shouldn’t push him away when he bites (which i completely agree with) but i find myself pushing him away slightly by his collar everytime he bites as i get scared and it really hurts because once his teeth are in he just starts chewing, what else can we do to stop him from doing that if pushing away isn’t an option?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 12, 2020:
Sharon, I agree, in the right hands, and given proper gentle guidance and attention, German shepherd pups grow to their full potential.
Sharon on July 12, 2020:
My German Shepherd, Storm, is a well balanced amazing girl. I learnt so much from my late gran who trained many and who owned many of these amazing dogs. It is lots of attention, exercise, a healthy diet and TONS OF LOVE!! German Shepherds are simply the most amazing, brilliant breed. Put in the love and attention and you will have an amazing GSD!!!!!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 17, 2020:
Hi Candy! Tossing treats is one of my favorite ways to redirect nippy pups. The toss offers an outlet for prey drive, redirects and gives the dog a little workout. It's also a fun game. Anything to get the mind off our body parts. Of course, we also do exercises to take treats gently from hands as well. However, we do whatever works for our pups, every puppy is an individual so we may need to take different approaches at times and see what the our pups responds best to. Happy training!
Candy on June 16, 2020:
I have a mix Shepherd, Belgian & GSD puppy. She gets the bite crazies. I handle her alot. Belly rubs & paws. I am leaving her collar on now (9mos) & use it to hold her & have my arm to the side of her head, so it is difficult to bite my hand. I always offer another toy or chew treat. If that doesn't work, she goes on a training leash. This slows her down. Playing tug with toys makes her happy. If she doesn't calm down after play, she goes in her crate. When I come back to get her out, she has kisses for me. I hope this helps. I was looking for advice, but see that she is not so bad after what some of you experience.
PS, I never toss a treat, she must take from my hand "gentle". I think throwing food encourages bad behaviour.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 15, 2020:
Hi Brenda, sounds like your German shepherd puppy is looking for attention/interaction from you. This form of jumping takes a different approach, here is a guide for tackling jumping: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-to-Train-Dog-to-St...
Brenda on June 14, 2020:
I have a question . I have a German Shepherd puppy 8 months old and he will not stop jumping up on me all the time scratches my arms up not sure what to do .?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 08, 2020:
This German shepherd pup's biting needs to be redirected before it becomes an established default behavior. As soon as you see the dog approaching, drop a treat (or kibble to the floor) or toss a ball. Then, make it a game, as soon as he approaches, toss a treat, then approaches again, toss another one. Use your dog's kibble to redirect and train, you have lots of opportunities for reinforcement using your dog's kibble ratio for the day. Then, add in some obedience, as soon as she approaches, ask for a sit (or hand target) and toss a kibble. Rinse and repeat. Make this a fun game.
Hrisith Choksi on June 07, 2020:
I have a GS pup. She is 11 wks old now. From last few days, she is constantly attacking no matter what. She will come from no where and attach you with her sharp teeth. It has reached a stage now within few days that my wife is scared of her and don't want to be in same room when she is up. I am taking her in the garden for run about 10-15min at least twice a day to release her energy. Her bites are so hard now that it will bleed. I have lacerations on my hands and feet. Can someone please advise.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 02, 2020:
Hi Steve, thank you for sharing your favorite method for tackling your German shepherd puppy's biting and teaching him bite inhibition.
Steve juzbasic on May 26, 2020:
I have had German shepherds for about 16 17 years right now I have six they all bite when they're puppies you have to train them there's a right time in the wrong time when I put on a pair of leather gloves they know it's time to play and they can bite as much as they want once you get that out of them then they know I also play tug-of-war with them and let them yank my dogs have never bitten anyone
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 20, 2020:
Hi Robin, I don't think that's the case unless this person may have mistreated him and now he is generalizing to all men. But that's not always the case. Often, it's a matter of the dog as puppy not being socialized enough with men, or the simple fact that men have features that dogs may find more intimidating (like deeper voices, facial hair, move in a different way) and men in general often do things like take out the trash, come and go from the home, carry bulky items, etc. I would consult with a dog behavior professional specializing in desensitization and counter-conditoning. A force-free dog behavior professional such as a veterinary behaviorist, CAAB, or a dog behavior professional using force-free behavior modification such as members of the Pet Professional Guild. Here is just an example of behavior modification for mild barking so in case of biting, you will need more safety measures in place and a more structured program with the help of a professional. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Help-My-Dog-Barks-When...
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 20, 2020:
Brandon, how small is your child?
Robin Peel on May 20, 2020:
I became a new mom to a 3 yr.old black shepard. The situation was not ideal. A soldier came back from overseas. Found out he had terminal cancer. He asked us to take Rio. Because shepards are kind of weird and unpredictable and he knew we had raised 3. Rio is crazy about me and pretty much all females. He seems to hate men. I spoke w a trainer. Since hes bitten 3 men since Ive had him for 6 mo. The trainer told me Rio could not be broken of this because. The man who raised him. In Rios eyes abandoned him. He thinks other men remind him of that. Do you think thats true? Do you think he cant be broken of this. I would never give him up. He loves me way to much. It would be nice if I didnt have to worry about him taking a plug out of my son. My husband jokes he thinks Rio just barely tolerates him. I dont think the jokes so funny. Do you have any ideas or advice for me?
Brandon G on May 14, 2020:
I have an 8 week old german shep puppy and a small child. What are some safe training exercises for them both? Any additional tips for children is welcome.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 13, 2020:
Hi Miro, so sorry to hear the breeder refused to take back the puppy and hold him for a little longer. In the USA in several states it is illegal to give away puppies this early.
I don't know how the coronavirus situation is there currently, but usually with these young puppies we encourage them to attend puppy classes in a safe environment (once pups are at least 7-8 weeks and had one parvo shot at least seven days earlier and the training area is disinfected properly to prevent infectious disease-make sure of this!) to help them socialize and refine their bite inhibition. Hopefully,by the time he is this age, things will a be a bit better and puppy classes resume.
Along with puppy classes, providing toys to redirect their biting needs, the bite inhibition games described above can be helpful.
In regards to diet, it is very important to provide growing puppies with a balanced diet that provides all the nutrients needed during this delicate phase.
Unless you have a veterinary nutritionist to prepare recipes for you, by feeding a homemade diet, there are risks that your puppy may miss out crucial nutrients at a time he needs them the most. If I recall well, I think a study done not too long ago found that like 80 percent of homemade diets were unbalanced. In a young puppy this may lead to development issues that may even persist into adulthood.
Miro on April 12, 2020:
Hi Adrienne, Thank you for your answer. I got this wonderful puppy from a breeder. I'm sure that he is 40 days. All the breeders in Bulgaria give the puppies when they are 5 weeks and I thought that 5 weeks is the normal age to separate the puppy from his mom. I spent the last 3 days reading articles and watching videos to learn how to train a GSD puppy ( which I should do before getting the puppy and I realized my big mistake). I tried to return the puppy and get him after 3 weeks, but the breeder refused. Obviously for them it's just a product :(.
I'm trying my best to take care of him and I think I could help him to feel good till now. The breeder gave me some food ( Dry food Royal Canin for GSD puppies ) and he told me to soak it in warm water . I asked many local "experts" if I can feed him with homemade food, but they told me to feed him with the same way but with different dry dog food brands. I don't want to feed him with dry food, I don't believe that they use good products to produce it. I'm sure I can cook for him. Do you think it's good to feed him with homemade food? if yes, can you please help me to find good recipes for him? Any help will be appreciated.
Thank you again for your answer.
Be safe and have a nice day!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 12, 2020:
Hi Miro, 5 weeks is very early to have a puppy, are you sure your puppy is just 5 weeks? Normally, we would want pups of this age to be with their litter mates and moms and should be for at at least until they are 7 weeks and a half, 8 weeks to help with their development. Is this an orphaned puppy? Did he have brothers or sisters? Where did you get him from? What is he being fed?
Miro on April 11, 2020:
Very useful article. Thank you for sharing these games. I just have some questions before trying them with my 5 weeks GSD puppy.
I got him 2 days ago. I'm trying to potty train him and I'm getting good results for now. Do you think that's early to play these games ( or some of them) with my puppy? after reading you explanation, I believe that he does not have a serious nipping problem. But I prefer solve it before getting worse. Thank you in advance.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 28, 2020:
Toys may be boring to swap with considering that hands move while toys are immobile, try to keep a redirect to a toy stuffed with food like a stuffed Kong or try tossing kibble you have on you (in a pocket or treat bag. Aim to train hand targeting and then toss a kibble to reward.
Rilee on February 27, 2020:
My 12 week old goldendoodle keeps nipping and biting me. She nips at my pant legs when I am walking. She nips or bites me when she does not get her way. I have tried to redirect with a toy or bone but she wants my hand to bite.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 28, 2019:
Susan, GSD puppies can be land sharks when young! Fortunately, with lots of guidance and consistency, you should see a decrease in the biting. Just make sure not to use your hands in inappropriate ways (like to correct the puppy or push him away). Targeting is one of my favorite bite inhibition games for puppies. Keep me posted how it goes!
Susan on September 27, 2019:
Our GSD is just over 4 months and he is an absolute TERROR! Sometimes I wonder if it was a mistake getting him, we excersie him, he plays fetch, he listens to us, except when I say 'no biting' he's completely deaf then. My arms are scratched and sore. trying to stay patient.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 13, 2019:
Laura, this may help you: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-Do-I-Stop-My-Dog-F...
Laura on December 29, 2018:
My 'puppy' is over a year old. I got her a few weeks ago from a shelter, and can't believe that anyone would let this beautiful girl go. But she is very mouthy and pawsey. Any suggestions on getting her to stop pawing me, because those dew claws really hurt.
Jester on August 31, 2018:
Very excited to try these techniques. We rescued a 5 week old puppy from puppy mill conditions, and we’re having to pretty much reprogram her. We normally wouldn’t have taken her on, except our son was there, and she made eye contact with him while just lying there covered in filth. So yeah, she’s made a great turn around in just a few days. Potty trained, loves snuggles, and gets along with children. We’re working on basic commands now, and then to biting inhibitions. Thank you for the informative article. I’ll update with our progress. :)
Sally Hansen on July 29, 2018:
Thanks for an informative article. Owning a GSD is always a rewarding experience..l have owned 9 so far. I am a 6year long expat living in the Seychelles where we can not purchase GSD pups as they may not be bred on the island...considered dangerous ? My last two died within 3 weeks of each other last November (they came with us from RSA already sterilized).l still read many articles on the breed and hope to find a way of owning another somehow. Patience, tone of voice and training is vital..l wish l had a problem pup instead of nothing....
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 26, 2018:
Becky, have you already tried the puppy bite inhibition games suggested in the article? You want to keep her focus away from biting and engage her in alternative behaviors. On top of these games, you can try ask her for a sit and toss kibble away from you repeatedly. This provides a workout, obedience training and an alternative behavior to replace the biting.
Becky Steele on May 22, 2018:
We have a 10 week old GSD and I'm finding her biting very difficult to manage.
She is completely chilled with my husband but she often goes into frenzied biting spells with me. If I have her on my own she will relentlessly pursue me (even trying to climb things) so she can bite me. Sometimes I can calm her and she will sit happily with me, but often nothing seems to work. She doesn't respond to yelping, and if I remove myself from the situation she gets very worked up and even more frenzied.
We have a 4 year old who is very calm (she's not noisy or running around) and she won't go anywhere near puppy because she often sees her 'attacking' me. The pressure to stay calm makes it much harder to know what to do and I have no idea how to handle her. Any suggestions?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 24, 2017:
Sher, good luck in training your pup good bite inhibition. Keep me posted on how it goes!
Sher on October 24, 2017:
This article is excellent for people with other breeds too. I have a second Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. My first dog was the perfect dog, so imagine my surprise when my tiny puppy was biting with those sharp teeth. It was like owning a furry pirahna.
I didn't know what to do as the puppy was so tiny I was afraid I'd hurt it by reprimanding it. But I had no idea how to stop the biting. I'd tried the usual yelping with no results other than amping up the biting, so this very helpful with concrete ideas to change the behavior. I'll be darned if a four pound puppy is going to terrorize people.
james on September 29, 2017:
love Pethelpful so much it is super raw and cool love that German Sherheard
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 03, 2017:
It takes some time for the puppy to learn how to use a softer mouth, but usually you should see big improvement by the age of 6 months. You are in the middle of the way, but still have work to do. It sounds like he is trying to play with your hands and ankles and you need to redirect this behavior. If he nips your ankles, stop moving as movement is what triggers the behavior. Keep a treat pouch always clipped to your belt and fill it up with a portion of your pup's daily dosage of kibble. From today, your pup will have to work for it. Teach him to sit and toss the kibble every time you catch him with the intent of nipping you. So the moment you notice the intent, freeze, ask him to sit and toss a treat from your pouch to catch. This provides him with some exercise and mental stimulation he craves in a more productive way. Make it a fun game. Remember: the more a behavior is rehearsed, the more it puts roots. So if you can manage to redirect him even before he nips, you will have him rehearse more good behaviors than the problem ones so the good behaviors strengthen and then bad ones weaken. Good luck.
Ozzy on September 01, 2017:
I have 3mo old GSD, I adopted him when he was 6w old from a local backyard breeder. Please help me understand my case better. I spend time with him 24/7, he is my third dog, I used to have an English shepherd, a boxer; I was pretty confident to train a dog before GSD. Here is my case with my puppy. He recognizes his name and obey the commends, come , sit, down, up, hand shake, good potty trained, no accident, walk with leash. I tried everything for bite inhibition. I can feed him by hand, on my lap, I can touch almost every part of his body, I can take out something from his mouth, even knuckle bone. These are all good things I managed, But on the other hand, I still have scratches and bite marks on my hands and ankles. He sometimes nipS, bites and growl on me. I always use positive reinforcement techniques. I am just wondering if I succeed on bite inhibition, this is all I can do, or there are more thing to do? Or Do I need more time to see improvement? Thanks. Ozzy
jahan pourazam on June 30, 2017:
sreeba on April 17, 2017:
Thank you for such a great article. I too have a GSD puppy who is really very naughty and always bites me.And I think this article would be very helpful!!!
Amanda on February 10, 2017:
I wish I'd found this 6 months ago. You give great tips. We have a 9mo female German who was so mouthy. She's getting a ton better, but we still have our bad days. Loves to bite my legs and hands. I can usually distract her with tug at this age but when she was 3-5mo it was impossible. She was so driven. So just hang in there with your pups because I've been there and survived. I'm going to start using these methods you've suggested. Thankfully we already use the tug method.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 28, 2016:
Kilara, have you tried the other games listed? I have listed several that can provide clarity that hands are toys, nut can be sources of great things when they are left alone. Some German shepherds have a strong herding instinct and are attracted to everything that moves. when she goes after your feet, make them boring by stopping and redirecting her with perhaps another toy or look for a flirt pole.
KiLara on July 22, 2016:
I just got a German shepherd/husky mix puppy 2 weeks ago. From what the people said when I we got her she should be about 11 weeks old now. I have tried to play the tug of war game with her, however she is still more interested in trying to get our hands and fingers. Also when I take her out for her walks (still trying to get her potty trained) she feels that going after my feet and legs is a good idea. I'm not in a position to be able to let her off the leash as training is difficult as well since everyone feels they have to have a hand in that and won't let me do it. We got her for me primarily as a support animal. Any ideas on what I can do? I have told everyone to back off and let me do the training, but no such luck.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 13, 2016:
Glad to hear you found the German shepherd puppy bite inhibition games helpful, good luck with your pup!
Jean-luc on May 13, 2016:
The step by step instructions are so helpful! By far the best article I've read about GS puppy's. Thank you so much!!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 23, 2015:
Hello Liz, I am happy this article on puppy bite inhibition games turned out helpful to you. Let me know if you have any questions. Happy training!
Liz on July 23, 2015:
Thank you very much for sharing this information! I have been searching for an article that describes my 3 mo old Shepherd Greta. Looking forward to trying your suggestions.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 25, 2014:
Lisa, for this you really need to seek a behavior specialist to guide you through behavior modification. Look for one that uses systematic desensitization and counterconditioning. Your pup is still young, seek help NOW before this becomes a big behavior problem. Resource guarders can and will bite given the chance. Your kids should not "try to take it away" as this allows the dog to rehearse the behavior and it reinforces more and more. Read this hub for more details:
lisa on April 25, 2014:
lisaLess than a minute ago
Hi, I'm looking for ways to stop food agression. I have a 6 month old german Shepard pup. We rescued him at 41/2 months. A day after bringing him home. He came down with parvo. When we got him back he was very underweight and starved. He was on a diet of chicken and rice for a week. Now he is crazy over people food. So here's the problem he doesn't have agression with his normal dog food but if he gets people food he gets aggressive towards my other dog and the kids if they try to take it away, not so much me and my husband tho. Today he ate a hole through my 9 year Olds backpack to get to a bag of popcorn and when she tried to take the backpack from him he growled and snapped at her hand leaving marks. Please help we have been through so much with this pup and would hate to have to get rid of him over this.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 30, 2014:
Hello, thanks for stopping by this hub. You can do the first game in another position if you feel it works better. Just getting him used to being touched as he walks by you as you toss treats.
vikkijov from Mystic, CT on March 30, 2014:
Your description of the puppy biting exactly describes Clyde. He does get more bitey and worked up when squealing or bringing him to the floor. The suggestions you gave sound positive, except whenever you sit on the floor, Clyde just starts to bite. So the first game doesn't seem like we could do it safely.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 21, 2013:
Hellow Ladydeonne, thanks for stopping by and commenting. The beauty about training and consulting with clients is that each dog assigned to you always teaches you something new. It's a never ending process!
Deonne Anderson from Florence, SC on June 21, 2013:
Though I don't have a German Shepard puppy, I enjoyed and learned from your article. I like to learn things about how to train and handle dogs because what I don't use, I can share with other dog owners.