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Knowing how to discipline a German Shepherd for biting and nipping will not only help save your hands and legs from tiny razor-sharp teeth…
But teaching your GSD puppy to stop biting can also help you with valuable training skills!
Skills that will not only help you control and stop your German Shepherd’s bites and nips — without force or fear, but have a better behaved dog overall.
Let’s get down to business teaching you how to discipline a German Shepherd puppy for biting or nipping.
You don’t have to live with a baby Jaws on the loose any longer!
How do you discipline a German Shepherd for biting and nipping?
To discipline a German Shepherd for biting or nipping, make sure you correct them during their bad behavior by saying “Ouch!”, pulling your hand away slowly to not excite them more, and redirecting the biting and nipping to an interesting chew toy. If they still continue to bite and nip, calmly get up and walk away to let them calm down. You can also get your puppy to stop biting by working on their impulse control.
Never use physical punishment, yell at your dog, or cause them to fear you. Instead, use reward-based training to teach your GSD what behavior you want them to do instead.
There is also extra information you need to know about disciplining your German Shepherd for biting, such as:
Why your puppy bites and nips you
How to avoid biting and nipping in the first place
And what not to do!
Let’s quickly talk about disciplining your German Shepherd, since it’s such a controversial topic in dog training and many owners are concerned about using corrections.
Disciplining Your German Shepherd Puppy the Right Way
You might find it cute that your fuzzy little German Shepherd puppy biting your hand or ankles is cute but…
Imagine your dog all grown up as a nearly 90 to 100-pound athletic powerhouse — full of large, adult-size teeth. It’s essential you know what to do to stop this behavior to avoid any accidents.
That’s where understanding discipline comes in.
Some people incorrectly assume that discipline means punishment. But, this isn’t entirely what type of discipline we’re discussing.
Did you know that discipline originally comes from the word “discipulus,” which in Latin means “student” or “pupil” (source)? 🎓
So, using discipline on your GSD refers to teaching him the correct behaviors and rules of living in your home.
This is your essential guide to learn how to discipline your German Shepherd for biting and nipping. You’ll discover:
5 reasons why German Shepherds bite
Precisely how to discipline your GSD for biting and nipping
What to avoid when training your dog so you don’t make things worse
In particular, you’ll learn how to teach your German Shepherd not to bite you or others and to control her mouth (and sharp teeth).
Why is my German Shepherd puppy biting and nipping?
When my adorable German Shepherd puppy came home to me her antics were so much fun!
I loved to move the toys to play her favorite games and keep her entertained. But, my hands looked like I had accidentally adopted a baby tiger after our playtimes!
There were scratches, puncture wounds, and she could even draw blood!
I’m sure you understand EXACTLY how it feels because you’re there now, too.
To learn how to discipline a German Shepherd for biting or nipping, it’s important to know why they want to bite you in the first place so you can fix the issue.
The most common reasons that German Shepherd’s bite and nip are:
Developing social behavior skills
Going through the puppy biting phase while teething
Expressing their natural herding instincts
Lack of mental stimulation
Tired, cranky, and needs a nap
Nearly all German Shepherds bite while puppies as they develop and mature socially, experience growing pains as they teethe, and still hold onto their natural herding instinct and prey drive.
However, there are positive steps you can take to stop your German Shepherd puppy’s aggressive biting that’s wreaking havoc on your hands and life.
Let’s cover the primary reasons your puppy bites and nips your arms and ankles so that you can understand how discipline works to correct your GSD’s out-of-control mouth.
1. Developing Social Behavior and Bite Inhibition – Early Puppy Stage
German Shepherd puppies love to play and do so by barking, play growling, and nipping their little brothers and sisters. But now, you and your family are the littermates!
Unfortunately, this means you’re getting the nips and bites while your puppy learns social behavior and bite inhibition.
Bite inhibition, also known as having a “soft mouth” is an important part of socialization. During bite inhibition, your German Shepherd puppy learns to control the force of their biting so that their siblings aren’t injured (source).
Puppies quickly learn that if they bite too hard their littermates stop the play, and the fun ends. This is a valuable life lesson for living with people and families.
8-Week-Old Puppies and Bite Inhibition
But, sometimes, puppies are taken away too early from their mothers. This means they don’t learn bite inhibition properly. And even studies show that removing a German Shepherd puppy before they are 8-weeks-old could negatively affect their behavior as adults (source).
The pup’s mother teaches early bite inhibition and disciplines them when they bite too hard or play too rough. If you get your puppy earlier than eight weeks, then your German Shepherd hasn’t learned proper social behaviors and has missed natural disciplining from their mother.
Your new German Shepherd must continue to learn bite inhibition skills when you first bring them home.
2. German Shepherd Puppy Teething Phase
German Shepherds get their razor-sharp baby teeth around 2-weeks-old. The baby teeth have usually all grown in by 6 to 7 weeks of age. So, when your pup comes home, around 8-weeks of age to live with you, all 28 of their baby teeth are ready for nipping and biting.
GSD puppy teething phases:
2-weeks-old: baby teeth begin growing in
6 to 7-weeks of age: all 28 baby teeth have grown in
3 to 4-months-old: baby teeth start falling out naturally
3 to 8-months-old: focus on providing teething toys to reduce gum pain
6 to 8-months of age: all 42 adult teeth have grown in
Baby German Shepherd puppies might also bite on your hands or chew furniture and other objects because they’re developing new adult teeth. When the adult teeth grow in they can irritate the gums and cause your dog discomfort.
This leads to your pup looking for things to chew to help soothe their teething pains.
3 to 4-Month-Old German Shepherd Puppy Teething Phase
When your GSD puppy is around 3 to 4 months old, his baby teeth will begin to loosen and fall out as his adult teeth push through to replace them. You might find tiny teeth on your carpet or on the ground, but most of the baby teeth are swallowed by your pup.
It’s perfectly healthy and normal and doesn’t hurt your puppy!
Keep a few frozen Kongs on hand during the teething stage to offer your German Shepherd puppy to stop them from chewing and biting everything in sight!
3. Your German Shepherd’s Natural Herding Instinct
Your German Shepherd comes from a long line of working dogs that were originally bred to herd sheep. These instincts still remain with your dog to this day.
You’ve probably already experienced the biting and nipping at your ankles and legs. German Shepherds bite and nip your ankles due to this natural herding ability and powerful prey drive. This need to herd is in their genes and, unfortunately, your ankles will have to do when there are no sheep to round up! 🦶
While you might think this ankle-biting is cute or funny, imagine what damage this will do to your skin when your puppy grows into a strong adult.
It’s best to learn the skill of disciplining your GSD for biting behavior instead of laughing and encouraging it unintentionally.
4. Absence or Lack of Mental Stimulation
German Shepherds, even puppies, are highly intelligent dogs with a never-ending supply of stamina. While many owners are focused on exercises for their German Shepherd, your dog’s mind needs training, too! 🧠
Brain activities and mind games give your GSD the mental outlet they need to not only learn new problem-solving skills that are essential to their growth but also reduce their energy levels (source).
Mental stimulation exhausts their minds and bodies!
A pup that lacks proper mental stimulation finds themselves looking for ways to keep their brains busy, which generally means getting into trouble.
5. Too Tired or Lack of Sleep
Did you know that puppies sleep 18 to 20 hours a day (source)?
I know what you’re thinking…
“That can’t be right because my German Shepherd has nonstop energy!”
Yes, your puppy is a bundle of excitement, but…
They also need plenty of quiet time to relax and get quality sleep to recharge their never-ending battery. A German Shepherd puppy who is nipping and biting a lot might just be cranky from lack of sleep, and not willfully acting out.
Even as an adult if my German Shepherd doesn’t get quiet sleep she’s less likely to want to train or perform cues I give her. Don’t underestimate how much sleep your puppy or adult GSD needs to behave appropriately.
Now that you know the main reasons why your German Shepherd bites you, let’s cover the right ways to discipline them.
How to Discipline a German Shepherd for Biting and Nipping
German Shepherds must be taught that biting and nipping isn’t acceptable behavior and need to learn what to do instead. Begin teaching them by using body language, hand signals, voice commands, and showing them the right behaviors you want from them. Let your dog know from the start that biting hurts you and doesn’t get them what they want. If they continue aggressively biting you, place them in a short time out.
Always use positive training and avoid harsh punishment and corrections.
You can practice these techniques by following the steps below for disciplining your German Shepherd for biting.
1. Teach your German Shepherd bite inhibition during play.
It’s important for your dog to learn how to control the force of his bite as soon as possible. There might come a time when your dog is in fear, pain, or discomfort and they put their mouth on you.
If your German Shepherd has learned bite inhibition during their play, then they understand to not bite down hard and avoid injuring your skin.
When your puppy bites you during play, say “ouch” or “ow” to let them know it hurts. You don’t need to squeal or use a high-pitched voice since these sounds can excite your dog even more — say what you normally would if you got pinched and hurt.
Slowly move your hand or leg away from them. 🖐🏽
Don’t jerk your hand away quickly, because this could cause them to bite harder. Try to relax your hand and body so that your puppy is less interested in holding on with their teeth.
Stop all play and interaction for five seconds.
Then resume activity, but remember no interaction means no talking, no eye contact, and no petting.
Sometimes, those sharp puppy teeth are too painful or break the skin!
For those times, you’ll need to use a different correction technique.
2. Show your puppy that biting or nipping ends the play.
When your German Shepherd puppy bites or nips you during play and it’s too hard and painful, show them that playtime is over.
You’ve already learned to stop all play for 5 seconds and to resume play when first teaching your dog to not bite. But hard bites that draw blood or break your skin mean no more playtime.
How to show your German Shepherd that biting and nipping ends play
If your dog hurts you painfully during play, quietly and calmly turn away and stand up.
Walk away from your puppy, preferably into another room of the house.
If they bite and nip at your hands, tuck them into your armpits so they don’t have access to continue biting and hurting you.
Leaving play when your GSD becomes too rough is a way to calm them by withdrawing your attention from their rough behavior. It’s a way to tell your German Shepherd “game over.”
3. Place them in a short time out for continued biting.
There will be times when your puppy is acting out so badly you might need to place them in a short time out.
Time outs are not meant to be punishment, but a moment of calm. Don’t roughly grab your puppy and shove them in a crate!
Instead, do this…
To discipline your German Shepherd for aggressive biting and nipping
Gently pick them up (or place a lead on them if they’re too wild or too big to handle) and take them to the time-out area.
In a time-out area, your puppy shouldn’t have access to any toys that or be in a location where he could entertain himself
Keep them in the time out for around 2 to 5 minutes, depending on how long it takes them to calm down. ⌛
Only let them out when they’re calm and not crying or whining. Do NOT let them become worked up or stressed if your separation is too much for them.
It’s important you don’t treat time out as a punishment or your dog will begin to associate their crate or safe area with a severe correction and, in time, with being around you.
4. Give your German Shepherd the right things to chew.
Your German Shepherd will most likely chew on everything you don’t want…
Unless you show him what you DO want him to put his teeth on.
You already know your German Shepherd is biting you, so anticipate the biting behavior and substitute a toy for your hand or ankles. Instead of just telling your puppy “no” let them know what’s OK to bite and chew if they start nibbling at your fingers or toes.
Keep a few small toys in your pocket to offer them as they race around the house.
What toys do German Shepherds like to bite and chew?
The best toys to get your German Shepherd’s attention when they’re acting wild and biting you are toys that are like wild prey and withstand your pup’s shark-like teeth. 🦈
I’ve had excellent success using rolling toys that are built for heavy chewers, like this Monster Ultra Durable Chew toy. The key to using this toy is to roll it away from yourself when your puppy is aggressively nipping and biting you.
The action of the roll taps into your dog’s natural herding instinct to chase the prey (the rolling toy). It’s also strong enough to engage your German Shepherd in a game of tug while keeping your fingers safe.
Want to know the best chew toys for BORED German Shepherds?
Read this hand-picked content… just for you!
Instead of letting your dog chew on whatever they want, find appropriate toys to reduce their boredom and give them a place to put their teeth.
5. Redirect biting ankles and legs by using a food lure.
German Shepherd puppies are notorious for biting ankles and legs, as it’s in their nature to herd.
Your legs and feet are also enticing since they move and change directions frequently. If your dog nips and bites your ankles, there’s a way to get them to stop that doesn’t take hardly any effort or punishment.
How to Discipline a German Shepherd for Biting Your Ankles and Feet
Always have a pocket of tasty bits of treats if your dog is biting you. You can also get an inexpensive treat bag to wear to make sure you’re never caught without a food lure.
When your German Shepherd bites your ankles or feet, calmly take a treat out of your pocket and hold the treat near the side of your leg.
Make sure you get your dog’s attention with the tasty treat and don’t move it around quickly or you’ll cause more excitement.
As your dog walks alongside your leg to get the treat, give them a verbal marker, such as “Yes” or “Good!”
Continue a few steps using the food lure near your leg. This disciplining technique also has the added benefit of teaching your dog the first steps of walking nicely on a leash with you.
To quickly grab your dog’s sense of smell and get them to stop biting you, use soft treats that are highly scented to help your dog focus on you.
6. Train a gentle mouth when taking food from your hand.
Training your German Shepherd to take treats or kibble with a gentle mouth is extremely easy.
Teaching your GSD puppy what is acceptable pressure with their mouth helps to avoid their sharp teeth from damaging your skin or tearing your clothes accidentally.
Training a soft mouth with your German Shepherd
When feeding your dog a treat, keep the treat pinches between your fingers slightly. This is so your puppy has to lick or nibble at the treat to get it.
If your puppy is biting or chomping at your hand don’t release the treat. Instead, pull your hand back slowly.
Now, offer your puppy the treat again. When he switches to just licking or using a soft mouth to nibble the treat out release the treat.
If your puppy is too excited you can choose another time to train them or say “ouch!” when they bite too hard. Withdraw your hand.
Wait a few seconds before offering your hand with the treat again.
Practice teaching a gentle mouth at least 3 to 5 times daily in short sessions only about 2 to 3 minutes long. You want to keep the sessions short so you don’t wind up your puppy with long, stressful training.
Once your German Shepherd is using their mouth more gently, you can move on to teaching the “drop” or “leave it” command.
7. Teach them the “leave it” command.
Sometimes it’s better to train your German Shepherd to the “leave it” command so they learn early they can’t always get everything they want in their mouth.
You can begin training this cue by doing the following:
When your GSD has a tight hold of something you don’t want them to chew, simply show them a tasty treat near their face.
When he drops the item, give him the treat and say “good.”
Now, replace whatever was in his mouth with a toy you’d rather him chew and bite.
Pay attention to the types of items your German Shepherd prefers to pick up and chew.
Is it something hard?
Then, replace it with a hard, tough chew toy.
Is the item soft?
Try replacing the item with a furry toy instead.
Get to know your German Shepherd’s unique chewing preferences. You’ll be able to stop their biting of unwanted items more quickly with less damage to yourself or your belongings.
If you haven’t seen your puppy sleep in a while and they’re acting too excited, then placing them down for a nap might be just what you need. Many dog and puppy owners swear by the behavioral aid snuggle that mimics a mother’s heartbeat and provides warmth.
Using these strategies to create a quiet zone will help your puppy recharge and become its sweet self again.
10. Manage their environment so they’re successful.
One of the most important steps to learning to discipline a German Shepherd for biting and nipping is to prevent the ability to continue practicing the unwanted behavior.
You can do this by controlling the environment and controlling your dog’s exposure to these situations that cause him to bite.
If your puppy begins to bite your children when they run around and play, place your German Shepherd in a contained area so he can’t nip them.
Keeping your puppy on a tether attached to a safe, heavy object (like a couch leg) so they can’t run and bite you when they get too wild
Supervise your German Shepherd to set him up for success.
Giving your puppy too much freedom before they have the necessary life skills to navigate that much space can set them up for failure.
Your German Shepherd doesn’t come to you knowing the rules of the house. So, you can’t expect him to understand what not to bite or chew.
This is especially true of puppies new to your life and even rescue German Shepherds that might have never been trained before.
Never let a dog out of your sight when they’re untrained because dogs can find trouble quicker than you can get to them.
Now, let’s cover what not to do when training your German Shepherd to not bite.
Are you already making any of these mistakes?
Common Myths: What Not to Do When Disciplining a GSD for Biting
Using punishments incorrectly can tear down your relationship with your German Shepherd. It can ruin your future together and cause life-long damage.
These are the top training myths to avoid when disciplining a GSD for biting and mouthing.
Never use physical, mental, or emotional punishment.
This means no hitting, yanking the leash, holding their mouth shut, pulling their ear, grabbing their tongue, or putting your hands on your dog that might hurt them.
It also means you should avoid mental and emotional stress, such as intimidating your German Shepherd by yelling at them or chasing them around when they’re afraid.
Recent studies show that even mild aversive (punishment-based) training caused stress levels to increase in dogs and they showed signs of stress, as well as pessimistic behaviors that prevented them from learning new tasks easier (source).
In contrast, dogs that were offered positive training (all of the steps mentioned earlier for correcting your German Shepherd) were less stressed and had overall better welfare.
Don’t “alpha roll” or grab your dog by the scruff.
Outdated techniques, such as grabbing your GSD by the scruff and shaking him, or using an “alpha roll” (forcefully turning your dog on its back or side to show your dog that you’re the boss and dominant) may increase your dog’s aggressive behaviors.
Results from a study using aversive training methods highlight:
The use of incorrect punishment can jeopardize both the physical and mental health of dogs.
You should never place your German Shepherd in a position where you are using old-school techniques that aren’t supported through science.
Don’t grab your dog by the jowls and shake them.
Although you might have heard someone say to you to grab your German Shepherd by the jowls to discipline them for biting, this will only instill fear and anxiety in your dog.
Furthermore, this study showed that a whopping 25% of dogs grabbed by the jowls and shaken became aggressive. This percentage also includes dogs whose owners forcefully grabbed an item and removed it from their mouths.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Disciplining a German Shepherd for Biting and Nipping
I find it helpful to have the do’s and don’ts in a quick table for reference and training.
These tips for stopping a German Shepherd puppy from biting will help you find a quick solution!
Have the right toys for playing with your puppy or dog close by.
Use your hands as toys or rough house with your hands if you’re having problems with biting and nipping.
Train your dog using positive reinforcement.
Apply harsh corrections or punish your dog for play biting.
Play low-key games with your dog that keeps him under his arousal level before biting.
Urge your dog to participate in highly arousing games that push him over his threshold.
Slowly tuck your hands under your armpits to avoid getting bitten during play.
Wave your hands around your German Shepherd’s face if they start biting you.
Ignore your German Shepherd by standing up and walking away when they are too rough.
Give your German Shepherd attention when they’re acting out by using physical corrections.
Choosing positive training from the left column will speed up your German Shepherd’s training.
Now, you might wonder what happened to your sweet, furry little puppy and wonder how a piranha has taken over your German Shepherd recently.
But, rest assured, this phase will end.
By following along with this stop-biting training program for a few weeks you WILL see a reduction in bad behaviors of your dog. Get everyone in your household on board for the quickest results.
When will my German Shepherd stop biting and nipping me?
German Shepherds generally stop biting around 6 to 8-months old. This is after all 42 of their adult teeth have grown in and they begin to learn bite inhibition while managing a soft mouth. You can speed up this learning process by keeping everyone in your family on the same track, using consistent discipline, and understanding that stopping your GSD from biting doesn’t happen overnight. Your German Shepherd bites generally to initiate play and doesn’t think it’s wrong.
Teach them to not bite you by sticking with positive training and avoid scaring or intimidating them. A German Shepherd that is fearful of you not only takes longer to train but won’t bond with you.
Biting: The Bottom Line
Your dog isn’t born knowing good manners and what you want them to do. If you want your dog to learn good house manners then it’s up to you to guide and teach them.
Think about it this way, if you do absolutely nothing the chances are your German Shepherd will outgrow the biting on their own.
…by reinforcing calm behavior and withdrawing attention for unwanted mouthy behavior, then you’ll survive your German Shepherd’s puppyhood with fewer tooth marks and a well-trained dog!
Have a plan of action for what to do with your puppy during the times they’re prone to unruliness, nipping, and chewing. Get your family on board with the training.
Learning how to discipline a German Shepherd for biting doesn’t need to involve force or harsh corrections and punishment. You can teach your dog what is acceptable and unacceptable to you and your family using the positive, gentle steps listed here.
All while enjoying your beautiful German Shepherd and strengthening your bond! 💗
Catherine Krasavin owns Shepherd Sense, a dog website aimed at German Shepherd owners and lovers. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, with Honors, and has been training dogs for over a decade. Catherine’s currently attending continuing education courses to keep up with the latest in animal science, as well as earning her diploma in dog training. She owns a plush coat German Shepherd who was awarded Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme Gold Award - the highest level of achievement.
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