Welcoming a German Shepherd puppy into your life is a joyous time. Not only is a German Shepherd a wonderful addition to any family, but they can bring so much extra fun into your home.
While raising a Shepherd puppy is an incredible experience, there is one puppy habit that can be challenging to break; biting.
German Shepherd puppies bite mostly because they simply want to play. However, they do also bite for other reasons, such as curiosity and wanting your attention. Keep in mind that these dogs have a high prey drive and are instinctual herders, and these traits can also lead to biting.
So how do you stop your German Shepherd puppy from biting? Read along for a complete guide on banishing the behavior for good!
Understanding The Biting Behavior
Before we dive into why your German Shepherd puppy may be biting you, it’s important to understand the biting behavior in itself. Since puppies lack the dexterity that you and I have, they use their mouths to explore the world around them.
Not only is it their method of exploration, but it’s also one of the main ways they communicate during play. By understanding the behavior of biting itself, you can begin to see just how normal biting is in German Shepherd puppies.
Just because biting is a normal behavior in a puppy does not mean we should tolerate it or promote it. To help you get to the bottom of your Shepherd pup’s biting, let’s dive into the main reasons why German Shepherd puppies bite.
So Why Do German Shepherd Puppies Bite?
Since biting is a form of communication for German Shepherd puppies, there are many things our puppies could be trying to say! So why do Shepherd pups bite? Let’s dive in!
They Want To Play
The most common reason that German Shepherds bite is because they want to play. Puppies often communicate with their siblings through biting and pawing, especially when they are trying to incite a play session.
Not only is their way of letting us know that they want to play, but our hands and feet are also wonderful “toys” for our German Shepherd pups. Your pup may gnaw on your hand as if it were a chew toy, especially when you are a moving target.
Puppies play and bite their siblings from the moment they are old enough to do so. This is why the behavior is so common, and why our Shepherd pupswill need to learn how to transition to playing with appropriate chewing options.
They Have A High Prey Drive
Similar to what we discussed above, our German Shepherd puppies may see us as a big chew toy. Not only are our hands and feet tempting enough, but even more so when a puppy has a high prey drive.
A prey drive is an ingrained need to chase after moving objects, whether it is appropriate or not. A swinging hand as we walk by can be extremely tempting for a growing pup, causing them to jump up and nip.
If it seems like your Shepherd puppy is always biting you when you are in motion, it may be due to their high prey drive!
They Are Curious
As we mentioned above, German Shepherd puppies use their mouth to explore the world around them. Biting can help them examine and understand an object, and our hands and feet can fall into that category as well!
If you catch your puppy gnawing on everything around your home, it may be their curiosity getting the best of them!
They Want Your Attention
Sometimes a nipping German Shepherd puppy is in search of extra attention. A dog quickly learns what behavior gets a reaction, causing them to do it over and over again.
Even if their bites result in a negative reaction from you, it still counts as attention. Because of this, it’s so important to not reward this behavior with any type of reaction.
They Are Teething
Similar to teething babies, a German Shepherd puppy experiences teething pain as well. A puppy’s teeth and gums can ache during this process, causing them to chew on items in search of relief.
If your Shepherd pup seems to find relief when chewing on objects, they may be biting you due to teething discomfort.
They Are Herding You
If your German Shepherd puppy is constantly biting at your ankles, they may be displaying some herding behaviors. German Shepherds are ingrained with a need to work, especially in dogs with a working bloodline.
If your German Shepherd is always nipping at your feet, running to your side when you are moving, or showing signs of anxiety or frustration when you are moving around your home; it may be herding behavior.
Stop Your German Shepherd Puppy From Biting
As you can see, there are many possible reasons why your German Shepherd puppy has turned to the behavior of biting. So how can you stop this normal puppy behavior? Let’s discuss our favorite tips below!
Redirect The Behavior
One of the most effective ways to stop your German Shepherd puppy from biting is by redirecting the behavior. An effective distraction is a wonderful way to end the behavior without punishment, and show them how much fun the alternative to biting can be.
The next time your Shepherd pup is displaying undesirable nipping, try to pull out their favorite toy. A fun distraction can appease your dog’s need to bite, and can show them what an acceptable chew option is.
Since this will need to be a toy that your dog enjoys, be sure to offer them the option that they find most exciting. This can be a Kong toy, rope, bone, or any other chewing option that your dog loves.
By doing this each time your Shepherd puppy begins to bite you, they will begin to understand that they would much rather play with an acceptable chew option.
Give Them Plenty Of Chew Toys
Since a growing German Shepherd puppy can experience teething pains, it’s important to make sure that they have plenty of chew toys available. Having a variety of chew toys can alleviate their need to bite our hands and feet, and offer them the relief they seek in this uncomfortable transition.
There are so many toys created for teething puppies, that it should be easy to fill your home with plenty of appropriate options. One of our favorite chew toys is the Kong Teething Binkie.
Since our German Shepherd pups may be seeking attention when they turn to biting, it’s important not to give them what they are looking for. Any attention can validate the behavior, causing them to make it a habit.
If your pup is biting you in passing or during play time, it’s best to not engage and walk away. This shows them that the behavior is unacceptable, and does not involve any harmful negative reinforcement.
Our attention is important to a puppy, and they do not want to be ignored. By showing them that biting will only result in us pulling away, they will learn to ditch the undesirable behavior.
Interrupt The Behavior
Sometimes a Shepherd puppy needs a sharp and sudden sound to pull them out of a bad habit. By giving a quick interrupter cue (ouch, yip, eek), you can pull your puppy away from the action and gain their attention.
It’s important for an interrupter cue to be a sudden distraction rather than a harsh punishment word, as we don’t ever want to correct this behavior with negative reinforcement. An interruption can simply change your dog’s direction, rather than causing them to be fearful.
The next time your dog begins to bite you, let out a quick “ouch!” and offer them a toy to chew on instead.
Make Sure They Are Physically & Mentally Stimulated
It’s more likely for a German Shepherd puppy to bite when they are lacking stimulation. Because of this, it is so important to offer plenty of mental and physical activities throughout your home.
Physical and mental activities can cure your puppy’s boredom, and even help them strengthen their critical thinking skills! One of our readers’ favorites has always been the Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle Plush Dog Toy. Take a closer look and you’ll see why this toy is so irresistible!
If you know that your German Shepherd puppy struggles with biting in certain situations, sometimes it’s best to be proactive. For example, if your puppy nips at strangers each time they walk in the door, it may be best to limit their time around the guest and send them to a separate play area.
Just make sure that this isolated area is filled with comfort items and toys so they don’t think they are being punished. Once they begin to understand that biting is unacceptable, you can refrain from using their separate play area as often.
Give Them A Timeout
If none of the above options are working, or your Shepherd pup becomes overwhelmed, sometimes it’s best to let them step away from the situation. Similar to what we discussed above about being proactive, a separate play area can help them calm down and collect themselves.
Once your German Shepherd puppy begins to mature and understand that biting is unacceptable, they should require less time away.
What Not To Do When Your German Shepherd Puppy Is Biting
Now that we’ve discussed some of the best ways to stop your German Shepherd puppy from biting, we should also discuss what not to do! Just as there are effective methods in canine training, there are counterproductive actions as well.
Do Not Hit Or Yell
Since biting is a normal behavior that puppies must learn to grow out of, it is not productive to hit or yell at your puppy when they bite. Doing this can show them from a young age that interaction with you results in something negative, and can hinder your training process.
By using other distractions and training methods when they bite, you can turn every bite into a learning experience for your pup!
Do Not Yank Your Hand Away
While this can be challenging, it’s important to never yank your hand or foot away from your puppy when they bite. This can seem like a fun game to your pup, and can actually encourage the behavior.
Try your best to go limp when they bite you, and pull your attention away from the pup. By doing this, you show them that this behavior does not offer them any extra fun.
Do Not Offer Too Much Attention
As we mentioned above, even negative attention can give your German Shepherd puppy what they are looking for. Extra attention can validate their undesirable behavior, making it challenging to break.
Try your best to refrain from reacting to a bite outside of your interrupter cue, and pull your attention away from your furry friend afterward.
Is It Normal For German Shepherd Puppies To Bite?
Biting is a normal behavior in puppies of all kinds. Puppies begin to bite their siblings from the moment they can move, and will continue this behavior until they learn otherwise.
A biting German Shepherd puppy is to be expected, and should not result in any discouragement on your part. As long as you are following the tips we mentioned above, your puppy should shy away from this behavior in no time!
Is Puppy Biting A Sign Of Aggression?
Biting in puppies is not usually a sign of aggression. Mild biting is usually a form of play, and should be easily corrected. However, there are some rare cases where biting in German Shepherd puppies is a sign of something more.
If your pup is displaying any snarling, growling, ears pinned back, stiff posture, or any other signs of canine aggression, your pup may be biting in reaction to fear or pain. If you think your puppy’s biting is tied to aggression that you cannot solve, it may be time to contact a professional.
When To Get A Trainer For Your German Shepherd’s Biting
Though biting in German Shepherd puppies is usually easily corrected, there are some puppies that prove to be more challenging. Some puppies just don’t get the hint with standard training, and require a bit of extra help to kick the habit.
If you are unable to make any progress within a month of implementing the tips we discussed above, it may be time to contact a dog trainer. A trainer can not only help your pup refrain from biting, but offer other obedience training as well.
As you can see, biting is a normal behavior for our beloved German Shepherd puppies. Be sure to review the tips we discussed above on proper canine training, and you can banish puppy biting for good!