We are currently raising our second German Shepherd Puppy, which is the puppy pictured below. Her name is Mocha Latte Von Frappuccino, or just Mocha for short. It has admittedly been about 10 years since we’ve had a puppy as a family member and I’m being reminded of just how much those little teeth hurt.
The good news, is that this behavior is completely normal. The bad news, is that it can hurt. While you may interpret what she’s doing as biting, what she may actually be doing, especially after she’s been away from her siblings for a while, is chewing.
More on this in a few minutes.
Whether it’s chewing or biting it is a completely normal part of puppyhood for several different reasons and is not normally a form of aggression or bad behavior. Though, that doesn’t mean you should let your puppy bite you or anyone else.
So, this begs the question, then,
How do I stop my German Shepherd Puppy from biting?
German Shepherd puppies will usually stop biting, or at least slow their biting down, once their adult teeth come in. Because that doesn’t happen until about 20 weeks of age, it’s helpful to know how to get your dog to stop, now. One of the best things you can do is exercise your dog both mentally and physically to wear him out so he won’t have the energy to bite. Also giving him something like a chew toy that feels good on his teeth and gums can be extremely helpful.
Before we discuss how to stop a German Shepherd puppy from biting in more detail, we need to get to the bottom of why they bite, to begin with.
Why German Shepherd puppies bite:
You might be inclined to believe that puppies bite because they are mean. And, while this could be true depending on a case by case basis, there are actually some other reasons why your puppy is biting not only furniture, but also you and other people.
There is more going on with your puppy than you may realize that is causing this biting. These are things like teething, and it’s just how puppies interact with each other and it’s all they know.
And in fact, most of this behavior is not them biting, but them chewing which is an important and healthy thing for them to be doing.
Let’s take a deeper look —
How puppies interact:
Puppies bite for a few different reasons, first being that, up until now, it was the primary way they interacted with their siblings and mother. They tend to play with their litter mates and don’t necessarily hold anything back when they do.
They bite each other hard and it’s all they really know from the time they’re born. When your pup bit one of her litter mates, that litter mate probably bit her back, turning it into a massive game that they played together.
When her brother bit her back, he was rewarding her with play time.
It’s imperative when you’re interacting with your pup to make sure you don’t react in such a way that the pup could interpret it as a reward.
Now I do want to say that some dog trainers recommend that you yelp loudly in a high pitch tone to signify that the puppy hurt you. But I’ve found that this doesn’t work with all German Shepherd puppies and I try to steer clear of this.
The reason why it doesn’t always work, is because some of them interpret that as a reward and will immediately bite again to get that reward, thinking you’re playing with her, when in reality, you just want it to stop.
Takeaway: As your puppy gets older it will learn how it is supposed to interact with you by way of actually interacting with you. She will learn that she’s not supposed to bite, and will still wrap her teeth around your arm, hand, or ankle, but won’t actually bite down with force. This is a move in the right direction, because she’ll eventually stop biting altogether.
Puppies go through a fairly painful teething process and it actually helps their teeth feel better when they bite down on things.
I’ve got three kids who all, believe it or not, started out as babies. Babies go through a similar process forcing innovative companies to come up with ways to help those little teeth feel better.
So teething rings and other toys were invented to help for babies, and similar objects were also designed for puppies.
Getting your German Shepherd pup something she can chew on without getting into trouble will help you out to at least some degree. We have one toy that she absolutely loves and others she turns her nose up at. Each dog is different, but this is the one our girl loves, found conveniently on Amazon, and I think the reason why she likes it is because she can hold it down with a front leg while she’s chomping.
The thing to keep in mind is that, because the GSD is such a smart animal (one of the reasons why they’re the best dog breed), they tend to get bored quickly unless the thing they have is continually mentally stimulating them.
This means you may have to get creative to help your puppy slow down her biting a bit.
Takeaway: Ultimately, from the time you bring your puppy home until her baby teeth fall out making way for the big teeth behind them, she’s teething. And, that teething hurts. Get your dog a toy or 10 to chew on and rotate them out as needed.
Chewing is actually important for German Shepherd Puppies:
If you’ll remember, a few moments ago I said that some “biting” is actually them just chewing because it makes them feel better. While it may not seem that different of a term to you, it actually is quite different.
You may not believe me, but chewing is actually important for your German Shepherd Puppy to develop jaw strength. To help me illustrate why, let’s pretend that you’re entering a strongman (or woman) competition.
You don’t just wake up one day thinking that you’re going to enter the competition, it’s something that you have to train for, lifting weights, conditioning yourself, etc.
Believe it or not, your puppy’s jaw is controlled by muscles that aren’t yet conditioned to be the strong biters that you think about when you hear that a German Shepherd can bite with 238 pounds of pressure.
So you can think of chewing as a form of exercise for your pup, and one that is necessary for your puppy to turn into a healthy, adult German Shepherd.
Takeaway: When your puppy bites, it’s actually doing a couple of different things. Most of the time it is not to hurt you, and one of those things is exercising the jaw, even if your pup doesn’t realize that’s what it’s doing. It’s actually instinct, which is why one of the first things your puppy does when it goes outside is find something new, like a stick, to chew on.
Puppy biting is not a form of aggression:
A lot of people wrongly associate the biting and chewing that puppies do as a form of aggression. And, while it might be in rare occurrences, it usually is not aggressive behavior. It is usually just a form of play or just making themselves feel better or instinct.
That doesn’t mean that it does not suck for your ankles and furniture, though.
If the biting is accompanied by what seems to be anger, growling, or a temper tantrum, that can start to lead to aggression. Something to keep an eye on is if your German Shepherd puppy starts to get possessive of certain items.
We test this out by briefly taking what she’s after away, to make sure she’s not getting possessive of an item, whether it’s a toy or anything else.
Takeaway: The thing to remember here is that your German Shepherd puppy’s chewing and biting is probably not a form of aggression. It could be, but most of the time this is just how they roll.
How to stop the biting:
You don’t want to stop the biting altogether. Hopefully we’ve hit it home that this chewing is actually healthy for your puppy. You just want him to stop biting you, your loved ones, your furniture, or other animals you may have around the house.
This next section is a list of tips to help you stop or prevent your puppy from biting you and other things they shouldn’t be biting.
Get Your GSD puppy a toy:
We’ve briefly covered this but it bears repeating because you want to foster the proper chewing of her own things, but not you or other stuff that doesn’t belong to her.
If she has toys that she has and likes, the goal is to get her to chew those things instead of you.
The key here, though, is that German Shepherds get bored very easily and it can be hard for you to have her concentrate on any one chew toy for more than 15-30 minutes. To be honest, even that short amount of time goes a long way toward the health of your pup, so don’t discount it.
But your mental health may deteriorate and I get that. So …
One thing you can do is buy more than one toy and rotate them out as they get bored. That, coupled with some of these other tips, will go a long way to help your sanity out.
It’s also important to note that your puppy may not have any interest in the toy you bought her for one reason or another. We bought one toy that she won’t even look at. She hates that particular one, yet loves another one from the same company, Nylabone.
Try out a couple, and don’t give up if you strike out on the first toy.
Takeaway: Your German Shepherd puppy should have her own toys that she knows and loves, as well as things that are healthy for her to chew on. Get her a few different toys, some that are meant for chewing, others that are meant for chasing. Others, still, that are plush. You won’t know what she likes at first, but there are toys out there that she will like. You just have to find out which ones they are.
GSD Puppy Nap Time:
I’ve found, personally, that as our current German Shepherd puppy gets tired as the day goes on, she gets mouthier. At night time, she’s a little terror with her teeth. She can currently, as of this writing she’s about 12 weeks old, go the entire day without biting one of us, but the second the sun goes down all bets are off.
This still isn’t a form of aggression or anything like that, but it is something to watch out for. Think about how cranky you can be when you get tired, and keep in mind that her inhibitions are off because she’s going through her own type of crankiness.
When our current puppy was even younger, say 10 weeks old or so, she would get mouthy leading up to the point when she needed a nap. Then when she’d wake up from that nap she was a different puppy.
We’re thankfully past that point, but she still gets cranky at night.
Keep a close eye on your pup and try to get a general sense for her schedule so you can try to keep it. If she seems tired and is nippy, it may be time for a nap.
Try not to force your dog to stay up to conform to your schedule. She knows best when she’s tired and if you fight her on how she’s feeling you will lose.
Pro Tip: Having a crate for your German Shepherd puppy can go a long way to help you keep your sanity, while providing her a safe haven place to lay her head at night and during naps. We like to partially cover our crate with a sheet to help simulate that it’s a den, which also brings her more comfort. Amazon has a lot of crates in stock, but we use one of these. Something you don’t want to do is associate the crate as a punishment though. Remember, it’s supposed to be a safe haven, not a bad thing.
German Shepherd Puppy Exercise:
When your puppy is young, he may be biting out of boredom. Giving him something to do in the form of exercise will not only help him stop biting you, but give him something fun to do that also wears him out at the same time.
Exercise is a great thing for your puppy no matter what is going on. And one thing that some people don’t think about is that if you’re at your wit’s end with puppy biting and don’t know what else to do, bringing your puppy out for a walk or a game of fetch can remove her will to bite you.
Going on regular walks is a great idea, and one of our favorite things to do with all of our GSDs to date is play fetch. This works best on puppies between 8-11 weeks old because, generally speaking, your pup will gain more stamina as he gets older, and he’ll bite you less and less as you teach him he’s not supposed to.
Takeaway: Your puppy needs exercise, plain and simple. German Shepherds are active dogs, anyway, so giving them something fun to do with you will help them be happier both mentally and physically, but also have much needed bonding time with you, which will also draw you closer together.
Walk Away from your biting German Shepherd:
If you find yourself getting bitten and are at your wit’s end, something else you can do is walk away from your German Shepherd puppy.
The German Shepherd dog is very smart and will understand quickly what is happening. What is happening?
When your puppy bites you because she thinks it’s play time but you walk away, she’ll start to realize that you remove yourself from the situation and that biting is the thing that is driving you away from her.
Because she is developing a bond with you and wants to be around you, she’ll stop biting you.
Takeaway: Sometimes the simplest things can get the point across. If she’s biting you, say “no” and then get up and walk away, leaving her in the room she’s in by utilizing some gates, if at all possible. Then, come back a bit later and try again. Each time she bites, remove yourself and she’ll begin to understand why.
What about biting other animals?
We’re currently going through this right now. We’ve got a 10 year old German Shepherd female who won’t even come downstairs anymore because she’s so sick of the puppy biting her.
Mocha Latte Von Frappuccino isn’t biting out of anger or aggression, she wants to play with Casey. But, our old girl being a senior citizen, set in her ways, wants nothing to do with the pup.
I don’t blame her.
And, a couple of weeks ago it got really bad because the puppy’s frustration grew to the point of clamping down on Casey’s cheek and ripping out a massive chunk of hair.
This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First, Casey refuses to defend herself. Which, on one hand is great because if she wanted to could kill the puppy with ease. However, Casey is a patient girl who, for better or worse, recognizes that Mocha is a part of the family. GSDs are so loyal to family she will not bite back unless she really needs to.
The other problem, is that Mocha keeps doing it. I’ve admittedly never had to deal with anything like this before so I’m a bit out of my league here, but what we’re currently doing is keeping Mocha on leash whenever Casey does come downstairs.
When Mocha goes after Casey, we correct her and tug on the leash. It is getting better, but is taking a long time.
Takeaway: Getting a puppy at the time when you have a senior-aged German Shepherd is really just stupid, and I’m talking to myself here. If I had to do it all over again I’m not sure I would. Though, it is possible to get them to stop biting and I’ll likely write a spinoff article on this at some point in the future once I’ve nailed down how to prevent our puppy from biting the other dog.
What You Should NOT do to get a puppy to stop biting:
There are certain cues that you may be giving your dog causing her to think you want to play or kick an instinct they have into high gear. While playing may sound fun to you, remember that when they play with their siblings and mom, it’s with their teeth and may not actually be that much fun for you.
How do you sometimes signal these things?
- If you say OUCH! really loud in a high pitched voice, your puppy may interpret that as a playful tone and try to keep playing, though this does work on some pups. Some experts recommend this approach, but I’ve found that it doesn’t work and may have the opposite effect.
- If you turn your back to the puppy and attempt to run, her predator instinct may kick in causing her to bite as you flee. My kids are guilty of this and they still don’t get it.
Takeaway: Your dog has strong instincts. And in fact, the German Shepherd has some of the strongest instincts of any in the canine family. Because of that, certain cues may trigger a bite response from your puppy more than others.
They Won’t Stop Biting Overnight:
One final thing to remember is that your puppy has built in instincts that cause them to feel with their mouth, to make their mouths feel better by chewing, and strengthen their jaw by chewing. Therefore, you’re not going to be able to get your pup to stop biting overnight. They tend to get it faster than other dogs, but you should keep in mind that it’ll take time.
What many people call biting is actually not always biting. Sometimes it is, like when puppies play with each other. Other times, it’s chewing which is a totally normal and healthy thing for puppies to do. In fact, it’s required for them to develop properly as we highlighted above.
If you follow the above-listed steps, you should be able to minimize the amount of biting that’s being done to you.