Have you ever reached down to play with a German Shepherd puppy, only to have that adorable little fur-ball pierce your skin with its razor-sharp puppy teeth? If so, you’ve experienced the German Shepherd puppy biting phase.
When I brought Allie into the family, she was fully in the German Shepherd puppy biting phase – so that first month was tough!
It’s amazing (and terrifying) how needle-sharp those tiny teeth can be. Allie’s nickname was piranha during her puppy biting phase.
Unfortunately, biting is an inevitable phase of puppyhood – it comes with the territory when you decide to be a puppy parent. My goal with this guide is to get you through the biting stage with as few battle scars as possible. So let’s take a look at how you can take the bite out of raising a puppy.
Why do German Shepherd Puppies Bite?
It’s important to understand that your fuzzy little friend isn’t being aggressive – this is just how your puppy plays. Up until this time, your puppy was with its littermates, and playtime meant lots of mouthy, nipping fun.
Accordingly, this is the only way your GSD knows how to play! As a new puppy parent, you’ll need to teach your dog other gentler ways to play.
A German Shepherd puppy also uses their mouths to explore different things like toys – or hands, ankles, furniture… pretty much anything they can get their mouth around.
Because dogs can’t pick things up and examine them, they resort to using their mouths. While being mouthy isn’t inherently a bad thing, you’re in trouble when teeth start getting involved.
Your puppy could also be teething, which can increase their mouthy behavior.
Now that you understand a little more about why your pup is biting, you shouldn’t be alarmed. Just be patient as you work through the German Shepherd puppy biting phase – give your pup time to learn to be gentle when playing or seeking your attention.
Is Your German Shepherd Puppy Biting Ankles?
Nothing is worse than an ankle-biter! I was very lucky not to have this problem with Allie. But many owners aren’t so lucky and have a problem with their German Shepherd puppy biting their ankles.
Why does your German Shepherd puppy target the ankles? Because your GSD is a working dog trying to do its job – herd you around the house like livestock. German Shepherds were originally bred for herding flocks of sheep. And you are your pup’s favorite sheep!
Your furry pal may also think heel nipping is just a really fun game. If you walk past quickly, it’s very tempting for your playful pup to reach out and bite.
Using a toy as a distraction and keeping your pup active will help nip ankle nipping in the bud!
Is Your German Shepherd Puppy Biting Hands?
So, why didn’t Allie bite ankles? Because she was too busy biting hands! This was my little piranha’s specialty – she wanted to nip my hands at every opportunity.
There are lots of reasons why a pup may decide to start biting your hands. For one, good things (treats, toys, love, attention) come from hands. Also, hands are almost like swinging toys from the perspective of a playful pup – too enticing to pass up!
The following tips will help you curb your German Shepherd puppy’s biting instincts, whether they target hands, ankles, or anything else!
How to Discourage Biting Behavior
While the German Shepherd puppy biting phase is a rite of passage, there are some ways you can discourage bad biting behavior.
- Say “Ouch!” whenever your puppy bites you, even if it’s not hard. This is one of the most effective ways to teach your German Shepherd bite inhibition – or how to be gentle with her teeth.
Think about when your pup was rolling and playing with their brothers and sisters – if your GSD was too rough, their sibling would let out a yelp. That’s the language that puppies understand, so use this to your advantage.
This trick worked great with Allie! Just make sure to be consistent until your pup gets the idea and learns to master the power of her jaws. Also, if your furry pal is just mouthy but NOT using her teeth, don’t scold her. Puppies will be puppies!
- Redirect the biting to an appropriate toy. For example, when your fuzzy friend latches onto your ankles, give a little puppy-like yelp, and then whip out a toy and encourage your dog to chew on that instead.
Tug-of-war is the perfect game for the puppy biting phase. This is a non-contact game that satisfies your pup’s urge to use its mouth.
If your puppy is teething, here’s a pro tip. Use a frozen KONG toy filled with peanut butter to help with your pup’s teething woes.
- Socialize your puppy as much as possible. Schedule play dates with other dogs and puppies (make sure they’re vaccinated!) and let them help with the training. Other dogs are great at teaching your puppy that they playing too rough and biting too hard.
As a bonus, lots of playtime will expend some of your German Shepherd puppy’s energy!
- Try a deterrent to prevent your dog from chewing or biting. If all else fails, there are lots of products designed to deter your dog from bad biting behavior. How do they work? Well, they taste awful.
I would recommend deterrents as a last-ditch effort for really stubborn biters – mainly because it’s kind of a pain to use these products on yourself. But if used correctly, they can definitely work.
Here are a few things you should NOT do when trying to teach your German Shepherd to stop biting.
- Don’t yell or use any kind of physical punishment. This is still attention – your puppy bites, your puppy gets attention. You don’t want to create that reinforcement loop!
- Puppies are easily excited, so don’t jerk your hand (or foot) away. Otherwise, your pup may see this as a fun new game, kind of like tug-of-war but with your hands or feet as the toy.
- Don’t create tension or negative feelings around playtime. You want your furball to love playing with you! And it’s an important part of building a strong bond between you and your pup. The goal here is to encourage your German Shepherd to play as much as ever but to play gently.
Most of all, it’s important to remember to be patient and understanding during this phase. Your German Shepherd’s mouthy behavior is perfectly normal! And while it can be a challenge at times, you’ll make it through – I survived my girl’s piranha teeth, after all!
German Shepherd Jumping and Biting
What’s worse than dealing with puppy biting? When your pup decides it’s a good idea to bite AND jump! This is something your German Shepherd may do when they’re excited or just seeking attention.
As a pup, Allie thought she should greet everyone by jumping in their face and nipping – kind of like a kiss hello, but with teeth.
It didn’t matter if you were 6 feet tall, she wanted to be in your face, and if you weren’t careful, she would get a good nip (or two) in before you could react. And as she got bigger, it was harder to control.
Of course, I knew this wasn’t aggression – she was just excited to see a new face! But trust me, it got old quickly. Again, this is pretty normal behavior for a puppy, but it’s definitely something you want to stop sooner rather than later.
How to Discourage Jumping and Biting Behavior
Thankfully, there are ways you can curb German Shepherd jumping and biting.
- Be proactive. If I knew someone was coming over, I would put Allie in another room or in her crate. Once our visitor was in the house and the initial excitement had passed, I would let her out. By keeping her from greeting people right when they walked through the door, I could minimize her overzealous behavior.
- Teach a “place” command. This is a simple command that teaches your dog to stay in her place until you give a release command. This is another way to allow the initial excitement to pass and your German Shepherd to calm down a bit before greeting anyone.
- Redirect attention to a toy (like I talked about earlier).
- Fold your arms and turn away. You can also use an “off” command when you turn. Keep turning until your GSD stops jumping, then praise them and use a treat as a reward.
This training method works great because you’re refusing to give your German Shepherd what they want – attention! It’s best to practice this when you don’t have guests over so that your pup knows how to handle excitement in advance.
What to Do If Biting Becomes Aggressive
Although puppy mouthing is normal, there can be cases where biting can signal problems and possibly even aggression.
How can you tell if a puppy’s temper tantrum is a warning sign or just playful mouthing?
Well, it’s not always easy to tell the difference. Look for physical differences in your pup. When play fighting, your puppy’s overall demeanor should be relatively relaxed.
If your puppy is having a moment of aggression, their body may stiffen when snarling, and bites will typically be more painful than during regular play.
Also, if your GSD puppy is biting out of fear or frustration, you may need to take action. These types of behavior are not something your pup will just grow out of.
If you’re worried that your new puppy may be exhibiting signs of aggression, contact a qualified professional for advice.
When Will My German Shepherd Calm Down?
While the biting phase will inevitably end, you may find yourself asking the infamous question – when do German Shepherds calm down!?
I asked myself (and our vet) this question more than once! So don’t feel bad if you find yourself wondering the same thing.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It honestly just depends.
At one point, I was assured that Allie would calm down by age 5 – well, that didn’t happen. Sure, she had her calm moments (thanks in part to her training), but she was still very hyper especially in more excitable moments.
But in the last year, I’ve definitely noticed a calmer dog, which means it took 7 years for my German Shepherd to calm down!
Don’t get me wrong – she’s still a firecracker. But she isn’t the same level of hyper as she was in the past.
The type of German Shepherd dog is yet another variable that plays a role in its energy levels. Allie is a working line GSD, and they are typically a bit more rambunctious than a show line GSD.
So when do German Shepherds calm down? It really depends on your individual German Shepherd. But hey, after having a high-energy, fun-loving German Shepherd, you wouldn’t want a calm (boring) dog, right? I know I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Unfortunately, the German Shepherd puppy biting phase is something all GSD puppy owners will go through, but it will pass. Try the tips above to help keep your sanity during this phase.
Have some battle scars from your German Shepherd puppy’s biting phase? Or any tips to help the rest of us? Please share!
- You can learn more about pesky ankle-biting here:
- This is a great article on why your pup is biting your hands:
- Use this resource to find a qualified professional for behavioral help:
- Here are a few other good articles for further reading on biting behavior: