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How To Discipline a German Shepherd For Biting (The Right Way)

Last Updated: December 23, 2023

Learning how to discipline a German Shepherd for biting is a crucial aspect of raising this intelligent and loyal breed. While it’s a well-known fact that German Shepherd puppies possess razor-sharp teeth, their inclination to bite and nip, especially during teething, can extend beyond puppyhood if not properly addressed.

To discipline a German Shepherd for biting, redirect the biting and nipping by distracting your dog and giving an exciting chew toy instead. Use positive reinforcement and reward the correct behavior with treats. Do not yell or physically punish your dog, and never use the crate as a punishment.

It’s vital to instill in your German Shepherd from a young age that biting is not an acceptable behavior. This early obedience training not only ensures the safety of those around your pet but also contributes to the development of a well-behaved and sociable adult dog.

In this guide, we’ll explore effective strategies and techniques to help you manage and correct this challenging behavior.

Let’s begin!

A German Shepherd Puppy Biting the finger of a man.

Disciplining Your German Shepherd for Biting

Discipline is not a negative thing, and many people wrongly assume that the word means punishment alone; however, this is incorrect. Discipline comes from “discipulus,” the Latin word for “pupil.”

So when disciplining a dog, we refer to consistently teaching him rules and learning the correct behavior. In our case, we are teaching our German Shepherd not to bite.

Start by using lots of communication, including voice commands (in a cheerful tone), hand signals, and body language, and let your dog know from the outset that biting hurts.

German Shepherd 4 Months Old

1. Discipline at the Moment Your GSD Bites

You must discipline your German Shepherd at the very moment the biting or nipping occurs so that he will quickly learn and remember that his biting behavior is inappropriate.

Have you ever left your GSD alone for an hour or two and, upon returning, found that he’s had a good chew on your possessions or your wooden table leg and then tried to discipline him without success?

Well, this is because your German Shepherd won’t understand what he is being reprimanded for, as you’ve missed the disciplinary moment. This is because dogs have a very short-term memory, and they will typically forget an experience in about two minutes.

However, if you train them well, they will remember your obedience commands through associative memory. This means they can remember experiences, people, and places based on different associations.

Here’s an example of associative memory; when I pick up my car keys, my German Shepherd will go straight to her bed as she has learned to associate the sound of the keys with me going out. She goes directly to her bed to relax as she knows there’s no playtime for a while.

2. Let Out a High Pitched Yelp!

When your German Shepherd bites with those razor teeth, immediately let out a high-pitched cry such as “Ouch!” or Ahh Ahh!” to let your dog know it’s not acceptable. At the same time, pull your hand away slowly and move away from your dog. Don’t jerk your hand out, as your pup will see this as a game, like a game of tug-of-war.

The idea here is that you are mimicking a littermate, as a pup would yelp if a sibling bit it too hard during play, and then all the fun would stop. It’s precisely the same thing – only YOU stop the play.

Learn More on How to Train Your Puppy to Stop Biting…

3. Redirect the Biting with a Chew Toy

It’s vital to quickly redirect your German Shepherd’s biting by giving him an alternative, such as offering a chew toy or a teething ring. Make sure you have a range of chew toys everywhere and keep them in your pocket at all times so you always have quick access to them when the biting starts.

Be one step ahead of your dog. As soon as you anticipate your German Shepherd will bite or even if you slightly miss the moment of the nip or chew, quickly distract him and redirect his behavior towards the chew toy.

Check out the KONG Puppy Toy from Amazon. This is not only great for chewing but also for playing chase and fetch. KONG is my favorite brand of dog toys.

Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

You can learn more about why I like these and see pictures of my German Shepherd using them in this article, 15 Best Chew Toys For German Shepherds.

Other good alternatives are rope toys, such as this handy puppy selection. You can also soak these in water and pop them in the freezer for a while, as the cold rope will help to soothe your pups’ gums.

4. Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement means giving something pleasant to your German Shepherd when they perform what you want them to do so that they learn to associate the correct behavior with the reward. The more this is repeated, they will remember and do it more often. The reward is a reinforcing motivation consistently. 

In the above example of redirecting your dog’s biting to a chew toy, once he accepts the toy and starts to chew or play with it, you then offer lots of enthusiastic verbal praise and reward with a treat.

Again, timing is important, and this must be done instantly so that your German Shepherd will recognize or associate his behavior with the correct action.

Training treats are the most effective reward when training your young pup, and it’s helpful to always have these to hand or in your pocket.

You can give other rewards, but these may be more suited to older pups, adolescent dogs, or adults. Alternatives could be giving them a special toy, playing their favorite game, such as fetch, or taking them on their favorite walk. Always use lots of verbal praise in parallel to the reward you choose.

You can also use cuddling and petting in reward-based training; however, don’t pat your dog’s head, as most dogs dislike this. You will, no doubt, soon get to learn where your dog prefers to be petted.

5. Train The “LEAVE IT!” Command

Train your dog on the “LEAVE IT” command. This is also useful when your German Shepherd puts his mouth around your possessions or furniture, ready to have a good gnaw!

Furthermore, it’s an excellent command when your dog picks up something in his mouth that he shouldn’t, such as grapes or chocolate.

Watch How To Teach The “LEAVE IT” Command…

6. Use an Effective Time-Out

When I refer to using a “time-out” as a way of teaching your German Shepherd consequences, I’m referring to ignoring your dog for a few seconds, as opposed to putting him in isolation.

German Shepherds are very social and affectionate creatures, and placing your dog in this type of time-out will not work as it not only causes fear, but your dog won’t understand what he has done wrong.

Using a time-out can effectively discipline a German Shepherd for biting and other undesirable behaviors. A great way to do this is to grab their collar, push their bum down, and make them sit.

The idea is that your German Shepherd will quickly learn to associate that the fun stops when his nipping starts! As always, timing is critical, so your pup learns what he has done wrong at the precise moment.

For very young puppies, you should only put them in time-out for a few seconds, between 7 and 10, and no longer than 30 seconds. At the end of the time-out, redirect your pup back to play and use lots of verbal praise or offer a training treat for good onward behavior.

7. Learn How to Clicker Train

You can use clicker training to teach your German Shepherd not to bite. The clicker’s sound is more effective in some dogs than a verbal “GOOD DOG!”

The most important part of clicker training is timing. You must time the click at the exact moment your pet is doing what you want to reinforce. If you quickly reward your dog with a positive experience, such as a treat, he will soon learn to associate the noise of the click with great things.

The idea is that you condition your German Shepherd so that when he hears the sound of the clicker, he knows he has done something to please you.

In the case of puppy biting, we are simply rewarding the puppy for choosing not to bite. You can achieve this by using the distraction technique described above. When the puppy makes the right choice and starts to bite on his chew toy, he hears the click and gets his treat.

Aggressive German Shepherd

8. Consider any Health Issues

When training your German Shepherd not to bite using the above methods and you aren’t progressing, it may be time to consider your dog’s health, especially if your GSD only chews on one side of his mouth.

This may indicate that your dog is suffering from a broken tooth or an infected or swollen gum, as he is only chewing on the side that isn’t painful. Look out for other symptoms such as drooling more than usual, bad breath, loss of appetite, or sneezing.

9. Have Realistic Expectations

When teaching your German Shepherd not to bite, it’s essential to have realistic expectations, as training can take anything from a couple of weeks in quick learners to two months in cases of extreme biters!

If you are consistent and patient with your methods, you will achieve great results. Be firm but fair, which also helps to strengthen the loving bond between you and your dog.

Why Do German Shepherds Bite?

When disciplining a German Shepherd for biting and nipping, it’s important to understand why they bite in the first place. There are three reasons that German Shepherds bite, and this does not include being trained to do so during law enforcement training!

German Shepherds bite and nip during the natural teething phase. Puppies bite while they learn their bite inhibition and acceptable social behavior that their mother initially taught them. They also bite due to their innate herding instinct and strong prey drive.

Learning Their Bite Inhibition

During playtime with their littermates, all puppies learn about their bite inhibition (also known as “soft mouth”). It’s an essential part of socialization where they discover how to control the intensity of their biting so that their siblings don’t get hurt. They also quickly learn that the fun and play stops if they bite their littermates too hard.

Sometimes, if puppies are removed too soon from the litter, they haven’t learned their bite inhibition properly. You shouldn’t remove German Shepherd pups before they are 8 weeks old, as the dam is still teaching them good canine manners and disciplining them when they bite too hard or step out of line.

Pups are also still learning from their siblings at this young age. As detailed in this study, removing a puppy too early from its mother can affect the dog’s future behavior.

German Shepherd mouthing a man's hand.
No biting – only mouthing!

Your German Shepherd needs to continue to learn his bite inhibition when you first bring him home so that he is always gentle, even when playing. When you first notice your puppy licking your hand instead of biting, you are definitely on the right track.

The adult German Shepherd in the photo undoubtedly knows how to “soft mouth” You can see there is no pressure on the forearm, and the dog is gently using his mouth in a controlled manner.

The Puppy Biting Phase – Teething

Puppies naturally want to explore the world with their mouths, and it’s how they want to interact with their human! But all pups will go through a phase of having an overwhelming desire to bite and nip, and this occurs during teething.

German Shepherds can get their needle-sharp baby teeth from as early as 2- weeks old and usually have them all by weeks 6 to 7. So when you first bring your pup home at 8 weeks old, he will usually have all of his 28 razors that are ready to sink into your hand!

When the pup is between 3 to 4 months old, his teeth will start to loosen and fall out, and you may find them on the floor. However, they will probably swallow most. There’s no need to worry about this, as it will cause no harm.

German Shepherds need to chew to get some relief from their sore and irritated gums. They want to bite, nibble, and chew everything in sight, and that could be your hand, ankles, or even your wooden furniture.

So, when do German Shepherd puppies stop biting? Puppy teething is harsh but usually ends between 6 – 8 months old when the pup should have all their 42 adult teeth.

Herding Instinct

German Shepherd Herding a Lamb

German Shepherds were initially bred to herd sheep – the clue is in their name! They were selectively bred as working dogs in the late 1800s, having outstanding traits such as strength, loyalty, bravery, dedication, and intelligence. These are the traits that still make German Shepherds great pets today.

If you already own a German Shepherd, you will have no doubt experienced nibbling or biting, especially at the expense of your ankles!

GSD bite and nip ankles due to their natural herding instinct and strong prey drive. It’s in their genes, and occasionally they cannot help their strong desire to herd sheep, which may mean you!

“Willow loved to nip at my ankles during playtimes. I used to think it was kind of cute until her teeth got bigger and sharper! – World of Dogz

That’s when I realized I should be disciplining her for this behavior and training her not to do it, not laughing and encouraging it. Even now, as an adult, her strong herding instinct still surfaces.

Here’s an example.

After running around and playing with her, if I walk back inside the house but she wants to carry on playing, she will come up behind me and gently nibble at the back of my ankles. It’s her way of saying, “Hey! Stay and play!”


Should I consider muzzling my dog as a form of discipline for biting?

While a muzzle can prevent your dog from biting, it is not a solution to the underlying behavior issue. Muzzling your German Shepherd without addressing the root cause of their biting can lead to further behavioral problems and may even worsen the situation.

Instead of relying on a muzzle as a form of discipline, it is important to work with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to address the root cause of your dog’s biting behavior.

Is it ever too late to discipline a dog for biting?

It is never too late to discipline a German Shepherd for biting, but it may take more time and effort to modify their behavior if the biting has become a habit. Start with identifying the root cause and then take the guidance of an expert to set boundaries and train better to eradicate unwanted behavior.

Final Thoughts

Puppy biting is natural in all dogs. However, you now know the importance of disciplining your German Shepherd when he starts to exhibit biting, nipping, and chewing behavior and how to do it.

This is especially important with the German Shepherd breed as they quickly grow into big, strong dogs. You certainly don’t want him to take his biting behavior into adulthood, especially if the unexpected should happen, such as a young child grabbing at his tail. That could end in disaster for all concerned.

No matter what you teach your German Shepherd, try to train him when young; 8 weeks old is a great time to start. Make sure you properly socialize him and give him lots of exercise, and training will be much easier.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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