Biting and mouthing is a completely normal behaviour for young puppies, especially if they are teething. Biting it how they learn to play, it also helps them to explore their new world however they do need to learn how to play gently and not use too much of the powerful in their extremely strong jaws.
What is bite inhibition?
Bite inhibition is the ability to controlling how hard your puppy bites by modifying the force used.
An 8 week old German Shepherd puppy has more than enough power in its jaw to break the smaller bones in your fingers and toes.
When a German Shepherd puppy bites you and doesn’t crush the bones in your fingers and toes this is because of bite inhibition.
Bite inhibition needs to be taught as early as possible before they get their adult teeth. If this isn’t taught your pup could get into a lot of trouble when they are older.
Puppies will gauge how much force to use from the reaction of their mom and siblings when playing. If the puppy bite mom too hard she will yelp loudly or in some cases, she may nip back. This should shock the pup to stop. However, if the pup continues to bite too hard mom will yelp louder and will also growl or snarl viciously. This may look scary, but mom is giving a clear message that the biting is not acceptable.
If the puppy continues to bite to hard mom may have to resort to grabbing the puppy by the scruff of their neck and gently shaking them. This again is to let her pup know she means business and will not tolerate that force of biting. Mom may also turn away and have nothing to do with the pup for a while. This gives a clear message that biting too hard will not be accepted.
Your German Shepherd puppies’ siblings also play an important role in teaching each other not to bite too hard. If one of the puppies get bitten too hard it will yelp and move away from the aggressor and the playing stops immediately. Puppies love nothing more than playing so they will soon learn to be gentler so they can join in with the fun and games.
How to teach your puppy bite inhibition:
Although mom and siblings will do a great job, they have a thick coat of fur to protect them so when your puppy plays with you it may still really hurt. If this is the case, you may want your German Shepherd puppy to use less force.
To teach your German Shepherd puppy to understand that biting hurts you can try the following techniques:
- When your German Shepherd puppy bites you make a loud yelping noise and say a firm ‘No!’ in a disapproving tone. To get the message across quicker its definitely ok to overreact and sound more hurt than you actually are.
In some cases, you may find that yelping encourages your German Shepherd pup to get excited and bite harder. If this is the case to make sure your puppy doesn’t think it’s a game simply go limp, stay very still, make no eye contact and ignore them.
- If your German Shepherd puppy bites you stop playing with them, turn away and ignore them for about 60 seconds. Then turn back and try playing with them again.
- Try giving your German Shepherd puppy a toy to chew on to help get the message across that if they want to chew something they should chew on their toys. This is especially good if your puppy is teething.
- If your German Shepherd puppy doesn’t show any improvement by using the above techniques or shows no interest in a chew toy, try making a loud yelping noise and say a firm ‘No!’ then leaving the room for a few minutes.
If you do use this technique make sure the room is puppy safe before leaving them. For more information please see our guide on How to puppy proof your home- making a safe place for your German Shepherd puppy.
- Be consistent with your training. This includes getting everyone in your household and even visitors on the same page. Your German Shepherd puppy will soon learn that biting is wrong if each time they do bite their play sessions are bought to an abrupt end. By doing this you will be giving the same clear message their mother and siblings gave when teaching them not to bite too hard.
Your German Shepherd puppy is likely to continue to bite until they finish teething about 5 to 6 months old. However, teaching them to control their bite inhibition will allow you to still enjoy your puppy and protect you from those razor-sharp teeth.
Other methods to stop your German Shepherd puppy from biting are:
- Spraying with water: Spraying your German Shepherd puppy with water each time they bite isn’t pleasant for them, but it doesn’t hurt them. It should make them think twice about biting you.
- Nasty tasting fingers and hands: There are many different products on the market designed for you to put on your fingers and hands which will leave a nasty taste in your dog’s mouth and put them off biting. One of the best recommended ones is Grannicks bitter apples.
- Sound shocker: Another method you can try is to put dried peas, coins or pebbles in an old tin can. When your German Shepherd puppy bites you say shake the can and say a firm ‘No!’ at the same time. The racket made from the shaker will startle your puppy into stopping.