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This group is dedicated to sharing tips for making it through the puppy stage. This can include: crate training, house breaking, chewing, teething, biting, integrating your puppy with other dogs and more.
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13-Week German Shepherd Biting
MemberJanuary 26, 2021 at 8:56 AM
I have a GSD that we took home at 9 weeks and she is now 13 weeks. Since we brought her home, she has been biting our arms constantly when we are just attempting to pet/praise her… It doesn’t seem to be aggressive but I’m not too sure. She is very well trained for 13 weeks and knows her basic commands really well such as her recall, crate, sit, down, stand, stay, focus and leave it. She also knows “friendly” which will allow us to pet her without any biting, but unless we say the command, she will bite us when we attempt to pet her. I believe she is getting enough exercise/stimulation throughout the day as we have worked up to 2-3 walks (30 minutes each; fast walking) with 3-4 training sessions. She is crated the remainder of the day except for playtime.
Back to the biting… If me or my fiance try to pet her, she will bite down and try to pull our arms. My fiance has become somewhat fearful of this and tries to avoid the situation by not petting her. When this happens, we usually have no choice but to pull our arms away unless we want her tugging on them. The moment I say “no” or “no biting”, she growls (sometimes barks) and pulls harder. If she knows I have a treat, and I say “no biting”, she will immediately stop (side note: I almost feel like she does a bad behavior knowing she will get a treat when we tell her to stop… she sometimes puts 2 paws on the couch and looks at me, waiting for me to tell her “off”). When she bites, we are separating ourselves by going to another room but that will only stop her until we pet her again. Sometimes we remove our arms from the situation by tucking them under our armpits or behind our back so she can’t play with them but then she will nip at our shins or take mouthfuls of our calves.
The good thing is she doesn’t bite strangers and she will actually let them pet her. Everyone praises her for how well-behaved she is… but only if they knew. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
MemberJanuary 26, 2021 at 9:41 AM
From what I have researched, puppy bite inhibition training has to be done before the time window of 18 weeks closes. This is when the puppy learns what is too hard and to back off or stop. We found this information at 16.5 weeks and were able to get it done and Gibson is great with his mouth. Sit down on floor with puppy and have treats with you. When puppy bites or mouths whether it is your skin or your clothes (they don’t really know the difference at that age for sure), say ow, but say it in a monotone voice, do not try to sound like a hurt dog, this doesn’t work. Say it firmly enough to get a reaction, but don’t over do it to the point of scaring the pup. As soon as the pup releases it’s mouth give praise and treat. Do this a number of times in succession, but if the pup gets too excited and can’t get out of bite mode, calmly get up and walk away from the pup into a different room and close the door for about 30 seconds to a minute. This removes the good, interesting treat filled play person from the pup and the pup will begin to understand that the excessive play removes their fun from them. when you come back out, you can work on it a little bit more so that you end the session on success and then put the pup away in the crate or an x pen for a while. One important point that I forgot to write. When the pup bites hold still, do not jerk away. Wait for the pup to release the bite then praise and treat. Pulling away will amp up the play/prey drive and make the biting worse.
MemberJanuary 26, 2021 at 10:44 AM
When we have any treats, we can essentially do anything to her and she wouldn’t bite or even care… all her focus is on the treats. When she does get a hold of our arms, she starts to pull on them and when we say “ow” (even in a monotone voice) she growls and pulls harder. As mentioned above we separate ourselves which neutralizes the situation until she finds our arms again. :/
MemberJanuary 26, 2021 at 1:04 PM
Dogs brains are based on simple associations. If she bites and you tell her to stop, then you reward her for stopping, it creates an association to the behavior. “I bite you until you tell me to stop and when you do I get a treat.” The biting itself is a reward because it’s how puppies play, you’re simply asking her to temporarily stop her normal puppy communication/play in order for her to get a treat. Essentially she’s trading one reward for the other instead of eliminating the behavior altogether, but she is too young to really correct in any harsh way.
Watch the vid Alin linked, it’s pretty much everything you need to know about puppy biting. She’ll get older and it will subside itself
MemberJanuary 26, 2021 at 3:17 PM
That makes perfect sense. And as I mentioned to Alin, I think what makes this hard for me is the fear of her becoming aggressive.
MemberJanuary 27, 2021 at 8:32 AM
Bethmw. Very well said. This is exactly what I did with my Belgians. Disengaging and leaving is also a very good technique when the “ouch” doesn’t work. Just remember Raymond, it take a while. Don’t expect too much from such a young dog.
OrganizerJanuary 26, 2021 at 12:01 PM
Robert goes over puppy biting in the FAQ course
Have you watch that yet?
MemberJanuary 26, 2021 at 3:14 PM
I did watch this video. Thank you for the reminder! I just don’t want this turning into aggressive behavior which is my biggest fear.
OrganizerJanuary 26, 2021 at 4:35 PM
Just don’t acknowledgment the behavior – this was a constant thing when I got my GSD puppy. They call them land sharks for a reason when they are puppies.
It’s normal and goes away after a few months. It was good for me to go through because it taught Enzo to have a soft bite when we are playing “rough”. He’s almost 2 years old now and when he puts my hand in his mouth he is gentle (enough) with it.
Its much worse to have a dog that doesn’t know their bite pressure and how to be soft.
MemberJanuary 26, 2021 at 3:18 PM
It sounds like you have a lovely puppy who is well on her way to becoming a lovely dog. The biting is totally normal for ANY puppy! Watch the lesson on puppy biting in the link Alin shared with you. There is also a Podcast from Robert titled “Puppies Don’t Bite” that covers this and many other puppy issues. You can find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaoJA1Rq1FU.
I had a “shark mouth” golden retriever puppy long ago. Every time he would grab onto my hand / arm / whatever, I would say “Ow! No!” and immediately put a stuffed animal toy that I had just for that purpose (I wanted something soft during the teething period, and he was not prone to shredding toys or else I would have had to choose something else). As soon as he grabbed hold of the toy, he got praised. Before too long, he would go grab the toy before running over to us.
The other aspect is one Robert mentions – all my dogs when they were young would get incredibly mouthy if they were overstimulated. Just like kids with too much caffeine or sugar, dogs can get so wound up that they can’t control themselves. The solution for this type of mouthing / biting is to put the pup in their crate for a bit. Not angrily – just matter of fact. They need a time out with no stimulation for a while.
Puppies can be overwhelming for the first 1-2 years, but once that is over, you will probably look back on those days with nostalgia. Enjoy them while they are here, in spite of the frustrations!
MemberJanuary 26, 2021 at 3:33 PM
Thanks Riggan! Shark mouth is the perfect term. I’ll have to check out this podcast, I haven’t heard it yet.
Reading your post, I’m realizing I’m going to have to use vocal praise rather than petting since that touching tends to overstimulate her and gets her to bite. Even when substituting the toy for my hand she immediately drops the toy and lunges at my arm. In this case, I think you made a good point of putting her in her crate in a non-aggressive way. I thought the crate was not to be used for time-outs but rather for “time-away” (to rest) but I may be mistaken. I’m sure my answers will be in this podcast, so I will definitely listen to this tonight.
Thank you again and it’s reassuring to hear this is normal.
MemberFebruary 16, 2021 at 6:45 PM
I’m writing because your post reminded me of where I was at last summer and I actually have a very different response and experience to share. And a little bit of context: I binged on Robert’s videos, joined the site and submitted questions starting from right before I brought my GSD home at 8 weeks until she was about 4 months old. I got so much out of it all but I cancelled my membership and stopped following Robert because I didn’t find his advice about this particular issue to be helpful and, indeed, it sometimes felt judgmental and unhelpful. It feels odd to write that but it’s true. I’m obviously back now. Mona and I have come a long way since last summer and we are now ready to move forward to take advantage of the lessons and advice on Robert’s much improved site.
So for what it’s worth, my $0.02. Mona was a fabulous puppy. Very engaged. Very serious about “working.” Very smart. Very playful and goofy. Very thoughtful. Very affectionate. But there were days I thought to myself, I knew raising a GSD was going to be a lot of work. I didn’t know it wasn’t going to be any fun.
Almost every day, she’d lunge and dig her teeth into me. My arms were scabbed and scarred; I have a couple of permanent scars on my legs. This was not puppy nipping. It was awful, scary, difficult to predict and painful. It was worst on our walks. I was using a long line and sometimes it was fabulous, and then, suddenly, she’d either run toward me and lunge at my legs or lunge at my arms by my side. Saying “knock it off,” redirecting her did nothing. Feeding her my hand (something Robert suggests works for some pups) caused a counter-offensive. She left a mouth print on my thigh. I tried restraining her in my arms til she softened, which sometimes meant carrying her a bit. I tried crating her or other types of time outs. I tried ignoring her … nothing made a difference.
The last time it happened was on August 19 when she was five months old. That day, I used what another trainer refers to as a “bonker.” It’s a rolled up cotton towel held together with two elastic bands. It’s really weird to throw something at your dog, but the towel doesn’t hurt the dog – it just surprises them – it interrupts the unwanted behavior. I missed at first (evidence of my ambivalence) so I threw it a second time and connected. It took us both by surprise. We walked back to the house and she marched directly into her crate to think it over. And that was that. The next week, I started her on a prong collar – a little earlier than Robert recommends that but proved to be a critically important step, as well.
The bottom line: not every method works for every dog and owner pair. Try everything til you find what works. Something *will* work and boy it’s so important. Resolving the biting and lunging issue resulted in seismic shift that has made all other training and bonding possible. She’s still a challenge and there’s so much for me to learn yet, but we could only move forward by getting past that pretty awful chapter.
One other point: Mona also tends to get overstimulated like your pup. I found that high value treats were too much for her as was super enthusiastic praise. I often try to model myself on the farmer in “Babe.” “That’ll do, pig,” can be high praise, indeed.
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