If your German Shepherd has been biting itself, you’re probably wondering why and what you can do about it.
So, why does my German Shepherd bite itself? Possible reasons could be fleas, allergies, a rash, compulsive behavior, something stuck in its fur or injury. If it has been persisting over weeks or months the best option would be to take it to a vet.
There are actually a number of things to consider when trying to understand why your German Shepherd has been biting itself.
Depending on the cause there are also a number of things that you can do about it.
Why your German Shepherd bites itself
Each of the different reasons that your German Shepherd bites itself will likely come with a number of clues in the way that it does it.
Below, I will mention a number of things that could be causing the behavior and the signs to look for.
It has fleas
The reason that your German Shepherd has been biting itself could be that it has fleas.
This would be more likely if it has been itching and biting itself in multiple areas of its body and the biting isn’t just confined to one area.
If fleas are causing your German Shepherd to bite itself, it would help to talk to your vet about what you should do to get rid of the flees.
It would also help to eradicate fleas from your home by doing things such as:
- Washing the bedding with hot soapy water
- Vacuuming the carpets and throwing the bad
- Applying an environmental flee control
- Applying a spray, pellet or non-toxic treatment for the yard
- Treating your German Shepherd with a monthly preventative
It has a rash or allergies
Allergies or a rash could also be causing your German Shepherd to bite itself. Allergies can be caused by things such as shampoo, other dogs, pollen or household chemicals (source).
It would help to consider what else happened at around the same time that your German Shepherd started to bite itself. For example, if it started doing it when you started using a new shampoo on it then it would likely have something to do with it.
If it has been biting itself due to a rash then it would be more likely that it would have been biting itself in one specific area. Another sign of this would be if it has been losing fur in one specific area due to biting and licking at it too much.
German Shepherds are supposed to get a lot of exercise. Generally, it is recommended that a German Shepherd get an hour of exercise every day. When they do not get enough exercise it can cause them to develop behavioral issues including biting themselves.
If your German Shepherd is not currently getting much exercise and there is not a medical cause of the biting then making sure that it does will likely help a lot.
Related post: How to tell if your German Shepherd loves you
It could be the case that your German Shepherd has been biting itself compulsively. This is where your German Shepherd has an irresistible urge to repeat a behavior despite there being no apparent cause.
This would be more likely if your German Shepherd has been biting itself excessively, if it has done it over weeks or months, it has caused damaged itself and if it bleeds.
It would also be more likely if it started biting itself excessively when something happened that would cause it to develop a compulsive behavior.
Possible things that could have happened could include:
- Someone mistreated it
- Another dog was aggressive towards it
- It was separated from another dog
Look here for more information about compulsive behavior in dogs.
There is something stuck in its fur
The reason that it bites itself could be that there is something stuck in its fur.
This would be more likely if you can visibly see that there is something stuck in its fur and if it has not been biting itself for more than weeks.
The cause of it biting itself could be that an injury is causing a part of its skin to be itchy. This would be more likely if there are obvious signs of it being injured such as it not walking normally or a cut. It would also be more likely if it started doing it when something happened that could have caused itself to get injured.
If it does appear to be injured then taking it to the vet would be the best option.
Separation anxiety is where being left alone causes your German Shepherd to become anxious. The reason that it has been biting itself could be that it has some separation anxiety.
This would be more likely if it shows obvious signs of becoming anxious when you are about to leave such as pacing, barking or crying. It would also be more likely if it only seems to do it when you are not around.
Related post: Why is my German Shepherd so anxious?
It’s getting allergies from its diet
It could be the case that its diet is causing it to develop allergies (source). This would be more likely to be the cause if your German Shepherd started biting itself at around the same time that you changed its diet.
You can look at this article to see what you should and should not be feeding your German Shepherd.
If you are unsure of what food to get for your German Shepherd, consider getting dog food designed specifically for German Shepherds. You can get a GSD specific dog food on Amazon here and one for GSD puppies on Chewy here.
It was just playing
If it only bit itself once and not excessively then it could be the case that it was just playing. This would be more likely if it is just a puppy still.
Things to consider
Before trying to get your German Shepherd to stop biting itself, it would help to know exactly what is causing the behavior.
Below, I will mention a few things that would be helpful to consider.
When it started to bite itself
If it started to bite itself suddenly then it would help to consider what else happened at around the same time that it started happening.
Some things that might have happened could include:
- You started using a different shampoo on it
- Someone stepped on it
- You started noticing fleas around the house
How often it bites itself
How often your German Shepherd bites itself will have an impact on the most probable causes of it biting itself.
If it rarely does bite itself or if it’s a puppy and it just did it once then less likely to be a problem and it was probably playing.
If it does it a lot then it would make it more likely to be due to things such as a rash, fleas, compulsive behavior or an injury.
When and where it bites itself
It would also likely help to consider the timing of when your German Shepherd bites itself.
For example, if it only seems to bite itself when you are leaving or while you are not around then it would make it a lot more likely to be due to separation anxiety.
How to stop your German Shepherd from biting itself
There are a number of things that you can do about your German Shepherd biting itself.
Below, I will mention a number of things that you can do about it.
Take it to a vet
Often, a dog biting itself will be something that a vet will be able to treat since a dog biting itself often has an underlying medical cause such as a rash.
If you are unsure of why your German Shepherd has been biting itself or you think that it might have a medical cause then the best option for you would be to take it to a vet.
Give it exercise
If the vet has verified that there is no medical issue then it would help to make sure that your German Shepherd is getting enough exercise.
You can do this by walking it for an hour per day, teaching it to play fetch or by getting a dog walker to exercise it for you.
Avoid reinforcing the behavior
If your method of getting it to stop biting itself is to give it things that it wants, it might be the case that you have encouraged the behavior. This is because it might have learned to bite itself in order to get rewards.
Instead, you could try rewarding your German Shepherd when it does not bite itself. When it does bite itself you could try avoiding giving it what it wants if it seems to be doing it to get something from you. You could also try spraying it with a bitter spray to prevent it from wanting to do it.
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