If your German Shepherd has been biting your hands or arms, you’re probably wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might be doing biting your hands and what you can do about it.
So, why does my German Shepherd bite my hands? Common reasons can include wanting attention, teething, rewarding the behavior, a lack of training, excitement or that it is exploring using its mouth.
There are actually a number of things that you can consider when trying to understand what might be causing your German Shepherd to be doing it. There are also a number of things that you can do to get it to stop doing it depending on the cause.
Why your German Shepherd bites your hands
Each of the different reasons that your German Shepherd bites your hands or arms will likely come with a number of clues in the way that it does it.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons that your German Shepherd might bite your hands and the signs to look for.
It wants attention
The reason that it bites your hands could be that it wants your attention.
This would be more likely to be the cause if it starts biting your hands when you have not been giving it attention for a while. It would also be more likely if it does it when you had just left it alone for a long time.
If that is why it bites your hands then it would help to give it more attention in the form of exercise, training and playing games such as tug of war in addition to training it not to bite your hands.
It is teething
If it is a puppy then the reason that it bites your hands or arms is likely to be that it is teething. When they are teething their gums will be painful and biting and chewing on things helps to soothe their gums. This is why they tend to bite and chew on things a lot as puppies.
Another possible reason could be that German Shepherd puppies explore and interact with the world with their mouths and noses as much as they do with their eyes. As a result, it will bite on your hands a lot because it is interacting with them.
If your German Shepherd is still a puppy then it is very important to take the time now to train it not to bite your hands and to behave the way that you want it to. You can do this using the tips mentioned below.
Related post: How to tell if your German Shepherd loves you
It wasn’t trained not to as a puppy
If your German Shepherd is not a puppy anymore then the reason that it bites your hands is likely to be that it never learned that it is not ok to bite as a puppy.
If you did not train it not to bite your hands as a puppy or you adopted it then it’s not too late now for you now to train it to stop. You can do so by following the tips given a few sections below.
You have inadvertently been reinforcing the behavior
It could be the case that you have been inadvertently reinforcing the hand and arm biting.
If your method to get it to stop biting your hands and arms is to give it things that it wants such as toys or a treat then it could have learned that biting your hands results in it getting things that it wants.
This would be more likely to be the reason if it is older than 6 months old and it is no longer teething.
Instead of giving it things that it wants, when it bites your arms or hands, a better option would be to withdraw your attention and to not allow it to bite your arms by leaving the room, for a few minutes, if necessary. Then after waiting for a few moments, you would go back to giving it attention and withdraw your attention again whenever it starts biting.
The reason that your German Shepherd bites your arms and hands could be that it gets excited and it is trying to show its excitement.
This would be more likely if it only seems to bite your arms and hands when you’re about to do something that it likes such as to go out for a walk. It would also be more likely if it tends to show other signs of excitement when biting your arms.
In this case, something that you could try would be to stop it from biting your arms or hands by standing up and turning around or by leaving the room. You would then reward it when it shows signs of behaving the way that you want it to. Doing this will teach it that biting your arms does not get it what it wants.
It is exploring
Dogs interact with the environment using their mouths and their noses as much as they do with their eyes and even more so when they are puppies.
The reason that your German Shepherd has been biting your arms and hands could be that it’s because it is interacting with them. This would be more likely if it is a puppy.
Even if this is the case it will still be important to get it to stop by training it not to bite your arms or hands.
Things to consider
Before getting your German Shepherd to stop biting your arms and hands it would help to know exactly why it is doing it.
Below, I will mention a few particularly helpful things that you can consider.
When it started doing it
It would help to consider when it started biting your arms and hands. If it has always done it then it would be more likely that it’s natural behavior and you just need to train it not to bite your hands.
Whereas, if it started to bite them it suddenly it would be more likely that there is something else causing it.
Some things to consider would be:
- If you moved home
- If someone was aggressive towards it
- If someone moved away
How old your German Shepherd is
If your German Shepherd is still young then it would make it much more likely that it bites your arms naturally because it is teething.
Nevertheless, it would be important to train it not to bite your arms and hands so that it doesn’t do it when it is older.
If it is an adult then it would be more likely that it never learned not to do it.
However, if it started to do it suddenly and it didn’t do it in the past then it might suggest that something is wrong such as that it is in pain.
How aggressively it bites your arms and hands
It would also help to consider how aggressively your German Shepherd bites your arms and hands. If it does it aggressively by showing its teeth, growling and its hair stands up then it would be a more serious problem and you should seek the advice of a vet or a certified dog behaviorist.
Whereas, if it doesn’t bite them hard and it mouths them instead then it would be something that you would want to stop via training.
When and where it bites your arms
Considering when and where it bites your arms and hands would likely help a lot in determining why it does it.
If it tends to bite your hands when it is time for it to get a walk then it is likely trying to remind you of that.
If it bites your arms and hands whenever it gets excited then it would be likely that it does it naturally but it hasn’t learned that it is not ok to bite your arms.
How to get your German Shepherd to stop biting your arms and hands
There are a number of things that you can do about your German Shepherd biting your arms that I will mention below.
You can look at the book Training Your German Shepherd on Amazon to get more tips about how you can train your GSD.
Train it not to
The first method that you can try is positive reinforcement training. This is where you reward the behaviors that you want to see from your German Shepherd so that it learns to give them a positive association.
To use it to get it to stop biting, you would:
- Stand up and prevent it from biting your arms or hands by leaving the room if necessary.
- Wait a few moments and then go back to giving it attention and then preventing it from biting them again if it starts biting
- Repeat the above until it learns that biting causes it to lose your attention
- Reward it with a treat when it does particularly well
You can watch the video below to see more on how to get your German Shepherd to stop biting your arms with positive reinforcement training along with more tips.
Avoid reinforcing the behavior
If your method of getting it to stop biting your arms is to give it things it wants, it could be the case that it has learned to do it more in order to get more rewards.
Instead, of rewarding your German Shepherd with things when it starts biting your arms, you can try the positive reinforcement technique mentioned above.
Give it other things to chew on
If your German Shepherd feels the need to bite things then it would likely help to give it some things that it is ok for it to chew on. Some things that you could give it would be bones, dog chews or toys.
It is unlikely that you will be able to completely get it to stop biting your arms or hands in one training session. However, you will be able to make larger improvements if you are consistent with it over the course of weeks and months.
Get help from an animal behaviorist
If you don’t know why it does bites your arms or hands, you can’t get it to stop or it does it in an aggressive way then it would likely help to get help from a dog behaviorist or a vet.
Most Recommended For German Shepherds
Best German Shepherd Training Program
Our favorite: The Dunbar Academy Training Program. If you want a happy and obedient dog, this is one of the best online dog training programs available right now.
Best German Shepherd Guide
Our favorite: The German Shepherd Handbook - Shows you all you need to know to keep your GSD happy, healthy and well-behaved.