If your German Shepherd nips you then you might be wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might nip your ankles, feet or hands and what you can do to stop it.
So, why does my German Shepherd nip me? Possible reasons are that it’s teething, you have inadvertently rewarded the behavior, it hasn’t been trained not to do it or it wants attention.
There are a number of things that you can consider when trying to figure out why it keeps nipping you. Depending on the cause, there are also a number of things that you can do about it.
Why your German Shepherd nips
Each of the different reasons why it does it will likely come with a number of clues.
Below, I will show you a number of possible causes and what would make them more likely.
The reason why your German Shepherd nips you could be that it is teething. This would be more likely if it is still a puppy and if it has started chewing on other things as well.
In this case, it would likely help to do lots of “leave it” training and to give it lots of toys and chews to chew on.
You have been reinforcing it
It might be the case that you have been inadvertently reinforcing the behavior by giving it things that it wants when it nips you. If you tend to give it things such as toys, attention or treats to get it to stop nipping you then it might have learned that doing so gets it rewards.
Instead, it would help to train it not to nip you and to reward it when it is being well behaved.
It hasn’t learned that it’s not ok
If you have not trained your German Shepherd not to nip you then it might be the case that it has not learned that it is not ok to nip you. If you haven’t then it would help to start training it using the tips in the section below.
It wants attention
The reason why it nips you might be that it is looking for attention. This would be more likely if it does it when you haven’t given it much attention or if you tend to start giving it attention when it nips you.
If this seems to be the reason then it would help to avoid giving it attention when it nips you by leaving the room temporarily and then to reward it with attention when it does not nip.
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 why your German Shepherd has been nipping your feet, hands or ankles could be that it’s 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 do so.
How to get your German Shepherd to stop nipping
There are a number of things that you can do to get your German Shepherd to stop nipping you that I will mention below.
Train it not to
The first option you have is to train it not to nip you using positive reinforcement training. This is where you train it by rewarding it for making small steps towards doing the thing that you want.
To use it to get it to stop nipping you, you would:
- Stop giving it attention when it nips you by temporarily leaving the room if necessary
- Start giving it attention again until it starts nipping and then stop giving it attention.
- Repeat the above, rewarding with a treat it each time it doesn’t nip you when it normally would.
Alternatively, you would withdraw your hands, feet or ankles as soon as it shows signs of being about to nip. Each time it doesn’t nip when it normally would you would reward it with a treat.
You can look at the book Training Your German Shepherd on Amazon to get more tips about how you can train your GSD.
Avoid negative reinforcement
It would also help to avoid negative reinforcement training which is where you inadvertently reinforce bad behaviors by rewarding them.
Instead, of giving it things that it wants, when it nips, try to stop it from being able to nip as soon as it looks like it will do and reward it when it does not nip.
Give it other things to chew on
Another thing that you can do is to give it other things to chew on such as toys, bones or chews. By doing so you will be able to help keep its attention on those things and away from you or your stuff. This would be especially helpful when it is a puppy in addition to training it not to nip or chew on things that it shouldn’t.
If you can’t get your German Shepherd to stop doing it or it is particularly forceful with the nipping it might be worthwhile to get the help of a dog trainer or behaviorist. By doing so you will be able to get expert help tailored to your particular German Shepherd.
Things to consider
There are a number of things to consider when trying to figure out why your German Shepherd nips and when trying to get it to stop.
How old it is
If your German Shepherd is still young then it would be more likely that it is due to it teething. However, it will be necessary to train it to stop so that it does not continue to do so as an adult.
If it is an adult then it would be more likely to be due to not having been trained not to nip and it would help to start training it now.
When it started nipping
If it hasn’t always nipped then it would help to consider what happened when it started nipping. It could be that you gave it something that it wanted when it nipped one time or that something might have caused it to start being stressed.
What is different when it does not nip
If it does not always nip then it would also help to consider what is different when it doesn’t do it.
For example, it might be the case that it nips less when it has gotten a lot of exercise suggesting that the nipping would be due to excess energy. In this case, it would help to give it more exercise in addition to training it not to nip.
When getting your German Shepherd not to nip it is important to be consistent with the training. It is unlikely that you will be able to get it to completely stop nipping with just one training session but if you stick with it you will be able to get much better results.
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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.
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Our favorite: The German Shepherd Handbook (on Amazon) - Shows you all you need to know to keep your GSD happy, healthy and well-behaved.