If your German Shepherd has a habit of nibbling, you’re probably wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you reasons why your German Shepherd might be doing it and will give you a number of solutions.
So, why do German Shepherds nibble? When German Shepherds are young they will explore the world with their mouths before their eyes even begin to open. When you put your hands near them it is a natural instinct that they have to nibble on your hands.
Even though nibbling in German Shepherds is normal when they are younger than 5 months old, you should still take the time to get them out of the habit so that they don’t continue to do it when they’re older.
Why German Shepherds Nibble
There are actually a number of reasons why your German Shepherd could be nibbling on you and before anything else you should consider why it is doing it.
Before German Shepherds are even able to open their eyes they will begin to explore the world using their noses and mouths.
This means that you shouldn’t be overly concerned if your German Shepherd likes to smell your hands and to nibble on them since it is how they are designed to interact with the world from an early age.
For the most part, when German Shepherds nibble when young, it is due to their nature. Despite that, you should take measures early on to reduce it to prevent it from continuing when they’re older.
Even though German Shepherds will nibble naturally at an early age. The nibbling could be to warn you that you are doing something that it doesn’t like.
If your German Shepherd becomes uncomfortable and anxious, when it is nibbling, then it could be that you are doing something that it doesn’t like.
Perhaps you’re holding it in a way that is uncomfortable or it might be that something is hurting it. If this is the case then the biting will probably be accompanied by other things such as growling.
If you think that your German Shepherd is doing it due to discomfort then you should consider taking it to a vet where they can diagnose any physical issues that it might be having.
German Shepherds are very social and active dogs that require a lot of exercise daily. German Shepherds originated were bred to work with their owners doing very intensive tasks for hours on a daily basis.
This means that, if you’re not giving your German Shepherd a lot of exercise, then it will likely become restless. When it is becoming restless it will probably be more inclined to nibble.
German Shepherds are can sometimes be very excitable. When they become excited it is common for them to nibble (and lick) especially on your hands. This means that you may want to remain slightly calmer when interacting with the German Shepherd in order to reduce its emotional response.
Related post: How to tell if your German Shepherd loves you
The nibbling could be due to aggression that you will want to stop immediately. Nibbling due to aggression can be harder to diagnose but the biting will normally be quicker and more painful than playful nibbling.
How To Stop The Nibbling
German Shepherds will normally learn to reduce the strength of their bite when they are young. When they bite another puppy too hard it will normally yelp and stop playing. This tells the biter that it was too hard and not to do it again. If you don’t take the time to tell the puppy that it’s biting too hard then it could continue into adulthood. It could also bite on things around the house.
Stop giving attention
Often the most effective method to stop the German Shepherd from nibbling is to stop giving it attention when it starts to nibble. When doing this you shouldn’t give it any reaction including a negative one since if it’s nibbling for attention even a negative reaction would be giving it what it wants.
Instead, you should just give it no attention until it stops nibbling and, attention then. you might need to leave the room to get the nibbling to stop and then come back shortly after.
Getting your German Shepherd to become used to your hands from an early age will help to desensitize it from your touch. This will help to stop it from exploring what your hands are like when it becomes older.
Another aspect to this is to touch it a bit more firmly and regularly since this will allow it to get used to you being physical with it and to learn that it’s ok.
Imitate a puppy’s yelp
German Shepherd puppies will generally learn how powerfully to nibble at an early age since when they nibble too hard the other puppy will yelp and stop giving it attention. You can imitate this behavior by saying “Ow!” and then not give it attention for a few moments.
Give it something else to chew on
When you find something that it likes to chew on keep it somewhere that is readily accessible to you so that you can give it to your German Shepherd when it starts nibbling. Over time the dog will be able to realize there are some things that it should bite and some things it shouldn’t.
You’ll also want to give it lots of things to nibble on so that it doesn’t start nibbling other things that you don’t want it to such as chairs or curtains.
Distract it when petting
When petting your German Shepherd you could hold a treat or a toy in the other hand to distract it from the hand that you’re are petting it with. This will help to get the German Shepherd used to you petting it and reduce its emotional response, in the form of nibbling, when you do.
Give it the opportunity to play with other dogs
By giving your German Shepherd the opportunity to play with other dogs it will be able to learn to control its bite based on the reactions of the other dogs. It will also give it exercise that will reduce its boredom and prevent it from nibbling for attention.
Use a taste deterrent
If the other tips don’t appear to be working you could consider using a taste deterrent that you spray on areas that you don’t want the German Shepherd to nibble. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t prevent the German Shepherd from wanting to do the nibbling so you should try to do the other tips first.
Give it lots of exercise
Since German Shepherds are very active dogs it will be necessary for you to give it lots of exercise. If you don’t give it lots of exercise then it will start to look for its own entertainment which might not be the type of entertainment that you want it to be getting.
You might find that your German Shepherd requires a lot more exercise than you would have thought, in order to calm down, so it will be necessary to make its exercise as efficient as you can.
Walking it is one good way to give it exercise. If you find that it isn’t enough then you could walk faster, walk further, walk in a hilly area or you could make it wear a dog weight vest that weighs less than 10% of its body weight.
You could also teach it to play fetch. By doing this you will be able to give it a lot of exercise since it will be doing a lot of sprinting without much rest in between.
Another option would be to teach it to swim. When dogs swim they need to move their legs around a lot to stay afloat. This can cause them to use up a lot of energy. It’s also good in the summer months since it will help to keep your German Shepherd cool.
If you don’t have the time to exercise your German Shepherd yourself then you could consider hiring a dog walker to do it for you. There are apps that you can download now that will let you book a local dog walker through the app.
Reward good behavior
Give it a treat for doing something that you tell it to such as laying down or sitting. This will teach it to listen to you. If it gets into the habit of doing what you say then it will naturally do that when it greets you instead of biting you.
Use a trainer
If you still haven’t been able to get your German Shepherd to stop nibbling on you then you should consider getting a professional trainer to help you.
Getting your German Shepherd to stop nibbling on your from an early age would be worthwhile since you sill get it used to your command and you will be able to prevent bad behaviors when it is older.
If you would like some more tips on how to train your German Shepherd take a look at the German Shepherd training book on Amazon.
Things to consider
When getting your German Shepherd to reduce its nibbling there are some things that you should keep in mind which I will mention below.
Don’t give it the opportunity to nibble
By reducing the opportunities that your German Shepherd has to nibble on things that you don’t want it to you will be able to prevent it from learning to nibble on those things. This doesn’t mean to prevent it from nibbling completely. You will still want to give it lots of toys that it can nibble on.
Avoid sudden movements when it nibbles
A quick emotional reaction could cause the German Shepherd to nibble more since it could seem like a game and encourage it to become more active. Instead, you can slowly move the hand away and make it less fun to play with.
Physical punishment won’t be helpful
Physical punishment may make it bite harder or lead to aggression. It can also lead to other behavioral issues.
Dogs can continue to nip regularly right up until they’re 5 months old. Curbing the behavior can take from a couple of days up to a couple of months.
If your German Shepherd is still young then it is important to remember that it’s natural for it to nibble at that age. However, it’s still important to take the time now to teach it not to nibble so that it isn’t a problem when it’s an adult.
Why does my German Shepherd growl at me? There could be a lot of reasons for it to growl. It could be trying to get you to give it attention, it could be warning you of danger or it could even be warning you to back away. If it’s something that is concerning you then consider getting help from a dog behavoiurist.
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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.