Is your puppy biting because he's playing or is it aggression?
Below you will find 3 videos on Puppy Biting.
Natural puppy behavior will be to bite your fingers, pant legs, shoe laces etc. This is normal playing for a puppy. It is important for a puppy to be able to bite and chew however, you must teach him that this HARD play biting is NOT o.k. In this lesson, you will learn about play biting, not aggression biting. Be sure to watch the videos below.
The OUCH Method: Although one of the most popular ways to teach your puppy that play biting is not o.k., The OUCH Method is NOT my preferred method. Although many people have been successful with this method, I do not prefer this method because it can be a very slow process for a new puppy owner and it can actually be seen as an invitation to play by your puppy however, you may be successful with this type of training. The OUCH method communicates to your puppy the way his littermates do. Here's how the OUCH method works; If your puppy bites your fingers, hands, etc. simply give out a "OUCH", pull your fingers away and ignore him for a minute or so and then offer to play again. If he bites again, give out a "OUCH, pull your fingers away and ignore your puppy for a few minutes longer. Repeat until your puppy gets it. You may need to place him in a room by himself for a few minutes to give him a time out. Be sure to go back and offer to play with your puppy again within a few minutes to let him know you still love him. If he doesn't get it, simply remove the opportunity for him to bite and chew on your fingers etc. and come back to the training again at a later time. This could take several days or even much longer (a month or two), depending on how many times you give your puppy the opportunity to make the mistake. Your puppy wants to play with you. This is how he plays with his littermates. If his littermates would let out a yelp, because it hurt, the littermate would then walk away. This tells the puppy that he bit too hard. Next time he plays with that littermate he will play slightly softer. This process repeats until the puppy figures out how hard or gentle is o.k. and acceptable. Your Central Coast German Shepherd Puppy has been taught by his mother how hard is acceptable to bite during playing with his littermates also. When he is taken away from his mother (when you take him home) he will want to bite (play) on your fingers, pant legs, shoe laces etc. You must now teach him how hard is acceptable and what is acceptable to chew on. After repeated yelps from you and walking away for a few minutes, it tells your puppy the same thing his littermates tell him. Your puppy is very smart but, this procedure will take some patience and consistency. He needs to learn his limits with you. When he licks you, instead of biting be sure to praise, praise, praise him! You can also say, in a soft voice, gentle, good boy, etc. or give him a treat when he licks instead of biting. Generally, happy praise is sufficient.
The next Method is a CORRECTION Method: Grab your puppies nose and slap the back of YOUR hand (not the puppy) that is holding his nose, offer your hand back to him immediately. This method works very quickly but sometimes the puppy will simply go to the next person willing to offer their fingers, hands, laces pant legs etc. Everyone in the family must be able to correct in the same manner. I have had more success with this method than the OUCH method. The second video below shows how the CORRECTION Method is done. When done correctly, your puppy should stop the biting within 2 corrections, maybe 3, at the most. The grab of the nose and a firm shake can be effective as well but, is a bit more difficult for most new puppy owners. Each time you have to correct the puppy you have to grab the nose a bit firmer. If you don't grab the nose a bit firmer, you are just being a nagging mom or dad and the message won't be successful. The point here is you are trying to get their attention without nagging. You are getting right to the point. Please take note, you are not slapping your puppy in the nose, you are slapping your hand. The noise of the slap on your hand should not be a scare tactic, simply a startling noise to get his attention. After each correction, you must offer your fingers or hand to your puppy again, immediately after the slap of your hand. This is how he learns what is o.k. and what is not. Your puppy learns by making mistakes. If your puppy does not stop biting within 2 corrections, 3 at most, you are not doing it correctly. With your supervision, you can teach your children this method as well. It will be important for your children to be able to stop the biting as well or your puppy will simply see your children as a littermate of the pack, lower in the pack position and they will see themselves as the ALPHA over your children. Having your children feed the puppy, taking the food away and giving back, during feeding, will also teach your puppy that the children are also the ALPHA. If you don't teach the kids to make these corrections as well, the puppy will simply play bite with them instead of you. If you have a baby you can do the correction for your baby as long as you are there every time your puppy attempts to chew on your children's fingers until he learns that it is not o.k., ever! It will just take a little more persistence on your part to teach your puppy on behalf of your children. If you are not willing to be more persistent and If your children are too young for this type of correction, you may also consider teaching the OFF Command instead but your persistence will still need to be there. Speaking in a soft, praising voice around the children will also help calm your puppy when around the baby or child. Following this type of correction, your puppy should either avoid biting you when offering your hand or fingers or lick you instead of bite, if you are doing it correctly. Be sure to offer your hand back immediately after the slap! Praise your puppy by saying, in a soft voice, gentle, good boy, etc. when he avoids biting you or if he licks you or offer a treat. The positive praise is equally as important as the correction to let your puppy know that you still love him even though you needed to correct him. Consistent, Controlled & Firm (not aggressive) correction is the goal here. There is no need to yell at your puppy. Simply a deeper voice for the correction is sufficient. The more normal your voice, the easier it will be to correct your puppy later on if he forgets the lesson. If you are yelling at your puppy for a correction, your puppy will learn that you must be yelling in order to get the message across to him. Your puppies mother or litter mates might growl in addition to a yelp. You lowering your voice to a deeper tone is similar to their mother or littermates growl.
Teaching your puppy the OFF Command is another way to teach a puppy that chewing on your body parts is not acceptable. This can be taught by one person and then used by the whole family. The puppy learns the word OFF means, no bite. It is also a rewarding way of teaching your puppy however, will take a bit more patience than the CORRECTION method. The OFF Command is also often used to keep your puppy from jumping on you or to teach OFF of the furniture so you may wish to use a different word for this command such as NO BITE. The idea of this type of teaching is to teach your puppy a word that is associated with NO BITE. Once he learns the Command, anyone can say the command and he will respond by not biting. The first video below shows the OFF COMMAND method. The second video below will teach you the CORRECTION METHOD.
While you are doing this training it is also imperative that you do not let your puppy run free in your home. You must keep him tethered to you so he learns that you are the ALPHA. If he is not tethered to you in the house, he should be either outside or in his crate or play yard. Do not let your puppy run free in your house. If you allow him to run free in your home he may learn very quickly that he is the ALPHA. This can undermine all of your training efforts by him testing your authority during every lesson. By having him tethered, you maintain the control of him, therefore, you are teaching him, you are the ALPHA. Your children can also hold onto the leash while he is in the home to show your new puppy that they are the ALPHA. This is especially important to do when he is brought into a new environment. He must learn his position right away. He will learn this very quickly but, he can also learn very quickly to challenge you if you do not do this part of his training. Again, it is easier to enforce positive behavior than trying to correct inappropriate behavior. It must be black and white, clear, who is the ALPHA. Make it clear in the beginning by controlling him with tethering, crating and confining (controlling his space) while in the home. This is very simple, you just have to do it! Love your puppy, train your puppy and provide him controlled discipline and you will have a very well balanced and well behaved puppy that will give you many years of love and loyalty beyond your expectations.
If these methods are not working for you, please get some assistance through a trainer. It is much harder to correct bad behaviors once they have been doing them for awhile than if you correct it immediately.
Sometimes you need to get immediate correction such as if you are a bleeder or if you have small children and that's o.k. but the idea of immediate correction is that you correct the behaviour and you immediately offer the hand back. If we need to correct immediately we simply will hold the muzzle firmly and say NO, firmly then offer the hand back. If done correctly he should bite lighter and then you praise. If you do this correctly you should only have to do the correction twice, maybe three times. DON'T forget to praise, praise, praise and offer the hand back when he bites softly. If you don't this won't work!