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Canine Behavior/3 month german shep biting-thanks in advance for helping out


Hello Jill and thank you in advance for your time and help. My family surprised me with a German Shepherd puppy after having to lose my 12 year old German Shepherd to bone cancer. He is 3 months old (I've had him for a week) and is a great boy with the exception of biting troubles. I have tried many methods to keep him from biting but nothing seems to get the message across that biting people is not okay. While my family had good intentions this puppy doesn't seem to have come from a responsible breeder so I imagine he wasn't socialized properly during his earlier weeks. I have read that it's important for them to learn early but wow, now he's 3 months. I do not intend to give up on him but must nip this in the bud as I have a five year old niece and it's unacceptable behavior regardless. I first tried saying no firmly, then yelping like a puppy and walking away (with him biting after me most of the time), then squeezing his nose, trying to press on a spot in his mouth as my sister said the Kennel Club trainer taught her, then popping his nose with a light rolled up envelope as my mother suggested. The violent methods were/still aren't my favorite to use at all as I don't want to develop any fear/distrust within our relationship, but the last couple of days those were my last known options to try as each method just seems to encourage him more and he acts like he thinks it's a game. As I said, nothing is seeming to work and while I know it's only been a week I've got to get him to stop. What would you suggest I try? Thank you again for your time/help.

First: I do not accept private questions unless the situation is dire and I have attempted to help and then I ask for contact info (phone number) so I have made this question public.  It's a common problem, no one will know who you are, there are millions of people on the Internet.

Your puppy did not learn bite inhibition from his dam (mother) and litter mates, simple as that.  To him, it is a game (at three months of age): a test of stamina, a misuse of his genetic purpose (type) due to improper management by breeder.  This is not aggression.  Yet.  If you use ANY punishers, it will become fear aggression: the GSD is famous for that.

Three months (12 weeks) is still a couple of weeks within the opportunity for socialization: other people, places, other dogs (NO dog parks!): find a puppy kindergarten such as is seen here:

The screech and withdrawal method works but the puppy must be younger: six to eight weeks of age, otherwise it appears to the puppy that you are cooperating by making interesting sounds (lol).  This puppy does NOT KNOW THAT HIS TEETH HURT.  This must be immediately addressed.

Perhaps he is extremely excitable: do nothing to get him to that point until he has begun to learn how to please you by working.  Dr. Ian Dunbar has a free online course, Sirius Puppy Training:

Study it.  Follow ONLY videos from Dunbar.

He also has a substantial amount of material on bite inhibition training:

Here are links that teach how to manage a "hyper" dog or dog that presents with difficult behaviors:

The manner in which to address unwanted behaviors is to "capture" them: this means, TRAIN the behaviors with a cue.  For excessive mouthing issues, teaching "take it/leave it", "drop it", "off/take it" can help:

A five year old child should never be allowed to interact freely with any dog, let alone a puppy.  The child can be injured and both parties innocent of cause: both child and dog.

Until you have found a good puppy kindergarten and learned enough to begin teaching this puppy and addressing his issues: put a house tab on him (only when you are at home).  This is a very lightweight leash with handle cut off (so it won't catch on things).  If the puppy becomes overexcited and begins to nip, simply (without saying a word) pick up the leash and hold him at arm's length: TURN YOUR BACK on him.  He must become totally calm before you turn back to him, ask for "sit", praise, release.  If the puppy does NOT calm but becomes even more agitated, walk calmly (after picking up the tab and holding him off) to a place (bathroom, closet, bedroom, etc.) where you can then drop the leash and put a closed door between you and the puppy.  Count to ten.  Open the door, ask for "sit", reward calmly.  If, when you open the door, the puppy is still agitated, close it again: repeat this until the puppy has STOPPED TO THINK about what is happening.  This "punishment" is your total removal, eventually he will chain it to his mouthing.

This is a breed that is literally intended to use his mouth to: capture/hold; retrieve in dangerous situation; and is potentially one of the greatest companion breeds in the world.  WHAT YOU DO RIGHT NOW and for the next 18 months will make a huge difference in whether or not he is a stable, safe, reliable companion or a danger to others.  Puppy mouthing is a dreadful situation.  My first Doberman had this problem and I looked like a heroin addict!  I was just a kid but, as she learned (using positive reinforcement) and matured, she developed a "soft" mouth and was one of the greatest dogs I've ever owned.  

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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