Need Puppy Expertise: Nipping

Updated on September 02, 2011
M.J. asks from Sacramento, CA
15 answers

We have a very sweet 10-week-old German Shepherd puppy who's suddenly becoming very extreme with the nipping. We understand the teething and this is typical. But she's now ruined three of our daughter's shirts by biting into them and I'm being treated like a chew toy, to the point where she's breaking skin now. We do the corrective, stern "No!" and hand her a chewy and praise her when she takes it. But it doesn't seem to be enough.

Any tips?

ETA: Will will be doing dog training when she's fully vaccinated at 16 weeks. The breeder also trains police dogs and is supposed to have an excellent program for everyday dogs.

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?

Well, I just tried yelping and I think it worked! She continued a few more times, then started licking me. Will see how this goes, then I'll try some other strategies here, if needed.

Thanks so much for all of the suggestions!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Be aware that some (wacky) dogs LIKE the Bitter Apple.

I think a firm "NO" and a push done consistently might do it.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Detroit on

If I get a puppy mouthing and nipping on my hand, I push my thumb onto their tongue for a second, just enough to make it uncomfortable. I usually only have to do it 2 or 3 times at the most before they decide to control themselves and not put their mouth on me again. I know it sounds kinda mean, but it really works. Make sure too that the kids or anyone else are not encouraging bad behavior in any way by making it into a fun game (i.e. tug-o-war with socks, letting puppy biting at shirt sleeves, etc.). If she is getting too excited and hyper and not listening, you can use her crate for a "time out" until she can settle down again.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Petsmart sells and Apple Bitter that our trainer recommended for chewing. You spray it on their nose right when you get it, then when they do things they aren't supposed to do, you spray them again. After a time or two, you only need to pick up the bottle for them to know they are doing something wrong. Check with the people at Petsmart for advice too, they were wonderful with us.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

Yelp when she nips. It is what dogs do to let each other know it is too rough and a yelp coming from whoever feels a nip works very well. Also stop all people movement if she is getting too excited and may start nipping. A waving arm or running look like lots of fun to play with. If she is jumping and nipping in play make sure your arms don't go up into the air, a perfect invitation to jump. If she gets really nippy all at once a short time out works too. I try to reserve no for the worst offenses and things our dog already knows better, ie something that could get one of us hurt. I use uh uh for most things to mean stop or no. No does the trick too, o just didn'tvwant to say it so much, LOL. Have fun when you start classes too.

Bitter Apple is usually sprayed on things the dog chews, not on the dog. It could really burn if it got in their eyes. I did use it for cabinets, baseboards, etc that our dog tried to chew a few times.

Meowing at our cat that bites has worked wonders on her too. The start of a high meow and she will stop.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Bitter apple. You can get it at almost any pet store.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I had a Newfoundland and he was a nipper. He was 25 pounds at 9 weeks old, destined obviously to be big due to his breed. We were given alot of advice.

For the nipping, as others said, using a natural product (not the bitter apple!) for a "squirt" could be used. Our behaviorist/trainer recommended lemon juice. So we had those little lemon things all around the house. After a while I just needed to reach for one and he got in line (most were empty!). Grabbing his muzzle and holding his lower jaw for a few seconds and telling him NO! was part of it next after we no longer used the lemon juice.

As to the flipping someone mentioned..yup..I had to do all of that dominance stuff. My dog was 120 pounds at a year old. Like a giant baby! I was the only one who fed and watered and walked him that whole first year. I flipped him and got in his muzzle. He needed to know I was the BOSS..the leader of the pack, not him. My hubby is a big guy and just that deep voice was enough to make the dog sit...on whatever was in his way and no matter where he was!

In the end it was all worth it...he deferred to me as the boss, respected my hubby and did all he could to protect and guard our daughter (we got him when she was 2...he would get between her and the street at all times when they were in the front yard, or if a pal was over, he got between them. He would bump her out of the way if she was too close to the steps...even when she was like 10 years old! It was interesting to see! He was the same breed as "Nana" in Peter Pan...a nanny dog, and was true to that nature as a pet!

Have fun with your pup!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Also, teach your daughter to never encourage biting or nipping, even in play. Everyone should say no and then give the dog their back and quit playing. You might also want to squeal like it hurt even if it didn't and stop the play.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

DVM MOM said exactly what our friend, who is a vet, told us to do for our kelpie/corgi mix rescue (very nippy breeds) and it works. The thing that also helped was learning that if you pull away, then you are feeding the "play tug of war" behavior. Good luck. You definitely want to deal with this now while your pup is young and smaller.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Yelping is good but I would put a command with it also. I tell my dog "gentle". She has gotten where she understands that and will calm down alot. When she doesn't listen I will push my arm or hand (whatever she is biting) into her bite because it is uncomfortable to her and I tell her "gentle" and that seems to work great!



answers from St. Louis on

simple process: when he goes in for the nip, grab his muzzle - hold it gently, but firmly - & tell him "no". A very simplistic way to stop the nipping.

If he fights you over this, then you need to "flip" him. Pick him up & hold him as you would a doll (on his back, legs in the air). Put your hand on his chest & tell him "no". If he continues to fight you, then he is attempting dominance over you. Be persistent & consistent, don't let go, & never raise your voice. Speak firmly & wait for him to calm under your command. At that point, he is submissive to you.

This method is non-invasive. This method works even with older dogs. Last month I answered a question about puppies & discussed this method. Our vet recommended it to us when he noticed that our labradoodle (who's still intact) was being dominant. He was still a pup at the time, but the dr said to do this regularly when we notice the dominance kicking in.

What's interesting is that he lets me flip him....& not always the 2 1/2 Men in our home! Of course at 80lbs, I have to sit on the floor to get the job done! He is a very strong, all muscle, powerhouse of a dog......even at age 5. & on the other hand, our Old English Sheepdog mix is 3yo. He lets my 15yo son flip him....& occasionally he'll let me. But never, ever my DH or my older son. The whole process is fascinating! & I know we'll never change the hard head..... Good Luck with your pup!



answers from Minneapolis on

Agree with Apple Bitter, but also, those who train dogs for hunting never introduce their dogs to treats like rawhides, or cloth or squeeky toys for them to chew or play rough with, because doing so the dog would destroy any game they retrieve in the field.

By not encouraging chewing as recreation, these dogs rarely go through a "teething" and "nipping" phase.

Just something to consider.



answers from Madison on

Fill a spray bottle with water and just a tablespoon or so of vinegar. Be consistent! And every time the pup nips, squirt her with the spray bottle (try not to squirt her in the eye, but it's helpful to get near their mouth so they taste the vinegar). The key is to correct her EVERY time she nips, she can never ever get away with putting teeth on human skin. It's especially tough when you have little ones and have to also do the correcting when she nips at one of the kids, but you have to be diligent that she is never ever to put teeth on human skin. Some dogs are naturally more "mouthy" than others and take longer to stop puppy nipping, but just hang in there! My pup (now 6 months) was one of those piranas! It takes extra special patience to get through that phase, but just remember the key is consistency.

PS. I agree with the other mamas, bitter apple could be very dangerous to spray in the dog's face, it wasn't made for that!



answers from Cleveland on

when we got our dog he was horrible at nipping and chewing on things especially ONE SHOE of mine out of every single pair of shoes i had and even nipped my moms ankles when she got after me once but we just grabbed his muzzle and held on to it and said no and we got to the point wehre we could play with him and put our hand in his mouth and not have to worry about getting bit



answers from Colorado Springs on

I like the responses you have received. Your pup is getting bigger and stronger, but not yet more mature in her behavior. She might be testing you, toddler-like, to see if you really mean what you say... like the three-year-old who is told not to touch the stove and promptly touches the stove. She may be thinking, "Oh, come on! Who wouldn't like to play with me?"

Another thing to try is to fill a small spray bottle with *diluted* vinegar and keep it with you all the time. When she starts using you as a chew toy, say "No," or "Don't," or whatever word you've chosen, and spray the stuff in her face. (Don't use full-strength vinegar!) When she lets go, praise her for obeying. If she's really surprised by this, she may catch on quickly that chewing on people is unpleasant after all. We've had dogs who, after a time or two, change their minds about what they're going to do just by seeing the bottle.

You want her to decide that toys are much more worthwhile... and that the Boss (that's you) knows what she's talking about and is worth paying attention to.

Are there certain times of day when she really insists on chewing the family? Some pups - again, like toddlers - don't know when they're tired, and they need to be put in their crates or beds for a while... NOT for punishment, but just for a time-out (and hopefully a nap). Keep a friendly, firm tone of voice when you do this, and give her an approved chewie. Chewing something in solitude might help her wind down. We've often had to do this with our pups.

If it's too much for you, give the breeder a call and ask what he or she recommends. You won't be the first person with this question.

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