Last week I adopted a ten week old German Shepard puppy and he's heartbreakingly adorable! His temperment ranges from the unbridled, youthful energy that one expects to see in a pup to a serene calmness that seems beyond his years. He rarely barks or whines, save for when I'm pouring food into his bowl, and he generally does his business outdoors. As I work fulltime I've allowed him to have the run of an empty bedroom. I outfitted the space with a pile of blankets, a water dish, and several chew toys. I work closeby and I'm able to visit several times a day to play with him and let him out. He seems to be pretty happy.
However, I am having an issue with one thing: Biting and nipping! When he gets in the mood to play he views my limbs and chew toys and becomes relentless! I try to redirect his attention to a toy but he always comes back for my skin and no matter how sternly I scold he won't stop. He seems to be interperting my behaivor as playful because any effort to stop him doubles his effort to bite. It's getting extremely tiresome, not to mention painful!
Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I could stop the biting? Also, does anyone think I should be concerned? Is he just teething or is he being violent?
Thanks for your help, everyone!
Not to worry. He's just being a playful little puppy. Puppies nip and bite in play constantly and thus learn proper bite inhibition. It's actually a very important learning process. When two puppies are playing and one bites too hard or is getting too excitable and persistent, the other puppy may yelp loudly and/or disengage from the play. Very quickly, Puppy 1 will figure out that out-of-control nipping puts an end to the game and he'll learn to moderate his enthusiasm and the strength of his bites. You can emulate this. Set up a "time out" spot - this could be an x-pen set up in a tiled area, or just the empty bathtub (remove soaps, bottles and razors, of course!), or his crate if you are crate-training - just a place where you can safely place him for a minute or two, where he can't get into any trouble. As you are playing, if your puppy starts to use his teeth, let out a loud, pained "yelp" as if he has just mauled you (even if his teeth just barely grazed your skin). This should be enough to startle him and give him pause, but not enough to really scare him. In that split second where he's going, "what just happened?!" say in a calm voice, "oh, too bad" or "time out" and set him in his timeout place. Leave him there for around 45 seconds, give or take. Don't acknowledge him during this time. He may bark or cry to try and get your attention. Ignore this. Once he is quiet, say, "Good boy!", release him from the timeout place, and restart the game. At first, you may be starting and stopping play A LOT, but keep at it and gradually he will learn to keep his teeth off of you. With the proper foundations (interaction and play with other puppies and with you), he will also become more reliable about this as he matures.
Also continue what you are already doing and provide him lots of appropriate chews. Washclothes soaked in chicken broth and then frozen make excellent, inexpensive chews for teething puppies - they taste yummy and the cold helps soothe their sore gums.
You can also teach him to use a soft mouth with the cue "gentle" or "easy". Hold a yummy treat in your closed hand, say "gentle" (or "easy" if that's the cue you'd rather use) and offer your closed hand to him. If he bites at your hand to try to get the treat, keep your hand closed and DO NOT pull your hand away (this is hard to do because our natural instinct is to pull away). Wait until you feel his tongue on your hand and immediately say, "Good!" and open your hand/release the treat. Wash, rinse, repeat. Do this every time you are offering a treat so that he will learn to use a very gentle touch to take things from human hands - this will come in handy someday when he encounters a child with a treat or a ball!