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My 3.5 month old German Shepherd is a good girl most of the time. We are just having a problem with her at the moment in that she is being too rough and grabbing one of my sons clothes more than anyone else in the family. He is 11.

There are evenings when whenever she interacts with him it is like this quite a lot. Other days she is fine. She just nips him ( it's getting to be quite hard) and pulls at his clothes. She keeps playing like its a tug game.

I want to be clear that she does not bite him to hurt him. She is not aggressive towards him. It is clear she just wants to play rough but this is not acceptable.

He says no in a strong voice, he has tried yelping like a puppy would, he holds her in a cuddle and strokes her until she calms down or puts her outside for time out. The last two strategies do work but only for a short time before she tries it again.

We walk her twice a day and took her to puppy classes. She regularly socialises with my parents two dogs and we clicker train her. She can do basic commands and some tricks.

We are working on teaching him to play with her more with toys rather than his hands as he does often just try to repeatedly pet her when she clearly doesn't want to play that way.

Mostly it is me or my husband who do the care/ training with her. My eldest son who is 14 sometimes gets this bad behaviour from her as do we all but she is definitely a lot worse with my youngest son. She has never behaved this way with strangers. She has always been great with them.

Help! Is this something she will stop with time of we continue with what we are doing or can we try something else? He has such a hard time with her.

  • Does your 11-year-old ever hold her leash for walks, give her any commands, or anything like this? – Layna May 27 '16 at 11:28
  • He does hold her leash a lot when we are out. He doesn't give her commands often though. We are going to work on this with him. – RDub May 27 '16 at 11:29
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This can lead to serious problems. I am currently working with a 9 month old German Shepard x wold hound who is now biting hard enough to break the skin. This is largely do to the fact that when he would play bite, the owners would tell him no and 2 seconds later keep patting him on the head. I'm sharing this story as I'm showing that you need to get a handle on it now before your dog starts biting, not play biting (even if it seems like the dog is playing. If it hurts when they bite, it is no longer play biting).

The main thing your son needs to do is to watch for when the dog starts getting too excited. He is only to play and interact with her when she is calm and not hyper. As soon as she starts getting mouthy or excited, your son is to say "Uh oh" and go into another room that your dog does not have access to. This needs to happen the second your dog gets too excited. This does several things:

  • Teaches the dog that play will only happen when both parties are enjoying it
  • You dog will start to recognise that if she gets too worked up, play will cease. In her mind "Oh no. He's not playing with me anymore. I guess I got a little carried away".
  • Teaches your son to read your dog's body language better

So what constitutes "too excited"? If your dog starts jumping up (ask for a sit and ignore the jumping), mouthing the hands, lots and lots of barking (a bit of bark is OK as your dog is communicating that they are happy and wanting to play), biting at clothes.

Another thing that you can all do is not to play with your dogs head or ears when playing. This can signal to dogs that it's super play time and a lot of dogs will turn around to you and start mouthing you hands. There is no point tell your dog no when they mouth or bite you and then continuing to play with them. It has taught them nothing except mouthing the human's hands gets more play time.

You son needs to be more confident around your dog. Small children usually use high pitched voices, squeal and running away when a dog is interacting with them and all this says to a dog is I'm a super fun playmate who runs with you and barks back in excitement. This can cause the dog to get even more excited. I like to tell my client's children to be a tree. A tree does not make noise or run around when a dog approaches them. The dog learns that a tree is nothing exciting so doesn't bother to chase or bite the tree. Ask your son (with either your husband or yourself supervising) to enter the room with you dog and stand up tall with arms by his side. Ask him to be calm and then either one of the adults will play with the dog. Your son can come over after about 2 minutes to slowly and calmly pat your dog from the shoulders to the rump (NOT THE HEAD). Then he can leave the room. If the dog gets too excited by your son, your son can leave the room while you stay in the room with the dog, waiting for her to calm down before play can begin again.

Here is a really good link that will hopefully provide some helpful tips. https://positively.com/dog-behavior/puppy-knowledge/teething-mouthing/

Hope this helps and good luck to you all.

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    Thanks for answer. This has helped us and we can see it making a difference. – RDub Jul 2 '16 at 5:34
  • Great to hear. Small changes can make big differences. Good on you all :) – furreal training Jul 3 '16 at 22:42
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You didn't list this approach yet, so I will suggest it as alternative: Tell your son to STOP interacting, and as calmly as possible walks away.
The idea is to signal: if you do this, all the fun ends.
The dog may not make this easy, from your description, but it also seems like he is well-enough socialized that he will undertsand the "I do not want this" signal this will send.

Good luck!

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I'd like to state that you should be sure of your dog's situation first. Is she very much excited to do such a thing as to bite your son even though he said the word ''No'', or might she be doing that because your son once may have done something that annoyed her or maybe showed her he's in charge and she didn't like it (by saying ''No'' for instance)? It's obvious she chose that particular son of yours for some reason. If it is because she plays with him most, she loves him most or she feels he's the guy her size, we'd say your dog is being very excited to play with him and so is acting that way.

But you should pay attention to the way she bites his shirt. It's really important. Why? Because if one of the following comes with her bite of his shirt, it could mean she either has something against him which makes her want to stay on the bite thing, but she is still innocent and so feels it's wrong to actually bite the kid. Or she might have the feeling of challenging and wants to win the challenge of a kid her size and show him she's boss or she's stronger or just wants to win. Of course if that's the case she'll only be feeling that way from the moment she gets too excited until you get her off him or he shows her it's petting time and she gets off him. I'd say that because you mentioned she's kind and social usually. And it's not such a big problem now because your dog is still a puppy. Of course if the dog continues doing this till she grows up, it won't be good for your kid or you, as the dog might feel more and more desire to show the kid she wins.

These are the following things mentioned above:

  1. growls come with the bite.
  2. the dog looking in the kids eyes while staying on the bite.
  3. each time you or someone else tries to get the dog off, the dog grabs harder.

Whether or not one of these things occurs, she must learn that your kid is still her master just like you are. When I mentioned that it's not a big problem for now, it's because your puppy is still in the process of learning how to deal with her entire family.

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