Dobermans are known for being headstrong and dominant dogs so it’s understandable why so many owners seem to have problems getting their Doberman puppies to stop nipping and biting. The pecking order of littermates is figured out when a Doberman is very young through the use of biting, nipping, shoving, and other similar actions.
How do you get a Doberman puppy to stop biting? The best method to get a Doberman puppy to stop biting is by using a combination of redirection, bite inhibition, and correction. For excessively dominant Doberman puppies, additional techniques may need to be incorporated.
Just about every Doberman owner will experience this. I would say that this is definitely among the top five questions I get from new Doberman owners. The problem is that puppies not only naturally bite and nip at their littermates, but they also naturally use their mouths to investigate new textures, objects, and people. Although this behavior is completely natural, it can’t be allowed. That’s what makes this issue so difficult.
Unfortunately, if left unchecked, a cute nipping Doberman puppy could grow up to be a very intimidating adult Doberman with serious biting issues. So we have to address it. This article will discuss the technique that I’ve found works far better for Doberman puppies than any other technique.
Why Doberman Puppies Nip and Bite
Puppies nip, bite, and mouth their owners for many reasons. This is an extremely natural reaction and I believe every owner of a Doberman goes through this during the puppy stages.
These are some of the reasons Doberman puppies bite.
- To Establish Dominance – When a puppy is with his or her littermates, there is constant nipping and biting going on. This is how the puppies figure out the pecking order—which dog is in charge, and who’s below him. This is in their genetics and a part of nature.
- Teething – The teething stage is from about 12 weeks of age up until about 6 months of age (source). During this time your dog’s baby teeth are slowly being pushed out by their larger adult teeth. This is very painful for your dog and they will naturally attempt to soothe this pain by massaging their gums by chewing on various objects (including people).
- Curiosity or Playfulness – Puppies are very curious and happy little creatures. They like to feel, interact with, and be exposed to new things. Since they don’t have hands, they do this by chewing or mouthing. This is also a way that littermates play with each other when they’re young.
- Scared or Timid – A very frightened Doberman puppy will bite due out of fear, although this is certainly the exception. If your puppy is biting out of fear he’ll be coward away from you, hiding, and biting when you approach him. If this is the case, the techniques in this article will not work for you and you need to consult with a professional.
If you believe your Doberman puppy is biting or nipping for any of the reasons listed above, other than due to fear, then the technique listed below should show significant results.
Stopping Your Doberman Puppy from Biting
A Doberman puppy who’s still figuring out where he ranks in the social standing in your house is far easier to train not to bite than an adult Doberman who already thinks he is the leader of your household. This is why it’s so important to tackle while your dog is young.
However, the best thing about this approach is that there are different levels and modifications you can do to this technique depending on how stubborn your puppy is. So this should work for the vast majority of Doberman owners out there.
This technique is a combination of modified bite inhibition, redirection, and physical correction methods for the most stubborn of cases. I believe it’s the perfect combination for the Doberman breed specifically.
Step 1: Identify Behaviors that Shouldn’t Be Allowed
A cute little puppy biting and mouthing at your hand seems adorable, especially when it’s being done to your kids and they’re laughing and smiling. But you really need to resist the urge to allow this behavior. When the puppy becomes a 100 pound Doberman, it’ll be a serious biting issue.
The following behaviors should not be allowed and need to be corrected.
- Biting or nipping.
- Mouthing of your hands, feet, arms, or any other areas.
- Scratching or digging at a person.
Once these behaviors surface, whether it’s during playtime or some other time, it needs to be corrected immediately. Always be on the watch for these behaviors because they can creep up at any time. Once spotted, move on to step 2.
Step 2: Apply Bite Inhibition, Redirection, or Physical Correction
Depending on what action the puppy did, you need to apply one technique or the other. Redirection is used when it appears like the dog is getting extra hyper and about to start mouthing or biting. A modified version of bite inhibition (don’t worry I’ll explain what that is in a minute) is used when the puppy is actually biting or mouthing you. Finally, a gentle physical correction will be used if the biting or nipping continues while you are in the process of applying the corrective steps.
Don’t worry, this will all make sense in a second. Here’s how it works:
Level 1: When Your Puppy Appears as If He Is About to Start Mouthing or Nipping
Make sure you have plenty of toys for your dog nearby at all times. For this, you need to anticipate when the mouthing or nipping is about to begin as much as possible.
Most owners are able to anticipate that the mouthing, biting, or nipping is about to begin in their own dogs after a short time. Usually, the puppy will start to get really excited, jumping, and maybe even nipping at the air. If this happens, you need to immediately redirect the puppy to a toy or treat, praise the dog (pet him, give verbal praise, etc), and continue playing with him.
This will reinforce that when they start feeling that level of excitement, they need to find a toy or treat to chew on (not something else—like you). Your praise tells them they’ve done the right thing. The less you allow your dog to actually bite or nip you, and the more you successfully redirect before this happens, the better.
Level 2: When Your Puppy Actually Bites, Nips, or Mouths You
Now if you fail to anticipate that the nipping or biting is about to begin or aren’t successful in redirecting him, he may actually bite, nip or mouth you (i.e. feeling or chewing on your hand with his mouth). When this occurs, you need to apply a modified version of what’s called “bite inhibition”.
Traditional bite inhibition training usually says that you should “yelp” like a hurt dog that’s just been bitten too hard and then ignore the dog for about a minute. While ignoring the dog does appear effective with Dobermans (stopping playtime is a great punishment), the high pitched “yelp” isn’t. This will communicate to a dog like a headstrong Doberman that they got the upper hand on you and you have now reinforced their alpha status.
Instead, if you Doberman puppy bites, nips, or in any way places his mouth on you, stop playing, put an open palm in their face close enough to crowd their personal space, give a firm “No!”, and then ignore the dog for one minute. This shows the dog that you are still in control, he didn’t get the best of you, you just finished playing because of his actions. It is not a submissive action like a high-pitched “yelp” sound would be.
Now, what if the dog continues nipping and biting at you while you’re in the process of attempting to ignore him? Any trainer who doesn’t address this is a poor trainer because most dogs will try this at some point—especially Dobies. When that happens, move on to level three.
Level 3: When Your Puppy Continues to Bite While Attempting to Ignore Him
When this happens, your puppy is essentially giving his or her all at being the dominant one in the house. You need to correct this behavior immediately. When the dog is in an environment with other dogs, they’ll assert their dominance by pinning the other one down until the dog submits (or gives up).
I don’t recommend pinning your dog down for this, but what I do recommend is to say a firm “No!” while placing the open palm of your hand directly in their face and slightly crowding their personal space, then carefully grabbing the dog’s muzzle and gently holding their mouth closed. Be cautious as to the location of your puppy’s tongue and lips so you don’t accidentally pinch either one between the teeth.
Never Show Anger
“When correcting your dog, be firm and consistent, but never angry. Anger will only show your Doberman that he’s making progress in the struggle for the alpha position.”– John Walter – DobermanPlanet.com
Gently grab the dog’s muzzle and hold it shut. Make sure it’s just tight enough to keep them from opening their mouth but not so tight that it hurts the dog or cuts off airflow (remember, they breathe through their nose when their mouth is closed). Hold the mouth shut until your dog submits.
This usually happens when they stop struggling, lay down, and just calmly look at you waiting to be released. Then wait a couple of seconds more, and release. Then redirect the dog to a chew toy or other distraction. You’ve now communicated that their behavior was not acceptable all while remaining the dominant one in their pack.
Step 3: Remain Consistent
This is maybe the most obvious, but definitely the hardest part of the whole process and where most people fail. This is how Dobermans grow up to be aggressive and ultimately given up to a shelter or rescue when they’re older. How long you have to do the above-described steps will vary based on the dog. But typically by the time they’re 6 months of age, they should be trained, or mostly trained, not to bite or nip.
You just simply can’t allow there to be any time where you let the mouthing, chewing, biting, or nipping on people to occur unchecked. Even just allowing it once because it’s a fun, and seemingly harmless game can set this training back by weeks.
If the dog is playing with your children, and they are old enough to follow these instructions, then you can have your kids help with the training as long as they too remain consistent. If your children are too young to help you train the dog, then all of their interactions need to be supervised by an adult who can step in to make sure the training steps listed above are performed.
This technique is very powerful for Dobermans specifically, but there are a few other things that you can do to help support your puppy further. Think of these things as “effectiveness boosters” for the technique listed above.
If you’re having a hard time getting your dog to stop nipping with the steps above, try to incorporate as many of the following as possible.
- Enroll in basic obedience classes. This is a great chance for your dog to socialize, it’s mentally and physically stimulating, and it’ll help teach them some of the basic manners and commands that’ll make solving the biting problem a whole lot easier.
- Exercise first thing every day and play only afterward. Puppies have a ton of energy and burning off the worst of it before playtime (where they’re likely to get more “nippy”) should make a big difference. Dobermans can’t participate in strenuous exercise on hard surfaces until at least 18 months of age, but you can do light exercise or play that’s not likely to result in nipping first thing in the morning to tire them out.
- Have toys with food or frozen treats inside to use as a redirect tool. These types of toys are like super-charged distraction devices. They’re a great tool in your toolbox for this type of training. For some ideas, see my list of recommended toys here.
- Train your pup with the “off” or “space” command. Training your puppy to understand “space” or “off” when they’re getting too rough with their play will help greatly to avoid mouthing.
- Have playtime with other dogs. Dogs naturally help correct each other. So if your dog is overly dominant, going on regular trips to the dog park might help bring him back to center. Just make sure your vet says this is ok since young puppies usually need certain vaccinations before playing with other dogs.
- Do not play serious tug-o-war games. Tug-o-war is a game that is a classic “fight for dominance” in the dog world. Avoid playing this with your puppy in a manner that is any more serious than a light tug or two on a toy during playtime.
- Socialize as much as possible. Socialize your puppy with other dogs, people, and animals as much as possible. The more he or she is exposed to, the more “centered” his attitude will be.
If you incorporate more of these things into your puppy’s life, your chances of success with getting him to stop biting will increase drastically. If you’re having a hard time, hit this problem with everything you’ve got by doing all of these.
When This Doesn’t Work – For Very Dominant Puppies
Some dogs are just more headstrong and dominant than other dogs are. Although this is by far the best technique I’ve found for Doberman puppies, even dominant ones, I am still realistic and will admit that there will be the occasional dog that this technique will not work on. It’s extremely rare and it’s far more likely that it’s the owner’s technique of using this method that’s to blame (or they are not consistent), but not always.
This is just a fact of life—every dog has its own personality. Headstrong dogs are certainly more common in the European lines than the American lines, although either variant can be dominant.
If you haven’t seen any improvement in your puppy’s biting and you’ve:
- Done the steps above for at least a month (including the things listed in the “Ensuring Success” section above),
- Remained consistent the entire time, and
- Your dog is 6 months of age or over.
Then you have a very dominant dog on your hands and it’s incredibly important that you figure out the issue as soon as possible or you may have an adult Doberman with serious behavioral issues. This can be extremely dangerous, especially if you have kids in the house.
This is, unfortunately, the time in which I need to tell you that you need to call in a professional. You need to contact a dog trainer who has experience with Dobermans specifically or a dog behavioralist. If you don’t take some serious steps now, even if they cost a bit of money, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of heartbreak and expenses down the road.
I haven’t mentioned this specifically in this article but hopefully, it’s obvious to most of you out there—never hit, slap, or strike your dog in any way. Not only is this cruel, but it doesn’t communicate to a dog what it does to a human. If you want to avoid a dog that bites as an adult, that’s the last thing you should be doing.
But if you follow these steps, remain composed, firm, and extremely consistent, then I would say you are almost sure to see success. Remember, time is on your side. As your puppy ages, he’ll naturally grow to be less inclined to bite or nip like he did when he was younger. At about 6 months of age, you’ll likely notice a big shift.
Stick with it and don’t give up. These puppy years are very trying times for owners but if you do what you know you should, you’ll have one awesome and easy-going adult Doberman in a year or so.
Do Dobermans chew a lot? Dobermans have a strong natural desire to chew. They use chewing as a way to feel new objects, soothe irritated gums, relieve stress, and burn off extra energy. Always make sure you have plenty of chew toys on hand so your Doberman has a healthy outlet for his chewing.
When do Dobermans stop teething? Doberman puppies enter the teething stage at about 3 months of age and are finished teething at around 6 months, or whenever they have all their adult teeth.
Why does my Doberman puppy keep biting? Doberman puppies bite and nip most often due to a natural instinct that they’re born with which helps them to establish levels of dominance among their littermates.
If you are having some of the other common issues with Dobermans, check out these articles on my site that might be able to help.
- How to Train Your Doberman to Walk on a Leash – This one of the most important things to do early in your Dobermans life. It’ll instill obedience and allow you to easily exercise your dog without the headache.
- 6 Steps to Get Your Doberman Pinscher to Stop Barking – The method I used which finally got my Doberman to stop barking while I was away from home.