Nip Play Biting In The Bud

Our expert trainer explains a fun and effective way to stop your dog from play biting.

Sometimes playtime makes dogs overly excited and they resort to play biting. German Shepherd puppy pulling a tug toy by Shutterstock

Q.

I recently adopted a 1-year-old male German Shepherd. He is starting to “Play Bite” tug on our pants and shirts every time we play ball or tug of war with him. What would be the proper way to get him to stop?

A.

He is getting too excited by the game you’re playing, so you’ll need to teach him how to control his excitement a bit so he can play more gently. A great game for teaching self-control is “Go Wild And Freeze.”

First, teach your dog to sit for a treat.

When he does that reliably, add some moderately exciting “wild” movement — make funny noises, wave your hands, hop up and down a few times. Before your dog becomes overexcited, freeze, stand tall, and tell him, “Sit.” Reward when he does. Make some more “wild” movements and sounds, then stop and have him sit for reward again. Repeat, increasing the time and wildness of your actions. Do not add more excitement than your dog can tolerate without starting to play bite.

Once your dog learns to play Go Wild And Freeze this way, start including it as part of your fetch games and tug games, too. You will be able to use this freeze-and-sit skill, taught as part of your games, any time your dog starts to get overexcited both while playing and at other times.

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Behavior and Training · Dogs