Join Date: May 2013
Location: Great White North
Teaching bite inhibition is crucial to your pup's development.
I'm sure there are much smarter folks in here than me and might chime in as well...there probably is an entire section dedicated to teaching bite inhibition in one of the specific forums in here...probably in a puppy's section ???
I can honestly say that the 3 GSDs I have had all ended up having a very gentle set of jaws over a short time period BUT...I wouldn't necessarily recommend my approach to most anyone as I certainly had my fair share of scratches and nip marks left on my hands during the learning phase. However, one item you mentioned is somewhat close to what I did regarding the treats. I have always given my pups treats and food while holding them in my fingertips not in the palm of my hand as many are told to do. My strategy was simple...I told the dog to "take it nice" or "gentle" in your case perhaps and if the pup gingerly took it from my fingertips they received their treat. Anything less than that, I would never let loose of the treat....now did that result in some nicks and minor bites?....of course but I accepted that as part of my strategy ( real bright huh ?) It took a couple weeks until all of them would take a treat in the most gentle of fashion. So far so good, it all makes perfect sense...no snapping for a treat resulted in getting a treat...first time every time.
However....taking treats "nice" was just part of the process as the pups play biting was still unacceptable and required conditioning. I figured I had the word "nice" registered in their brains and hopefully a connection to the use of their jaws. Since I tend to roughhouse a bit with my pups/dogs over the years, I knew I wasn't making it any easier on myself as far as bite inhibition went. This much I did know, their biting was playful as I was most certain if they chose to use the tools they had and the bite pressures they possess, I would have been a bloody mess. With my first GSD as I was going through this phase, I recall either reading or someone telling me the fashion in which the mother disciplines their pups when they nip on them too hard....now this could all be fictional but I was informed that a mother will put their jaws around a pup's muzzle and apply enough pressure to get the idea across that the pup's behavior was unacceptable. So, at first I would take my hand, place it over the top of their muzzle while getting a bit of their jowls and apply pressure so their jowls contacted their own upper teeth and gave them a bit of their own medicine. Now, since I am a bit impatient, I figured why not duplicate what the mother does and decided to use my own jaws on the top of their muzzle until the pup exhibited a bit of discomfort. Well, for me, this has worked for all three of the GSDs I have had. Would I suggest that you do this?....nope because I have no idea who you are and what you are physically capable of. I'm simply saying, I taught my pups bite inhibition in a less than scientific fashion compared to all too many other ways which is much more palatable and less intense than my methods....but I did get the results I desired....never had any of my shepherds bite anyone...ever..even when playing rough with others.
I also remember with my last pup making a fist when she would landshark me and instead of withdrawing it from her jaws I would push it towards her and continuing the engagement until she became uncomfortable with having my fist in her mouth.....but as I would say to my mom....she started it.
I have heard many methods, such as giving the dog a time out when they bite too hard when playing and I'm sure the strategy works but I'm too old school for "time outs".....I wish they had such a thing when I was a kid...what a cakewalk that would have been.
I think overall, what you need to do is commit to a plan which you know you can consistently enforce and stick to and your pooch will come around. The power of the word "NO" or whatever you choose to use has to have exactly that.... "power". At times, as I have watched my wife interact with our GSD pups over the years, I have been amused at how a dog is smart enough to discern who means it and who is bluffing or more importantly hoping. What was cute when they were a couple months old isn't so cute when they are 30 pounds much less 80. I tried telling her that... not once but three times over the decades...perhaps I should have bitten her....LOL.
I am confident, others will give you a much better approach than my ramblings but as I stated.....make your plan and stick to it..no matter what.
Hang in there,