German Shepherd Bite
General

German Shepherd Bite Information

German Shepherds make great family pets. Their big soft cuddly appearance, perky ears, supreme intelligence and easy train-ability make them extremely popular. Originally herding dogs, their versatility and ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously make them top choices on the work force of several occupations. However they sometimes have a reputation of being aggressive and they can be under certain circumstances. The German Shepherd bite is extremely strong and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of their powerful jaws.

German Shepherd Bite Force

There is a reason that Police Departments and the Military make the German Shepherd one of their top choices for chasing suspects or apprehending criminals. Their athleticism combined with smarts and a powerful bite make it hard for any suspect to get away.

In many cases they are attack-trained to stop a criminal by latching on to their arm with their big strong jaws. They will normally hold the criminal and not let go until the police officer arrives on the scene. They are able to do this because they bite down with an impressive amount of force.

A German Shepherd bite force is 238 psi or pounds per square inch.

While this is an impressive amount of force, there are several other canines that have a much stronger bite. This is partially due to the fact that for the most part, a bigger dog means a stronger bite.

Kangal Shepherd Dog

The Strongest Canine Bite

Topping that list, is the Kangal Shepherd Dog which has a bite that can apply a whopping 743 pounds of pressure per square inch. You definitely don’t want to get stuck in the jaws of this amazingly powerful breed.

And of course when we compare the dog to all of the animals in the world, some will dwarf the German Shepherd’s bite.

Here is a chart comparing dogs, humans and other animals:

LifeformBite Force
Human126 psi
Doberman Pinscher228 psi
German Shepherd238 psi
Rottweiler328 psi
Wolfdog406 psi
English Mastiff552 psi
Lion650 psi
Kangal Shepherd743 psi
Spotted Hyena1,100 psi
Gorilla1,300 psi
Crocodile3,700 psi
Great White Shark4,000 psi
Animal bite measurements courtesy of FieldandStream.com
Dog bite measurements courtesy of MyPetNeedsThat.com

Bite force is measured using an instrument called a gnathodynamometer. Animals can be measured with this method by biting down onto sheets of hard plastic. The depth of the bite reveals the amount of force.

The bite force of a German Shepherd is enough to brake a human bone. Some smaller bones in the body can brake with as little as 25 pounds of pressure. This is of course dependent on the age and strength of the bone. Technically a German Shepherd bite could provide enough force to brake a leg bone.

As a rough estimate, it would take 218 pounds of pressure to produce a tibial fracture in a healthy adult using a hammer.

Slate.com Article – What’s the best way to brake your own leg

Does a German Shepherd Bite hurt?

A German Shepherd bite can definitely hurt but it depends on the circumstances as well as the age and size of the dog. Puppies are notorious for nipping at their owners and spend a good portion of their childhood exploring the world with their mouth.

Hand Bitten From Puppy

Tips for avoiding a bite:

  1. Never approach a strange dog, especially one with puppies
  2. Don’t poke, prod, tease or make the dog angry
  3. Always supervise children around dogs, especially babies
  4. Do not feed or pet a strange dog
  5. Wake up a sleeping dog with your voice and not by touch

For a complete list of do’s and don’ts along with tips for what to do following an attack, check out: avoiding dog bites.

German Shepherd Bite Severity

There are many different levels of severity when it comes to getting bit by a German Shepherd. Dr. Ian Dunbar developed a scale for determining how bad a bite is and what the prognosis is for treating the wound.

Bite LevelDescriptionPrognosis
Level 1Teeth do not make contact with skinGreat, normal behavior
Level 2Teeth contact skin but no puncture woundsGreat, normal behavior
Level 31-4 puncture wounds none deeper than 1/2 length of canine teeth, deep bruisingFair to good, Intense bite-inhibition is necessary
Level 41-4 puncture wounds one deeper than 1/2 length of canine teeth, deep bruisingInsufficient, dog is dangerous
Level 5Multiple bites with a minimum 2 level 4 bites or multiple attacks with 1 level 4 biteNot safe, dog is extremely dangerous, Euthanasia recommended
Level 6Attack ends in deathNote safe, dog is extremely dangerous, Euthanasia recommended

Ninety nine percent of dog incidents fall into the level 1 or level 2 category. This is a dog just being himself, playful and not representing any danger or threat.

Why does a German Shepherd bite?

Stray Dog Neglected

A German Shepherd will bite due to several different factors. Most of these factors are going to be similar to other dog breeds. Many dogs under the right circumstances will bite. Here are some of the more common reasons.

Abuse or Neglect:

When a dog is abused or neglected as a young puppy, it can lead to all different destructive types of behavior later on. Hitting or kicking a dog will only instill fear and aggression. This can manifest into possible attacks or biting people if not handled properly.

In a 2013 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association, 256 fatal dog bite cases were studied. They found that in 21.1% of the cases, the owner had abused or neglected the dog. That means one in five of those cases could have been prevented if the dogs were treated humanely and not left on their own.

Failure to Neuter or Spay:

Dogs that aren’t neutered or spayed at the appropriate age are much more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior and bite or attack humans. In male dogs, this procedure decreases their testosterone levels making them more affectionate and less likely to fight other dogs or people. It helps reduce aggression in female dogs as well.

Neutering or spaying your dog also has several other added benefits. One of the greatest benefits is an increased life expectancy. This is because they are much less likely to wander off in search of mates. This means less fighting and less injuries.

Other benefits include a reduced risk of getting certain reproductive cancers, testicular cancer and prostate cancer. A good time frame for neutering or spaying dogs is 12-15 months for males and 5 months for females.

Gripping Sheep:

Back when German Shepherds were used for herding sheep, they would patrol the outer edges of crop fields. This was to make sure that any stray sheep didn’t escape. The dogs were not allowed to enter the sheep’s domain but kept watch.

When a sheep decided to wander outside of their sanctuary, the dogs were instructed to grab the sheep with their bite. This was only allowed on the neck or body where plenty of wool was present, to avoid any injuries to the head or legs.

Fear or Stress:

A dog that is in extreme fear or under a lot of stress is definitely more prone to act out or bite someone. It could be a protection mechanism if they are feeling threatened by another animal or people.

German Shepherds can be more aloof than other dog breeds causing them to be more weary around strangers. For this reason keeping your dog on a leash at all times around other people is critical and may help avoid any unwanted confrontations that can lead to a bite or worse.

High Prey Drive:

GSD’s were originally bred to herd and protect flocks of sheep. If they sensed an intruder encroaching on their flock, they would spring into action. This would result in a foot chase normally ending bad for the trespasser.

This high prey drive is a natural instinct for the German Shepherd. Once this prey drive kicks in, it is very hard for the GSD to stop until the threat is completely stopped. They would usually bite the opposing animal inflicting damage.

Improper Training:

All dogs, especially German Shepherds, need to have proper training starting when they are young puppies. This training is critical at an early age to avoid destructive behaviors and even biting or attacking when they grow up.

Socialization is the best way to prepare a young dog for a healthy and safe future with their owner and family. An excellent rule of thumb, advised by Dr. Ian Dunbar, is to try and make sure that your German Shepherd has been around 100 different people before they reach 12 weeks old.

When buying a new dog from a breeder, it is very important to make sure that the new puppy has had adequate socialization training to decrease the amount of nipping and biting later on as an adult.

Teething Stage:

For young German puppies, it is normal for them to nip and bite pretty much anything around them including people and other animals. This is part of their curiosity and instinctual nature to want to explore. This teething stage usually begins at around 4 weeks and continues up until they are around 6 months.

During this period, their baby teeth are being replaced by adult teeth. This process drives them to nip and bite whatever they can. However their biting is harmless and a natural part of their growing up.

How to Prevent a German Shepherd Bite?

German Shepherd Puppy Biting

There are some very important things that young puppies should be taught starting at a young age to hopefully prevent any future bite incidences.

Note: Positive reward-based training methods are important for the best results.

Bite Inhibition:

Bite inhibition early on is one of the best ways to steer clear of any potential bite accidents. Ideally you want to teach your new pup to not bite other animals or people. The way to accomplish this is by teaching them how to be gentle when they play and if they do bite to only use a small amount of pressure.

Playing with other pups usually teaches them the correct way to play without hurting their playmates. When a puppy gets a little too rough and bites down on their friend, the other dog lets them know by letting out a squeal. This is one way that they learn to control their aggressiveness.

Tips for Training:

  1. Socialization is key: Make sure they spend plenty of time around other pups and people.
  2. Let your puppy mouth your hands: Play until he bites hard, then yelp to let him know he bit too hard.
  3. Reward them with praise or treat: Let him know he did a good job when he doesn’t bite hard.
  4. Substitute toys: Give him a chew toy when he tries to bite your hand or fingers.
  5. Time out: Put your puppy in time out when he bites too hard.
  6. Be patient: Training takes time and nipping and biting is normal for a young puppy.
  7. Play games: PetHelpful has some great games to train puppies bite inhibition.

Be consistent with your training and if you need help, find a local trainer.

In Closing

The German Shepherd bite is strong and powerful. It can do damage and even brake smaller bones during an attack. To avoid this, proper bite inhibition and socialization training is highly recommended.

However most of the time dog bites only cause minimal injuries. Although bites are fairly common, only one out of every two and a half million dogs causes a fatality. This means that you have a very slim chance of getting seriously injured by our canine friends.

Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

Have you ever been bitten by a German Shepherd? If so tell us your story! We would love to hear about your experience and what led to the event! Also if you have any new tips for preventing them from biting.

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