Knowing how to effectively potty train your German Shepherd puppy is the best remedy against feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility a new pup can bring into your life. Although it isn’t always easy, and mistakes will happen, the key is consistency, a positive attitude, and a strict routine.
What you will need:
Are German shepherds hard to potty train?
Potty training should not be hard for your German Shepherd puppy to learn, nor should it be stressful, although it may take time. However, there are individual differences within any breed, with some puppies learning faster than others.
How do I stop my German Shepherd puppy from peeing in the house?
To stop your German Shepherd puppy from peeing in the house, you need a positive attitude, a strict routine of “potty runs” outside, and to have your puppy accustomed to both the crate and the leash.
What sometimes throws a wrench in the works is not your GSD’s intelligence or stubbornness, but rather that they can be single event learners. This means that a negative experience during the wrong stage of their development can lead to them learning entirely the wrong lesson all together.
For example, a puppy going through a natural fear period, might have one bad experience which could set the whole process back by days or even weeks.
This is not the end of the world. Patience and routine can heal all.
How to Begin Potty Training?
The first thing to do is block your puppy from any part of the house it doesn’t need to be in. This means bathrooms, guest bedrooms, pantries, or any other room that it might see as a quiet alternative to going outside.
Secondly, introduce your puppy to the crate. Many will suggest buying a crate that will accommodate your pup when it’s an adult, but this can be a mistake. In a big enough crate, some puppies learn to eliminate in one corner and sleep in the other.
Consider hiring a pet sitter if there is no one around during the day to see that your puppy sticks to the routine.
How do I know if my German Shepherd is potty trained?
Most dogs do not have full bladder control until they are six months old. This means that even if your puppy does learn to hold it, accidents may still happen if it is left inside too long.
What happens when you don’t train your pup early?
Not potty training early can extend the process and make things harder. As the puppy grows, the mess and smells will increase. It is also harder to break an existing habit than prevent one from starting in the first place.
How long on average does it take to potty train a puppy?
If everything goes according to plan, your German Shepherd can be potty trained within five days.
However, that does not mean your pup will be able to be locked indoors for eight hours while you go to work and not make a mess. It will still be six months before your new family member has full bladder control, so sticking to a routine, even after your puppy understands that “going” inside the house is off-limits, is vital.
Tips to Potty Train Your German Shepherd Better and Faster
Work with Nature
To potty train effectively, it’s essential to understand your German Shepherd puppy’s mind and body. A general rule of thumb is that for every month in your puppy’s age, an hour can be added to how long it can be expected to hold its bladder.
Therefore, a two-month-old puppy needs to go out every two hours. A three-month-old can hold for three, and so on.
German Shepherds also often have a high play drive and might completely forget that they need to potty when they want to play instead.
There are few things more frustrating than playing outside with your puppy for an hour, only to have them calm down enough to relieve themselves the moment they come indoors.
Have a complimentary diet
An upset stomach is one of the most common setbacks in housetraining.
In particular, puppies are vulnerable to garbage gut because they tend to eat anything smelly or exciting. This is another reason to make use of a crate.
A German Shepherd puppy’s meals should be specially formulated to support its cartilage and growing bones, promote digestive health, and keep the bowel movements regular and firm.
Excellent digestive health is not only good for your puppy, but it makes it much easier to stick to your routine.
Use a specific door
By now, you might be noticing a theme of consistency and routine emerging. Taking your puppy out through the same door helps condition and imprint the housetraining process on your dog and will also serve you later when your dog learns to always ask to go outside at the same door.
Leash and lead
The leash or lead is a further way of conditioning your puppy. They have short attention spans and can easily be distracted and wander off while you’re trying to take them outside. The lead ensures that you can keep them close and make sure they always go to the specific spotty to potty. Do some research on the best collar for German Shephards, as there are some breed specific requirements.
Reward with a treat
Once your pup is actively relieving themselves in the right spot, be sure to give a command such as “go potty” so they connect the command to the action. Then give a treat or some playtime to reward the correct behavior.
Guide your dog back inside
A potty run needs to be conditioned as a potty run. While praise, playtime, and treats should be used to make it a positive experience, your pup must learn to stay focused on the task at hand. Once you’ve rewarded good behavior, they should be led kindly but firmly back indoors.
Never scold or punish
The old notions of punishment or “rubbing the dog’s nose in it” are outdated and do not work. Creating a negative experience for your dog is more likely to cause sneaky behavior such as peeing and pooping secretly out of fear that you will reprimand them if caught.
If you catch them in the act, simply say “outside” and lead them outside.
Make sure you check on your puppy at least twice throughout the night
Set an alarm clock and check if your puppy is awake and restless at least twice a night. This is your cue to take the pup outside.
If the crate is near your bed and you are a light sleeper, you will likely wake when you hear rustling or whimpering.
Stick to a routine
A rigid routine is the quickest and smoothest route to a house-trained puppy. Be sure to take the puppy outside as soon as it wakes up in the morning, as well as after a nap, after playtime, and after meals.
Until they are at least twelve weeks old, they should be taken out a minimum every two hours during the day.
As with all dog training, positive reinforcement works best. Make sure to praise and reward within three seconds of your puppy going potty to make a positive association.
Don’t let your pup out of the crate until it knows the rules
A crate is supposed to be a safe space that mimics the feeling of a den and teaches your pup to control its bladder and bowels to avoid soiling its sleeping and eating area.
While your German Shepherd is learning that the entire house is out of bounds for elimination, the crate is a useful tool to avoid accidents. Once this has been achieved, you can gradually allow your puppy more free rein indoors.
Pee Pads are not helpful
Despite the marketing, products like pee pads are not advisable for German Shepherds. They simply create an extra step in which the dog learns to eliminate inside, which means more work later transitioning your dog only to go outside again.
How to potty train in winter
Winter poses a unique challenge to potty training. Not only is your puppy likely to be miserable standing outside at 02.00 a.m., but you’re not exactly going to be thrilled about it either.
Unfortunately, there’s no way around it. Keep a warm jacket and slippers beside your bed to bundle up for the potty runs, with treats or a favorite toy in a pocket so that it is still a positive experience for your pup.
In extreme conditions, consider setting up a construction outside to protect you both from the weather.
Realize Mistakes Happen
Just like no one will ever be a perfect parent to their human baby, no one is ever the perfect owner to a German Shepherd.
While potty training should be consistent, and you may need to resign yourself to some sleep deprivation, there is such a thing as taking it too seriously and putting too much pressure on yourself to be the ideal dog owner.
If and when your pup does have an accident, clean it up with odor-neutralizing products and simply go back to your routine.
Recognize Underlying Causes Of Accidents
Suppose your puppy was doing well in their training and suddenly regresses for no apparent reason. In that case, it might be a sign that your dog is experiencing a health issue such as a urinary tract infection, a hormonal problem, or it may be responding to stress or anxiety.
In this case, it may be time to visit your vet to check for health problems or a behaviorist if the vet finds nothing physically wrong.
Potty training a German Shepherd puppy can seem like a daunting and relentless task. While it is challenging, afterward you get to sit back and enjoy your adorable new family member. If you had any struggles or experiences housetraining a German Shepherd, drop us a comment below. We would love to hear from you.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.