How to Potty Train a German Shepherd Puppy? (Full Steps)

Whether you’ve just brought your new German Shepherd puppy home, or you’ve had your pup for a while now and are still struggling to potty train them, it can be a difficult task. With the right approach and dedication on your part, however, you can have a house-trained German Shepherd in no time!

What You Need to Prepare Before Potty Training Your German Shepherd Puppy

It’s important to make sure that you have everything you need before you begin house training your GSD pup. Here are some things you may want to be sure and have on hand for the potty training process:

  • Collar or harness
  • Leash
  • Puppy pads
  • Crate
  • Tasty treats
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Mops and floor cleaner
  • Plenty of wipes and toilet tissue
  • Lots of patience, a positive attitude, and lots of love!

Potty Training a German Shepherd Puppy – The Basic Training

Getting your German Shepherd puppy house trained is a process that requires patience, dedication on your part, and a positive attitude. With the right approach to house training German Shepherd puppies, however, it can be easier than you think!

1. Build a Potty Training Schedule and Stick to It!

The first thing you’ll want to do to house train a German Shepherd puppy is to set up a potty training routine. In the days before your scheduled potty training sessions, make sure your German Shepherd puppy has plenty to eat and drink, gets regular exercise, and has lots of playtimes outdoors. After you’ve set a schedule for toilet training, stick to it as closely as possible!

There are two parts of the schedule for potty training young puppies:

Part 1: Create a Regular Potty Schedule

To make sure that they don’t have an accident inside, try taking them outside immediately in the morning, after each meal, and a couple more times throughout the day. Each time you take your puppy out, repeat the following steps:

  • Bring them to an area where they can do their business on grass or another surface that is natural for them for a potty break.
  • Walk them to their potty zone on a leash. This will be helpful as someday you’ll probably want your dog to potty on walks.
  • Give a command to let them know that you expect them to “go potty” now, such as “go pee/potty,” and then praise your German Shepherd puppy when they do just that.
  • When they’re done with their business outside, be sure to reward them. With some puppies, it’s recommended that you take

Part 2: Create a Regular Feeding Schedule

Another important part of house training is to make sure that your German Shepherd puppy eats at regular times each day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner should be fed at the same times every day. This will help you to keep track of when your dog should be going to the bathroom.

After each time you feed your German Shepherd puppy, take them outside right away (before they start eating their food). This will help to reinforce that going potty is something that should only be done outdoors.

During the night, a good rule of thumb is that your GSD puppy should have dinner within three hours before they go to bed each night. This will give them enough time to digest the food before they go to bed so that they do not have an accident during the night. If they do their business inside after this time, call them out right away so that you can take them outside to do their business and then clean up the mess.

When creating a schedule for feeding and potty breaks throughout the day, you may notice that there are times when it’s inconvenient for you to get your puppy outside. For example, if you live in an apartment complex or condo, it may not be easy for you to bring them outside late at night or early in the morning when most of their potty breaks would need to occur. In these cases, you can train your German Shepherd puppy using a crate instead.

2. Choose a Potty Zone

To help make sure that your German Shepherd puppy ends up eliminating outside, you can begin by teaching them where their potty zone is.

When they first wake up in the morning and after each meal, take them to their potty zone. If your German Shepherd puppy does not go potty immediately when you arrive at their potty zone, you will want to bring them back inside after about ten minutes. Take them outside again in another 20 to 30 minutes, and continue doing this until they go potty. It may be a good idea to bring along a treat or special toy with you for these trips so that your puppy will be more likely to eliminate it in their potty zone.

If your puppy does end up going potty in the right place, reward them with lots of praise!

3. Teach Your Puppy a Word or Phrase to Go Potty

One way to make it easy for you and your puppy to communicate when they need to go potty is by teaching them a word or phrase such as “go potty” or “hurry up.” Pick one word or phrase and stick with it.

When you take your puppy out to potty, wait until they are about 10 seconds away from going potty and then let them know that they need to go right now by saying their word or phrase loudly and firmly. At the same time, use a hand gesture like a clap or tap on the ground to get their attention. This will help them to know that it’s time to go potty right away.

4. Teach Your Puppy How to Tell You When They Need To Go Potty

A great way to help make sure that you always know when your puppy needs to go potty is by teaching them how to use a bell.

To teach your German Shepherd puppy how to use a bell, first, you will need to get a potty bell and hang it on the door. Each time you bring them to their potty outside, have them follow you directly to the bell. When they get to the bell, ring it yourself and then take them out to go potty right away. Eventually, this will teach them that ringing the bell means that it’s time to go potty.

Signs That Your Puppy Needs to Eliminate

Whining, circling/licking the paws, barking, constant sniffing, and pacing are all signs that your puppy needs to go potty. By watching for these signs, you will be able to detect when your puppy is about to have an accident and can take them outside quickly.

5. Praise Immediately When Your Puppy Eliminates In the Right Place

After your German Shepherd puppy eliminates in the right place, you will want to reward them immediately so that they know what they did was correct. When your puppy goes potty correctly, let them know with a phrase like “good job!” or “yes.” You can also encourage them verbally by saying things like “that’s right” or “you’re such a good boy.”

If you are training your puppy using a bell, be sure to ring it and then reward them immediately so that the association between ringing the bell and getting rewarded is strong.

6. Limit Accidents When You Aren’t At Home

What should you do when you aren’t there to hear or see your pup’s calls for potty? With a new pup, it is likely that you will not have much luck with potty training if you can’t be around to supervise them 24 hours a day.

The first thing to do when you go outside or run an errand is to take your puppy in a crate immediately, so they don’t accidentally eliminate in the wrong place. This process is called crate training, and we will learn all about it in the next section.

It may also help to confine your puppy so that they only have access to certain areas in the house when they are left alone. You can use baby gates or other obstacles to restrict your puppy to one room, for example.

7. Dealing with accidents

Keep in mind that even a fully potty trained puppy will have accidents every now and again. The important thing is not to get discouraged by this!

When you come home and find your puppy’s accident, the first thing that you’ll want to do is interrupt them with sharp, loud noises like clapping your hands or tapping with a spoon. Then go with them to their potty area so they can finish going potty in the right place.

If your puppy didn’t go potty at the time of the accident, then pick a special word or phrase to use only for this occasion. Praise and reward them after they finish in their potty spot, and clean the accident area using an enzyme cleaner. Don’t use a regular cleaning product because it won’t take away the smell of the accident.

How to Potty Train Your Puppy on Puppy Pads

If for whatever reason, you’re unable to take your dog outside frequently, you can teach them to use a puppy pad instead.

Before we begin, there are two important rules to keep in mind. Firstly, make sure that the pad is placed somewhere with easy to clean floors, for instance, the bathroom. Secondly, make sure that you place more pads down than you think your puppy needs. This is because puppies have a poor aim and often miss the pad entirely.

Here are some steps for training your dog to use a potty pad:

  1. Set up the pads. Place the pads where you want your puppy to go in an area that’s easy to clean. When possible, use a hard surface floor, for example, tiles or hardwood.
  2. Introduce your puppy to the potty pads. Take your puppy to the spot you want them to use and have them sniff around.
  3. Introduce command words. While your puppy is sniffing around, repeat the command words that you’re going to use each time they need to relieve themselves.
  4. Reward your pup or give them positive reinforcement. After your puppy has done their business, praise them and offer them a treat as a reward.
  5. Repeat the process. While training, visit the designated room often. Ideally, 10 minutes after every meal works well, as well as right before bed. Each time you visit the room, repeats the steps above.
  6. Monitor the process. Watch your puppy closely as they go. German Shepherd pups often miss the pad entirely and potty on the floor. When this happens, interfere and redirect them to the pad.
  7. Reduce the pee pads. Once your puppy has fully grasped the concept of relieving themselves on the pads, reduce the number of pads you’re using so the pads don’t cover the entire floor.

Using a Crate to House Train a German Shepherd Puppy

Coupling house training with a crate is probably the most effective way to get your puppy onto a schedule. A crate is useful as it will allow you to watch for signs of when your puppy needs to relieve themselves. Moreover, it also helps to prevent your pup from having accidents around the house, especially when you can’t watch them every second of the day.

If you use it correctly, your pup will learn that doing their business in their crate is not an option and that they have to hold it until you can take them out. House training shouldn’t be done using the crate to punish your puppy; however, it should be used as a safe space for puppies that need an area to stay in while you’re not around.

Here are some steps for potty crate training your puppy:

  1. If you’re going to potty train your German Shepherd using a crate, the first thing you’ll need to do is purchase one that’s big enough for your dog to stay inside with their legs stretched out comfortably.
  2. Get your puppy used to their crate. Once you’ve purchased a crate and have brought it home, place your puppy shortly inside to get them used to the confinement. Let them walk around, explore, and sniff about so that they can become comfortable with their new space.
  3. Start feeding your puppy their meals inside their new home. Once your puppy is comfortable with their new space, begin feeding them inside the crate. Start by placing their bowl closer to the cage entrance so that they can get at it without having to enter the interior. Then, begin closing the door immediately just while they’re eating.
  4. Within 10 to 15 minutes after eating their meal, you should try to take your puppy out to relieve themselves.
  5. Start leaving your puppy in the crate with the door open longer and longer. Each time you do this, give your pup something to chew on, such as a Kong. This way, your puppy won’t be frustrated by being alone or having nothing to do while you’re not around.
  6. Use a verbal cue. Once your puppy has learned how to get inside their crate but is still unsure of its purpose, use a verbal cue, for example, “kennel” or “crate,” when you place them in their home. Repeat the word until it becomes associated with entering the crate.
  7. When your pup goes inside, praise them for doing so and provide a treat every time they do as you’ve asked so that they can associate good feelings with going into the crate.
  8. Make it an overnight stay. Once your puppy has gotten accustomed to the crate, you can begin asking them to stay inside for longer periods of time. You can try leaving them alone in the crate overnight after doing their business, right before bed.

Once your pup has viewed the crate as their living space, they’ll be far less likely to have an accident. As den animals, dogs have a natural instinct to not soil their “nest.”

However, this doesn’t mean you can leave your dog in the crate for long periods of time and expect not to have an accident. Therefore, it’s advised that if you’re going to leave your pup in the crate for longer periods of time, you should ask someone to come by and give them a break in the middle of the day.

What Age Should a German Shepherd be Potty Trained?

German shepherd puppies should be house trained at around 12 to 16 weeks of age. This is a good age because their bladders are big enough to hold in the greater part of their pee, and they’re also mentally ready to learn potty training.

How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a German Shepherd Puppy?

There is no definite answer to how long it’ll take to potty train a German Shepherd puppy. This will be different for each dog, and thus there is no way to tell exactly how long it will take.  It can take as little as a few weeks or as long as a year.  Ultimately, it depends on the training method you use, how much time you can dedicate to training, how soon you start the training, and your pup’s history or previous experiences.

That said, if you feel like you’re not making progress after trying out several methods and training techniques, then it is best to consult with your vet or animal behaviorist.

Do’s and Don’ts in Potty Training Your Puppy

  • Do: have a designated potty area.
  • Do: use a crate.
  • Do: use a command word.
  • Do: stick to a Regular Schedule
  • Do: watch the signals that they’re ready to go potty
  • Do: stay outside longer if necessary to curb accidents.
  • Do: clean accidents up with an enzyme-based cleaner.
  • Do: praise them when they go in the right place.
  • Don’t: use an ammonia-based cleaner as it won’t minimize the odor.
  • Don’t: have a routine that changes randomly, as this can confuse your puppy and make the training process take longer.
  • Don’t: use punishment as part of potty training.

Related Question

Can Adult Dogs Be Potty Trained?

Adult dogs can learn toilet training, but generally, it will take longer for adult GSDs who have never been house trained before to become trained than it would with a puppy because they haven’t developed the same habits yet.  What’s important is that you find a method that works well with your dog.

Many of the training styles that you can use with puppies can be used with adult GSDs, but you have to be patient and persistent.  The important thing is to keep training positive and not get frustrated if your adult German Shepherd doesn’t learn quickly or pick up on something right away.

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