Bringing home your German Shepherd puppy for the first time is an exciting experience, but it will come with a lot of challenges… some of which new owners are never truly prepared for!
A huge part of adapting your puppy to domesticated life will be the toilet and potty training. You’ll need to teach them to distinguish when and where is appropriate to go to the bathroom. But be aware that all puppies are different, so it could take more time to housebreak and train than you expect.
You will need lots of patience, positivity and preparation, and there will definitely be bumps along the way. It’s important to not get disheartened at the first hurdle. Just keep persevering with your new friend and soon they’ll be fully toilet trained and one step closer to feeling at home with you.
How to potty train a German Shepherd puppy
As dog owners ourselves, I remember saying to my wife that having a puppy was like having a baby all over again – it really is that challenging, and you need to adopt a strict potty-training routine – here’s how we did it.
What you will need:
You won’t need much in the way of gear if you want to house train a German Shepherd…
1. Build a potty-training routine
When you first start house training your German Shepherd puppy, you should aim to build a routine around their toileting needs.
Luckily, their bladders and bowels are fairly predictable, as they are determined by not only their sleeping pattern, but also what they eat and drink.
- You should always take your puppy out to the toilet first thing as soon as they wake up – and this goes for whenever they wake up from naps too!
- As well as taking them out first thing in the morning, you should also take them out last thing at night or before you are going to leave them alone for an extended period of time: this is to prevent any accidents overnight or whilst you are gone!
- On top of this, you should also aim to take your puppy out to the toilet every thirty minutes to an hour. If they’re new to training, it is best to start off taking them out every half-hour before building up to a whole hour.
We actually started up a diary of what our puppy had eaten and and how often and what times he tended to urinate and defecate. This really helped us to adapt our routine in accordance with our puppy’s habits.
2. Diet control
As mentioned, food and drink are a huge indication as to when you should take your German Shepherd puppy out for potty breaks, with mealtimes integrating into a puppy’s toileting routine alongside the guidelines set out above.
All puppies have immature diet systems, which means that each meal tends to stimulate their digestive system faster than it would in adult dogs. Generally, puppies need to urinate within fifteen minutes of eating and then do a poop within half an hour of eating.
The nature of a puppy’s digestive system also means that they can handle less food at once, so it is best to give them three smaller meals three times a day rather than two bigger ones twice a day. Once your dog has finished eating, take away the food bowl until the next scheduled mealtime. This will prevent your puppy from overindulging.
You should also ensure that the food you give your puppy is of the higher possible quality – this means avoiding dog food with artificial colours and preservatives and ensuring that real meat is the primary ingredient.
3. Confinement and consistency
When your German Shepherd puppy is in the early stages of potty training, it is good to confine to a small area such as a room, a crate or via a lead until you are confident that they can roam the house freely without accidents.
Furthermore, consistency goes hand-in-hand with confinement, and it involves introducing your dogs to select areas to toilet in so that, over time, they will learn to associate going to the toilet with that area of the house or outside.
A good way to ease your dog into this component of toilet training is via puppy pad training or crate training.
4. Puppy pad training
Puppy-pad training is good to introduce the idea of your dog going to the toilet in a select area, but isn’t useful as a long-term solution. You don’t really want your German Shepherd puppy going to the bathroom indoors rather than outdoors.
Essentially, the purpose of the puppy pad is not only to reduce mess, but also to get your puppy used to the idea of doing their business in an approved, select area indoors (an area that is easy to clean up!).
Overtime, your puppy will learn to associate the pad itself with areas where it is okay to toilet, and at this stage it is good to move the mad outside to help them adapt.
You can buy puppy pads on Amazon. Here are the ones we used which also have very good Amazon reviews.
5. Crate training
Crates are an effective and approved way of toilet training your German Shepherd puppy at the beginning. It helps to avoid mess, helps you keep a closer eye for signs he needs to go and, most crucially, teaches the pup to hold it until they are let outside to go toilet.
Make sure the crate is large enough for the puppy to stand, turn around and lie down but not large enough for them to defecate and urinate in.
You can find a suitably-sized crate on Amazon which work well with the German Shepherd breed.
6. Learn to pick up on the signs
To avoid accidents in the home, it is good to learn to recognise signs that your German Shepherd needs the toilet. Commons signs include:
- Sniffing the floor.
- Circling around the room.
- Looking restless and anxious.
- Going into an area they have previously toileted in.
If your puppy shows any of these signs, take them out to your chosen toileting spot immediately.
However, if accidents do happen, it is best to stay calm and not get angry at your puppy, as this will just make them fearful and cause them stress, which will actually result in more random accidents.
7. Use a phrase they will learn to understand
One of the most important aspects that goes a long with in potty training your German Shepherd puppy to use a phrase they learn to identify with.
With our own puppy, we would say “go pee pee” as soon as we had taken him outdoors or to his puppy pad. By doing so, he would learn to identify the phrase and location with the action.
After using this tactic long enough, whenever you say the magic words of “go pee pee,” your puppy will immediately know what they need to do.
8. Reward the puppy for a good job
When your German Shepherd puppy has finished his pee or poop in the right place, you should give them a reward or positive reinforcement with praise.
By rewarding good behavior you will start a pattern of success which can lead to far faster house breaking and training.
9. Never scold them
Accidents are going to happen a lot, and whilst this can be frustrating, never shout at or scold the puppy.
I remember countless times where I would have just cleaned a pee up from the kitchen floor, only for our puppy to crouch and pee again just seconds later.
Hold your tongue, and don’t react negatively because this can lead to anxiety and fear which will only make them pee or poop more when they aren’t meant to.
When should I start potty training my German Shepherd puppy?
It is generally recommended to start house training your German Shepherd puppy once they are between 12 weeks and 16 weeks old.
This is a good age to start because whilst it means that your puppy is still young enough to learn life-long skills and have their behavior moulded, at this stage your puppy should have enough control over their bladder and bowels to hold it when necessary – making the potty training process easier for them, and cleaner for you!
How long does it take to potty train a German Shepherd puppy?
I won’t sugar coat this at all; it could between 4 and 6 months for your puppy to get fully house trained. There are other factors which come into play though, such as individual temperament and environmental factors.
However, it’s not unheard of for it taking up to a year until a German Shepherd puppy is properly potty trained.
For example, you bring your German Shepherd puppy home once it’s over twelve weeks old, it might be the case that it hasn’t been housetrained by their previous owners, and certain behaviours they’ve picked up need to be unlearned.
Be prepared for accidents, but above all, have some wipes and tissue paper on hand all the time as you will get through a lot of this stuff!
Now you know how we advise you housebreak a German Shepherd puppy, I would love to know how you got on. Get in touch via social media and leave a comment.
Similarly, if you have better ideas on how to potty train a German Shepherd puppy, please share those in the community too.
The bottom line is this; do not underestimate to the work that goes into taking care of a new puppy. They’ll need to learn everything – from where to eat, going for walks and how to interact with people – by scratch, so you need to be prepared to put the work in so as to ensure that this incredibly formative period in your puppy’s life is successful.
Toilet training your puppy might feel a bit difficult at times, but with the right attitude, attentiveness and patience, they will learn this life-long skill.
However, if you have any concerns about their ability to toilet train, always contact a vet or a professional trainer. As unlikely as this is, there are some German Shepherds who will need expert help.
You might also like…
Here are some more German Shepherd guides I’ve written in recent months.
- How you know your GSD is a happy dog
- How often and how to bathe or shower a German Shepherd
- The teething stages in a GSD puppy
- Here’s why the police like to use German Shepherd for crime fighting
Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/puppy-german-shepherd-animals-dog-953400/