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Puppy accidents are inevitable and can also be the most frustrating part of welcoming a new dog into your household. However, with a little bit of patience and the commitment to establishing a routine, you should get your GSD puppy potty trained in no time.
This article will dive into how to potty train a German Shepherd puppy as well as give you step-by-step instructions and tips for success.
When Should You Start Potty Training A German Shepherd Puppy?
German Shepherds become aware of their ability to control their bodily functions at around 3 weeks old. However, it is best to start potty training as soon as you bring your puppy home, usually, this is around 8 weeks of age.
If you bring your puppy home a little earlier, like a 6 or 7 weeks old, you should still start potty training immediately, just know that your pup won’t be able to hold their bladder long at that age.
As a general rule, puppies can hold their pee for a maximum of one hour for every month they’ve been alive. So, a 2-month old can hold their pee for about 2 hours.
To avoid accidents, take them for potty breaks once every hour. That’s something you need to do throughout the day, including sleeping hours.
Don’t worry! This stage doesn’t last long and you can add another hour for every month they age. Soon enough, they’ll be sleeping through the night without waking you up every few hours.
Are All Adult German Shepherds Potty Trained?
No, not all adult German Shepherds are potty trained. Just because dogs are all grown up, doesn’t mean they know how to eliminate themselves the way you expect them to. It all depends on what they’ve been trained to do and what they’ve gotten used to.
If you’re welcoming a new adult German Shepherd into your home, there’s a chance you’ll still need to potty train them. At the very least, you’ll need to get them used to your own home and your own rules.
Nevertheless, the general process of training an adult is pretty much the same as potty training a puppy.
Step-by-Step Potty Training Guide
Although learning how to potty train a German Shepherd puppy requires commitment and determination, the process really isn’t that complicated. The key is in setting your rules and establishing a routine from the beginning.
Here’s a step-by-step guide that will get your puppy housebroken in no time:
Step 1: Decide on a potty area
Choose an area that’s not only easily accessible from your home but also easy to keep clean. Ideally, choose a relatively quiet place. It’s ideal for your dog not to have any distractions so they can quickly do what they’ve been brought there to do.
German Shepherds, like many other dog breeds, are creatures of habit. Having a designated potty area and using it consistently is key to making this process work smoothly.
When dogs eliminate, their urine and feces leave behind a unique scent. Even after picking up and cleaning up after them, they’re still able to pick up that scent. Smelling it will signal to their brains that it is, indeed, time to go potty.
Step 2: Establish a schedule
Just like having a consistent potty area, sticking to a regular schedule is essential. The bladder and bowel movements of dogs are generally reliable, so it’s easy to predict when they need to go.
Take very young puppies to their designated potty area every hour. As they age and as they become familiar with the routine, you can lengthen the time between their potty breaks.
Increase by 1 hour at a time—generally 1 hour per month of age—until they’re old enough to be able to hold themselves for up to 8 hours a day.
Step 3: Associate a command
Linking a command to your puppy’s potty habits will eventually enable them to eliminate on command. Start by choosing a command and sticking with it. Some say “go potty” while many working dogs are taught to “empty.”
The exact word isn’t important, so use what you prefer as long as you use the same one consistently. You can’t say “expelliarmus” now and decide it’s too embarrassing to say next week.
When your pup gets to their potty spot, say your chosen command. Then say your command again and praise your pup as soon as your pup has successfully eliminated.
Eventually, you’ll want to try to predict the moment right before they squat for a poop to give the command, so they are hearing the command right before they go. You can usually tell this by their body language.
Once you get to this point, you’ll have successfully associated the command with the act. Keep doing that until you can just give the command and your pup knows to squat and poop. This won’t take as long as you might think if you are consistent.
Step 4: Reinforce positive potty behavior
Whenever your GSD pup potties successfully, give them a good time! Say something like “good potty” and get very excited!
Reward them especially when they potty on command. Make sure you give them lots of praises and maybe a good head scratch.
Depending on what motivates them, reward them with food or play. Just make sure you get the timing right—as soon as they move away from their poop squat—so they understand exactly what they’re being rewarded for.
Step 5: Give it time and patience
Following these steps will give you the best chance of success, but expect it to take some time.
Don’t rush into increasing the time between potty breaks to keep accidents at a minimum. Nevertheless, accidents are inevitable sometimes and all you can do is be patient with them and carry on and make sure you clean up your puppy’s accidents thoroughly.
The good news is that you only need to endure this once in your GSD puppy’s life. Once they get it, it’s unlikely that they’ll regress. So, persevere and trust that it’ll all pay off soon.
Top Tips for Potty Training Success
German Shepherds are easy to train, so by following the proper potty training steps, you should get your GSD pup housebroken in no time.
Nevertheless, here are some tips that will set you up for success and allow you to get over this tedious phase much more quickly:
Tip 1: Make crate training a priority
Crate training offers plenty of critical benefits, especially to puppies. Apart from providing a private space where they can feel safe, the right crate can be an excellent housebreaking tool.
Since dogs are naturally averse to soiling their own “den,” they’re likely to bark, wail, or give you other signals that they need to go out for potty. Just make sure you crate train properly and use it as a positive tool for your dog’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Tip 2: Establish a routine
German Shepherds tend to thrive on a daily routine, so try your best to make every day the same for them. Doing so won’t just work wonders for effective housebreaking but will also minimize the risk for behavioral issues as your pup gets older.
Tip 3: Stick to a feeding schedule
Having regular mealtimes isn’t just part of establishing a routine. It will also help you more accurately predict when they need to go potty.
For young pups, free-feeding also means free pooping, and that’s exactly what you don’t want while you’re potty training.
Try to limit feeding times to three times a day for puppies younger than 6 months. German Shepherds that are at least 6 months old can eat once in the morning and then again in the evening.
While potty training, it is also ideal to keep snacks and heavy treats at a minimum when you can’t take your pup outside immediately.
Tip 4: Withhold water at night
Dogs should always have access to clean drinking water, but free access to a water bowl will make potty training more difficult.
Removing your dog’s water bowl about two hours before bedtime will keep nighttime accidents to a minimum. Do this only until they’re fully housebroken. Once housebroken, your dog can have free access to water.
Tip 5: Act neutral until they’ve done their business
Verbal encouragement can be distracting for your pup and could even make them feel nervous or excited. When you take your dog out to potty, try to keep yourself relaxed and only talk when giving the potty command.
If possible, take them to their potty right spot, give them the command and then act neutral until they’re done. This will also make your post-potty reward extra special.
Tip 6: Don’t fuss about accidents
Accidents can happen even when you’ve made progress in your training. Once the accident is there, it’s already too late to correct.
Disciplining your puppy for a potty accident is likely to do more harm. It will lead to negative potty behavior like being afraid to eliminate in your presence as well as feeling anxiety over having to pee or poop.
So, don’t make a big deal out of it. Just clean it up and hope you can both do better next time. If your dog is having accidents too regularly, you likely need to take your dog out more frequently to prevent it.
Tip 7: Clean up accidents thoroughly
Since they use their scent to find the right place to eliminate, it’s critical that you clean up indoor accidents properly. This is also the best way to maintain proper hygiene and good health.
Typical household cleaners might not be enough to remove the traces of odor that your dog leaves behind, so find a cleaner that’s made specifically for puppy accidents. You’ll also find plenty of excellent pet stain removers that will help you survive this stage of puppyhood.
Tip 8: Listen and observe
Dogs have their own way of communicating and will be especially communicative when they need to go potty.
If you observe them carefully, you’ll notice certain signals they give you to signal their need to go out. Some dogs might whine while others paw at the door.
Listen to your dog’s signals and you’ll have a better chance at potty training successfully.
German Shepherds are incredibly smart, so potty training even a young GSD pup shouldn’t take too long. You just need to establish a routine and give them time to develop full control over their bladder and bowels. As long as you are committed to following your protocol, you should be able to enjoy a fully housebroken dog soon enough.