We have successfully potty trained a few different dogs and have recently done it again with our 9 week old German Shepherd Dog. Yes, it is totally possible to potty train a young puppy.
She’s to the point now where she cries at the door when she has to go outside, scratching at the door tells us she has to poop. We haven’t even had her a full week yet, as of this writing, and have consistently trained her to go outside.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s not a perfect little angel, and still has mistakes. She is only 9 weeks old, after all. But the main lifting as been done and the groundwork has been set.
If you’re at your wit’s end trying to get your dog to go regularly outside, you’ve come to the right place.
So, how do I potty train my German Shepherd puppy?
The most important aspect of potty training a German Shepherd puppy is to show them where they’re supposed to go and then continue taking the pup there every time she has to go after that. One method to know when it’s time to go is by watching the clock. By watching the clock and intake of water and by bringing her out shortly after eating so she can go potty, you ensure that she gets on a schedule. And, whenever she does go potty outside, positive reinforcing is key. Reward her with a “good girl” and a pat on the head to let her know that’s what she’s supposed to do. If you do the above, she’ll keep going back to that spot to do her business and will even wait to do it until she gets to that spot.
What does this look like in more detail? Let’s start at the beginning.
When you get home with your German Shepherd Puppy —
These are some of the most crucial moments you have with your new dog and many people make the same mistake. People often cannot wait to get their furry new pup into the home to show him around and play with him. But if you take him inside and he pees in there, he now thinks that’s the place to do it.
The first thing we do when we get home with a new dog is bring him a bowl of water and let him drink while on the leash, outside. The efficient innerworkings of the German Shepherd puppy will make sure you don’t have to wait too long before she has to go pee.
After her drinking is done, walk her around the outside area where you’d like for her to conduct her business until she does it. Once she actually pees, reward her with a “good girl” and a quick petting, and then bring her inside your home.
This first important step is the one that everyone misses, and it’s important because dog urine has a strong scent. That scent, coupled with your pup’s strong sense of smell will help her know where she’s supposed to go next time as a creature of habit.
And you bring her back inside quickly because you don’t want her to associate going outside with anything else other than going to the bathroom for about a week. Once she gets the idea that the outside is where she’s supposed to go, you can add playing in. Until then, outside, potty, inside.
The next time you bring your dog outside, walk her back over to the same spot where she went the first time and the scent of her urine will trigger the urge to go again.
Do this each time and you’ll have minimal accidents in the house.
What about pooping outside?
It’s the same thing for the poop. The only difference is that your pup will pee several times each day, but will only poop 2-4 times, depending on a bunch of different factors. The main thing with getting your German Shepherd to poop outside is timing.
You know that after your dog eats, it’s a quick trip through the intestines and back out again. You want to make sure your dog is outside when that trip is coming to a close so she can do it where you want it and not where her butt wants it.
The key here, is to wait 10-15 minutes and then bring her outside. She might pee during this time, but don’t make the mistake of thinking she’s done because she’s not.
Another tip here, is to time how long it takes from the time she’s done eating until she actually poops. That way the next time you take her out you know about when to do it. Our pup tends to go 2.5 hours after eating. That first poop session was really long because we had no idea how long she’d be outside.
If her little bowels aren’t cooperating with you, try walking her around a bit, but don’t stray too far from where you want her to do her regular business. Walking tends to get the bowels working in high gear and can accelerate things a bit.
The only problem with that, is most pups have no idea how to walk on a leash at this point.
You’ll want it to be in a spot you can easily get to, so don’t take her on a mile walk unless you want to bring her there each time.
Tip: Each time you bring her out to poop, walk her over to the same spot so her sense of smell triggers the response you’re looking for just like it did with the pee.
At some point she will poop where you want her too. Tell her she’s a good girl and bring her back inside.
Doing this like clockwork will yield you a pup that goes to the door and scratches at it to signal it’s time for her to go out like we have with our 9 week old GSD.
German Shepherd dogs are really smart and your pup should get this concept pretty quickly. On the plus side, this method will work with any and all puppies. It just may take longer.
Cleaning up German Shepherd potty accidents —
The above steps are meant to get you started in the right direction, but you’ll still have accidents from time to time. After all, her bladder is only so big. Whenever possible after she takes a nap, bringing her outside is a good thing because she might not realize that she’s got to go just yet and can’t tell you.
Of course, this is only when the puppy is very young. Once your pup is a few months old this no longer applies.
Think about it, the first thing you do in the morning after waking up is hit the toilet. The first thing she wants to do is relieve herself, too, because it’s uncomfortable to have a full bladder.
Positive reinforcement is key here, as is proper cleaning. Let me explain …
When your puppy is younger, she won’t yet understand that the only place to go potty is outside. Or she may just have an accident on the inside.
In fact, the only thing he really knows with any certainty is that he doesn’t want to pee in his bed, because that is instinct.
He’s learning what is right, but hasn’t fully grasped it all yet. This means that it’s not his fault when he does have an accident. After all, his little bladder can only hold so much. All of this just to say that accidents will happen.
The thing to do is get him outside right away. Chances are good that he’s not done yet. Depending on where he’s at in his potty training journey, he may be starting to understand that he’s not supposed to go inside and may have just topped off so it doesn’t hurt him until he can get outside.
Our little 9 week old puppy has had a couple of accidents in the house and each time someone brought her outside immediately after, and then went more. This tells me that she’s grasping that it’s not where she’s supposed to go, just that she couldn’t hold it anymore.
It is imperative that you clean up the pee, and then spray a cleaner on it to try and mask the smell.
Remember, it was in an above step where we used her sense of smell and her already present urine as a catalyst for her going again and again each time to get her used to going potty outside.
If the urine isn’t properly cleaned up, that catalyst may happen inside which is counter productive to what we’re trying to do.
Because a dog’s sense of smell, especially German Shepherds, is so strong you likely won’t be able to completely get rid of it from her nose, but do the best you can.
What about pee-pee pads?
I’m going to be honest, I don’t like pee pee pads unless the dog needs them for medical reasons or is very old and cannot properly make it outside anymore.
Pee pee pads teach the dog that it is supposed to pee in the house which is incorrect. How do I know this happens? Because we know a lady with a dog who is almost two years old and still pees on these things in her house.
And no, it’s not because she has to work or anything because she rarely leaves the house, which has a big, fenced in yard. He just chooses to do his business inside. On the pads. Because that’s what he was trained to do.
This can be a hard habit to break and if you’re using these things I strongly suggest you stop and follow the above methods. Old dogs can learn new tricks if you put the time in to teach them.
Give the dog water and then after enough time has passed bring him outside. Once he’s peed, tell him he’s a good boy, pat his head, and then bring him back inside. After some time has passed according to his schedule, repeat the process and bring him back to the same spot again so he can smell his pee and remember that’s where he’s supposed to go.
I’m not sure how long it will take because each dog is different, but if you stick with it and stay strong you should be able to teach your doggo to go outside.
What about night time potty training?
For the past couple of nights our 9-week old German Shepherd puppy went to bed in her crate at 9pm. She made it all the way until 6 in the morning before having to go out. Sleep is precious to me and I’m remembering how sane I can be with more than 3 hours of it a night.
Timing is key. Now that we’ve got a set schedule for feeding and drinking and can get her to pee and poop outside before it’s time for bed, she sleeps through the night.
Previous nights, she had been waking up at 3 or 4 to poop. I’m not exactly sure why she was doing that, but believe it was because she was still adjusting to new people, a new dog (our 10 year old GSD), and a new schedule.
The thing is, night time potty training is a totally different animal, altogether. We recommend a good, sturdy crate that your pup can call home at night time. Dogs are den animals and feel confident and protected in a crate (and they do not want to soil where they sleep). I tend to cover our crate with an old sheet that we no longer use to help simulate darkness, especially sense we sleep with the TV on for background noise.
Your German Shepherd’s instinct is to not pee or poop in the place she sleeps and is more willing to hold it there if at all possible. Mistakes can still happen, but you should take it as a sign that she has to go potty if she starts to cry while in her crate. If she starts to cry, bring her outside so she can do her stuff as quickly as your grogginess can muster.
If it’s the middle of the night, she should likely be brought back to her crate to go back to bed. That way you’re teaching her that she should be sleeping when it’s dark.
She may still cry for a bit, but it’s only because she’s still getting used to the timing of things.
What about water at night?
Largely depending upon the age of your puppy, you may consider picking up the water an hour or two before bed time and not putting it back down again until she wakes up.
The reason why is because water can travel through your little dog pretty quickly, but not all of it will. This means that if you pick the water up so she can’t drink, only during this time because puppies need a lot of water for proper hydration, she won’t have as much urine in the morning hours meaning you can sleep for longer because her bladder isn’t filling up as fast.
Again, only pick the water up an hour or two before bed, and don’t limit it during the day. This may seem like a good idea for your sanity purposes but it isn’t healthy.
Final potty training thoughts —
These methods aren’t just for German Shepherd dogs. This will work on any breed of dog. The great thing is that once it clicks, it really clicks.
Your dog wants to please you and loves you unconditionally. If you want her to pee and poop outside, she’ll do it and be glad to. You just have to do your part to teach her the way.
And, she won’t know unless you do take the time out to teach her where she’s supposed to go. Following the above methods should get you on the right track to have minimal accidents, but it takes some time. This isn’t an overnight process. Be patient, and the fruits of your labor will pay off.
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