This guide is a complimentary guide to our main guide on how to train a German Shepherd, including top tips, and advice from a professional dog trainer.
You can find out foundational training tips in that main guide.
The guide below is about Learning How To Potty Train A German Shepherd Puppy
Potty training can be frustrating and require some patience and discipline.
For this reason, we’ve listed 13 of the best potty training tips below.
We’ve also identified common and uncommon peeing and pooping problems from bed wetting, to peeing/pooping when scared or excited, to health problems like incontinence.
Of course every dog is slightly different, and some dogs may need a specialised approach to training or managing their own individual issues, but here is a good start of things to consider!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
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How To Potty Train A German Shepherd: Best Training Guide and Tips
1) Ask the Breeder, Shelter or Rescue Centre You Got Your GSD From
The good news about German Shepherds is that they naturally learn from their Mother that their ‘den’ or place where they sleep must be kept clean.
So, they have natural instincts not to pee or poop in your house if they spend alot of time in there.
Whether you buy an 8 week or 3 month old German Shepherd from a breeder, or even a year old German Shepherd from a rescue, ask whoever you buy your GSD (German Shepherd Dog) from if it has been potty trained.
2) Train Them Young/As A Puppy
This one might be self-explanatory, but it’s easier to teach your GSD good habits and behaviors the younger they are.
It’s much harder to unlearn existing bad behaviors – this can require specialised or professional training (contact your closest dog association or German Shepherd club for advice if this is the case).
Like socialisation, obedience and potty/housebreaking training should be taught as a puppy to develop a full grown potty trained German Shepherd Dog.
3) Potty Train Your Dog or Puppy To Pee or Poop Outside The House
If you catch your German Shepherd dog/puppy peeing or pooping inside the house, do not shout at him or her (positive reinforcement works better).
You do want to teach them that this behavior is unacceptable though, and they need to go outside the house to go to the toilet.
In a firm, but controlled voice, say ‘No’ to your GSD near the mess, and clean it up immediately. Let them see you clean it up.
You can even lead them outside for 5 minutes, and let them see you take the mess outside too.
Young German Shepherd puppies especially learn by watching their parents and owners, and if they see you removing the mess immediately, in addition to associating the word ‘No’ when they do something bad, this only helps in their understanding of where to pee and poop.
Another effective way to train your GSD to pee or poop outside is to keep them in a crate for the first few weeks (only while inside the house) for the first few weeks you have them as a puppy.
The first thing you can do when you let them out the crate is to let them outside to pee/poop before coming back inside to roam around.
If you don’t want to keep your puppy inside a crate, you can isolate them to one room, lay down protective blankets and sheets (to catch any mess), and possibly tether them to a piece of furniture on a long lead.
Similar thing – when you let them out the room, the first thing you can do is let them outside to pee or poop.
4) Feed Your German Shepherd Regularly/Have A Feeding Schedule
This one is important…..both you and your German Shepherd should understand the feeding schedule of the house and how your GSD’s body works in relation to pooping.
With the way their digestive system works, a German Shepherd dog or puppy will want/need to go potty to poop around 10 to 30 minutes after it has eaten.
It is a good habit to make in the first place, but if you are having real troubles with house training, you can simply put your GSD outside immediately after it has eaten for up to half an hour.
Feed him or her at the same times (German Shepherds usually eat 3 times day as a puppy, and 2 as an adult) each day, and they will usually have to go potty outside at the same times each day. It’s simple association.
It is even better if you are able to observe when your GSD goes to the toilet in this time, and give him or her a small treat and/or some praise immediately after (be enthusiastic and positive).
You can even lead your GSD out to a particular spot outside each day after it has eaten to further reinforce potty training habits.
5) Understand Your German Shepherds Bladder
At about 3 weeks old or 20 days, a German Shepherd puppy gains control of their bladder functions. So, they can actively pee when and where they need to.
a) How Long Can A German Shepherd Hold Its Bladder?
So, you know when a GSD can control its bladder, but for how long can it hold before it needs to pee?
At 2 months to 4 months old (8 to 16 weeks), your GSD can hold its pee for approximately 2 hours.
After 4-6 months, he or she will be able to hold her pee for up to 4 hours.
With the above in mind, it is completely unfair and unrealistic to say your GSD has potty training issues if you leave him or her locked inside while you are at work or out of the house for any more than 4 hours.
Know the limitations of your GSD’s body when it comes to peeing and pooping, and give them time outside to do their business accordingly.
6) Be A Positive and Patient Trainer
Positive reinforcement almost always works best (except in some extreme behavioural circumstances) when training your GSD.
As mentioned above, don’t shout at your GSD dog or puppy if they pee or poop inside. Also, don’t rush them when they are outside.
Both of these things can lead to scared/fearful behavior, and negative association, which only compounds the problem.
You don’t want your GSD to feel bad about needing to go potty, or going potty in places inside the house out of your eyesight.
Always stay calm, but firm and clear with your verbal commands and body language as a trainer.
7) Know Your GSD’s ‘Power Potty’ Times
This point relates to having a feeding routine for your German Shepherd dog or puppy, and knowing it’s body and bladder limitations.
From what you have observed, what times of the day does your German Shepherd most regularly need to pee or poop?
When do you physically witness them going to the toilet during the day or night, or walking towards the door and giving you ‘the look’ that they need to go outside?
Most commonly, first thing in the morning, the middle of the day and just before bed (in addition to immediately after/before and during exercise) is when your GSD needs to release.
Know ‘power potty’ times and proactively lead and encourage your GSD outside at these times – positively congratulate them immediately after you see them go potty outside.
8) Spot The Potty Warning Signs
Your GSD will generally warn you when it wants to go outside the house to take care of business.
If your GSD is doing any of the following, it may be a sign it needs to go pee or poop:
Laying at the door that leads outside
Standing at the door and barking
Standing at the door and pawing/scratching at it
Standing at the door and wagging its tail
Standing at the door and giving you ‘the look’
9) Is Your German Shepherd Peeing/Pooping When Scared or Excited?
We already mentioned that very young German Shepherd puppies (20 days/3 weeks or younger) have no control over their bladder functions.
Emotions likes being scared or excited may make GSD puppies of this age release their bladders or bowels naturally.
Always be aware of natural and unnatural behaviors and functions in your GSD.
However, older German Shepherds that either have control over their bodies, or are even potty/house trained, can pee or poop when excited or scared as a way of coping with these extreme emotions, or it may even be involuntary if the excitement or fear/stress is so intense.
German Shepherds that have this sort of extreme response may have been mistreated as a puppy, which is why its so important to buy from trusted breeders and rescues, or get the professional help required to correct extreme behavioral issues.
The Daily Shep has written about ways to help you identify and help your GSD get over it’s fear.
This can be a great bonding exercise between you and your dog or puppy.
10) Regular Vet Checks For Health Problems (Bladder Infections, Incontinence etc.)
It is possible your GSD is house broken/trained, and knows it needs to go to the toilet outside.
But, there are health reasons which prevent this.
Bladder problems and infections could be the issue. Urinary incontinence can be a big problem in dogs where they lose control of their bladder.
Look for symptoms like unnaturally leaky and bloody urine. Irregularities in their poop can be a sign of a bowel or digestive problem.
It’s very important not to skip your GSD’s regular vet checks (especially in the first year) to make sure he or she is fully healthy.
11) Consider Using A Dog Door Or Pet Door
A doggy door for your German Shepherd can really work for some owners who spend alot of time at work, live busy lifestyles or who are looking for ways to make it easier for their GSD to get outside and make the ‘going to the toilet’ process automated.
Whether you are house training your GSD, or it is already house trained, a doggy door can not only make things easier on you and your German Shepherd when it comes to going to the toilet, but it also increases the available space to for your German Shepherd to exercise and keep itself mentally stimulated in your front or back yard.
The Best German Shepherd Dog Doors are:
Easy and simple to install
Strong and secure when sitting in the door
Durable and hard wearing over the long term (aluminium metal works well)
Have enough room for your GSD to get in and out
Weather proof and have good insulation from the heat and cold
You might like to read more in Best Dog Door & Pet Door: Buyer’s Guide and Reviews.
12) Use a Dog/Puppy Crate
German Shepherd puppies will take a few weeks to get comfortable with their new surroundings when you first get them.
In this time you need to be a little lenient, but still maintain some discipline.
Some puppies will have different personalities and experiences than others, and you may find some are more prone to peeing or pooping inside while in the potty training period.
It is not uncommon in this time to wake up in the morning and find a nice ‘surprise’ waiting for you to clean up in the morning.
A crate is not a ‘fix all’ solution in this instance, but moreso a tool that allows you to minimise damage in the training period.
The Best German Shepherd Dog and Puppy Crates are:
Adjustable in size for your puppy (divider panel is handy for when it becomes an adult and needs more room)
Strong and durable materials for wear and tear
Safe in construction so your GSD doesn’t harm itself on sharp corners or protruding metal
Easy to clean base/pan
Transportable and flexible in use
You might like to read more in Best Dog Crate For German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies.
13) Use Waterproof Bed Blankets for Bed Wetting
You may not use or want a crate, and you may have a bed or mattress you want to use for your German Shepherd to sleep on.
You may even place a mattress inside the crate (recommended for crates for additional comfort).
On the same principle, while your German Shepherd puppy is being potty trained, you may want to minimise the damage to the dog bed or mattress – especially if it is an expensive orthopedic foam type.
You can read about the Best Dog Beds for Your German Shepherd.
In this instance where you want to protect bedding, waterproof dog bed sheets, liners or covers may be an option for you and your GSD.
The Best German Shepherd Waterproof Bed Sheets/Liners are:
Soft and comfortable for your GSD (soft also means less noise when your dog moves around or adjusts during the night)
Stand up to a range of stains, liquids and allergens
Come in a range of sizes to fit different sized and shaped beds and mattresses
Easy to put on and take off the bed
Easy to wash and clean
Come with a warranty or satisfaction guarantee
One example of a popular line is the 4nines Waterproof Bed Sheets/Liners (on Amazon)
14) Consider Keeping Your GSD Outside For The First Few Weeks Until Potty Trained
This is another option – keep your GSD outside for the first few weeks.
Make sure the outside spot is under cover, out of weather like rain, wind and sun, and will keep your GSD warm or cool (depending on the weather in your area)
You can even consider getting your GSD an outside dog house/dog kennel if a dog bed won’t be suitable by itself.
Once you notice your GSD is regularly using outside areas for potty, you can gradually introduce them inside using the other principles above.
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