How to Potty Train a German Shepherd Puppy (Easy, Fool-Proof Guide)

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you. As a Chewy affiliate, we earn commissions from qualifying purchases. Please read our disclosure for more info.

You probably already know that learning how to potty train a German Shepherd puppy isn’t easy.

There’re lots of steps to follow and plenty of room for failure. But once you have them in place, great things happen!

By the time you finish reading this guide, you’ll feel relieved that you know exactly what to do from the start.

At What Age Should a German Shepherd be Potty Trained?

german shepherd potty training age

A German Shepherd should be potty trained starting as young as 7 to 8-weeks-old. Around 5 to 6 weeks of age, puppies wander from their mother and learn to soil outside their sleeping areas. Take advantage of this instinct by showing your pup the basics of potty training, for example, where to go potty, where not to potty, and the path to get to the potty area.

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

A German Shepherd doesn’t have full bladder control until about 5 to 6 months of age so plan on continuing your potty training efforts until they have control of their elimination habits. While you may begin housebreaking your pup as soon as you have them, expecting them to have no accidents early on is unrealistic since they’re physically unable to control themselves. Start a positive potty training program that includes a routine, schedule, and guidance for the best results.

Bladder control increases with age, but a variety of factors can change this. Activity level, amount of water consumption and if your dog has any underlying medical concerns can and will cause your dog to have more frequent potty breaks.

The Basics of Potty Training Your New German Shepherd Puppy

living room with a wooden floor

Potty training is vital. Train consistently to have the most effect.

A proactive approach works best.

Focus on preventing accidents, instead of waiting on them to happen.

Follow a strict feeding and bathroom schedule to see the best results. But potty training isn’t only about teaching your pup where to go.

It’s also about clarifying that house soiling isn’t appropriate.

You want to teach them potty skills until it becomes a habit. 

Humane Society

Make it easy for your dog to succeed. Do this by managing your environment.

Play an active role and ensure your dog’s area is set up appropriately.

Prevention is Key to Success

red alarm clock on wooden table

The key to quick success is taking your pup out every 2 to 3 hours and never giving the opportunity for them to have an accident inside. This means at least 8 to 10 trips outside every single day!

To prevent accidents in your home your pup should always be:

  • Attached to you by a short leash so they can’t wander off and find a quiet spot to potty. You can’t keep your eyes on your pup every moment unless they’re attached to you.
  • In their welcoming and safe crate either resting, eating their meals or enjoying a play toy.
  • In an exercise or playpen with a strict potty area.
  • Under your direct, undivided attention. This means you are always watching your pup.
  • Don’t take your eyes off them for even a second! All it takes is for you to check your phone for a few seconds for your pup to have a toileting accident!

You can either use a crate to speed up their potty training or provide them an area indoors to eliminate. I prefer the crate method.

Teaching Them to Love Their Crate

pink hearts on white paper

This training starts with teaching your pup to not just like their crate, but to LOVE it!

Housebreaking with the use of a crate speeds up your success rate incredibly!

Puppies don’t like to use the bathroom where they sleep or eat, and the use of the crate takes advantage of this instinct. But you want to use the crate positively so they learn to love their little den.

Make their crate an enjoyable and inviting place to go. Keep the crate in a warm, draft-free area and place their favorite toys inside (puppy-safe toys that won’t tear and supervise their play).

Here’s some tips to show your pup how to love their crate:

  • Never force your pup into their crate! Take your time with crate introduction and allow them to explore under their own will.
  • Serve your pup at least one meal a day inside their crate. Use a Kong with their meal stuffed inside and mixed with a small spoonful of unsweetened Greek yogurt or peanut butter to entice them to stay and work on the Kong inside the crate.
  • Offer treats when they willingly go inside to rest or explore their crate.
  • Use a verbal cue when you want your pup to go into the crate. I like to use a simple command like, “crate” or “bed” and to point where I want my pup to go.

Buy the best crate for a German Shepherd puppy they’ll love by using this proven guide. It’s better to get a crate that comes recommended rather than just pick any old one and hope for the best.

You can learn all the benefits of choosing a crate in this guide on crate training your German Shepherd successfully to get the complete facts, tips, and instructions to perfect crate training today.

Using Puppy Pads

use puppy pads to house train your gsd

If you prefer to use puppy pads, then you need an area where you always take your dog when they need to go to the bathroom.

An area like a kitchen works well since the floors are easy to clean.

But you may also like to place their pads near the door that you eventually want them to use to go outside.

Place more pads down than you think you need at first. This is because puppies have poor aim and also may find a spot they prefer (other than the one you pick).

It’s better to lay a few more pads than necessary than have them soil your floors and leave behind their scent.

After a couple of weeks, you may remove the extra pads until there are only two puppy pads on the floor in the primary area they prefer to go.

Keep the food and water area away from the puppy pads in another place. Puppies don’t like to eat and drink where they use the bathroom.

Using Puppy Pads Successfully

Change your puppy pads as they become soiled.

Although, at the beginning of training I like to leave a pad that’s soiled with urine only under a clean, new pad so that your pup learns that they are soiling in the right area and their previous odor attracts them back to the pads.

I don’t let the dirty pad sit out for days or weeks and smell too strongly. But a lightly soiled pad is an attractant to your pup in the beginning stages of training and helps them learn the right area to potty indoors at first.

Once they are reliably using the correct spot, you need not continue to use this trick and can throw away the pads as they become too soiled.

If they’ve missed the pad or soiled another area you don’t want them to use, then you must clean with an enzymatic cleaner. This pet enzyme cleaner will remove your puppy’s smells, stains, and lingering odors that cause your dog to soil the same spot.

Training Them to Go Outside After Using Pads Indoors

open home front door with key in lock

If you set up your pads near the door you use to take them outside to their elimination area, then you can transition them to go outside more easily.

So, place or move your puppy pads closer to the door from their original spot to begin the transition to outdoors.

Move the pads over a period of two weeks so that your pup learns the new spots to use the bathroom and doesn’t experience stress or confusion. It’s better to go slowly than rush them to figure out an entirely new routine.

When your pads are close to the door, watch them for their elimination signs and get them to the outside as swiftly as you can. You can either encourage them to go outside instead of to their pad by calling them with the door open, or you can scoop them up if you think they won’t hold their bladder.

In the sections below, you can find the schedules for taking your dog outside to eliminate and how to watch for their elimination signs.

Helping Them Learn a Routine

white wooden chairs sitting on green grass in a garden

Teaching your dog to eliminate outside means that you must have a strict schedule.

Every day follows the same routine.

Don’t let your dog out of your sight unsupervised in your home for even a second! Watch for signs that your pup needs to go potty so you can avoid indoor accidents.

Morning Routine

First thing in the morning when you let your pup out of their crate or from their sleeping area take them to their potty spot.

Don’t allow them the chance to squat and pee inside the home. If in doubt, carry them outside yourself.

If you will not leash your pup when you take them out in the morning, then run ahead of them to lead them outside quickly. But don’t turn your back since all it takes is one sniff and they’ll potty inside your house.

If you have stairs carry your pup, since rushing downstairs on a full bladder is never a good idea.

Outside Routine

Stay with your pup until they potty.

You can place your pup in a small confined area to go potty or keep them leashed to you.

Either way, don’t allow them to become distracted.

Stand quietly until they potty. Then, praise them and offer a tasty treat.

This can bore you at first, so take some headphones to listen to music. But don’t look down at your phone because you must praise them right as they are peeing—not when they’re done and walking away!

If your pup doesn’t toilet after 5 minutes, take them back inside to their crate. After 10 to 15 minutes, take them out of their crate and repeat the above process.

Learning how to potty train a German Shepherd puppy takes repetition and patience.

Daily Routine

Your pup needs frequent bathroom breaks during the day. You need to pay close attention to them and develop a daily routine that keeps them from having accidents.

When to Take Them Out

  • Take them out after a nap. They need to relieve themselves after sleeping or napping in their crates.
  • Take them out after a play session. If you’ve played with your pup inside, then take them outside before placing them in their crate.
  • Take them out after they’ve eaten a meal.
  • Take them out after they’ve gotten overly excited about something.
  • Take them out after they drink a large amount of water.
  • Take them out first thing in the morning and the last thing before you place them in their crate or go to bed.

Take your dog out when their body language says they are searching for a potty spot!

How Often Should You Take Them Out?

Start with every 2 hours for an 8-week-old pup. Add an hour for each month your pup is old. So, a 12-week-old dog needs to go out every 3 hours.

You can crate your pup for the same number of hours as they are old in months (just like in the above example). They can stay in their crate the entire night if they’re sleeping.

But during the day don’t crate them for any longer than they can hold their bladder.

Keep in mind if you’ve given your pup a large drink or meal then they won’t be able to hold their bladder as long. Monitor when you feed your pup.

Your pup needs to potty 10–20 minutes after they’ve had water. Remove the water bowl for about an hour before you put your dog to bed for the night.

This helps them hold their bladder throughout the night.

Your young pup should make it through the night for 7 to 8 hours while they’re sleeping, although the first week or two they may cry and whine and stay awake because of their new environment.

Signs Your Pup Needs to Eliminate

look for signs your dog needs to eliminate

Stay watchful of your pup. Learn to understand their body language that tells you they need to eliminate.

Elimination Behaviors

  • Stops playing or chewing abruptly and wanders the house
  • Sniffs the floor
  • Circles while sniffing
  • Digs at the carpet after sniffing and circling it
  • Wanders to an area where he’s gone before to have an accident
  • Paces near the door to the outside

If you see these signs, take your pup out immediately! Don’t wait one second longer!

Prevent accidents and learn from your mistakes. When your pup has an accident inside it’s a learning opportunity! Ask yourself what went wrong and don’t make the same mistake again.

Learning to toilet train is about establishing a habit of only relieving themselves outside and never giving the opportunity to potty inside and make a mistake.

How to Potty Train a German Shepherd Puppy by Adding in a Cue Word

close up of womans lips with pink lipstick while she's talking

Once you understand what your dog’s behavior looks like when they eliminate, begin adding in a short cue word to help them.

I enjoy using the phrase “go potty”.

Use this cue word as they are squatting and right before or as they eliminate. You want to use the words to teach your pup that the cue means to do their business. This takes time to learn to eliminate on cue.

Provide a tasty treat and words of praise after they potty. Keep training positive and never yell or scold them.

Yelling and scolding them may make them anxious about using the bathroom in front of you, which is the opposite of what you want.

What Affects Elimination?

the words what written in white on a dark circle background

Keep in mind that many things affect your dog’s elimination, such as their:

  • Feeding schedule
  • Exercise and playtime
  • Sleep and nap schedule

Base your potty-training schedule on whether you stay home during the day or work outside the home, your wake-up time, how many meals your dog eats and what type of food you feed them.

This schedule depends on your own personal obligations and preferences. Change the times to suit your needs, as this schedule is one example only.

Daily German Shepherd Potty Training Schedule

TimeEventWhat to Remember
7:00 amWake up. Take the dog out.Dogs need to go as soon as they awake.
7:15 amMealtime.Take food up if not eaten within 20 minutes.
7:30 amOutside time.Puppies need to go soon after eating, usually within 10 to 25 minutes after a meal.
7:45 amConfine time.Confine your puppy when you can’t watch them in their safe area.
9:00 amOutside time.Before you leave for the day offer a last potty break.
11:30 amTake dog out.You can hire a dog walker to come home to let your pup out.
12:00 pmMealtime.Take up food within 20 minutes if not eaten.
1:30 pmTake the dog out.Dogs need to go after meals.
12:30 pmConfine time.If you need to go back to work or out again, confine your pup for their safety. A puppy check-in from a dog walker lasts 45 to 60 minutes and includes letting them out, playtime, and fresh food and water refills.
3:30 pmTake the dog out.When you return home, your puppy will need to go out immediately.
3:45 pmMealtime.Puppies need fed 2 to 4 times a day.
4:00 pmTake the dog out.Your puppy needs to relieve himself after meals.
4:30 pmInteraction time.This is a good time for basic training, socializing, free play and very short walks.
6:15 pmOutside time.Play with your pup. Explore new areas of your yard. Praise them when they potty.
6:30 pmSupervised play.Monitor your pup for any potty behaviors. Play, light and gentle exercise and time with family are good in the evenings.
7:30 pmLast meal.Make sure your puppy eats 2–4 times a day.
7:45Outside time.Let your puppy stretch his legs and explore the yard.
8:00 pmSupervised time. Take up the water.Restrict water only before bedtime to avoid overnight accidents.
10:00 pmOutside time.Be sure your pup gets praise when he potties outdoors.
10:15 pmSupervised time.Keep our puppy leashed to you if you need to move around the house. Remember to pick up any food or water left out, as these can contribute to your pup eliminating during the night.
10:45 pmPotty break.Take your pup out right before you put him in his night area for bedtime.
11:00 pmThe dog goes to bed.Make sure your pup’s area is safe for the night.

I base this schedule on a person who can stop at home during the day.

If you are working outside the home and can’t stop by at lunch or get a dog walker, then place your pup in their safe area with clean pads while you are away or their crate and have a dog walker stop by to let them out.

Remember there are other times your pup needs to eliminate:

  • When he wakes in the morning or after any nap
  • After all meals (feed on a schedule to predict bathroom needs)
  • After playing, exercise or excited times
  • At least every 2 to 4 hours (depending on your dog’s age)
  • At night, before bedtime

Preventing Accidents

preventing potty accidents

Even with perfect training, there’s room for error. Take these steps when there’s an accident and you catch your pup eliminating inside.

Steps to Prevent an Accident

  1. Interrupt them. Use a sharp “ah” sound to get your dog’s attention. But don’t yell or scare them!
  2. If this sound scares them, then don’t make any sounds. Rush over to your pup and scoop them up. They will quit peeing mid-stream once you scoop them up.
  3. Get outside quickly. Rush outside as soon as you can. Your pup can only hold their mid-stream urination for a few moments.
  4. Place them in their designated potty zone. Reward them and praise them after they finish. Play with them for a bit, as rushing them back into their crate may stress them more.
  5. Clean up the area with an enzyme cleaner. Don’t use a regular cleaning product on urine. Urine needs an enzyme cleaner to break down the molecules and take away the smells so that your pup doesn’t mark the same area.
  6. Vow to watch your pup more carefully!
  7. Figure out what went wrong and don’t make the same mistakes.

House Breaking Tips

house breaking tips

Toilet training is about making it easy for your dog to go outside in the correct area and to avoid any toileting inside. Create a routine that your dog understands and stick to it.

Helpful Tips

  • Don’t scold them for eliminating indoors. Your pup doesn’t understand where to potty yet and scolding and yelling doesn’t help.
  • Use positive reinforcements outdoors–like rewards of treats and praise–to make going potty outside a better choice for them.
  • A puppy will still have an accident in their crate if they’re in confinement too long or have had a meal or water before going to sleep. Watch your feeding and watering schedule closely.
  • If your pup has an accident inside calmly clean up the spot. Don’t let it sit and saturate further.

Figure out what went wrong and address the issue, so it doesn’t happen again.

Did you miss your dog’s potty clues?

Did you feed or water them at a different time?

Did you let them roam the house unsupervised?

In my first week with my German Shepherd, I had three accidents. All of which were because of my sloppiness.

I didn’t watch her directly and let her roam, I missed her cues, and I was watching TV when I should have been watching her.

Learn from your mistakes and move on with the new information.

Why does my puppy pee so much?

why does your puppy pee so much

You puppy pees so much because they lack bladder control. A dog can’t fully control their bladder until 5–6 months old.

If you’ve taken your dog to your vet and nothing is medically wrong, try the following:

  • Take your pup outside on a strict schedule. Stick to the schedule and use alarms to remind you.
  • Remove their water an hour before they go to bed. Don’t forget to replace their water in the morning!
  • If you notice your pup pee so much after certain activities, then note those activities as a trigger. For example, if your pup pees a lot after you play with them, then take him out right after playing.
  • Does your pup leak urine when they meet new people? This is submissive behavior. Greet your dog more calmly. Try to not get them excited. Or ignore them and pick them up to go straight outside. Only offer them a greeting after they relieve themselves.

Do NOT punish your pup for peeing too much! Check with your vet and use the above tips to find a solution.

Potty Train A German Shepherd Puppy

Learning how to potty train a German Shepherd puppy starts with knowing the right steps to begin successfully.

Be proactive in your approach.

See the best improvements when you keep to a regular schedule, including their feeding and drinking of water, are on top of their elimination body language and don’t leave your pup unsupervised to roam freely inside your home.

Be patient with your dog. Some dogs will need longer than others to learn. But sticking with a routine helps your pup learn the quickest.

Your dog will catch on. You can improve your training today by following this guide.

You’re intelligent enough to know that German Shepherd puppies need plenty of care and training.

Other like-minded dog owners who think like you have joined a scientifically-based online dog training program to train their dogs with love and compassion by reading my review of Brain Training for Dogs.

Check it out to give your German Shepherd a kind, positive start in this world with you.

Found this helpful? Share it!