How to Housebreak a German Shepherd Puppy

Updated on September 28, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

One of the main reasons to choose a German Shepherd over all other dog breeds in the world is how intelligent these little puppies are. While all dogs have the ability to be housebroken, dogs who are bred specifically for their intelligence will be much more trainable and will take to potty training very quickly.

If you’ve chosen a German Shepherd, potty training might not be a breeze, but with the right techniques, it will be easier than trying to potty train just about any other breed.

A Guide to Housebreaking a German Shepherd Puppy

Even before you bring your German Shepherd puppy home from the breeder or the shelter, here are few things you should do to make German Shepherd crate training go smoothly:

Get a Dog Crate

Not only is crate training an essential part of house training, a crate-trained dog will be much easier to travel with, and having a crate all to himself will give your dog a sense of belonging. Start with a fairly small crate. While you will eventually want one large enough for your fully grown dog, during German Shepherd potty training, you want a crate small enough that it makes the puppy feel secure and enclosed. Put this crate in a warm place where the puppy cannot see you.

Get Some Healthy Treats

Using a food reward is a great way to start the training process. While you eventually will pull back on rewarding your puppy with treats as he goes to the bathroom in the right place, this physical reward can be very powerful during the early stages of training.

Pick Up Some Urine and Stain Remover

There will inevitably be mistakes and mishaps in your home during the training process. Pick up some urine and stain remover before you even bring the puppy home. Make sure that it removes both the stain and the scent, as if a dog can smell urine in the carpet, they will think that area is an appropriate place to go to the bathroom again.

You Can Use a Bell

Place a bell or some other kind of noisemaker on the door to the outside that your puppy can use to let you know he needs to go to the bathroom, even if you are not in the same room.

Have Your Leash Handy

In the early stages, you will need to walk your puppy out to the area of the yard where you want him to go to the bathroom and stand there with him while he goes.

Pick a Command

You will want a one-word command that will tell your dog to go to the bathroom and one word of praise when they go to the bathroom in the right place.

Your Puppy Has Arrived—Let's Start Potty Training

In order for your puppy to be quickly and effectively housebroken, you as the owner have to be diligent. It is important to remember that your puppy has no concept of how right or wrong it is to go to the bathroom in the house.

Your puppy will quickly recognize his crate as his home and will always do his best to never mess in his crate. If he is mostly an inside dog, however, he will see the rest of the house as his territory, and some place in that territory has to be the bathroom. Scolding him or rubbing his face in his own mess does nothing to make him understand you do not want him to go to the bathroom in the house—it will only make him afraid of you. Here are the most effective German Shepherd potty training steps:

When and How Often Do Puppies Go?

Puppies need to go to the bathroom about twenty minutes after they eat or drink. Make this part of your feeding schedule. About twenty minutes after they’ve eaten or drank water, take them outside to go to the bathroom—this should become a routine for both you and your puppy.

Don’t Use a Newspaper

Do not paper train a puppy. Seriously, this will just confuse your puppy.

How Long Did It Take to Housebreak Your German Shepherd?

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One Word Command

When you first bring your puppy home, take him immediately to his potty spot outside. Do not carry him; make him walk. Then, use your one-word command, like “poop,” and then wait for him to do something. It may take a minute, but he will probably have to go to the bathroom, so he will eventually do it.

Verbal Praise

As soon as he starts doing his business, give him verbal praise. When he is finished, give him a treat and more verbal praise.


Then, lead him into the house through the door you plan on always letting him in and out through. Play with him and lead him on his leash to where his food and water are going to be. After he has eaten and drank something, play with him some more, and then after about twenty minutes, take him back to the door.

Bell or Other Noise

Use his paw to touch the bell or noisemaker you have put on the doorknob. Give him verbal praise and a treat.

Treats and Praise

Take him outside to his potty spot. When he starts to go, verbal praise, when he finished, verbal praise and a treat.


Do this same process every time he eats or drinks.

The Holy Crate

When you are not home or are not actively paying attention to your puppy, put him in his crate. He will cry, but don’t give in to those pitiful noises. Don’t worry; he’s okay. Not only will this help him get used to the crate, but he will also begin to view it as a safe place. He should not have any food or water in the crate, but a chew toy is just fine. (Update: Don’t leave your dog for hours without water and definitely never lock him in a hot room or car while we are at it.) When you let him out of the crate, do the same routine you do after he eats or drinks. Always walk him, never carry him.

Don’t Punish or Scold Puppies

Never scold or punish your puppy when they have an accident. Make sure your guests and other family members understand why you are not punishing him for having an accident. This isn’t “new age” dog ownership; it’s simple dog psychology. They won’t understand what they’ve done wrong, so they’ll only develop a fear of you, instead of an understanding that they shouldn’t go in the house.

Use the Crate When Cleaning

Put the puppy in his crate to clean up after an accident.

German Shepherd Puppies Are Fast Learners

After three or four days, your puppy will understand the procedure, but this does not mean he is completely potty trained. This usually takes about a month, at which time you can start weaning him off the treats. Give him one occasionally, but not every time. Continue giving him verbal praise.

Follow These Steps for Success

These steps make sure that your German Shepherd knows not only where you want him to go to the bathroom, but also how to ask to go out when he needs to. Being extremely diligent with these steps will make housebreaking a German Shepherd simple and easy. He’ll be housebroken and happy in no time.

© 2018 Sam Shepards


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    • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Shepards 

      17 months ago from Europe


      Thank you. I started writing one a couple of months ago, but still need to finish a lot of articles I started. Maybe in a month or 2. I'm on working on a couple more German Shepherd health articles and an article about being a good fit for having this kind of dog. Of course I also continue to write about other subjects. First I'm of to Asia for a month. :)


    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Sam you just make it sound so fun. I think my wife read this to train me!

      Do you have an article about how to safely pick a German Shepard from a rescue place?


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