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Are German Shepherds easy to potty train?

Are German Shepherds easy to potty train?

When you bring home your new family member for the first time, then it’s time for stressful first-phase or training. Are German Shepherds easy to potty train?!

If you create a realistic schedule for your German Shepherd pup and keep to it like clockwork, then yes, potty training is something that they will quickly pick up. Shepherds are smart dogs, but you need to teach them to trust that you will take them outside if they wait and reinforce this fact with treats.

To do this, you are going to need to know a little bit about a GSD puppy’s bladder control to set your schedule and then it’s also important to stick to positive reinforcement techniques – not punishment, which will only risk your dog’s trust! Let’s take a look at what you need to know about potty training your new German Shepherd!

Are German Shepherds easy to potty train?

During the training process, it is going to be very important that you do not punish your dog. While you are potty training your German Shepherd, accidents are going to happen, and how you deal with them is going to directly affect how long this process is going to take.

Punishing your dog when they potty in the house is only going to set your training back. Your dog won’t understand why you are angry and any punishment will not be understood. It is only going to affect your dog’s trust of you, so you are going to want to stick to positive reinforcement only during potty training.

It’s actually not that difficult. When your dog makes a potty in the house, clean it up as well as you can with an enzymatic cleaner. When your dog does something right, such as coming to you to let you know that they need to go outside and whenever they successfully ‘go’ outside, then you will want to give them a treat.

Using positive reinforcement in this way helps to preserve trust and teaches your dog the rules by showing them that you are happy. Simply put, ‘good dogs get treats’ – something your dog will quickly notice and adjust their behavior to!

Learning your puppy’s potty schedule

One common mistake that new German Shepherd puppy owners make is assuming that their pup can go the whole night without going outside, so let’s dissolve this myth right away. Until your German Shepherd is around 6 months of age, they are NOT going to be able to make it an entire night without needing to go outside.


German Shepherd puppies have small bladders and they don’t have a lot of control over them until they get older. As such, you should expect your Shepherd to be able to ‘hold it’ for approximately 1 hour for every month of age.

When they nap, they can sometimes wait a little longer – as their body is relaxed – but otherwise they need a set schedule that runs like clockwork. Furthermore, your pup needs to go outside within 15 to 20 minutes of every meal – their digestive systems are fast and they’ll need a potty break!

Beyond this, here are some sample times to help you to make your schedule:

  • 8-week old puppy – At this age, your puppy needs to go outside approximately every 2 hours to relieve themselves.
  • 16-week old puppy – By 16 weeks of age, your puppy can wait for about 4 hours before they need to go outside to potty.
  • 24-week old puppy – At this stage, your German Shepherd can wait up to 6 hours and might well be able to sleep through the night without needing to go out – just be sure to take them out first thing in the morning because they’ll need it!

Dealing with ‘potty incidents’

When potty incidents occur, you will want to clean them up quickly and thoroughly. Smelling their potty-scents in one place will tempt a dog to use this place again and you definitely don’t want that. Again, we’ll remind you, do not punish your dog at this time.

Simply clean it up and if you catch them peeing, take them outside immediately. For cleaning, enzymatic cleaner is the best. Just sop up the urine with some paper towels and you can pick up and bag the poop with these towels as well to dispose of in plastic bags.

If you don’t have enzymatic cleaner, then a mixture made of ½ white vinegar and ½ water in a spray bottle will also do nicely. Just mix it up and spray the affected areas, letting the vinegar and water sit for about 5 to 10 minutes before wiping it up with an old, clean linen or towel.

Watch for certain behaviors to help prevent this from occurring in the future. For instance, if your dog scratches at the carpet or starts sniffing and circling in an area, then it’s important to get them outside immediately. When they potty, give them a treat right away, and in time they will learn to wait – just be patient with them!

Consider Crate training

While you are potty training your dog, one option that can help to minimize messes while also making it easier to travel is Crate training. With crate training, you would purchase or build a crate for your dog to sleep in or to pen them in for brief spaces when you cannot watch them.

As long as you don’t overuse this, it’s quite beneficial. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits:

  • If not overused, your dog will see the crate as ‘their personal space’, giving them a spot with a little privacy where they can destress with a nice toy or treat.
  • Your dog will learn to get in or out of the crate for when you need to safely transport them to the vet or to the park for an outing.
  • Your dog will have a place to sleep at night, preferably close to your bed in the bedroom, and will be less likely to wander.
  • You will have a place to put your dog when you cannot supervise them.

Crate training is a good idea, especially since many owners tend to make the mistake of leaving their dog alone in the house for quick errands. Until your dog is around 2 years old, they are not mature enough for this – so you are going to need to manage them.

A German Shepherd crate should be at least 48 inches in length and should not be closed on the dog for more than 4 hours at a time. Any longer than this can lead to depression and to potty incidents.

Think of it as an indoor dog house, rather than a cage, and then you’ve got the right idea when it comes to Crate training!

Obedience training will speed things along

Teach your German Shepherd some commands while you are potty training them. Giving your German Shepherd something to do is important, as boredom can really get them into trouble. Teach the basics, such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’, and ‘come here’. More commands will be even better.

Another good habit to get your German Shepherd into early is to teach them to sit next to you or another family member when they want to play with their toys. This allows you to keep an eye on them and when they grow, you’re Shepherd will always be close.

This is easy to do – just wait until they pick up a toy and call your dog to you. Tell them to ‘sit’ and if they get up to move after a few minutes, tell them to ‘stay’. Give your dog a treat when they do and with a little time, your dog will learn that you want them to play close to you.

If you are consistent with this, calling them over or having another family member call them over whenever your dog wants to play with a toy, they will learn to stay close to that family member, and in this way, you’re teaching your dog to always stay close to the family!

How long will this take?

Potty training is different for every dog. That said, German Shepherds are clever canines and as long as you take them out on the schedule that their age dictates, then most of them will pick it up quite quickly. We’ve seen some Shepherds learn within a week or two, while others might take 1 or 2 months.

Consistency is the key. Once your dog knows that you will always take them outside, on a ‘watertight’ schedule, then they will learn to be patient. The treats that they are getting every time that they do will further reinforce this.

So, hang in there and make sure that you are taking your dog outside regularly. When they are young, they simply can’t wait, and you need to show them that you are always going to take them out when they need it. Once the trust is there and the habit is familiar, then the lesson is going to stick!

Finally, don’t forget, that your dog is going to need to go out during the night until they are around months of age. Set your alarm so that you can get up and take them. This will avoid ‘potty incidents’ at night and show your dog that there is no reason to potty inside – because you’ll always take them out!

In closing

Today we’ve taken a closer look at what it takes to train your German Shepherd properly when it comes to potty training. First off, use our schedule tips to make sure that your little one never has to wait too long! Give them a treat every time that they ‘go’ outside and you’re off to a good start.

After that, consider crate training to add a little more structure and for easy transportation when you need it and clean up any ‘accidents’ quickly to avoid repeat incidents. Finally, consider some obedience commands – good behavior lasts a lifetime and it’s best to start early.

Before you know it, your clever dog will learn to trust and to wait for you and everyone’s going to be happy!