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How to House Train a German Shepherd

As with any breed of dog, house training, a German Shepherd involves patience and consistency. By having some insight specific to the breed, you and your dog will find the process to be less stressful.

To house train a German Shepherd, you will need to follow a series of steps. These involve knowing your german Shepherd’s biology, designating a bathroom area, setting boundaries, keeping a positive attitude, and using positive reinforcement.

These steps are detailed below. Read on to learn how to house train your German Shepherd!

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Become Familiar With the Digestive and Bladder Patterns of German Shepherds

You should familiarize yourself with the digestive and bladder patterns of German Shepherds before starting to house train one.

Between the ages of 12 to 16 weeks, German Shepherd puppies develop enough bowel and bladder control to allow them to be house trained.

At this age, German Shepherd puppies can hold their bladder functions from two to four hours.

Bowel movements will usually occur 10 to 30 minutes after they eat a meal.

As the puppy grows older, these times will expand. Keep track of them on a spreadsheet or notepad. By knowing when your German Shepherd is more likely to go to the bathroom, you will be better able to schedule your dog’s house training. You will know the key times during the day when your presence could be the difference between a successful bathroom trip and an unfortunate accident.

Designate a Bathroom Area

Choose an area that will be designated to be your German Shepherd’s bathroom area. Usually, a grassy area of your backyard will work well for this. Make sure that access to that area from the house is unencumbered from your dog’s point of view.

Also, avoid areas that may have sudden disturbances, such as near a fence facing the street or near a swing set where your kids may be playing when the dog has to go.

This designated area is where you will take your German Shepherd when the bathroom patterns described in the section above indicate that it is time for him to go. Likewise, this is also the area where you will take him when he signals to you he has to go.

Set Boundaries and Expand Them Slowly

When a puppy first enters your home, it can easily become overwhelmed by the new space. It will want to explore and expand its reach. When house training a German Shepherd, however, it is best to limit your pup’s access to your home during the process.

You can accomplish this by setting firm boundaries. If your German Shepherd is a very young puppy, its first few days in your home may involve using a puppy crate.

If this is the case, you’ll want to place the crate in a room that you can effectively close off from the rest of the house. Try to pick a room that is not carpeted, such as the kitchen.

Allow the puppy to acclimate to the noise and smells of the room for an hour or two before letting him out into the room. That room should be the only area of the house that it will have access to throughout the house training process.

The crate can be used if you must leave your German Shepherd unattended. Just remember, if a puppy is involved, you should never leave him in the crate for more than his age in months plus one hour.

For example, a 3-month old puppy could be in the crate for a maximum of four hours. Any longer than that and it can needlessly stress the dog. A puppy crate that is well-suited for this is the AmazonBasics Folding Metal Dog Crate. I’ve used this for my puppy, and I’ve found it’s an excellent crate for the price.

Once you are confident that your German Shepherd has been house trained, then you may confidently introduce him to the rest of the house.

Leverage the German Shepherd’s Natural Ability for Fast Learning

As a breed, German Shepherds are ranked third when it comes to intelligence. They are naturally fast learners and establish habits and patterns based on routines.

You can leverage this innate ability for quick learning by German Shepherds to expedite their house training. However, this requires commitment on your part. You must put in the time and effort required to teach your dogs the behavior that you want them to display.

Since biological functions are involved, you also need to take into account that when your dog has to go, he has to go. If you are not present when this happens to take the dog to the designated zone, it will delay the process of your dog forming the habit of going to the bathroom outside. It may even regress any advancements that you have made.

Keep in mind the bladder and bowel movement patterns that were described above. Do your best to be present during the times that your dog is most likely to go to the bathroom. If you can’t be there the whole time, recruit other members of your household to help.

The more consistent you are with the coverage, the faster that your German Shepherd will grasp the pattern and make it habitual.

Keep a Positive Attitude When Bathroom Accidents Occur

If your German Shepherd has an accident, it is important that you keep a positive attitude. Do not yell at the dog after the fact. It will only serve to stress the dog needlessly. They are unable to connect your anger or yelling with the accident after it has happened.

If you catch your German Shepherd in the act of soiling the floor, have an established loud signal in place. This could be a loud hand clap or yelling, “stop!” Use that when you catch the dog in the act.

The loud noise will get the dog to stop. You then must immediately take the dog gently to the designated bathroom area.

If your German Shepherd does suffer a few accidents indoors, clean them up with an enzyme-activated cleaner, such as Rocco and Roxie Professional Stain and Odor Eliminator. The enzymes in these types of cleaners not only remove the odor, but also help to prevent the dog from coming back later and associating that spot as a bathroom zone.

Provide Positive Reinforcement to Your Dog

When your German Shepherd completes its “business” outside, make sure to provide some positive reinforcement immediately afterward. This should be in the form of physical affection or a treat. Try to alternate between both methods, so your German Shepherd doesn’t become accustomed to only one form of gratification.

Remember, your dog needs to know that he is doing what is expected. With a breed such as the German Shepherd, this is what triggers fast habit-forming.

Avoid Temporary Solutions Such As Pee Pads, Newspaper, etc.

Placing pee pads or newspaper on the floor is not recommended when house training a German Shepherd.

While such items may make cleaning up accidents easier, they can also contribute to a regression of the house training process. Your German Shepherd will begin to associate these items as an alternative to the designated bathroom spot in your backyard.

Remember, consistency is essential in house training a German Shepherd. If you want him to learn to only go to the bathroom outside, don’t provide him with temporary alternatives. Dogs don’t grasp the concept of “temporary.”


As you have read, the steps for house training a german Shepherd are not complicated. The key is being consistent. In doing so, the German Shepherd’s natural ability to learn and its innateness toward habit and routine will make the house training process less rigorous than with other dog breeds.