How to House Train a Puppy
House training a puppy can be a great joy, however in most cases it is a big burden too. Housetraining a puppy often requires strong nerves because the pup has not yet had a chance to adapt to your way of living. If you get the puppy house training wrong, you may have to bear the consequences for years to come.
However, if you do the puppy house training the right way, your pup should be well on its way within a few weeks only. This brief article shall help you with that. To get much more valuable insight regularly, subscribe to the free MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL here on the site.
Or if you require to get all insight into puppy house training right now, then consider getting the very comprehensive Puppy Development Guide - Puppy 101: The Secrets to Puppy Training without Force, Fear, and Fuss - which covers Puppy House Training in detail.
Compared to house training a dog that is already older, house training a puppy requires more time, patience, and nerves. Nonetheless, you'll probably agree that the pleasures of owning a puppy outweigh all side effects, because a dog is not just cute while small, a dog always is your best friend for life: Modest, grateful, supportive, reliable, and extremely loyal. Oh, and a dog never forces us into a long argument either.
However, house training a puppy actually involves more areas than just housebreaking a puppy meaning potty training a puppy or toilet training puppies. So, what are the important areas?
Puppy house training
Puppy house training comprises:
- Housebreaking a puppy - meaning Potty training a puppy or toilet training puppies
- Puppy behavior training
- Crate training puppies
- Puppy meals, Meal times, and Feeding routine
- Leash training puppies, and
- Puppy obedience training
Note that you will find additional information on the topics that aren't hyperlinked above in the article German Shepherd Puppy Training.
Also note that you may think that leash training puppies isn't part of housetraining a puppy, however leash training puppies really has to start in the house, and from early on, in order to be effective and safe.
So, let's briefly run through each of the areas of house training a puppy. Note that house training a dog that is already older has its own article on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.org.
Housebreaking a puppy
Housebreaking a puppy is also called potty training a puppy or toilet training puppies.
Housebreaking a puppy has its own article here on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.org.
Puppy behavior training
Straight after potty training a puppy, the second most important part of puppy house training probably is puppy behavior training.
Naturally, behavior training a puppy is much more important than behavior training a dog that is already older, because a puppy has yet to learn everything for the very first time, and because you now have the chance to massively influence your dog's behavior in future.
However, as with all dog training too, puppy behavior training requires consistency and patience. Do not try to achieve several changes at the same time. If you use the right puppy behavior training then it is often really easy to achieve the puppy behavior you want.
Puppy behavior training comprises in particular:
- Puppy chewing
- Puppy scratching
- Puppy barking
- Puppy jumping
- Stop puppy biting, and
- Stop puppy whining
Let's VERY BRIEFLY go through each of these areas of puppy behavior. You know that you will learn everything in more detail when you start reading the free MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL regularly. Or, if you feel you can't wait, consider getting the Puppy Development Guide - Puppy 101 .
It takes anywhere between six to ten months for a puppy’s teeth to set into the jaw completely, which will make your pup chew on anything that gets in its way - unless you train your German Shepherd puppy from early on which items are tabu.
Never try to stop puppy chewing entirely because then you would promote early tooth loss and inflammation of the gums of your dog. Puppy chewing is a necessary period of your puppy growing up.
To prevent your puppy chewing on your favourite slippers, handbags, table legs etc, give your pup at least three different puppy chew toys that are truly suitable for puppies of a certain age - because both the material and the shape must be appropriate for puppy chewing.
When your pup then indeed chooses to chew on the provided puppy chew toys, reward your pup immediately with praise (no treat here). Immediate positive reinforcement dog training is the only form of dog training methods that is suitable for a puppy.
When your puppy chews on items that are tabu, gently take the item away and give your pup a short pinch in the ruff of its neck while using the first of the list of dog commands: Say a sharp, short "NO!".
Do nothing else, and don't be resentful because a dog in general, and a puppy in particular, cannot relate your mood to its own prior behavior.
Likewise, never try to stop puppy scratching entirely because a puppy must also use its paws and claws for them to develop healthily.
Again, to prevent your puppy scratching on your table legs, antique furniture etc, give your puppy an alternative. Suitable dog scratch mats are rarely sold as such, but you can simply use one of those hardwearing door entry mats - eg made of hard rubber (easy to clean).
Apply the same reward mechanism as above and use positive reinforcement dog training only.
Barking is the only voice a dog has, and it is absolutely necessary that you allow puppy barking once a while, or you will promote future dog aggression.
However, you rightfully want to limit puppy barking to a few times a day, and dog barking at night need not be tolerated at all - unless of course there is an intruder.
Note that a German Shepherd puppy as well as an adult German Shepherd is hundreds of times more likely to notice an unfamiliar intruder than you would. But for a dog an intruder is someone, or something(!), that approaches the dog's assumed territory - which may be an area a mile or so around your house. Considering this, in future you may want to show a bit more appreciation when your dog or puppy is barking: It always, always has a reason.
Because of a dog's sensitivity, we rarely notice the reason - and mostly wouldn't accept the reason because it isn't an intruder as to our understanding. But that's the point: Your dog has a different understanding, and should the rare situation occur that there is indeed an intruder trying to enter your home, then you would be thankful for this different kind of understanding of your dog.
Puppies primarily jump up when they frolic, while adult dogs primarily jump up either to signal their assumed dominance or, more often, out of excitement to have the attention of the owner.
If you find puppy jumping annoying, you can seek to limit it to certain situations, however you shouldn't attempt to eliminate it entirely: Puppy jumping is part of their play, it is training and improving their agility, and it is an indication of both physical and mental health as well as an indication of an upbeat mood in your presence. - All very positive features you could argue.
However, extreme or prolonged puppy jumping up on people can get annoying, especially when you have guests. It can even be a bit dangerous if you have small children.
Ideally you may appreciate your puppy jumping on its own because it is frolic, but you may want to reduce or eliminate the jumping up on people, right?
Puppy jumping up on people is a puppy training issue.
First, do not greet your puppy with the same level of excitement it shows itself, instead always counter-balance its behavior. This means, if your puppy jumps up out of excitement to have your attention, reduce the amount of attention you give.
Second, meet your puppy at its own level of height. This means, if your puppy jumps up to greet you closer to your face (where your eyes are and from where you speak), bend down to greet your pup on a level slightly above its own head.
Third, introduce your pup to basic dog commands like "No", "Sit", "Down", and "Off". You can start to gently teach these dog commands when you get your German Shepherd puppy - usually at an age not earlier than 8 to 10 weeks.
Reward with praise when your puppy greets without jumping (see positive reinforcement dog training above). Never reward with increased attention for jumping up on you, or you increase the problem yourself.
Stop puppy biting
Puppy biting must not be tolerated at any time. It isn't cute and it isn't affectionate, it is puppy biting - which would promote future dog biting if you were to tolerate it now.
When you have a German Shepherd puppy that naturally will soon turn into a strong and agile adult German Shepherd, the topic of puppy biting means you have a puppy biting problem - which must be appropriately addressed immediately. Therefore we have a dedicated article Stop Puppy Biting here on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG.
Stop puppy whining
Puppy whining can quickly get very annoying, and you may want to make it part of your Puppy training to curb this common puppy behavior straight away.
Try to notice why your German Shepherd puppy is whining, and address the cause, not the symptom. Typically puppy whining has one of the following reasons:
- Your puppy may be ill
- Your puppy may suffer pain and tries to inform you or to use the whining to serve as a valve
- Your puppy may be scared
- Your puppy may be hungry or thirsty
- Your puppy may need to go potty immediately
- Your puppy may seek attention
You notice, the reasons are similar to why dogs bark but contrary to why dogs bark, the primary reason for dog whining and in particular for puppy whining is that your German Shepherd puppy seeks more attention from you. Similar to children, puppies are most of the time very dependent and need a lot of attention and love in order to develop well.
Nonetheless, puppy whining too is a natural part of puppy development. Hence, even if you are sure that you give your puppy enough attention and play time, and that there appears to be no other justifiable reason for puppy whining, you shouldn't try to eliminate it completely. It's the non-vocal form of communication of your dog and, like we humans won't always speak clearly in order to express our feeling, dogs too won't always bark in order to communicate their feeling.
Now, to keep the big picture let's leave puppy behavior training for now and let's move on with the other important areas of puppy house training.
Crate training puppies
Crate training puppies means to make your puppy use its crate as its primary domicile. Just like children would primarily use their room when they play indoors or when they sleep.
Crate training puppies has its own article on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG.
Puppy meals, Meal times, and Feeding routine
Appropriate and healthy puppy meals are even more crucial for a young dog in development than for an older dog - which does not mean that we can feed our adult German Shepherd poor food.
Thankfully, dog owners in general anyway are more wary what they feed their pup. Still, the topic of puppy meals, meal times, and feeding routine seems to be neglected here too. Make sure that your puppy gets used to fixed meal times and a consistent feeding routine right from the start, and only serve puppy meals based on natural dog food.
Avoid the industrial dog food as much as you can. Despite what it says on the tin, it isn't good for your dog, and in particular not good for your puppy, to live on processed dog food. You wouldn't be a healthy, happy person either if you had been nurtured on tin food and packaged food.
Absolutely crucial again is that you always keep a bowl full of fresh water for your puppy to drink from - at any time it feels like it. There is no excuse to limit your dog's fresh water supply. Yes, your dog will need to go potty more often, but it will be much healthier and calmer too. So, if you cannot observe your puppy as much as you would like, you may want to get a suitable inside dog potty, see Housebreaking a puppy.
Also take a look at this same section under House training a dog.
Leash training puppies
Leash training puppies also is part of house training a puppy because it has to start inside the house in order to be effective.
Help your German Shepherd puppy to get used to the dog collar from early on, and inside the house. Have your puppy wear the dog collar at least four hours a day, and in particular an hour before you walk your puppy.
Also put your puppy on the leash 10 to 15 minutes before actually going out: Let your pup run around in the house with the leash attached. Every now and then grab the end of the leash and hold. This way, your pup realizes already while still inside the house that the leash is a restraint which limits its running around.
This form of puppy leash training is an important part of house training a puppy: While still inside the house, your pup slowly becomes familiar with the collar and leash and restraint, step-by-step. Long before it will have to cope with the additional attractions that are awaiting your pup outside: unfamiliar smells, other people, maybe other dogs, possibly other puppies, and maybe even anxiety.
So, the minimum you can do for a young dog is to help it feel comfortable - being used to the collar and leash already.
Puppy obedience training
Contrary to what you hear everywhere else, Puppy obedience training should play a minor role - if at all. Better convert your mind and be open towards Behavior Training, which focuses on motivation, not commands, and certainly not force.
You shouldn't make extensive use of the dog commands just yet anyway. Be sure that your puppy is safe, but don't make it stand, stay, go, heel etc at your command. It's a puppy after all!
A German Shepherd puppy must be allowed to frolic as often as possible - on the leash while outside, and off the leash while inside the house. The boredom of keeping at your heels and doing everything you say and require will come early enough.
Nonetheless, the house or garden offers a pretty safe environment for your puppy to explore the world. So, it's a good opportunity to teach your pup basic dog commands like "No", "Sit", "Down", "Out" etc.
Note that we have a dedicated article on Obedience dog training, and that the MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL regularly features this topic too - or rather why we should replace the 'obedience mindset' with our 'behavior mindset'.
If you truly want to give your puppy the best start in life (and yourself peace by avoiding totally unnecessary 'puppy problems') then your best bet is the Puppy Development Guide - Puppy 101: The Secrets to Puppy Training without Force, Fear, and Fuss .