Housebreaking a puppy means potty training a puppy or toilet training a puppy, and for many dog owners this is possibly the most demanding (and annoying) part of house training a puppy.
Nonetheless, puppy housebreaking need not be as difficult as some people make it appear. After all, a puppy has not yet developed a routine when and where to go potty, which means you don’t need to break an existing routine. Instead, if you do it right, you can fairly easily train your German Shepherd puppy to follow the routine you want, even at the times you want – within limits.
However, you must be consistent when potty training a puppy and you must show patience. It will normally take a week before your German Shepherd puppy is housebroken, meaning clean in the house – IF you do it right. If you don’t do it right, or your puppy potty training is inconsistent, your pups may need many weeks or even months before it is housebroken.
Note that puppy housebreaking (or potty training, or toilet training) is covered in detail in the Puppy Development Guide – Puppy 101: The Secrets to Puppy Training without Force, Fear, and Fuss .
How to housebreak a puppy
What can you do during that one week or much more, so that you don’t need the mop?
First, walk your pups frequently and regularly – either in the garden or in a safe, somewhat enclosed area outside the house. If you have the luck to work from home while you have a puppy, you can easily decide to walk your dog every hour, even if for a few minutes only. This is an important part of the first week of toilet training a puppy.
Second, and particularly if you don’t work from home, consider to buy one of those absorbent grass mats, or pads, pellets, a box, or a tray. All these products for housebreaking a puppy (and for use in an apartment, boat, etc) are basically indoor dog potties. Some of them use substances that aim to attract your puppy to indeed go potty on the dog potty, instead of leaving the dog potty clean and making your Persian rug dirty.
Third, you realize already that you would ideally keep your German Shepherd puppy in a non-carpeted room in the first few weeks – just to be safe.
The best indoor dog potty is of course one that:
- is easy to empty and easy to clean
- does not require your dog to stand with its paws on its own (fresh or old) business
- and attracts your dog to really use it
All indoor dog potties allow your dog to go potty inside your house. Some dog potties have reservoirs large enough and a drainage system clever enough to allow a puppy to go potty several times before you need to empty the dog potty.
However, note that whatever indoor dog potty solution you use, be prepared that you may still need the mop a few times.
Fourth, important is: When you weren’t fast enough to take your puppy for a short walk or to let it in the garden, or to ensure it hits the dog potty, you will need to clean the affected area thoroughly or else your puppy will be attracted to that “potty area” going forward!
A good solution is to buy a bottle of concentrated vinegar for a few pennies (the clear one, the one that’s also brilliant to descale your kettle). Mix an equal amount of water and vinegar, and give the affected area a final wipe-down with this solution.
Now, as opposed to descaling the kettle, don’t apply fresh water to the affected area at the end. Still, for us, the vinegar smell will disappear within an hour or two, but for your dog that area will smell of vinegar for weeks: Dogs’ olfactory sense is thousands of times more sensitive than ours (some scientists claim it is millions of times more sensitive). In any case, that’s enough for your dog to refrain from using the same spot again to go potty.
Puppy potty training
Fifth, try to always use the same gestures, voice commands, whistles, and/or objects when you want to signal your puppy when and where to go potty. This will help your puppy to develop a potty routine more quickly.
Sixth, from early on, tie the leash to the main door handle. 10 to 15 minutes before you take your puppy for a walk, put it on the leash and have it run in the house with the leash attached. See Leash training puppies under House training a puppy for more details. This will help your pups to soon build a mental connection between Leash – Door – Being taken for a walk – and Going potty.
If you walk your puppy regularly and allow it a lot of exercise, you will notice that you will have hardly any potty accidents inside your house.
Seventh, if you are going to use an indoor dog potty, make sure that you don’t place the dog potty in the crate or inside a kennel that is too small, because instinctively dogs will not want to soil the place where they play, doze, or sleep. Which means your dog wouldn’t actually use the dog potty but would do its business somewhere else – where you would need to apply the vinegar solution again.
Eighth, do not make the mistake millions of dog owners make: Do not reward your puppy with a treat for expected routine behavior – like to go potty. Expected routine behavior should only be rewarded with praise. Treats should be reserved to exceptional, rare behavior. Otherwise you disturb the whole training concept of puppy meals, meal times, and feeding routine – see House training a puppy and House training a dog for more details.
Also, giving treats for expected routine behavior would be detrimental to your puppy’s temperament (emotional stability), as well as detrimental to your puppy’s health – regardless what the industrial dog food companies are trying to communicate with their clever marketing.
Finally, giving treats for expected routine behavior would set the wrong stimulus for your dog’s behavior in future. The reward for toileting must always be in form of praise only.
Only use immediate positive reinforcement dog training, never dip your pups’ nose in the urine or something like that. That’s not only sick, it’s also stupid because it doesn’t teach your puppy a thing while it will definitely harm your relationship with your dog and seed future dog aggression too.
Ninth, another simple rule to follow is to ensure that your puppy does not run free in the house until it is housebroken. First your puppy needs to learn where and when to go potty. By confining your puppy to a small enclosure within your house – which it instinctively will not want to soil – your pups will naturally try to find a different place to go potty. This is when you need to be ready to take your pups either outside or to the dog potty inside your house.
If you get these nine points right from the start, then you will see that you can actually manage housebreaking a puppy within a week. German Shepherd puppies in particular are usually very quickly clean indoors, and then they stay clean, while some other breeds do not.
Now, if you are thinking: “But there’s still more I’d like to learn about housebreaking a puppy” – yes there is. Subscribe to the free MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL, and you will. Reading it regularly will also ensure that you’ll have the BEST relationship with your German Shepherd for life, not just while your GSD is a puppy.
If you don’t like to subscribe (although at the moment it’s still free for life for existing subscribers), or you want everything right now, then consider getting the Puppy Development Guide – Puppy 101: The Secrets to Puppy Training without Force, Fear, and Fuss .
In any case, a puppy that is potty trained is even more of a pleasure than when you still have to worry about puppy potty training. Enjoy your German Shepherd puppy!