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Housebreaking a Puppy


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 f f f f f f f f.

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.

Puppy housebreaking

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 f f f f f f f f.

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!

  30 Responses to “Housebreaking a Puppy”


    I have wanted to buy a German Shepherd for as long as I can remember. I want to buy one and train it while it is on the road with me, I currently work 8-10 hours a day. It would be no different if I were at the house. Would I just be fighting an uphill battle trying to train my pup? Can it be done? He would get plenty of exercise running and hiking with me.


      I am unsure what you mean? You say your GSD would get plenty of exercise like running and hiking, and you also say you want to train your GSD while on the road.
      Do you mean while driving in the car?? You should focus on the traffic :-)
      No, you cannot train ANY dog while in the car, you need more space.
      In other regards, sure you can train your GSD despite being 10 hours on the road (IF your dog truly gets enough exercise!). Indeed, if you have to be out of house all day, you should take your dog with you if you can!
      We cannot leave a pup all day alone. When older, it’s a bit different. Then I always recommend to get at least two dogs when you are all day away, so that they have someone to socialize with. This is CRUCIAL to avoid behavior problems. Still, before you leave and straight when you come home, you would NEED to socialize intensely with your dogs, or you will face sever health and behavior problems.



    Sorry about asking an irrelevant question for this post but I could not find your email address to contact you directly.

    I have two playful cats and if I use your design of crate for my new 8 week old male pup (which will come by end of January 2014), don’t you think it may encourage the puppy to play with cats during night time and cause bad behaviors?
    I have bunch of cables behind my TV and I wonder if he gets up at night and start chewing on them.
    Also do you have a chart that shows how much exercise on average a German Shepherd dog should get through his/her lifetime?

    Allen Heydari


      Hi Allen, no problem, your question actually fits perfectly on this page.
      Yes, do not let your 8 week old pup wandering around the house while you are asleep! Only after you are sure your (older) pup is fully house-trained the way WE HERE understand house training (more than housebreaking!) – the linked book is currently FREE, grab it quickly!! It’s all in there.



    Thanks for the quick response. I just have downloaded your book. Now, should I put him in Kennel till he gets housetrained?

    Also how long do you think it will take for a male GSD on average to get housetrained?


      You have it now, for free, why don’t you just start reading? I couldn’t say it any better here in a quickie message ;-)
      When finished let me know through your review :-)



    I have read both of your books on puppy and high value house but still I dont see anywhere in those books that you have talked about what we should do till the puppy is house trained. I will get my puppy in three weeks from a breeder. Please let me know if I should keep the puppy in kennel for several days before I house trained him or not?


      Allen, maybe you overlooked it, I wrote “Keep your puppy in a non-carpeted area during those first few days” (until house-trained; remember, it doesn’t take weeks with our approach), and “when your pup is not, constant observation is necessary”.

      Look, it is only sensible not to have the persian rugs rolled out on the day you get a new pup. I know, in some households it can be a struggle to temporarily arrange living in a room with tiles, linoleum, or whatever (some people have NO such room), but on the other hand, if we don’t make such temporary adaptations, we will be upset when our new pup pees on some valuable stuff (and being upset is not a good start for a great relationship).

      I also found that when we have to make such “uncomfortable” arrangements, we are much more eager to identify the pup’s individual potty signals quickly (camera)! While dog owners who avoid to adapt (even if it’s only for a few days), tend to “accept” that bad habits develop. And often, before they know it, 5 months have passed, and they still haven’t identified the pup’s potty signals, and they still haven’t established a potty routine/ dog walk routine! (I read that out of help requests all the time, it’s so common!)

      Hence, when we get/got a new dog (pup or adult), one person always had to be at home during the first week, and we willingly chose life a bit “uncomfortable” during the first few days, this motivated us to know the potty signals on the second or third day (max), and the potty routine described in the book was established that same day or (if evening) the very next day!

      That way, in under a week we can make the house as comfy again as we like. Still, at night (when we can’t observe the new dog), we will keep the dog in a non-carpeted “safe” room/area (no wiring etc, as described in the book). If you have NO such area, obviously you will have to lock your new dog/pup in a crate (ie kennel) during the night (but take the pup out for a walk every few hours anyway) – otherwise you’ll have to accept that you may wake up to a small mess.

      Does this make sense to you?



    Thank you so much for the info. I guess my best option would be kennel at this point then.



    I just bought a German Sheperd, AKC Registered Puppy. I have had him now for 3 days, and the young male pup still will not associate going to the bathroom while outside. He always wants to play, jump on me, or bite at my legs.

    I take him out last thing at night before crating him, and first thing in the morning, and within 10 minutes of eating and drinking, but it still wants to both pee and poop inside the house. I’m getting frustrated with it’s behavior because I have a toddler in the house also, and don’t want germs transferred from the dog’s waste.

    Any ideas or help?! Thanks!


      >Any ideas or help?!
      Loads: Did you see the Puppy 101?

      With your situation, now give particular attention to:
      – urgent and comprehensive socialization!!!
      – bite inhibition training
      – Feeding Routine
      – Ignoring Attention-Seeking
      – controlled play-fighting

      While Housebreaking is minor (will only take a few days with our approach).



    I subscribed to MGS.org about 2 weeks ago. I have tried to login, and it will not let me, claiming no known subscription for email. I received my welcome email to the entered email, and have also received a periodical. HELP! I have some questions/concerns as well about my GSD puppy, Ruger, that will be coming home within the week that I am hoping you can help me find answers/solutions to.
    Thank you for all you do,
    (I know this isn’t a relevant article, but my concerns are puppy related)


      Sarah, nowhere it says that you need to “login”, nor that you can “login”. Only members can. Not subscribers. Hope this helps. Thanks.


    Tim. My 10 week old Female VS spends most of the day with me and my my other dog (8 year old Female Doberman. The GS is fed in the morning. She plays in our large yard throughout the day with me and the donor. Often when she cones into the house she will immediately on the tile o
    Floor even though she just pre d outside. At night I keep her in a large wire crate next to my bed. If I leave her anywhere else she cried all night long. I get up twice a night to take her outside ans she usually prees. In the morning the paper I lay down in her site crate if full of poop and pre. I do not give her water or food on the evening. I keep her in the crate because otherwise she soils the floor. Why is she randomly peering in the house after being outside all day? Why is she peering and pooping in the crate she sleeps in. I want to get her house trained. Any suggestions outside of what is in the house training a puppy book. ?


      Bill, you cannot mean any of my own books as I don’t have a house training a puppy book. If you only seek house training advice, I suggest Verni Fogarsi’s housebreaking book (her book title is misleading).

      However, you have far more issues than just housebreaking. Foremost, you have raised a 10 week old pup that already learned that she is the Pack leader!
      In all diplomacy, from what you write, you are doing everything wrong.

      If I were you, I would strictly adhere to the Puppy Development Guide and to House Training Dogs To Behave Well.
      What you write shows that so far, you apply nothing of that. :-(
      You need to ask yourself, why?


    I have a female GSD nd we live in a apartment. We want to train her to go pee nd poo outside the house or at terrace. How we do this? She do this in all over the house.. she is 5 weeks old. We give 6 times food in a day as doctor prescribed. She goes potty 3-4 times in a day. We want place for her to go there..if it is a particular place or in balcony or at terrace. Not all over in the house… please email me how to do that.


    Hey Tim,

    I purchased your book “puppy 101 for dog lovers” and have read it. I am also subscribed to your periodicals. I am trying to train my pup who is 8 weeks old using the techniques you outlined. The results have been very good and satisfying, it keeps both the pup and me calm :)

    I stay with my dad and mom in the same house and they haven’t read your book as they have a hectic schedule. I have two questions:
    1. My pup is 40% house broken already but is not house trained. If she goes for the sofa or the slippers. Should freeze/isolation be used to restrain her or are there other indications to watch out for. As I feel guilty not giving her free movement within my home.

    2. At times my puppy goes for my parent’s slippers / trousers and their reactions would be mostly to try to push her off and if she comes again they would scold her and pull their legs up if they are on the couch. Their reactions are not consistent to mine, as I would use your techniques. Will this confuse the dog? What do I do?


      Jai, the pup only 8 weeks old? And you already seeing the results from using the techniques? That’s good but I wonder how young you got the pup. It sounds like the puppy missed on a lot of what you (hopefully) took in from the Puppy Development Guide: Litter Socialization. Hm?
      So you’ll need to make up for that loss during Family Socialization, ie NOW. Right now, for the next four to six weeks minimum. Yes, I would suggest to use exactly the techniques outlined in the book – that’s why I put them there.

      Another worry I have: You write your parents are (in short, in my words) No-knows, AND counteract your training approach. That’s terrible, all the more for an 8w old puppy!
      I am unsure about your age, but I am sure from your writing that you have the skill to SHOW your parents HOW TO BEHAVE WELL with the pup. Ie use the moments where your parents come home from their “hectic schedule” to pass on as much as you can of what you learned from the book and your success with the puppy already. And make very clear to them: If they are interfering with your training (and confuse the pup!), they are going to have a lot of “dog problems” in 8 weeks! Pl check in the book: EVERYONE in the family has to adhere to the training approach.

      Pl re-read the whole book, with particular attention to:
      Collar Freeze/Isolation
      Feeding Routine

      Let me know how you get on a week after that.


    Thanks Tim. Shall do as u suggest. I got the pup a week back, so it spent 7 weeks with its mom and six littermates. Are there any other book of yours which could be read now for more of your awesome techniques which could be used with 2-3 month old puppies?


      At some point you may want to study House Training Dogs To Behave Well, but for the next 2 months I’d absolutely prefer you get all family members in the same boat as regards the Puppy 101 fundamentals.
      Also, do pay particular attention to the nipping advice and controlled play-fighting for bite inhibition (see your Puppy 101).


    We just got a GS Puppy she’s 3 1/2 months. The breeder kept her in an enclosed area with wood chips to potty. She isn’t potty trained. We have had her 6 hours taken her our several times even bought chips left in an area and still nothing this poor girl needs to go


    My daughter has a 4 month old German Shepherd pup that she got from a pet store. It is extremely difficult to get her to go potty outside. What are some tips to help with her potty training? She is also leery of being outdoors, as she has lived in a pet store until my daughter bought her about 4 weeks ago. Any help wuld be appreciated. Thank you very much.


    We try to keep our new, almost 9 week old German Shepherd puppy in an enclosed, tiled room at night. We also provide water and a radio for some soft white noise. But after two hours or so, she starts wining and crying so bad even the neighbours can hear her…nothing then calms her. So….we take her to our room where she sleeps in front our bed…even then she seems restless and whined now and then. It’s her second night with us.


    Just bought your book on puppy training. We’ve had several GSD’s but not had a puppy for a while and thought would try your techniques. Thank you for a wonderful site.


    Hey so I have an 10 week old german shepherd male and he doesn’t work well with being house broken and the nipping and biting I can’t get him to stop any suggestions

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