Housebreaking a puppy or potty training a puppy or toilet training a puppy arguably is the most stressful time for a new puppy owner. Obviously unless the mum and litter mates together with the breeder have taken care of that - which they may do, and very well, if you leave the puppy in the litter until age 8 weeks as a minimum.
You may not know, but under normal circumstances puppies actually learn from mum and litter mates to relieve away from their den (the mum doesn't allow the den to be spoiled). And if the breeder is adept in placing the den, then all litter mates may have learned to relieve outside the house (and even on a grassy patch!) as early as age 8 weeks. To find the right breeder, see Questions to ask the breeder which includes what to observe when visiting a breeder.
Unfortunately though, ordinary (read average) breeders don't care, they keep all dogs outside anyway, at a good distance away from their own house. Then how shall the puppies learn to make a difference between indoors and outdoors?!
If you care to have a housebroken puppy later on, then don't start off wrong by getting a puppy from a breeder who doesn't care how to housebreak a puppy. Makes sense, right? So, make sure you get your next German Shepherd puppy from the best German Shepherd breeders, not from some questionable source - who possibly is just money-focused: Do they give the puppies away ASAP to save on further cost?!
Ideally, get an adult rescue dog. On average, rescue dogs are so much easier and more comforting than a puppy!
But what if you already got a German Shepherd puppy before doing your research on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG? What if you've got a puddle or poop in your house right now? What do you do? Give the puppy back? Ask for your money back? Give the puppy to a shelter? Get the best book on dog housebreaking alone? Or have your dog use a natural indoor potty?
While an emergency indoor potty always is a smart choice (dogs can have an intestinal upset just like we people do!), undertaking the right puppy housebreaking is essential for domesticated dogs (domus means house, domesticated means "made for the house"). What is the right puppy housebreaking?
Housebreaking a puppy in a way:
- that the puppy and later the adult dog notifies a family member when the dog feels pressure on bladder or bowel (nudges us or barks or visibly goes to the main door to get our attention)
- that the puppy and later the adult dog holds on to urine and poop for a reasonable amount of time (for a 12 weeks old GSD puppy reasonable is less than a minute!)
- that we serve meals at consistent meal times, such that the routine allows the dog's body to adapt (the body does adapt, and bowel and bladder pressure will build up regularly)
- that in emergencies (when sick) the puppy and later the adult dog will relieve in the house or on the terrace at a suitable spot (and always the same spot) - this is why and where you should put down an emergency potty (in the USA the choice is huge, from natural doggie lawn to stylish indoor potty, and everything in between)
- and that when not sick the puppy and later the adult dog reliably avoids relieving indoors!
Most approaches to puppy housebreaking that I've seen - both from professional dog trainers and in books - fall short on the final point above (if not already on a prior point), and the dog owner ends up with an adult dog that sometimes still chooses to relieve indoors. That is not reliable housebreaking!
Obviously I have housebroken My New Puppy in accordance with House Training Dogs To Behave Well to get a fully house-trained dog, not just housebroken, and I can report: Since housebreaking him, My New Puppy has never relieved inside the apartment, but so far twice very nicely out on the terrace in a suitable spot when he was sick. Like children, puppies are sick quite often, you may know that, and both "emergency potties" happened at night while I was sleeping.
How to housebreak a puppy
Now for the penny pinchers in brief, just the puppy housebreaking bit: What is the quickest and less stressful way of housebreaking a puppy?
By nature, young puppies cannot hold on to their bladder at all, so give your puppy a chance to relieve outdoors where you want every 60 to 90 min MAX (age-specific details etc are in My New Puppy Diary)
Restrict a not housebroken puppy to a tiled room or two tiled rooms if you have that (this makes cleaning up very easy, because you won't be ready for a quick walk everytime)
Whenever you are at home, do let your puppy run around freely in the tiled room(s), because no one ever learned anything from being locked away, only from practice while free!
When you take your puppy for a walk stop the camera, and when you come back home turn the camera back on
In the evening, review the 10 seconds at the end of each clip (fast forward is easy with a digital camera)
I can guarantee that on the third day the latest you know exactly what pee signal and what poop signal your puppy shows when the need to relieve is closing in (I knew that on the first evening!)
From now on, simply watch out consciously for your pup's first signal to relieve, and then take your puppy out immediately - until bladder and bowel strength have built up such that your puppy can hold on for a moment.
If only you follow these few points, you too will have a housebroken puppy within a mere days - not weeks, or months, or years!
The emergency potty you provide for ... emergencies only. How to train the use of the emergency potty only in emergencies, this too is covered in House Training Dogs To Behave Well In A High Value Home. It's complete.
Congratulations! You now have a housebroken puppy! Or even fully house-trained? Most dog owners have not.