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Your new German Shepherd puppy is great about wandering around the backyard and staying on your property. But, it seems like every time he finishes relieving himself, he heads right to the back door, ready to come back inside. You let him in (of course), which doesn’t help!
So, how do you train a German Shepherd puppy to stay outside? Make sure that your German Shepherd puppy is at least four months old before leaving him outside for any period of time. During those first few months, you can teach him the rules of the house, make being outside fun for him, and gradually increase the amount of time he’s outside.
Before we get to the actual process of training your German Shepherd puppy to stay outside, we want to break down the basics. We’re going to go over some important guidelines you should follow, which will ultimately help in the training process!
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Let’s get started!
Unfortunately, you can’t bring your German Shepherd puppy home on day one and expect to be able to leave him outdoors. Remember, at this stage, he is still only a baby!
During these first few months of his life, it’s incredibly important that you build a positive relationship with him and teach him the rules of the house. The last thing you want to do is expose him to negative experiences whilst he is so young.
Once your German Shepherd puppy finally reaches the age where he can spend time outside, you need to make sure that you’re smart about it. After all, neither a puppy nor a dog will enjoy spending time outside if it’s too hot, too cold, snowy, or rainy.
The Recommended Age
You can start taking your new puppy outside after he’s finished his course of puppy vaccinations, so when he’s about 14-16 weeks old. This can help to protect your German Shepherd puppy from any diseases or infections he might pick up while he’s outside and learning to socialize with other dogs and people.
This would also be a good time to start training him to stay outside, though you shouldn’t be leaving him outside for too long a period. At this age, you’ll want to:
- Spend a lot of time outside with your puppy
- Gradually increase the amount of time he spends outside alone
- Not bring him inside immediately after he goes to the bathroom
- Make outside fun
This is the ideal time to start showing your puppy that being outside can be fun and isn’t a punishment at all! Starting young makes the whole training process even easier.
Weather and Environmental Considerations
Your German Shepherd puppy might find the outdoors a little scary at first, and that’s an absolute guarantee if you force him to stay outside when the weather conditions aren’t all that great. You want to encourage your puppy to view the outdoors as a positive place, so you should avoid:
- Snow, ice, and below-zero temperatures
- Extreme heat
- Rain and wind
At the same time, you want to make sure you’re giving your puppy everything he needs to stay comfortable outside. That means access to shade when it’s hot and sunny and a dog house if it’s really cold.
Remember though that German Shepherds have two coats consisting of a dense, harsh outer coat with a softer undercoat. The undercoat is important as it helps them to stay warm in cold temperatures and can also protect them from the heat in hot weather.
This is why German Shepherd dogs can adapt to functioning in all sorts of different weather conditions. Always make sure your dog has access to clean water (especially in warm weather) and change it frequently throughout the day.
The Training Process
Because your German Shepherd is so loyal to you and your family, it makes sense that he doesn’t want to spend too much time away from you! That’s why it’s pretty common for dogs to want to come right back inside after going to the bathroom in the yard.
To train your German Shepherd puppy to stay outside, you need to train him properly. That means getting him used to spend some time away from you here and there, gradually increasing the amount of time that he spends outside, and making the outdoors more fun and enjoyable for your pup!
If you bring your German Shepherd puppy back inside immediately after he uses the restroom, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that he tries to force his way back into the house when he’s done relieving himself.
You’ve built a habit and essentially trained him to think that going to the bathroom allows him access to the inside of your home. So, what’s the first thing you should do?
Spend some time with him outside after he relieves himself.
If you bring your puppy inside as soon as he goes to the bathroom, he’ll immediately head to the back door once he’s finished. By spending some extra time with him outside after he goes, you won’t be teaching him this behavior!
This will prevent your German Shepherd from making the single connection between going outside and using the restroom.
Increasing the Time Spent Outdoors
You and every other German Shepherd owner know just how bad this breed’s separation anxiety can get. If your dog begins to bark or whimper when you leave the house for 30 seconds to get the mail, you can imagine how bad his separation anxiety could be if he’s stuck outside!
German Shepherd Separation Anxiety: Training, Help & Treatment is a really helpful post I wrote which tackles this issue alone. If you nip this in the bud from an early age, this will stop your dog from getting distressed and developing future behavior problems.
Your German Shepherd puppy might be used to spending every second by your side right now, but you need to start getting him used to spending more time on his own, especially if you expect him to last for longer than 30 minutes in the yard on his own.
So, how do you do that?
- Spend one-on-one time with him outside. Your puppy doesn’t want to experience the unknown, at least not without you by his side! This is the prime time to show your German Shepherd puppy that the outdoors is fun and that you like it too!
- Go inside without him. Once he’s running around, playing, or exploring the yard, sneak inside the house without him. Let him get used to being on his own outside and wait a few minutes before letting him back inside the house (no matter how much he begs!).
- Increase the amount of time he’s alone outside. You want him to get used to spending more time outside, right? You need to slowly increase the amount of time that he spends outside alone.
If you extend the period that your German Shepherd is alone a little longer each day, he’ll soon get used to it and won’t even realize that the time is increasing!
Making the Outdoors Enjoyable
Your dog wants to come inside because he misses you, but it also might be because he doesn’t exactly enjoy the outdoors just yet. This is where you come in!
You need to make the yard fun.
If you plan to leave your German Shepherd outside for extended periods of time, you must give him something to do while he’s out there. Here are some tips for making your yard fun for your German Shepherd.
- Leave toys in the yard, such as this interactive tether tug toy from Amazon. This will provide hours of fun and relieve boredom.
- Build an agility course of some sort. These can be quite expensive to buy, but you could easily make your own to save money.
- Give your dog somewhere to relax when he gets tired.
- Take a chew toy bone outside. I like the KONG Goodie Bone (check for the latest price on Amazon) as it will keep your pup entertained, and you can even stuff it with treats.
The goal here is to keep him entertained while he’s outside and not focused on the separation anxiety he might be experiencing.
It might seem like a difficult task to train your German Shepherd puppy to stay outside, but it’s actually pretty easy if you’re willing to put in the appropriate time and effort. Here are some guidelines for making the training process just a little bit easier for you and your puppy:
- Make sure your puppy is old enough to be left alone outside (4+ months).
- Build a positive experience outside by avoiding bad weather and temperatures.
- Gradually increase the amount of time he spends outside until it becomes just a normal part of his everyday routine.
- Add some toys and activities to your yard to make the yard more fun!
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