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How to Train a German Shepherd Puppy to Stay Outside

Your new German Shepherd puppy is excellent at wandering around the yard when you’re with him. But, it seems like every time he finishes relieving himself, he heads right back to the 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?

To train a German Shepherd puppy to stay outside, he should be at least four months old. Use positive reinforcement to teach him the house rules, make being outside fun by leaving various toys, and gradually increase the amount you leave him outside.

Before we get to training your German Shepherd puppy to stay outside, we want to break down the basics. We’ll go over some essential guidelines you should follow, which will ultimately help the training process.

German Shepherd Puppy Lying Outside in the Yard. How to Train a German Shepherd Puppy to Stay Outside.

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Best Practices

Unfortunately, you can’t bring your new 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 while he is so young.

Once your German Shepherd puppy finally reaches the age where he can spend time outside, you need to ensure you’re smart about it. After all, neither a puppy nor a dog will enjoy spending time outside if it’s too hot, cold, snowy, or rainy.

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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 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.

German Shepherd Puppy Out in the Yard
My German Shepherd “Willow” outside in the yard – “Hey! Don’t leave me out here for too long!”

This would also be an excellent time to start training him to stay outside, though you shouldn’t be leaving him out 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 show your puppy that being outside can be fun and isn’t a punishment! 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
  • Thunderstorms

At the same time, you want to ensure 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 that the German Shepherd coat is double-layered, consisting of a dense, harsh outer coat with a softer undercoat. The undercoat is essential as it helps them stay warm in cold temperatures and protects them from the heat in hot weather.

This is why German Shepherd dogs can adapt to functioning in different weather conditions. Always ensure your dog has access to clean water (especially in warm weather) and change it frequently throughout the day.

Check out this article for more info on the perfect temperature for your dog, What Is The Ideal Temperature For a German Shepherd?

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 common for dogs to want to come back inside after going to potty in the yard.

To train your German Shepherd puppy to stay outside, you must teach him properly. That means getting him used to spending time away from you here and there, gradually increasing the amount of time he spends outside, and making the outdoors more fun and enjoyable for your pup.

Read more: 7 Fun Ways to Exercise a German Shepherd Puppy

German Shepherd Puppy Playing with a Rope in the Snow

Building Behaviors

If you bring your German Shepherd puppy back inside immediately after he uses the restroom, it shouldn’t surprise you that he tries to force his way back into the house when he’s relieved 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 is a constructive post I wrote that 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 alone, 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. It’s 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 alone 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 outdoors, right? You need to increase the amount of time he spends outside alone slowly. 

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!

12 Week Old GSD
My German Shepherd Willow at 12 weeks old.

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, 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. It will provide hours of fun and relieve boredom.
  • Build an agility course of some sort. These can be expensive, 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 (from 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.

I often get asked whether you should let your pup sleep outside. Check out this article for my in-depth answer, Can a German Shepherd Puppy Sleep Outside?

Final Thoughts

It might seem like a difficult task to train your German Shepherd puppy to stay outside, but it’s 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:

  • Ensure 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 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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