Looking to seek advice on how to re-establish confidence for my German Shepherd pup. She is 1 year old, not spayed. I'm currently working on potty training her but recently found out that my mother in law would punish her when she relieved herself in the house. It's my wife's dog and I have grown to love our dog so I now consider her my dog. There's a lot that I'm having to do like set a feeding schedule cause they were free feeding her. I'm also having a hard time finding what she likes. She's a picky eater.

Anyways, with research I have done I found out it's bad to punish your dog when they relieve themselves in the house. I will admit I did get mad once and it was out of stress and being overwhelmed with her (she's my first dog). But I can't find ways to get her to relieve herself outside while on a leash. She goes potty on the pee pads we set up and I have them set up by the door so I can catch her going and take her outside. But I found out she only goes when we are not there or go to sleep because I'm thinking she'll think we'll scream at her or punish her. I want to get rid of that fear from. Any ideas? Thanks

2 Answers 2


I agree with Yvette, mostly. She's right in saying you should never tell a dog off if he doesn't know any better, it will only make it worse.

However, I think it's important for a routine to be established. Dogs love routines and set days. They thrive on it, it makes them feel secure.

I used to have a rescue dog who was ill treated in the same manner and the routine sorted that out:

Walk in the morning before you feed your dog. This is the most important walk. Historically, the dogs ancestors got out of the den and roamed for food so they could rest all day if successful. Try to replicate that. It keeps their brain active and mimics their "normal" way of life.

Pee in the garden when you get home.

The second most important is the evening walk and it is exactly the same.

Before bed, another pee in the garden.

As per training, I tend to think it's very important for a dog's rehabilitation, especially with a German shepherd, they are highly intelligent and need to be challenged.

But as Yvette said, keep it to a minimal for now. Training starts a real relationship with a dog, this is where communication and trust come into place. I suggest food for training or a clicker would do well here.

It's important to know that dogs want that from humans, that's how they see their purpose.

An idea for training your dog, Proactive passive training:

As I said, German shepherd are highly clever and tapping into his brain is possibly. An example:

Say you want to teach your dog to sit:

Find your dog's favourite treats. Keep it in your hand and make your dog smell it real well, to a point where he so badly want it, he'll do anything for it. The dog is likely to go through all the behaviour he knows: maybe bark or scratch or whine...including possible bad behaviours. Stay calm and keep making eye contact. Eventually, your dog will sit. As soon as his bum touches the ground, you must give a treat and praise. But no word command!!

Start in the house, in one room where there are few distractions. Repeat a lot...a lot!!! Once your dog gets it, you can start adding a hand command, still no word command. Increase the distance between you and the dog gradually, one step at the time. If you've gone too far, come back a step. Eventually try with Just a hand command with distance, eventually add the"sit".

This takes patience, calmness and leadership. Untrained dogs are a bit like children sometimes, they'll throw tantrums sometimes. It's important to be patient here but the reward for both of you If you succeed is indescribable.

Good luck!

  • totally agree with the routine, that's a very good point. don't forget to pop into chat and chat :D chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/10964/the-litter-box
    – user6796
    Jun 14, 2017 at 4:57
  • Well I got the training and routine part down. I set her bowl in the morning, if she does not eat I put it away. Same for dinner. I walk her in the morning and evening. I'm having difficulty with her potty training. We live in a apartment complex with lots of other dogs. All she does is sniff and I can be outside in the same spot for 30 minutes and she'll just lay down. When we get back in, when she's alone like if I go to the restroom or something she'll urinate.
    – Jose Gomez
    Jun 26, 2017 at 3:40
  • It's still a bit early. You haven't done it for long enough. You must persevere. However,have you noticed your dog does what you do? Important to notice your dog is mirroring you. Does your dog ever pee outside? If yes, I suggest a very strong praise and a treat when she does like"good girl!" And make it sound good. Once you done that a few times, the dog will get it. Then at night before bed, you can say"be a good girl" as a command for pee before bed. Trust takes a long time to establish, especially with a "damaged" dog.
    – user33232
    Jun 26, 2017 at 19:34

No one likes it when our pets do the business inside, but it seems and almost inevitable consequence of owning indoor pets. The best attitude to adopt is the no crying over spilt milk. Clean it up and work out why it happened and what can be done to change it. Which is what you're doing and your mother in law failed.

Firstly, get her checked by a vet, it's possible she is not well. So not showing usual interest in food and having trouble with the toilet, these can be signs of a urinary tract infection or many other things.

Secondly, whether or not she has a clean bill of health, it's time to revamp this dog's life. This dog needs positive reinforcement only, for the time being at least.

A lot of play time with this dog will go a long way. This is going to take patience and time. If anyone lashes out at her it will set her back, particularly you, as her main handler. You need to earn her trust and she may always be wary of people, but she also may surprise you and come out of her shell if you work with her proactively.

The best thing to do is find a treat that she does love. Dried liver treats are the universal treat dogs love.

Reward her with verbal praise and pats with the food treat, so she associates your voice and attention as a positive thing. Take her out to dog parks (and in the back yard if you have one) and play with balls with her, allow her to escape from you in a fun way. If she's fearful, she will be comfortable getting distance between you both. Do not worry about her fetching or bringing a ball back, do not worry about calling her to come at this point. This is all emotional rebuilding, any obedience training can wait. You want your time with her to be all good, loving and lots of fun outside, snuggles inside as she trusts you more.

You will find she is more likely to relieve herself when she is a distance from you. When you catch her going to the toilet outside, call out "Good girl!" in the same way you've been praising her when you put her lead on and take her walking. Use that same high pitched happy, a little excited voice. Tell her she's a "good girl" in your day to day dealings, with the treats and the pats, so remotely the "good girl" when she goes to the toilet will start to have meaning.

Also vital, allow her plenty of room on the lead, forget about heeling, allow her to sniff and explore. If she feels constricted or frightened it will be harder for her to relieve herself, as she is on guard. Also consider buying a longer leash so she can move herself a longer distance from you to, hopefully, find a comfortable distance at which she can relieve herself.

Slowly as you build trust with her, you will find she sniffs around and eventually goes to the toilet, keep the praise coming. Rinse and repeat. Don't remove the food rewards until she is toilet trained and then do so gradually.

Let us know how you get on and post more questions as you need.

  • 1
    Thank you for your response @Yvette Colomb. These past couple days I have been taking her for walks and I would linger around at a spot for awhile hoping she'll relieve herself. I bought a 20' leash to allow her to roam but living in an apartment where other dogs can come up on her is pretty hard to manage (nervous/scared of other dogs). This morning I woke up at 6:30am, took her out, came back at 7:20am, gave her food and water, waited a bit then her out again...nothing. I came back in, I caught her trying to go and took her outside for another 15-20 minutes, still nothing.
    – Jose Gomez
    Jun 21, 2017 at 14:40
  • @JoseGomez sounds like she is fearful of her surroundings outdoors and doesn't feel safe enough to go - they're vulnerable when going to the toilet. Sounds like she could do with a lot of socialisation. Also try and find a place that is quiet where she can go - no other people or dogs, if possible. It would be worth the longer walk.
    – user6796
    Jun 22, 2017 at 6:23
  • It's a bit difficult because with other dogs she reacts (at least with my wife) with me I give her a tug on the collar with the leash and she'll stay put. But she's very aware of her surroundings and difficult to break her focus when she's locked in. I have given her space with a longer leash I bought, I linger around a spot hoping she'll go but she'll lay down and wait until we leave. I'm going to keep trying but it's frustrating now. We moved her from an environment where she freely went out in the backyard to being leashed now as we live in apartments
    – Jose Gomez
    Jun 26, 2017 at 3:44

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