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Master the essentials of how to potty train a Great Dane with our focused, step-by-step guide. Learn the techniques that will help your gentle giant become reliably house-trained.
Table of Contents
Are Great Danes Hard to Potty Train?
Before jumping straight in, you may also wonder if Great Danes are hard to potty train. I have good news for you! Compared to other breeds Great Danes are relatively easy to potty train.
First and foremost – they simply have larger bladders than other breeds!
Their larger bladders give them more time between when bathroom breaks are needed, which is especially helpful while they’re still learning.
By comparison, it doesn’t take a whole lot of fluids to fill up the bladder of a small or miniature dog breed. They simply need to relieve themselves more frequently which increases the likelihood of accidents around the house.
Second and equally important is the people-pleasing nature of Great Danes. Even from a young age, Danes hate to disappoint their humans.
Many would quite literally rather skip a meal than have their humans upset with them! (This is a big deal for most dogs.)
This pleasing nature makes them excellent candidates for positive feedback and reinforcement while training.
This is fantastic news because it means that you won’t need to use treats as training rewards! Coincidentally, too many extra treats would cause them to go to the bathroom sooner so it’s a win-win for everyone!
Before getting into the details on house training your dog, I once again want to cover some of the training items that will be key to success. Many owners are quick to skip past these, only to run into problems later!
The actual training portion is actually very simple and straightforward. However, there are a large number of ways in which you can mess it up…
Tips for Success with Great Dane Potty Training
Follow these five tips to ensure success with training your dog to not have accidents in the house!
Tip #1 – Skip the Puppy Potty Pads
One of the most common mistakes I see pet owners making with training is the use of pee pads. These are also sometimes referred to as potty pads, puppy pads, etc…but their application is the same.
You place the pad down in a set area with the hopes that your dog relieves itself on it instead of your carpet, hardwood floor, etc…
While it may seem like a great idea to create a place for your dog to relieve themselves indoors at first, this will only create confusion in the long run!
By using pee pads, you’re teaching your dog that this is an acceptable place to relieve themselves. Think about it – why would your dog want to stop using the pads when they’re more convenient than walking outside?
To be clear, the goal of training is to teach your Great Dane where and when to go to the bathroom. This means going to a designated area outdoors for most of us.
Spare yourself and your dog the confusion by skipping the pee pads 😉
Tip #2 – Establish Their Home
Regardless of whether you’re bringing home a puppy, adolescent, or adult Great Dane, it’s going to be a big change for them. Your home will be full of new smells, new things to inspect, and LOTS of new places to potentially relieve themselves!
Instead of allowing them to have full reign of your home, you should contain them in a set room or small area. Baby gates are fantastic tools for helping establish these new boundaries.
Once they adapt to this new space and learn its rules, you can slowly introduce them to new rooms.
Doing so not only allows you to more easily keep a close eye on them, but it also allows them to gain a sense of home for the area. While this may sound like a small step, it’s more important than you think.
Although your Great Dane is far removed from his wild ancestors, he will still have a strong den instinct.
Why is this important you may ask?
Well, much like humans, animals don’t want to make a mess of their home – especially the area where they sleep! I’m not sure about you, but I sure don’t want to sleep in my bed after it’s been defecated in…
Once they’ve spent enough time in the space and truly consider it their new home, they will be much less likely to create a mess in it.
Tip #3 – Consider Using a Crate
I didn’t jump straight to talking about crates because for many people they have a negative stigma. This is due to the fact that those same people associate crates with punishment.
While there are certainly bad owners out there who use them in this manner, a crate should not be used for punishment.
If you read through the last section about establishing a home, then you understand the importance of a den. A den is a dog’s home.
It’s a place where they feel safe and protected, and can fully relax, sleep, or rest. As you can see, a crate should be a place of comfort, not punishment.
In addition to creating a place that your Great Dane can truly call their own, creates have many potty training-specific benefits.
As mentioned earlier, a key aspect of training a young Dane is simply limiting their available space.
This allows you to keep an eye on them and prevents them from being able to sneak off and relieve themselves in private. A crate is a great replacement for baby gates to corral them in a room or other area.
Also, because the crate will become your dog’s new den, it’s a great way to teach them how to “hold it”.
Knowing that they won’t want to make a mess of their home, you can smartly use a crate and intelligent schedule to help them time their potty breaks.
Speaking of that schedule, let’s talk about what one should look like!
The Ginormous Crate by Midwest Homes is the best XXL crate on the market today by a wide margin! It's large enough to hold a fully grown Great Dane, and its durable metal construction ensures that it will last many years of use.
- Large size: 54 inches long, 37 inches wide, 45 inches tall
- Metal construction for added strength and durability
- Offers single and double door options for ease of access
- Leakproof removable tray included
- Adjustable divider panel not included by default (add-on available)
- Large size requires 2 people for initial assembly
P.S. Looking for more information on crates? If you’d like more detail on crate placement, crate training, crate recommendations, etc… make sure to take a look at our dedicated crate article here.
Tip #4 – Stick to a Schedule
While dogs may be man’s best friend, a schedule is your dog’s best friend!
In all seriousness, schedules are great because they help your Great Dane establish routines. Routines for eating, routines for going potty, and routines of course on where to go potty.
However, if you’re constantly changing things up, then it’s going to be much harder to potty train your Great Dane.
Let’s take the analogy of going to the gym. At first, it’s hard to work up the motivation to go in and sweat through a workout. But as you continue to go, you start to settle into a routine and start seeing results. Once you start seeing results, the routine gets easier as you’re excited about the progress. Future trips to the gym get easier and easier, and before you realize it the gym is a part of your typical routine!
While potty training your dog doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) require the same level of physical effort as going to the gym, it’s very much a routine-based activity.
However, that training process doesn’t start with the act of going to the bathroom. It begins with meals!
What I mean by that is how often and when you feed your Great Dane.
- You should be feeding your dog 2-3 meals per day
- These meals should happen at close to the same time every day (including weekends)
To expand on #1, you should be feeding your Great Dane 2-3 times per day. Three times per day is more common for younger puppies, while older dogs typically have two meals per day.
For more details on when to change from two to three meals, take a look at our feeding article here.
Consistently feeding your dog the same number of meals is important because these large boluses of food are one of the main drivers of bowel movements.
If you’re switching from three small meals one day to one giant meal the next, their digestive system will literally be kept guessing.
This is bad news for you when you’re trying to leverage a well-timed digestive process for your own means with potty training.
By consistently feeding them the same number of meals each day, you can expect that they will need to use the bathroom within 30 minutes after finishing each meal.
In addition to the meal frequency, the relative timing of meals is also important to keep as steady as possible. For example, if you’re feeding your dog two meals per day, you might want to go with 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Try to feed them their meals at these exact times each day.
A few minutes in either direction is no worry, you just want to avoid moving a mealtime by a couple of hours. Also, don’t feel like you have to stick to eight and five as I used in the example.
Pick mealtimes that are reasonable for your daily schedule and that you know you can stick to.
Additional Bathroom Breaks
In addition to making it a habit to take your Great Dane to the bathroom after meals, there are a few other key times that you should put on your schedule as well.
Some of these may also come up in an ad hoc sense but should give you an idea of when you can expect your dog to need to relieve themselves.
Remember – the training key is to take advantage of these situations and use them as positive reinforcement for going to the bathroom in the appropriate area.
- Waking up – Regardless of whether or not your dog used the bathroom overnight, the first thing that you should do with them in the morning is to take them outside to relieve themselves.
Not only is this typically one of the longest breaks between going, but their bodies have had a chance to process much of the food and water from the previous day. Needless to say – your dog will be ready to go!
- Before bed – Much like you take them out immediately after waking up, you should also allow them to relieve themselves just prior to bedtime.
Once again, the night is usually one of their longest stretches, so you want to give them the chance to go before being tucked in for the night.
- After naps – Great Danes of all ages are fantastic nappers! However, especially during their younger years, there’s a good chance that they’ll need to use the bathroom after a nap.
After relaxing and allowing their bodies to process food and water, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s potty time again!
- Play and training – After a good play or training session, it’s quite typical that your dog will need to relieve itself. Sometimes this may even happen halfway through a play session, so keep a close eye on them if this is occurring indoors!
- Excitement – Nothing stirs up a good bowel movement like some good old-fashioned excitement! Whether it’s meeting a new friend, getting a new toy, etc.. watch out for some unplanned potty breaks around exciting events.
Tip #5 – Keep a close eye on them
If you’ve taken the steps previously mentioned then you will definitely have a great start on anticipating your dog’s bathroom needs.
However, there will still be unexpected times that come up when your Great Dane needs to go potty.
This is absolutely normal and to be expected, your job is to simply ensure that it doesn’t happen inside your home!
While every dog is different and will have its own telltale signs, here are a few signals that might indicate that your dog needs to go to the bathroom.
- Spinning in circles
- Sniffing around
- Whining or showing other signs of discomfort
- Sniffing or licking their groin or rear
- Returning to the area where a previous accident occurred
- Pawing or whining at the door or exit is typically used to go outside
If you notice that your Great Dane dog is showing any of these signs, make sure to quickly take them outside to use the bathroom.
While you’re certain to make more trips outside than are actually necessary, it’s far better than having to clean up a mess inside!
It shouldn’t take too long until you’re able to identify your dog’s specific signals that they need to use the bathroom.
Great Dane Puppy Potty Training Process
Alright, now that we’ve covered all of the possible missteps that can thwart potty training, let’s talk about the specifics of this “training”.
As I previously alluded to, the training portion is actually quite simple and straightforward. It’s all of the other mistakes you can make that usually ruin your potty training efforts.
The earlier that you can start potty training your Great Dane the better. It’s not that older dogs are “less smart” by any means. Just that it’s much harder to unlearn habits than to teach them the first time.
Before starting, you’ll want to take care of a few last-minute choices:
- Pick the place where your dog will relieve themselves. Even if you have a large yard or open area, pick a set area to reinforce the process for your dog in these early days.
- Choose which command you will choose to associate with your dog relieving themselves. Common choices are “go potty”, “outside”, “pee”, etc… It doesn’t matter what you pick, just that you’re consistent with it.
- Select the exit door that will be used during potty training and stick to it exclusively throughout the process. This helps to reinforce the process for your dog by removing as many variables as possible.
Alright, now that you’ve got these final items buttoned up, let’s step through the steps for potty training.
I’ll jump into these steps already assuming that you’re taking your dog out to go potty based on a normal schedule, or other sign that leads you to believe that they need to go to the bathroom.
1. Place your dog on their leash
2. Walk them to the designated exit door
3. Guide them to the predetermined bathroom area
4. Keeping them on-leash, wait for them to relieve themselves
5. As soon as they start to start to pee or poop, clearly say your potty word/phrase e.g. “go potty”
6. After they finish relieving themselves, celebrate like you just won the lottery!
Wait – that’s it… Why Does This Work?
While this may seem incredibly simple, I can assure you that it’s effective!
First, because you have prevented all of the common missteps that most make with potty training, you’re almost guaranteed that your dog will need to go to the bathroom when you take them out.
With this level of diligence, you’ve also done a great job of preventing them from going in the wrong place (which is more than half of the battle).
Secondly, and I can’t understate its importance here – is the need to truly celebrate your dog’s successful potty breaks. Great Danes love attention and affection from their humans, so don’t short-change them here.
By associating going potty in the right place as a very positive event, you’re incenting them to want to do it right every time.
While some people like to start this process by stating the potty word, my preference is to time it more closely to the actual act of your dog relieving themselves.
This makes it much clearer that “go potty” is the act of going to the bathroom, and not something else.
This is also why I like to keep the dog on the leash during this process.
- It prevents them from taking a detour and deciding to pee/poop in the wrong spot along the way
- It keeps you on the hook to supervise the process and not get distracted playing with your phone!
- It allows you to continue going to a consistent spot area for bathroom breaks and limits wandering
- If your dog doesn’t get used to going to the bathroom on a leash early, it’s going to be much harder to teach it later
What if my dog didn’t go to the bathroom when I took them out?
One caveat that I should also mention is that you don’t have to wait outside indefinitely for your dog to go to the bathroom. In fact, I’d recommend capping it at a maximum of 15 minutes. If they still haven’t gone potty, take them back inside.
However, make sure to keep a close eye on them in case they actually have to go but get too distracted with butterflies, sticks, etc… 😉
What should I do if they do have an accident inside the house?
I’m not sure about you, but I’m not perfect… and I can assure you that your Great Dane won’t be either. Accidents are bound to happen, but as long as you’re putting in your own best effort they should be few and far between.
When they do happen, don’t force your dog’s face into it or yell and scream at them. Great Danes are very sensitive and will be able to tell that you’re upset with them without all of that commotion.
Additionally, if you’re not catching them in the act of it, they would have no idea what they’re even in trouble for.
In the event that you do catch them in the act, immediately initiate the normal potty training process. This gives them a chance to completely relieve themselves in the right place, where you can provide the proper positive reinforcement.
Even though you’ll still have some mess to clean up inside, this is definitely what I’d call turning a bad situation into a good one 😉
Do I have to watch them this closely forever?
Nothing lasts forever – including potty training! As your dog gets better and better at understanding the potty training process they’ll find their own ways to tell you that they need to go to the bathroom.
Of course, this doesn’t let you off the hook to take them out at scheduled times. But it’s not something that you’ll always need to be worried about.
Some people choose to hang a small bell from the chosen exit door that’s rung each time they take the dog out. This is meant to be hung at a level that the dog can reach so that over time they learn to ring the bell on their own when they need to go out.
While that sounds nice, it’s never an approach that I’ve personally used. I don’t doubt that it works, I just don’t think that it’s necessary. If my dog is standing at the exit (potty) door, I know what they want.
There’s literally no other reason my lazy Dane would be standing there otherwise! 😉
If you’ve gotten this far and are looking for a more detailed step-by-step approach to potty training, then I’d recommend taking a look at this guide. They provide a 100% guarantee so you quite literally have nothing to lose!