The idea of crate training German Shepherd dogs and puppies can seem like a cruel one at first.
I mean, the idea of locking your GSD (German Shepherd Dog) up in a confined metal cage doesn’t sound too appealing does it?
Well, crate training your German Shepherd might not only be important and necessary, but it can also be an experience which your GSD associates with in a positive way over time.
Among their many useful purposes are helping to potty train your puppy, transportation of your dog and even helping in treating your GSD’s separation anxiety by using it to increase your GSD’s independence by spending less time with you at night/bed time for example.
There are many other benefits to crates and crate training (if done correctly), so let’s get into it….
What is Crate Training For German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies?
Crate Training for your German Shepherd involves getting your GSD dog or puppy comfortable with a crate, and associating it as a positive experience.
You want them to see it as their safe, comfortable and enjoyable den or bed.
You do not want your GSD to associate their crate as a prison cell, or a place where they go to receive negative discipline.
It is ok to allow your GSD to sleep in it’s crate if required and enjoyable, but a GSD should never be confined to a crate for extended periods on a daily basis.
Crates are a short term solution and training tool.
Why Do You Need To Crate Train A German Shepherd?
Crates can be used for a range of purposes with German shepherd puppies, full grown adult dogs, and even older dogs. The uses and purposes can include:
- General Obedience and House Training (minimise chewing, barking, jumping, isolating from newborn babies or new house pets etc. until fully trained)
- Potty training. Read more about How To Potty Train A German Shepherd at The Daily Shep
- As a Housing Unit for your German Shepherd’s bed/mattress. Read about how to pick the Best Bed For German Shepherds at TheDailyShep.com
- Safe, Comfortable and Portable/Transportable den/home/bed for your GSD travelling with you, or if you leave it at home with friends/family or a doggy day care centre
- Separation Anxiety Training as a place to separate your GSD from your bed at night time
How Long Does It Take To Crate Train A German Shepherd?
There is no set time frame for training a German Shepherd to become comfortable with spending time in it’s crate. Each dog is different.
The most important things are that you are patient as a trainer, and train your GSD daily.
Don’t shout at your GSD – instead, use positive reinforcement in the form of a firm but controlled voice, and enthusiasm for a job well done.
How Long Can You Have A German Shepherd In A Crate?
Crates are intended as short term training devices or for situations like plane travel where extended crate use is required.
A crate shouldn’t be used as a substitute to free space.
Some people allow their GSD to sleep in their crate. This is usually OK if the dog isn’t showing signs of distress or discomfort, and actively seeks out the crate to sleep in (maybe their bed is located inside the crate). Make sure your GSD gets toilet breaks when going in an out of the crate.
Crate Training Problems With German Shepherds
It’s important to note that some dogs can be hesitant in getting comfortable with a crate, and some can even get scared when they decide to enter and the door closes. Signs that your GSD is not enjoying crate training or is scared include:
- Whining, crying and barking
- Scratching at the sides of the crate, and trying to escape
- Displaying signs of anxiety. Read more about signs and symptoms of German Shepherd Anxiety and Separation Anxiety at The Daily Shep.
How To Crate Train German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies
There is Crate training for German Shepherd puppies, adults and older dogs, but they all mostly require the same steps, crate training schedule and principles.
There has been some question over whether you can crate train two dogs or multiple dogs at a time, and there is no reason why you can’t if you have the time and patience.
This is the 4 step process for German Shepherd Crate Training for Dogs and Puppies:
1) Make The First Experience With The Crate A Positive One
Don’t force your GSD into the crate – introduce your GSD to the crate gradually, and use positive reinforcement.
The worst thing you could do when you get a new crate is immediately lock your GSD puppy or dog inside and leave him or her inside to get used to it.
Instead, place the crate in a safe area outside, or in lesser used room in your house. Go to the area with the crate with your GSD (lead them there by your side/in your company), have the door unlocked, your GSD’s mattress or bed inside, and perhaps a treat or it’s favorite toy.
All you are trying to do is let your GSD inspect, sniff, lick and feel out the crate. Let your GSD go inside the crate if it wants to (but DO NOT close the door).
Familiar and pleasurable items, and objects like their bed, food and toys will increase the likelihood that your GSD has a positive first impression of the crate.
If your GSD does not want to go inside the crate, take the toys and treats/food out of the crate. With your GSD by your side, start a few feet or a metre away from the crate.
Take a step at a time towards the crate, awarding your GSD with a treat, the toy or your praise each time they join your side.
When you get to the crate, put your hand or head inside the crate and let your GSD see you do it to see there is nothing to fear if they follow (GSDs are good at picking up your body language). Encourage and command (in a positive way) your GSD to join you, and reward them if they do. Don’t force them if they don’t immediately.
If the above process takes a few days or a few weeks, that is ok. Be patient, keep being positive, and it should happen.
If you suspect your GSD is suffering or experiencing serious mental anxiety or problems with crate training, see a vet.
2) Increase Time and Independence In The Crate
The second step once you’ve actually got your dog or puppy inside the crate for the first time, is to immediately increase the amount of time it is comfortable with spending inside the crate, and the getting comfortable with being in there by itself without you close by or even in the same room.
An effective way to do this is to introduce meal times, and nap times to the crate.
Instead of feeding your GSD it’s morning and evening meals in the normal place, feed your GSD inside the crate.
To do this, place the food at the back of the crate and get your GSD. Bring your GSD’s favorite toy with you and get your GSD to sit at the entry of the crate with the food in view.
Say ‘Go’ or whatever your command is to eat, and immediately place the toy at the entry of the crate and back away to the other side of the room or a good distance away from the crate. If your GSD does not play with the toy after eating, encourage him or her to do so, and leave the area.
The same principle applies to nap times. Your GSD obviously needs to nap throughout the day and night as a large dog with no set sleeping pattern, and if you leave their bed or mattress inside the crate and encourage them to lay down on it to rest, you’ll be able to leave their side while they fall asleep.
Getting your GSD to do normal and enjoyable activities like eating and playing inside it’s crate, and resting inside there is the second stage.
Do not close the crate door at this stage.
3) Close the Crate Door For A Short Time, And Gradually Increase Time Spent Inside The Crate
Now you want to get your GSD used to you closing the door.
Your GSD will most likely whine when you close the door for the first time and that’s ok. When this happens, don’t let them out immediately.
Have some treats ready, and tell your GSD to ‘Stop’ and ‘Sit’ to calm them down. If your GSD is visibly ‘freak-out’ scared, you can let them out and try again at another stage, but if they only appear to be complaining and not severely scared, only open the door and reward them with the treat when they sit and stop the whining while inside the crate.
As you repeat this process, instead of giving your GSD a treat and letting them out, give them their favorite toy and shut the door again (this is a form of distraction or re-direction training), but stay with them. They should begin to get more comfortable as you increase the number of minutes they spend inside the crate each time you do this.
Aim to get your GSD comfortable with spending around half an hour inside the crate with the door closed by this stage.
4) Leave Your GSD While The Crate Door Is Closed
The last step of German Shepherd Crate Training is leaving your GSD inside the crate, with the door closed, by itself. This is often the hardest step apart from getting them into a crate in the first place, but is achievable.
To do this, you want to leave the room or area completely from sight for a minute or two to begin with. When you return, don’t let your GSD out immediately, but stand or sit there for another minute or two until they calm down and let them out.
It’s the same principles as the previous step where you increase the number of minutes spent alone gradually, and don’t reward whining, barking or other bad behaviors.
Aim to get to an hour or two spent in the crate without your presence, but give your GSD toys or a bed so they have something to do or can sleep to keep themselves stimulated.
Remember, don’t keep your GSD inside the crate any longer than you reasonably have to. They are short term training tools and management devices for your GSD.
Keep in mind when crate training German Shepherd puppies compared to adult dogs, they need to go to the toilet more frequently, and can’t be kept in a crate as long without being let out to go pee or poop. For overnight sleeps in the crate, keep a German Shepherd puppy close by.
What Size Dog Crate Do I Need For A German Shepherd? Best Crate Size For German Shepherds
Generally, an XL or XXL dog crate from most manufacturers will fit a GSD puppy and give them enough room for when they grow. You want the crate to support your GSD’s weight.
42 Inch Crate For German Shepherd
A 42 inch dog crate will usually accommodate for a GSD’s width and height dimensions between 71 to 90 pounds.
48 Inch Crate For German Shepherd
A 48 inch dog crate is usually suitable for a GSD between 90 to 110 pounds.
German Shepherd Puppy Crate Size
Fortunately, for convenience and to save money, a good crate will come with a divider panel. You can keep the divider panel in while your GSD is a puppy, and remove it as they grow into an adult to allow more crate space.
Always do your own measurements and check manufacturer details – they usually specify what size dog their crates are designed and constructed for.
Size is only one of several components and considerations of the most suitable crate for a GSD.
Best Crate for German Shepherd
Read more about the Best Crate For German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies at The Daily Shep.
We talk about crate types, materials, size, features, the best crate for a German Shepherd and more.
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