Crate training your German Shepherd is important for a number of reasons.
Not only do some dogs spend a good amount of time in their crate as a puppy, but some may also have to use a crate for specific purposes such as travelling later on in their life.
Crate training might not only be important and necessary, but it can also be a positive experience for your dog over time when done right.
In this guide, we discuss information related to crate training a German Shepherd.
Let’s take a look!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
Crate Training A German Shepherd Dog or Puppy: 4 Simple ‘How-to’ Steps
Before we get into the guide below, you might like to check out this guide which lists some of the best crates on the market right now (if you haven’t got one yet, or you need a new one).
Onto the guide …
What is Crate Training?
Crate Training involves:
– Getting a dog comfortable with a crate, and associating positively with it (they shouldn’t feel nervous, anxious or scared of being in or around a crate)
– Using a crate in a way that suits the purpose of what the crate is being used for e.g. as a bed and resting place at home, or as a means of transport
Potential Uses For A Dog Crate
Crates can be used for a range of purposes with puppies, full grown adult dogs, and even older/senior dogs.
The uses and purposes can include:
– General obedience and house training
Such as minimizing 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
– As a place to sleep
Read about how to pick the Best Bed For German Shepherds
– As a portable home
If you leave your dog with friends/family or a doggy day care centre
– As a mode of transport
When your dog has to travel somewhere in a vehicle or plane for example
Crates can be a short term solution to other problems such as for puppies that need to be kept in one place temporarily.
They can also be used as a training tool.
Some dog may end up loving their crate so much that they end up wanting to sleep in it on a longer term basis. Some dogs get so comfortable with their crate that they end up sleeping in their crate with a dog bed inside for their whole life.
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, and it can depend on what you are training them to do too.
Some of the most important things are:
– You are patient as a trainer
– You train consistently
– You use positive reinforcement instead of getting angry or frustrated
How Long Can You Have A German Shepherd In A Crate?
It depends on how comfortable your dog is in their crate.
Puppies and dogs will still need all the basics such as being let out to go potty, access to food and water, socialisation, regular exercise and so on.
Some puppies and dogs are scared or or don’t like their crate – they will need to be trained to associate positively with their crate in a safe way. Look for signs of distress or discomfort if this is the case.
Other puppies and dogs on the other hand like resting or sleeping in their crate for long periods.
It can help to leave the crate door open so a puppy or dog can get out when they want/need to themselves and not be trapped inside.
Signs A Dog Might Not Like Their Crate
Signs that your GSD might not like their crate might include:
– Whining, crying and barking
– Scratching at the sides of the crate, and trying to escape
– Displaying signs of anxiety, fear, frustration or other behavior which suggests they don’t like being around or in their crate (related to the first two points). Read more about signs and symptoms of anxiety in this guide – German Shepherd Anxiety and Separation Anxiety
How To Crate Train German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies
A complimentary guide to this one with some general training tips is – how to train a German Shepherd, including top tips, and advice from a professional dog trainer.
We also include crate training tips in that guide.
So, it might be worth reading both guides at the same time.
One 4 step process for German Shepherd Crate Training for Dogs and Puppies might include:
1) Make The First Experience With The Crate A Gradual & Positive One
Don’t force your GSD into the crate at first
Introduce your GSD to the crate gradually, and use positive reinforcement if required.
The worst thing you might do when you first get your puppy is force them inside the crate and locking them inside.
Instead, place the crate in a safe area outside or inside.
Go to the area with the crate with your GSD (lead them there by your side/in your company), have the door unlocked and open (leave it open), your GSD’s mattress or bed inside, and perhaps a treat or it’s favorite toy inside.
All you are trying to do is let your GSD inspect, sniff, lick and feel out the crate – essentially get used to it.
Let your GSD go inside the crate if it wants to (but don’t 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.
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 for some reason you can’t get your puppy or dog inside the crate – you may need to speak to a dog training professional.
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 nap times overnight in the crate.
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.
You might choose not to close the door while they sleep in their crate.
You can also get your dog to spend more time laying down inside their crate on their bed during the day.
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.
When you do, have some treats ready.
You can reward your dog if they let you close the door without getting scared.
If they do get scared, open the door immediately and let them out. You can try again later when they have calmed down.
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 a comfortable and safe/healthy amount of time inside their crate with the door closed.
If you can’t get your dog to be inside the crate with the door closed – speak to a professional dog trainer for advice to address the problem.
4) Leave Your GSD While The Crate Door Is Closed
The last step of crate training is leaving your GSD inside the crate, with the door closed, by itself.
This might be the hardest step apart from getting them into a crate in the first place.
To do this, you want to leave the room or area completely from sight for a minute or so to begin with.
When you return, you might choose to reward them with a treat.
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.
Ideally you’d like your dog to be able to spend at least 8 hours in the crate by themselves (with the door open or closed depending on which option they are comfortable with)
But, don’t keep your GSD inside the crate any longer than you reasonably have to.
If you are keeping your dog in the crate over night – make sure they have been outside to go potty (as what goes in has to come out, and that they have a comfortable bed inside the crate as well as access to drinking water).
Crate Training For Puppies
Crate training for small puppies can be different.
Speak to a vet or trainer on what age and what training practices are best for puppies.
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?
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.
Other Dog Crate Resources
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