Crate training your German Shepherd puppy is one of the most important aspects of his education and should start the day you get your new furry friend home.
The best way to go about the crate process is to devise a crate training schedule and ensure that the whole family sticks to that.
In this guide, we will teach you the basics of crate training your new German Shepherd puppy. Follow these simple steps to ensure your precious pet has a positive experience that leaves him happy, confident, and comfortable in his crate.
What Is Crate Training?
The term “crate training” refers to the process of training your puppy or dog to spend time in a kennel or crate.
Most people start crate training their pet when the dog is a puppy, as it is also a very effective potty training tool. Being able to spend time in a cozy, comfortable crate also provides your pet with a peaceful retreat when they want some rest and relaxation time away from the hustle and bustle of family life.
The idea of crate training your dog is to provide a comfy, secure space where your pet feels safe and likes to spend time, especially when left alone while you go to work, pop out to the store, or run errands.
With your dog safely contained in his crate, you don’t have to worry that your pet will get into trouble, escape, or destroy your stuff while you’re not around to watch him.
Should I Crate-Train My German Shepherd?
So, why is crate training such an essential part of raising a German Shepherd, and what are the benefits of crate training?
Crate training your dog makes the potty training process much easier and quicker. Dogs won’t willingly soil their sleeping area, so putting your puppy in a crate can teach your pet to hold on until you take them outside to their designated toilet spot.
Crate training is a handy tool for obedience training as long as you start crate training your pup from a young age.
I found crate training my shelter rescue dog challenging because she was a year old and had never been crated before. That said, we worked hard together, and eventually, she was confident and happy to use her crate voluntarily when I sent her into it.
Crate training can help to build mutual trust between you and your furry friend, which is crucial for obedience training.
German Shepherds are often thought of as confident dogs that work with law enforcement and as guard dogs. However, these dogs are people-oriented and can sometimes feel insecure when left alone. By providing your Shepherd with a crate, you’re giving him somewhere he can go when he wants to relax and feel safe.
Most dogs love to go with their owners on day trips and to the park, which usually means riding in your car.
For safety reasons, you should always travel with your puppy or adult dog safely restrained in a crate. That way, in the event of an accident, your dog won’t suddenly become a potentially lethal projectile that could injure you or your passengers.
Not all dogs appreciate car travel and can get car sick. Sometimes, traveling with your pup in a crate where he feels safe and secure helps to relieve stress, and he’ll be less likely to get sick.
If you want to take your German Shepherd with you on international vacations, you’ll need to transport him in an airline-approved crate in the plane’s hold. So, if your dog is crate-trained from puppyhood, air travel won’t be such an ordeal for him.
Puppies of all breeds can be destructive when you take your eye off them for a moment!
By confining your puppy to a crate, you can provide him with a chew toy to gnaw on when he’s left unattended without worrying your personal possessions and home furnishings will get destroyed!
Materials Needed for Crate Training
Before you start your crate-training journey, gather together everything you’re likely to need, including the following:
- Training treats
- Wire mesh dog crate with puppy divider panel
- Crate water bottle or water bowl
- Crate mat
- Cozy blankets or crate bedding
- Chew toys
- Crate cover
It’s a good idea to cover your puppy’s crate to create a den-like environment for your pet. You can buy some jazzy crate covers, and there are designs that effectively blend your pet’s crate with your home decor scheme, too.
Rather than using a blanket your pup could drag into the crate and potentially choke on, we recommend buying a proper, machine-washable crate cover.
How to Crate-Train Your German Shepherd Puppy
Now you’re ready to start crate-training your German Shepherd puppy using our step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Choose a Crate
The best crates for crate-training puppies are high-quality wire mesh crates with divider panels.
Ensure you buy the correct size for your puppy. That means your pet must be able to stand up, turn around, lay down, and sit down without bumping into the crate’s sides or having his ears touch the crate top.
You don’t want to have the crate too big, or your puppy might be tempted to relieve himself in one corner, setting back your crate training efforts. That’s where a crate divider is invaluable, as you can set it to the exact size you want the crate to be.
In addition, a crate divider means you can buy a large crate size for your puppy to grow into without having to upsize to a new crate several times as your pet matures.
Step 2: Introducing Your Pup to His Crate
Before you begin your German Shepherd crate training program, set up your new crate in a room where your puppy will spend lots of time, for example, in your bedroom or living room. Make the crate super comfy by adding a mat, some cozy bedding, and a couple of chew toys. It’s helpful to toss a few treats into the crate, too.
Leave the crate door propped open, so it can’t swing shut and frighten your puppy and allow your pup to explore the crate at his own pace.
If your puppy doesn’t want to enter the crate at first, don’t force him. Your puppy should be allowed to go in and out of the crate voluntarily. If he’s reluctant, try tempting your pet by placing toys and treats right inside the crate.
Your aim at this stage is to encourage your puppy to feel secure and confident approaching the crate and going inside. Using treats and toys will show your puppy that the crate is a fun, positive place where he wants to spend time.
Step 3: Feed Your Pet in the Crate
Once your German Shepherd puppy happily goes in and out of the crate by himself, start feeding him inside the crate.
Puppies reluctant to enter the crate are usually tempted by food, especially greedy breeds such as Goldendoodles and Labradoodles. Start by putting a small bowl of food your pup will eat in ten minutes or so in the crate. As your pet gets more confident and content to eat in the crate, build up the amount of food you give him so that your puppy spends more time eating his meal.
Step 4: Begin Closing the Crate Door
Now that your puppy is content to eat his meals inside his crate, start shutting the door for short periods, minutes at first.
Gradually feed your puppy in the crate with the door closed for extended periods. During this time, try giving your pup a chew stick or a Kong toy stuffed with treats or peanut butter to keep him occupied.
At this point, you want your puppy to feel comfortable inside his crate with the door shut. Eventually, your pet will start feeling more comfortable in the crate for longer periods of time, such as when on car rides and when you’re not home.
Once your German Shepherd puppy accepts the crate as his special den, he’ll love spending time there.
Step 5: Slowly Build Up Crate Confinement Time
Now that your puppy is happy to spend short periods in the crate with the door shut, you can begin increasing the length of time he spends in there.
Do that by leaving your puppy in the crate while you’re at home and within his line of sight. If your puppy is happy with that, increase the periods of time he spends inside the crate. Remember to give your puppy plenty of toilet breaks and exercise between confinement periods.
The Importance of a Puppy Crate Training Schedule
Whether you are training a French Bulldog, a Poodle, or a German Shepherd, having a crate training schedule is essential.
Dogs of all breeds do best when they have a routine and understand what to expect and when.
We’ve put together this handy crate training schedule for you to follow:
Day 1: Start with Step 1, and introduce your pup to the crate.
Day 2: Continue with Step 1, moving to Step 2 if your puppy is ready.
Day 3: Complete Step 2 and move on to Step 3.
Day 4: Finish Step 3 and begin Step 4.
Day 5: Finish Step 4 and move on to the final Step 5.
Of course, different puppies learn at different rates, so be ready to adjust the timetable to fit your pup’s progress and personality.
Throughout the crate training process, be sure to take your time without rushing your puppy. If you try to hurry things, your puppy could lose his confidence in the crate and in you! Be consistent and patient, keeping your canine companion’s comfort in mind at all times.
Don’t be tempted to push your puppy for too much too soon, and never leave your pet alone in the crate for too long so that he feels stressed and unhappy.
Tips for Successful Crate Training
Finally, here are a couple of top crate training tips that have worked for us! We’ve also answered some of the questions most commonly asked by people.
How Do I Get My German Shepherd Puppy to Stop Whining in His Crate?
Your dog should always have a positive association with his crate, such as treats and toys. Provided you reward your German Shepherd puppy with a chew toy or a couple of treats, he shouldn’t whine.
In addition, ensure your puppy doesn’t need to relieve himself and has had plenty of exercise before crating him.
Can You Leave an 8-week-old Puppy in a Crate?
As long as you’ve successfully crate-trained your puppy, he can be left in his crate for up to 1 hour without a pee break.
Never shut a puppy in a crate as a punishment or if he is not confident and happy to be left in his crate with the door shut.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are German Shepherds hard to crate train?
A: German Shepherd dogs are intelligent creatures that love to learn and work alongside their human owners. Although these dogs can be playful and willful, you can usually crate-train your dog within about a month or so.
Keep your training methods consistent, and always use positive reinforcement training methods to guarantee a happy dog and a successful crate training program!
Q: How long can I leave my dog in his crate?
A: The length of time you can leave your dog in his crate depends on your pet’s age, health, and stage of training.
Puppies have small bladders and can’t hold on for long between potty breaks.
- 8 to 10 weeks: up to 1 hour
- 11 o 14 weeks: 1 to 3 hours
- 15 to 16 weeks: 3 to 4 hours
- Over 17 weeks: 4 to 6 hours
Adult dogs can usually be crated for 6 to 8 hours. However, senior dogs and those with medical conditions might need more frequent potty breaks.
Dogs and puppies can usually last longer overnight since their metabolism slows down. However, you must remember to take your pet for a potty break before settling down for the night.
Q: Should I ignore my puppy crying when crate training?
A: As long as your puppy doesn’t need to go potty, isn’t hungry or thirsty, and has plenty of toys to keep him amused, you should ignore him if he cries when you’re crate training him.
Puppies cry to get your attention and be let out of the crate. If you give your pet the attention and freedom he craves, you simply teach him that whinging and crying get him what he wants!
Q: Should I use puppy training pads in my dog’s crate?
A: Using puppy training pads in your pup’s crate is a bad idea, especially if you’re using the crate to potty train your pet.
Training pads can encourage your puppy to soil his crate, sending the little guy mixed messages and potentially setting back your potty training program.
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German Shepherds are generally intelligent dogs that enjoy working alongside people and are highly trainable, so they generally take well to crate training. When crate training your puppy, always be mindful that your dog’s crate should be a safe, comfortable place where he wants to spend time.
Never use your puppy’s crate as a punishment tool for bad behavior, and always take all the time your pet needs to get his head around spending time confined to his crate.
How long did it take for you to crate-train your German Shepherd puppy? Tell us in the comments box below.