Crate training is an excellent way to housebreak your German Shepherd puppy and teach them healthy behavioral habits. With proper crate training techniques, you can have your German Shepherd happily lounging in their crate during downtime and sleeping there soundly through the night. This allows you to prevent messy accidents around the house and gives your pup a safe space of their own.
Follow these step-by-step instructions to crate train your German Shepherd effectively.
- Crate training provides many benefits like preventing destructive behaviors, aiding housebreaking, reducing separation anxiety, and giving your dog a safe space.
- Choose an appropriately sized crate with enough room for your German Shepherd to stand, turn around, and lie down.
- Make the crate comfortable with bedding, toys, treats, and your scent to help your dog feel at home.
- Follow a gradual crate training timeline, starting with short intervals and working up to extended crating times.
- Use positive reinforcement and treats to create a positive association with the crate. Never force your dog inside.
- Feed meals inside the crate and confine your puppy for short periods while you’re home to get them used to it.
- Lengthen the durations spent in the crate incrementally as your German Shepherd adjusts.
- Use the crate whenever you are away from home or sleeping to reinforce the habit.
- Be patient and consistent. Crate training takes time but provides lifelong benefits for your dog.
Why Crate Train Your German Shepherd
Crate training provides many benefits for both you and your German Shepherd:
- Prevents destructive behaviors like chewing, digging, and barking when you’re away by keeping them confined to a safe space.
- Aids housebreaking by using their natural inclination to keep their space clean. Puppies won’t want to soil their sleeping area.
- Gives them a place to retreat for peace and quiet, reducing separation anxiety. The crate becomes their personal den.
- Helps establish your leadership role and reinforces good manners. Puppies learn to settle down and relax in the crate.
- Provides safe travel accommodations and an escape from loud noises like fireworks.
- Gives you peace of mind knowing your pup is secure when you leave home or go to sleep.
Choosing the Right Crate
Picking an appropriately sized crate for your German Shepherd is key to successful training. Measure your dog from the tip of their nose to the base of their tail and add 2-4 inches. This ensures they have room to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Other crate considerations include:
- Material: Look for crates made of sturdy plastic or metal with a tray bottom for easy cleaning.
- Door style: Sliding side doors offer convenient access. Some crates have two doors for flexibility.
- Dividers: Puppies can grow quickly. Adjustable dividers let you partition the crate as your dog grows.
- Portability: If you’ll travel with your dog, pick a lightweight crate that’s easy to transport.
- Crate brand: Trusted brands like MidWest, Petmate, and Petco offer quality, affordable crates in various sizes.
Always supervise your puppy in the crate until they are fully crate trained. Provide plenty of chew toys to deter destructive chewing behaviors.
Making the Crate Comfortable
Furnishing your German Shepherd’s crate with soft, familiar items can help them feel at home:
- Bedding: Place a comfy dog bed, blanket, or towel inside for sleeping comfort.
- Toys: Add safe chew toys to relieve boredom and anxiety. Rotate different toys to keep things interesting.
- Treats: Include treats like stuffed Kongs to create positive crate associations.
- Scent: Rub a worn t-shirt or towel on your pup, then put it in the crate so your scent comforts them.
- Water: Include a no-spill bowl secured to the crate for access to water. Remove at bedtime.
- Cover: Drape a lightweight blanket over part of the crate to create a cozy, den-like atmosphere.
Crate Training Timeline
Crate training a German Shepherd takes patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. Follow these general timelines for successful habits:
0-8 weeks: Introduce the crate for very short periods (5-10 minutes) with treats and praise. Have the pup sleep in the open crate at night.
8-16 weeks: Increase daytime crate time gradually from 15 minutes up to 1-2 hours. Give potty breaks every 30-60 minutes when they’re out. Feed meals inside the crate.
4-6 months: Lengthen crate time up to 4 hours during the day as the puppy matures. Puppies can usually sleep crated 7-8 hours overnight at this age.
6+ months: Adult German Shepherds can stay crated 8+ hours at a time. Maintain consistency so good habits don’t lapse. Dogs are creautres of habit.
Proper conditioning from an early age will make the crate a place your German Shepherd loves spending time in.
Step-by-Step Crate Training Process
Follow these training steps to get your German Shepherd used to their crate and see it as their den:
Step 1: Introduce the Crate
Place the open crate in a main living area so your pup can investigate it at their own pace. Scatter treats around and inside to encourage exploration. Praise and reward your pup for entering the crate. Never force them inside. Let the crate remain open and accessible for several days so it becomes familiar.
Step 2: Feed Meals in the Crate
After your puppy is happily entering the crate, start feeding them their regular kibble meals inside it. This creates a positive association between the crate and an enjoyable experience. As you progress, close the crate door while they eat but open it again when they finish.
Step 3: Crate Your Pup for Short Stretches
Once your German Shepherd pup is comfortable eating in their crate, begin confining them inside for short 5-15 minute periods while you’re home. Use treats to entice them inside if needed. Open the door immediately if they whine or cry. Incrementally increase crate time from 30 minutes to a few hours as they adjust.
Step 4: Lengthen Crate Time Gradually
Build up the duration your puppy stays crated in small increments. Try confinement after vigorous play or walks when they’re more likely to nap. Tire them out first so they’re inclined to relax in the crate. Give them something engrossing to do like a food puzzle toy or stuffed Kong.
Step 5: Crate for Longer Durations
Work toward leaving your puppy crated for extended periods of a few hours at a time. Their last potty break should be right before confinement. Praise and reward them for staying quietly in the crate. Vary lengths of time crated during the day to get them used to unpredictability.
Step 6: Crate Overnight
Once your German Shepherd is consistently spending several hours calmly in the crate, start having them sleep crated in your bedroom overnight. Ensure they fully pottied right before bedtime. As they transition to sleeping through the night crated, gradually move the crate outside your bedroom if desired.
Step 7: Troubleshoot Crate Training Challenges
If your German Shepherd cries, whines, or barks in the crate, resist letting them out while they’re upset. That rewards the behavior. Instead, use distraction tactics like special chews or music to self-soothe until they calm down. Then praise and open the crate.
Be patient and consistent with the training process. This establishes excellent lifelong habits.
Helpful Tips for Smooth Crate Training
Follow these useful tips to make crate training as easy as possible on both you and your German Shepherd:
- Always give potty breaks immediately before crating to avoid accidents.
- Vary crate location at times – different rooms or taking it outdoors. This prevents boredom.
- Avoid using the crate solely for punishments. It should be their safe haven.
- Place the crate in your bedroom initially so your puppy feels less isolated whining.
- Give your pup exercise, training, play, and potty breaks right before lengthy crating.
- Make sure children leave a crated pup alone. Too much teasing can cause negative associations.
- Once trained, utilize the crate any time you’re away or busy. This reinforces the habit.
- Never crate your pup longer than they can comfortably hold their bladder to avoid accidents.
- Don’t give affection if your German Shepherd is whining in the crate. Wait until they are quiet.
With time and consistency using these tips, your German Shepherd will adjust to their crate and see it as their own personal den space for relaxation and refuge.
Common Questions About Crate Training a German Shepherd
Crate training raises lots of questions for new German Shepherd owners. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Are German Shepherds hard to crate train?
German Shepherds are very intelligent and trainable dogs. While each dog is different, most German Shepherds take to crate training well with proper conditioning from an early age. Consistency and positive reinforcement are key.
Should I crate my German Shepherd at night?
Yes, crating your German Shepherd overnight helps establish good lifelong habits. The crate prevents nighttime destructive behaviors and provides a comfortable, secure sleeping space. Puppies should sleep in the crate until fully housebroken, around 6 months old.
At what age is it too late to crate train a dog?
You can crate train a dog at any age, but training is easiest when started as a puppy. For adult dogs new to crating, go slowly with short intervals and high rewards to create positive associations. Older dogs naturally take longer to acclimate to crating but can learn with time and patience.
How large should my German Shepherd’s crate be?
Choose a crate just large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down. Too much extra room allows potty accidents. A divider can limit space for a growing pup.
Where should I place my dog’s crate?
Initially have the crate in your bedroom or a main living space so your puppy feels less isolated. Move it as training progresses.
How long can I crate my German Shepherd?
Adult shepherds can stay crated up to 10 hours but adjust time for potty needs. Puppies require more frequent breaks. Never exceed their bladder capacity.
What if my German Shepherd has accidents in their crate?
If accidents happen repeatedly, reduce the crating duration and take your pup out more often. Thoroughly clean the crate tray with an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate odors.
My German Shepherd cries nonstop in their crate. What should I do?
Whining is normal at first. Ignore the behavior and reward silence. If crying persists, evaluate whether they need a potty break, more exercise beforehand, or crate location change.
Should I put my German Shepherd’s crate in my bedroom?
Having the crate in your bedroom initially can help a puppy feel less isolated. As training progresses, you can move it to other areas of your home.
When will my German Shepherd puppy be fully crate trained?
With consistent training, most German Shepherd puppies can tolerate crate confinement for up to 8 hours at night around 4-6 months old. Adult reliability is usually achieved by 6-10 months.
Can I use the crate to punish my German Shepherd?
Never use the crate for punishment purposes. It should remain a safe haven. Correct unwanted behaviors using positive reinforcement training instead of crate confinement.
Proper crate training takes diligence, but the long-term benefits are well worth the investment of time and effort. Be patient and consistent, and your German Shepherd will thrive in their crate.
Crate training provides an invaluable long-term management tool for your German Shepherd while establishing healthy habits and behaviors. By making the crate a secure, comforting space and gradually increasing confinement times, German Shepherds can learn to spend hours quietly resting in their crate. This allows you to prevent destructive behaviors and potty training accidents while providing your dog a safe space of their own.
With the proper sized crate, positive associations, and consistent training, you can have your German Shepherd happily relaxing or sleeping contentedly in their crate anytime they need to settle down or you need them securely contained.