How To Crate Train Your German Shepherd

Why do German Shepherds Love Crates?

German Shepherds are, by nature, den animals and feel secure in small, enclosed spaces. Most German Shepherds will seek out a place in your home that will mimic a den. You will often find them sleeping under a table or desk. Dog crates make excellent dens and can serve as a refuge, a hangout, and a bedroom. It is very important that the dog crate is never used as punishment – the crate must always be regarded as a safe and special retreat.

The most common misconception about a dog crate is that it is a cruel form of caging a pet. This is completely false, and in fact, a German Shepherd will actually find a crate to be a secure and safe sanctuary in the same manner as a wolf enjoys the comfort of a den for resting and eating.

Why do German Shepherd Owners Love Crates?

Next to the training collar and leash, the dog crate is the proven training tool most recommended by professional dog trainers, groomers and veterinarians. Once accustomed to the dog crate, unfavorable behaviors such as house soiling, destructive chewing, digging, unnecessary barking, and howling can be avoided. Crate training is also an ideal system to help ease separation anxiety. Since the German Shepherd’s habits will be much easier to regulate by using the dog crate, discipline for misbehavior will be less necessary which will allow a stronger dog and owner relationship. Crate-trained German Shepherd travel easier in their “den” since they feel secure. This sense of security is also helpful if your German Shepherd needs to stay at the veterinarian or groomer since your dog is already accustomed to being crated.

And, compared to the cost of replacing furniture, plants, carpet, and other personal items that may be destroyed when your German Shepherd is allowed to roam a household unsupervised, the expense of a crate is very economical.

How Can a Crate be Used to Avoid Accidents?

Crate training is proven to be the fastest, most cost-effective method of instilling “good dog” behavior. A German Shepherd’s natural instinct is to keep the area in which she rests as clean as possible. Most German Shepherds are very resistant to being near their own waste and therefore will make an extra effort to control their own elimination when confined to a crate. By the owner encouraging elimination in the proper place immediately after a dog is released from the crate, the pet quickly learns when and where to “take care of business.” This is a proven method of house training recommended by nationally known trainers.

How Can a Crate be Used to Solve Other Behavioral Problems?

Most behavior problems such as destructive chewing are due to the boredom of an unsupervised German Shepherd. If allowed to continue the behavior, it quickly becomes a habit that is difficult to change. German Shepherds naturally want to please their owners and receive praise and love in return. If the German Shepherd knows exactly what is expected of her, she will gladly behave accordingly to benefit from it and be rewarded. By using a crate during the owner’s short term absences, the German Shepherd is simply not able to misbehave. Instead, she will rest quietly in her crate. German Shepherds generally sleep 90% of the time the owners are away. It’s the other 10% that so many things can go wrong. By crating the German Shepherd, you are essentially only asking for a small amount of change to the German Shepherd’s natural schedule.

How Can a Crate be Used to Ease Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is the number one behavioral problem today. It can be defined as increased fearfulness of the German Shepherd after the departure of the owner. This often misunderstood disorder causes loving pet owners to feel they have no other option than to find their German Shepherd another home. German Shepherds are pack animals and are not prepared to cope with isolation. They must be taught how to be alone and reassured that they will not be alone for long. Through positive crate training, the German Shepherd’s personal den can provide an increased sense of security, which often helps ease stress and stress-related behaviors. Antidepressant medication may curve the behavior but it will not solve the problem.

When Can You Start Using a Crate?

Immediately! The sooner the better, no matter what age your German Shepherd may be. Ideally, a puppy should be introduced to a crate at an early age. In fact, many reputable breeders will already have a puppy familiar with a crate before the puppy is introduced to a new home, which makes that transition much easier for both the German Shepherd and the new owner. But a dog at any age can be introduced to crate training. Older dogs may view the crate as punishment in the beginning and may need extra encouragement and slower graduated confinement times. Start your training when you are able to be home with your dog.

Why a Wire Crate?

A wire crate is recommended to allow your German Shepherd optimum visibility of her surroundings. Your German Shepherd will be most relaxed if she is sheltered but still able to view her surroundings without having to get up. She will rest longer and quieter. Wire crates are designed for proper ventilation. Illness can be caused during housebreaking if puppies or dogs are forced to inhale urine odors. Complete ventilation will prevent this and many other ailments that can be caused by low ventilation. Wire crates are easy to move and store, and can be cleaned with soap and water. With proper care, a wire crate will last the life of the German Shepherd, therefore are more economical than plastic designs.

What Size of Crate Does Your German Shepherd Need?

When selecting a crate for a puppy, go ahead and get one that will fit the dog’s need when she is fully-grown. Precision Pet Products’ Puppy Panels allow you to adjust the size of the crate and are available for larger crates while the puppy is growing. Your German Shepherd should be able to comfortably walk in, turn around and lay down in the crate. Your pet should not feel cramped but do not use a crate that is too big, that will defeat the purpose of giving the German Shepherd the sense of having his own enclosed “den.” An oversized crate will also defeat the German Shepherd’s natural instinct to keep her home clean and free of waste since she may use one end to rest and one end to “go.”

Where Should the Crate be Located?

The crate should be placed in an area that is easy to supervise. Since German Shepherds are highly social animals the crate should be in an area of the household where the family spends most of their time. The crate should not be put in an isolated area. At night, a bedroom is an ideal place for a crate so that the dog can feel the security of being near her owner. German Shepherd owners that are familiar with crate training and its benefits to both people and pets often have two or more crates set up in the house. (For example, one in the den and one in the bedroom.) Wherever the crate is placed, it is important that it not be in a draft or direct heat. Some German Shepherds feel more secure when a towel or blanket is draped over the top and sides of the crate.

It is especially important to keep the crate in the bedroom at night while puppies are being housetrained. For successful housetraining, you must be able to hear your puppy cry when she needs to be let outside to eliminate. Each individual German Shepherd varies but as a rule, a puppy can control elimination through the night as early as three months of age. It is also important to regulate a puppy’s feeding schedule so that this can be taken into consideration as to when and how often she must be allowed to relieve herself. The last meal of the day should come at least two hours before bedtime. It is important to establish a timely routine so that the German Shepherd’s body functions can adjust to when she will be released from the crate. As a German Shepherd gets older the amount of time she can stay in the crate can be extended but should never exceed more than six to eight hours.

Introducing Your German Shepherd to their Crate.

Important Note: Always take care to remove both collar and tags prior to your dog entering her crate.

Allow your German Shepherd to explore the crate on her own. You can toss some of her favorite toys or treats inside and show interest in the crate to encourage her curiosity. Leave the door open during the introduction period. NEVER force your German Shepherd into her crate and ALWAYS praise her anytime she enters on her own.

Soon your German Shepherd will enter and exit the crate willingly. At that time you should close the door for a few seconds or a minute and remain close to the crate praising her while she is inside. Then, let your German Shepherd out in a calm and quiet manner, not making a big deal of it. You do not want the exit of the crate to be an excitable moment. This will make your German Shepherd want out of her crate rather than enjoying the time inside. If she barks or cries while inside her crate, reassure her and wait for her to settle down before allowing her out of the crate. You do not want her to associate negative behavior with being released from the crate.

Gradually you can extend the amount of time the German Shepherd is left in a crate. Your first few absences should be less than 30 minutes. Keep your departures and arrivals low-key. Continue to crate your German Shepherd for a few minutes each day when you are home so that crating does not always predict that you are leaving. Within a few attempts over two or three days most dogs will enter the crate willingly and quietly settle down for a nap. It is natural for your pet to bark or cry when getting used to her new den.

Some owners like to feed their dog in the crate, although the bowl should be removed as soon as the German Shepherd finishes eating so that it is not in her way. Sometimes this will help gain the dog’s trust with a crate. Remember that puppies will need to eliminate immediately after a meal and adult dogs will need to eliminate within 30 minutes. Once the puppy or dog no longer has a habit of chewing, a washable blanket or some other form of bedding can be put in the bottom of the crate for additional comfort.

It is very important that the convenience of a crate not be abused. Every German Shepherd needs plenty of exercise and should be allowed the opportunity to socialize daily with her human family.

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