There are so many different techniques and conflicting expert advice that your mind is just boggled! Most new dog owners have heard of crate training. It may have been recommended to you by other dog owners. This article will detail crate training a German Shepherd Puppy, how it works, why it is effective and how to deal with crate training issues.
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What Is Crate Training?
Essentially, crate training is a technique used to teach your puppy routine, but it is also a useful method to utilize for settling them in, toilet training and managing separation anxiety.
Crate training is the process of teaching your dog to go into his crate on command. This technique also teaches your dog that he can go to his crate at any time, not just when you tell him. The crate can be used for setting a routine, introducing new visitors or as a gentle timeout for correcting unwanted behaviour.
A crate should only be used as a training aid until you are confident that your dog is house trained and not likely to destroy your home. From this point, the crate door should be left open so he is able to come and go from the crate as he pleases. Most dogs will use their crate as a napping spot or quiet space.
Should you Crate Train a German Shepherd Puppy?
Crate training is effective because the crate serves as a den or safe place for your dog. Whenever you do training with him that involves his crate, he will feel comfortable and relaxed. As a general rule, crate training is widely accepted as the best way, but not the only way, to train a puppy. It is important to be aware that all dogs are different, and some dogs do not take well to crate training. It is down to you as the owner to determine whether your dog is content with this method of training.
German Shepherds are intelligent dogs and they love to please, so crate training is perfect for them. They are also prone to anxiety, so having a covered crate that they are already comfortable in will really help to settle them and keep them calm.
Pros & Cons of Crate Training A German Shepherd Puppy
As with any method of training, there are positive and negative aspects that you will need to consider and plan your training around. Let’s take a look.
- Provides a safe space whenever your dog needs some quiet time.
- Makes toilet training simple and effective.
- Easy and safe way to contain your dog for short periods without causing stress.
- Crates make car journeys safer.
- Dogs can become stressed if left in a crate for long periods.
- A panicked dog could injure themselves trying to escape their crate.
- If used incorrectly, a dog will learn to fear a crate.
- Potential to collapse if assembled incorrectly
What size crate for a German Shepherd Puppy?
The general rule for sizing a crate is that your puppy should be able to stand without their head touching the roof. They should also have enough room to turn around inside the crate and lie out flat. There are two options for crates: purchasing a crate suitable for a puppy and buying a large crate with each growth spurt or purchasing the correct size crate for his adult size, but using a crate divider while he is a puppy to reduce the available space.
There are benefits to both options, so it is really personal preference on your part. Some people prefer to start with a smaller crate, but you will need to make sure you have space available for larger crates when you eventually need them.
You may find that you only use a crate for a few months until your puppy is house trained or you may want to keep the crate as your dog’s personal space even after toilet accidents and chewing have stopped.
What Type of Crate is Best?
There are a couple of different crate types available for you to choose from and they all have various benefits and inconveniences. You will need to weigh up which is the best fit for you and your puppy.
Plastic:These crates look like the old-fashioned travel or vets crates. They are perfect for puppy training as the sides and roof are solid, creating a dark enclosed space inside which will be comforting for your pup. Plastic crates are sturdy and tend to be more chew resistant than wired crates. The downside is that they are clunky and not great to look at. You can purchase a wire divider but they can be fiddly.
Wired: The wired option is great because they tend to be foldable. This make for easy storage when you do not need the crate or if you are travelling. They are easy to set up and some designs come with wheels, which is handy for moving large crates. Wired crates also come with a plastic tray which you can cover with a crate pad or blanket. The negative aspects for wired crates is that your puppy may be able to chew the bars and crates made of weak material are easy to break out of.
Fabric: This option is recommended as a travel crate rather than for everyday use. Made of a lightweight fabric fitted over a basic frame, these crates come in a variety of colours and with a number of different access points. Some come just with one door, whereas other options have both front and side panels for easier access. Unfortunately, the fabric is not good for persistent chewers and the door panels close with a simple zip, which a dog can easily escape from if they are determined enough.
Custom: The pet industry is big business and there are lots of companies offering luxury options for products like crates. You can design and order a custom crate to the exact size you need using your choice of materials. Double fronted doors? No problem. Built-in storage cupboard? Go for it! Wheels for ease of movement? Absolutely! If you have the money to spend on a unique custom-made crate, then definitely consider it. You can design it to suit your home décor and you will be confident of the quality and craftsmanship of the finished product.
How to Crate Train German Shepherd Puppy
Before you begin crate training you will need to find a quiet place in your home such as laundry room, bathroom or lounge. The most important factor when choosing a good crate spot is how noisy it is. A puppy will find it difficult to settle if his crate is in a noisy or busy part of the house.
Getting your puppy used to the crate and going in and out is the first step. This method is a good starting point:
- Allow your puppy to sniff all around the outside of the crate. Do not force him to go in at any point.
- Give him quiet praise and a treat when he is close to the crate.
- Place a treat just inside the door of the crate and see if your puppy will retrieve it. He may take a while to decide if its safe; don not pressure him. Let him do it on his own.
- Repeat this a few times, slowly placing the treat further inside the crate. Leave the door open for now, while he is getting used to the new smells.
- Once he is comfortable going in, try closing the door for 5-10 seconds. Give your dog a treat through if he is calm, then open the door.
- Repeat this step a few times, then increase the time the door is shut five seconds at a time.
This process is a soft approach. It allows your dog to accept the new crate on his own terms and he will associate it with something positive. Forcing him into the crate will only make him feel anxious about it. Leave the crate door open during the day so your puppy can go in and out as he pleases.
You can now start to give the crate a name. You might simply use the word ‘crate’ or ‘home’, but keep it to one word for simplicity. Place a treat in the crate for your puppy to retrieve. As soon as he enters the crate say your chosen word. Continue to do this each time he goes inside, even if he goes in without you tempting him. He will slowly start to associate going into the crate with your cue word.
Try giving your cue word when he is out of the crate and point to it. If he goes in give him a treat and lots of praise. Don’t worry if he doesn’t. Continue to give the cue word whenever he goes in to reinforce the association.
Crate Training German Shepherd Puppy at Night - How to, tips and tricks
If you live in a connected house or have neighbors living close by, it is a good idea to warn them, so they are not alarmed by any noise on the first night. This will ease any tension that your whining puppy creates!
You have done your research, chosen your crate, and set it up all cozy. Your puppy has spent the day getting used to his crate, but now it’s bedtime! Most likely, you will be expecting a rough night. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. To give yourself the best chance of success, put an item of clothing or blanket with your scent on inside the crate. This will help him settle even further, as he associates you with safety.
Just before bedtime, encourage your puppy to engage in a quick five-minute play session. This will burn off any leftover energy and ensure they are tired. Putting an excitable puppy in a crate and expecting them to sleep is like giving a child candy and asking them to sit still!
Take your puppy out to the toilet just before bed. Encourage him into the crate with a treat and lots of praise. If he doesn’t want to go in, do not force him or the crate training will not work. Calmly close the door, switch off the light and go about your normal bedtime routine. Don’t talk to your dog or make a big deal of leaving him. Be prepared for crying or even howling. This is probably the first time your puppy has been left on his own. However much noise he makes, you must ignore it. Going down to him while he is whining only teaches him that make a racket will get him attention.
Set an alarm for 3 hours. If your puppy has stopped whining by this point, then congratulations! Your puppy is relaxed enough that he doesn’t feel the need to shout for you. Quietly take him from the crate to the garden so he can toilet, then return him to his crate. This is a two-part process. You are toilet training and easing potential separation anxiety at the same time.
When you go back inside, repeat the same process as when you first went to bed. Try not to talk to your puppy. Allow him to go into the crate on his own, close the door and go back to bed. Set an alarm for another 3 hours and repeat the same steps. Your next alarm will most likely be your normal wake-up time. Remember, your puppy needs to go straight outside to the toilet whenever he leaves the crate. This reinforces the idea that he must toilet outdoors.
What to Do If German Shepherd Puppy Whining In Crate
Even if your puppy continues to whine or howl all through the night, you must ignore him. It is important that you say nothing to your puppy when you let him out of the crate. Only praise him when he has done his business. Then take him straight back inside and to his crate. He may need a treat or two to tempt him back in, but try not to pick him up and place him inside. He must choose to go in on his own terms.
You may find that your puppy takes a few nights to settle. Every puppy is different, but don’t be disheartened. Remain consistent, do not react to his whining, and only let him out of the crate at night to go to the toilet.
You can try giving him a chew toy or treat ball that is safe for puppies. Kongs are perfect for this as they have a hollow center that can be filled with little biscuits or peanut butter. This will give him something to occupy himself, but also serves as a treat while he is in the crate. This will help him view the crate as something positive.
What To Do If German Shepherd Puppy Keeps Peeing In Crate
Urinating in the crate is to be expected for the first few nights. There are a few reasons why this might happen. The first is anxiety. Your puppy has come from his mother and littermates to a new home and this is the first time he has slept by himself. It is normal for him to feel a little nervous and puppies tend to wee when they feel this way. Never scold your puppy for having an accident in the crate or your could make the problem worse.
It may be that you are leaving to big a gap between toilet breaks. Try shortening them to two hours apart, then slowly increase it in 15- or 30-minute intervals over a week or two. Puppies have small bladders and it may simply be that he cannot hold it for very long.
Another reason he may be toileting is that the crate is too big. Dogs do not soil where they sleep. It is an evolutionary trait designed to keep their den safe from predators. If your puppy is regularly weeing in the crate, either purchase a smaller size or try using a crate divider to reduce the available space.
When To Crate
Aside from your nighttime routine, there are certain situations during the day when it is advisable to crate and also times when you should avoid crating.
If you are leaving the house and cannot take your puppy with you, then it is best to crate him. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, with a new puppy, you do not know whether he will chew from separation anxiety. Most puppies chew anyway as dogs investigate things with their mouths. Until you are confident that your puppy will not chew your furniture, he should be crated when you leave him home alone.
There may be periods throughout the day when you cannot keep an eye on your puppy. Perhaps you are showering, doing laundry, and busy in another room. During these times, you should crate your puppy. This prevents him from getting up to mischief and will also help prevent toilet accidents.
Introducing new people to your puppy is much easier with a crate. When the doorbell rings, ask your puppy to go to his crate. Answer the door and invite the guests in. if he leaves the crate, give an ‘ah-ah’ or ‘no’ and take him back to the crate. Repeat this until he stays in his crate. Then give him his release word so he can come and greet the guests. A routine teaches your puppy that he should take himself to his crate when he hears the doorbell. This eliminates any potential embarrassment of having your dog jumping all over your guests as they try to come in.
You may want to consider feeding your dog in his crate or have him wait in his crate while you prepare his meals. Feeding in the crate is good for puppies who are messy eaters as it reduces the space available for food to spill. Asking your dog to wait in the crate but allowing him out to eat elsewhere teaches him basic ‘wait’ manners and stops him being under your feet in the kitchen.
When Not To Crate
It is not a good idea to crate a young dog for more than 4 hours at a time. They will need a break to relieve themselves and puppies are quick to boredom. Being cooped up for hours will only cause your puppy to become frustrated with being in the crate. If you know you are going to be gone for longer than four hours, you should have someone pop in to give your puppy a toilet break and time to play. Breaking up the time he is crated and providing him the physical stimulation of a visitor will keep him relaxed and happy when he is back in the crate.
Do not crate your puppy if he hasn’t had a walk or exercise unless you have no choice. Putting a puppy in a crate full of pent-up energy is never going to end well! If you know you are going to have to crate him, take him for a short walk first or play with him at home to tire him out. He will most likely sleep once you crate him, which will make the crate training much easier.
It is not advisable to crate a dog with physical injury or disability. The simple reason is that they could injure themselves if they are not in full control of their body. Incontinent dogs should also not be crated. If they soil the crate they will have to sit in it, until you return home. This is no doubt very uncomfortable and will most likely make them anxious about being crated in the future.
Never use a crate as punishment. This will only exacerbate whatever behavior you were scolding him for and also has the potential of triggering more behavioral problems. A crate should always be a safe space that your dog willingly uses.