There are over 3.5 million German Shepherds in the United States! That’s a whole lot of fluffy faces and waggly tails.
But these little balls of energy can be difficult to train at times. Many people lucky enough to have a German Shepherd puppy of their own are looking for opportunities to improve their pup’s training schedule. In a lot of cases, that could mean crate training.
If you are looking for help crate training a German shepherd puppy, stick around. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you understand the process.
Crate Training A German Shepherd Puppy: The Basics
The steps of crate training a German shepherd puppy are simple. The important thing to remember is that it’s a long-term process, so you’ll have to stick to it for good results. First, introduce your pup to their crate. Make sure the introduction is a happy one. Hide some treats inside, and let them explore and reward themselves.
Leave the crate open and allow your pup to go in and out. It’s a good idea to keep the crate accessible for a few days. This will help you build up to shutting them inside.
Once your puppy is comfortable inside the crate, you can begin shutting them in for periods. Make sure they have access to comfy bedding, as well as food and water. And be sure to let them out for potty breaks every hour or so, slowly building up the time they spend in the crate.
What if My German Shepherd Puppy Is Crying or Howling?
One of the main reasons dog owners are reluctant to try crate training is the fear of hearing their dog howling and crying. It’s distressing for both pets and owners, and can even cause complaints from neighbors or trouble sleeping if the dog is making lots of noise overnight.
It’s a legitimate concern. Puppies new to crate training will often voice their displeasure when they’re first crated. Listening to your pet’s anguished cries isn’t exactly pleasant, and it can cause some people to stop the crate training process entirely.
Stick with it. Normally, the crying doesn’t last too long and your dog will settle down when they begin to recognize their nest as a safe and comfortable place to be. If it does persist, you can try giving your pup more exercise, or moving the crate to a more comfortable room of the house.
Make the Crate a Happy Place
One of the key principles of crate training is to ensure that the crate feels like a happy place for your pup. You’ll serve them treats and meals here and ensure it’s cozy and warm. It’s a good idea to include a favorite toy or blanket too, helping your pup feel at home in the crate.
Taking these extra steps to liven up a crate will help the process run smoothly. When a dog associates their crate with pleasant experiences, they’ll soon be keen to spend time inside.
It will also help them to deal with various emotional problems in the long run. One of the main reasons crate-trained dogs are less susceptible to separation anxiety, and all the destructive behaviors that come with it, is because they feel safe and protected in its crate.
The Substitute Den
Dogs have been domesticated to act as man’s best friend over a period of thousands of years. And while they’re now well-suited to human life, they still have much of that wild, wolf instinct. That’s why they bark at the mailman, chase cats, and howl at unusual sounds.
Since wolves are den-dwelling creatures, it only makes sense that dogs would feel protected when using a den themselves.
A den is normally an enclosed space with a single entrance, allowing its occupant to keep a careful watch over the entrance, ensuring they stay safe. So, a crate fulfills the same purpose, providing a substitute den that can be deployed in a suitable location in your house or even brought with you on your travels.
With this in mind, crate training isn’t just ethical and helpful to you and your pet. It also helps a dog follow their nature. That’s why many crate-trained dogs will choose to spend time in their crate even when they’re free to go elsewhere.
Advantages of Crate Training
It can be hard work to get started with crate training. But there are so many advantages to completing the process for you and your pup that after the training is completed, you might wonder how you ever lived without it.
Crate training can be enormously beneficial for avoiding destructive behavior. It’s also a great way to aid in potty training. After getting through the initial difficulties of training, it could even make your pup happier day-to-day, since it will go a long way toward keeping them calm.
Crate training can even reduce potential aggressive behavior. Although German Shepherds have an extremely low rate of aggression, any animal can act out when they’re scared and confused.
Allowing them a place to go and cool off or hide when they’re feeling under pressure can do wonders for avoiding these difficult incidents.
Isn’t It Cruel to Confine My Puppy to a Crate?
Our furry friends aren’t just pets. They’re part of the family. So, it’s only natural that dog owners are sometimes reluctant to confine their cute little pup to a crate. But when you remember all the benefits that crate training has, you’ll understand how the process helps a puppy.
It’s unpleasant for a dog to feel so frightened they begin destroying their environment. Or to be unsure of how to ask to go outside to do its business, then get yelled at for doing it on a floor.
Crate-training helps a dog settle into their new environment, and gives them a little independence, allowing them to retreat from the world when they need some downtime.
It’s hard for any animal to come into a human home and immediately feel at ease. Imagine if you were brought into an environment full of friendly but confusing aliens, who you were unable to communicate with. Wouldn’t you like to have your own space to go and cool off when you need it?
Finding the Perfect Crate
Your dog is going to be spending a lot of time in its crate over the years. So, it’s important to choose a crate that’s going to suit all your needs and form a long-lasting retreat for your pet.
The first thing to consider is size. German Shepherds are pretty large dogs, so it’s important to buy a crate that’s big enough to comfortably house them. Some larger crates come with dividers, allowing you to increase the size of your crate s your puppy grows and removing the need to buy multiple crates as your pup grows.
It’s also vital for you to select a crate with chew-proof sides. During the early stages of training, your pup might gnaw at the sides of the crate, so it will need to be tough enough to withstand a little punishment. You’ll also need to ensure the crate is well-ventilated.
Traveling With a Crate
If you’re going on vacation with your dog, it’s important to continue the crate training process while you’re away. When a dog is in a new environment, they’re likely to feel very anxious. Everything around them will be new and unfamiliar, and they might not understand what’s going on.
Even if you’re going on a short trip for one or two days, it’s still important to bring a crate with you. This will help the trip run smoothly, and avoid your pup being reluctant to enter their crate again when you return home.
When buying your crate, you should think about how you’ll transport it on long journeys. If you plan on doing lots of traveling, it might be a good idea to have a second crate ready, just for traveling.
Crates and Potty Training
Crate training is likely to be performed at the same time as another important milestone in a pup’s life: potty training. Often, the two go hand in hand and complement each other, as the different forms of training teach a puppy the benefits of responding to training.
Since the crate is a substitute den, a dog will be extra reluctant to do its business in the crate. After all, it’s the place they sleep and eat and their instincts tell them to keep it clean. This can help a dog still being potty trained to learn that the place to go potty is outside.
That said, it’s incredibly important to allow a crate confined pup lots of opportunities to go outside and do its business. Ideally, you’ll want to give them a chance to go outside every hour or so, before slowly extending the amount of time between potty breaks.
The Right Amount of Crate Time
Naturally, your dog will spend a lot of time in a crate over the years, but keeping a dog in a crate for too long can do them harm.
German Shepherds are active animals, used to working outdoors, covering lots of ground and expending plenty of energy. Spending too much time in a crate will leave them feeling cooped up, potentially even impacting their emotional development.
A crate isn’t a tool to stop your puppy from moving around. It’s designed to provide them with a sense of safety and offer you a way to prevent unwanted behaviors. Limit the time you’re using the crate for, keeping it to only a few hours at a time where possible.
The crate should only be used when your pup would be in a period of low activity anyway. It’s ideal to use the crate at night when the house is sleeping, or if you’re going out and leaving your pet home alone. Be sure to offer lots of play time and walks to ensure your pup is tired out and ready to rest when you shut them away in their crate.
What if My German Shepherd’s Beyond the Puppy Stage?
Maybe you’ve got a young German Shepherd that’s beyond the puppy stage and is experiencing some behavioral problems. You might be wondering whether you can still crate train a dog that’s no longer a puppy.
The answer is yes, although it might be a little more difficult. The old saying about old dogs and new tricks is completely wrong, and with a little extra effort, you can train your slightly older German Shepherd to use a crate without a problem.
Since German Shepherds are so intelligent and compliant, they’re the ideal dogs to crate train, even after passing a certain age. It’s definitely better to begin the training process as soon as you can, but there’s no actual cut-off point where training will become impossible.
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As long as you stay patient and keep up with your training routine, you’ll soon see good results. Get started with your training regime today, follow this German Shepherd puppy guide, and begin enjoying all the benefits of crate training.
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