The most common misconception I hear about crate training is that it is animal cruelty. Crate training your German Shepherd puppy is not cruel: It’s the opposite! In fact, dogs in the wild naturally find small protected areas to hide in so that they feel protected from other animals and the weather.
Crates makes dogs feel safe because in addition to offering protection from the outside, they give your dog a manageable area to protect. If you leave the entire house to your dog, they will feel compelled to guard a much larger area and won’t be able to stay relaxed. Nervousness and stress in dogs leads to negative behavior as a coping mechanism. Crates can be an answer to this! When there is a lot of noise in the house or a party going on, your dog can hang out in his crate and feel safe.
So how do you get started? Start as soon as your puppy arrives in his new home! Follow along and your dog will be an expert in no time!
Set up your dog's crate and make it comfortable!
Find a permanent spot for your dog's crate and don't move it. Familiarity will make your dog more comfortable. This spot should be in a quiet part of the house and free from distractions but still near other people. The bedroom would fit this criteria.
Make sure your crate is the right size for the dog. A properly sized crate will give your dog enough room to stand, stretch, and turn around inside. If your dog can walk around inside, then then crate is too large. The crate needs to be cozy so that your dog isn't tempted to be pee in one corner and sleep in the other.
You can save money by buying an adult-sized crate and reducing the size of the crate by placing some boxes inside. As your puppy grows, you can remove the boxes. This ensures the crate is always an appropriate size.
Make sure to place a nice blanket inside the crate for your dog to sleep on. You can also attach a water bottle to the side of the crate so your dog can stay hydrated. A dog bone or toy will help your dog stay occupied if gets bored.
Going forward, the dog crate will be where your dog sleeps every night. I know you want to snuggle with your new puppy in bed but trust me, once they get a taste of the bed, they won't want to go back into the crate. This will cause more trouble for both of you then it is worth. When your dog is older, he can sleep with you, but not when he is young.
Make your dog's first experience with the crate a positive one!
When you introduce your dog to his crate, let him walk up to it, sniff it, and get familiar with it. Then, while keeping the door open, lure him inside with some treats. Give him lots of praise and then ask him to come out. Use your command words consistently when doing this.
If your dog isn't listening, don't force him into the crate. This crate needs to be where he goes to be safe, not where he is trapped. Instead, try changing how you're luring your dog inside the crate or try again when your dog is less distracted.
Once your dog is comfortable with going in and out of the crate, have him go in and close the door behind him. Stay with him for 10 minutes and let him out. Give him lots of praise! Now have him go to his crate but increase the duration in the crate by an additional 10 minutes every time.
If your dog cries while inside the crate, don't reward him by opening the door right away. Instead, ignore him until he stops and then open the door. Give him lots of praise and retry.
Crate training will help improve your dog's bladder control.
Dogs instinctively won't pee where they sleep. This is why crate training your German Shepherd puppy is so important for proper potty training. So as you increase the duration your dog stays in his crate, keep in mind that younger dogs need to pee more often. A common rule of thumb is that a dog can hold his bladder for 1 hour for every month of age up to a maximum of 10 hours.
If you forget about your dog and they pee inside their crate, you'll cause a lot of emotional harm and make them think of their crate is a bad place to be. So if you need to leave your puppy alone for an extended period of time, don't leave them in the crate! Instead keep them confined to an area where you can easily clean up any messes they might make. I recommend tile or linoleum.
Crates are not for punishment.
Remember that crates are not for punishment. The crate is your dog's safe spot. If your pet has bad behavior then address the issue on the spot. Correct the bad behavior and use positive reinforcement afterwards. Isolating them in their crate when they do something wrong will not teach them anything. Click here for a great article on correcting bad behavior!
Crate training can prevent bad behavior from occurring!
If you are unable to properly supervise your puppy, then putting them in their crate is a good idea. This prevents them from getting into trouble when you don't have time to correct their behavior. Getting your dog used to staying in a crate will make your life much easier whenever you go to the vet or go traveling. Your dog will feel like he is at home inside his crate despite being in foreign places. This keeps him calm!
However, keeping your dog in his crate all day is not a good thing. If your dog spends his whole day inside his crate, he is missing out on valuable socialization time. When dog's are young, they should be out exploring the world and encountering new situations. This gives you the opportunity to show your dog what good behavior looks like as well as allowing you to correct bad behaviors using positive reinforcement.
There is a lot to consider when crate training your German Shepherd puppy. I hope this guide made everything more clear. Happy training!