My extensive experience as one of Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area’s Best Breeders of Imported German Shepherds has exposed me to both the Pros and Cons of Crate Training GSD puppies and adult German Shepherds. This is a decision that any German Shepard owner needs to make on their own, using their knowledge of their dog’s individual temperament and confidence.

Pros

Crate training uses a dog’s natural instincts as a den animal in the wild would use a den as a home, a place to sleep, hide from danger, and raise a family. If you train your dog to be content and comfortable in a crate, you’ll provide a safe, cozy place that she can call her own and sleep in at night.

Crates are especially helpful when introducing a new GSD into your household; Crate training works well for housetraining since dogs don’t like to soil their dens. Using a crate will help you predict when your dog needs to eliminate and control where she eliminates. If she’s been crated overnight or for a few hours during the day, the chances are extremely high that she’ll eliminate as soon as you release her from the crate and take her outside. The crate will therefore help to prevent your dog from having accidents indoors and give you the chance to reward her for going in the desired location—outside.

You can use a crate to safely contain your dog during the night and whenever you can’t monitor her behavior closely This will limit access (and damage) to the rest of the house while she learns other rules, like not to chew on furniture  or not to eat your Jimmy Choo shoes !.

A crate is a safe way to transport your dog in the car so that he isn’t thrown around and can’t jump out a window or pushing past you out the door onto a busy road.

Cons

Crates can be easily misused, however. They’re best used as a relatively short-term management tool, not as a lifelong housing solution. Your objective in crate training your German Sheppard puppy or adult Imported German Shepard should be to proactively work on any behavior problems and train your dog so that it’s not necessary to crate her 8 to 10 hours every day.

Some dogs are never happy in crates but can tolerate them when necessary. Others panic when closed in a crate. However, most dogs readily adjust to their crates, preferring to sleep or take refuge in them when they’re tired or things get too hectic. Do not use a crate to contain your dog simply because she’s a nuisance and requires attention. A puppy or young dog can sometimes be annoying and exhausting, but it’s unfair and negligent to lock her up rather than provide the training she needs.If crate training is not done correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated. If you use a crate as punishment your dog will come to hate and fear it and refuse to get into the crate.

If you leave your GSD in the crate for too long a time she will not get enough exercise or human interaction and can become depressed or anxious. An adult dog can be crated for as long as eight hours on occasion, but daily crating of this length could compromise your dog’s mental and physical well-being.

Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety should not be confined in a crate. Signs of separation anxiety may include: Destructive behaviors that consistently occur only when she’s left by herself in the house, especially directed at windows, doors, flooring in front of doors or items with your scent, like seat cushions or the TV remote. Dogs with Thunder phobia don’t tolerate crating well. Don’t crate your dog if you see signs of anxiety when she’s crated, such as damage to the crate from attempts to escape; damage to surrounding objects that she’s been able to reach while inside the crate; wetness on fur or the crate from drooling; urination or defection in the crate; your dog moves the crate; excessive barking or howling

Dogs should not be crated if they are ill with diarrhea or vomiting; haven’t eliminated shortly before going in the crate  temperature is uncomfortably high or the dog has not had sufficient exercise, companionship and socialization

How to choose a crate:

Pet supply stores and online vendors sell wire crates, plastic airline crates and mesh crates. Wire crates collapse for easy storage and portability, and they provide more ventilation than plastic ones. Plastic crates may make dogs feel safer and more secure, and Mesh crates are the most portable, but they aren’t very durable. Crates come in different sizes and should be sized so that your dog can lie down comfortably, stand up and easily turn around at her adult size. If the crate is any larger, she might soil one end of it and sleep at the other. If you are crate training a puppy you need to block off the excess crate space so your dog can’t urinate or defecate at one end and retreat to the other.

How Long to Crate Your Dog

German Shepard Puppies under six months of age and adult dogs being housetrained can’t control their bladders and bowels for long and shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. Crate your dog only until you can trust him not to destroy the house. After that, it should be a place he goes voluntarily.At night when dogs sleep, their body systems and elimination slow down. This is why they can go all night without eliminating once they’re old enough to have sufficient bladder and bowel control. During the day, dogs should be crated for more than four or five hours at a time. When crating a puppy for more than two hours, it’s best to provide water by attaching a water bottle dispenser to the crate. (Using a bowl can create a mess.)

Daytime Crating Duration Guidelines

Age:  8–10 weeks / Maximum time in crate 30–60 minutes

Age: 11–14 weeks / Maximum time in crate 1–3 hours

Age: 15–16 weeks / Maximum time in crate 3–4 hours

Age: 17+ weeks / Maximum time in crate4–5 hours

If you are crate training your GSD puppy and you work all day you must give your puppy midday break every day for at least her first eight months. Make sure she gets a good romp and a play /training session in the morning before you leave for work, during lunch and after work. When your puppy is housebroken you can still keep the crate for your dog to sleep or hang out in. Just remove the door or leave it open. An adult Imported German Shepard dog can be crated for as long as eight hours on occasion, but ensure that she’s received adequate exercise before a long stay in the crate (30 to 60 minutes). If your dog is crated overnight as well, she should receive at least 60 to 90 minutes of outdoor exercise in the morning and before being put back in the crate at night.

Crate Training Steps

There are two schools of thought about how long Crate training can take. One method calls for an intense weekend process, the other can take weeks, depending on your dog’s age, temperament, and past experiences. Some trainers and behaviorists recommend introducing your dog to a new crate very gradually, over a period of a week or more. This method works well for timid dogs that fear confinement and for dogs that have already learned to dislike crates. But many dogs can learn to use crates more easily, and many people just don’t have the time to devote an entire week or more to training before being able to use a crate.

The long term crate training plan for your Imported German Shepard has exactly the same steps as the weekend plan, just over a longer period of time.

Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate

Step 2: Feed your dog his meals in the crate

Step 3: Lengthen the crating periods

Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave

Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night

It is your choice which method best suits your lifestyle, the temperament of your dog, and the time that you have to spare for this process

The Weekend Plan

Friday Night: Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at his leisure. Leave the crate door wide open and make sure your dog has access to the room where you’ve set up the crate. Every so often, when she’s not looking, toss a few treats around and into the crate so she can discover them. Periodically leave special treats in your dog’s crate throughout the evening—and continue to do so every day or so for the next few weeks. You can also stuff two or three KONGs, which you’ll give your dog when you start to increase the length of time she stays in her crate. When it’s dinnertime for your dog, place her bowl in crate and leave the door open so that she has to stand inside the crate to eat. As your dog becomes more and more comfortable stepping inside, you can move the bowl all the way to the back of the crate and, eventually, close the crate door while she eats her meals.

Saturday Morning: Gather the treats you prepared and take your dog to the crate. Sit on the floor or on a chair next to the crate and give a cue to ask your dog to go into the crate, such as “Go to bed.” (Choose whatever cue you like, just be sure you always use the same one.) Show your dog one of the treats and toss it in the crate. After she goes inside to eat it, praise her enthusiastically and feed her another treat while she’s still inside. Say “Okay” to let your dog know she can come out again. Don’t reward her when she comes out of the crate, since she needs to learn that all good things happen when she’s inside the crate. Repeat the steps above 10 times. Take a short break (just a few minutes), and then do another set of 10 repetitions. After your second set, end the training session. Later on in the morning bring your dog to the

crate for more training and try asking her to go in before rewarding her with the treat. Throw the treat into the crate a few more times so that your dog follows it. Then you can give your cue, “Go to bed,” and point to the crate instead of throwing a treat into it (move your arm like you did when tossing a treat into the crate. The familiar motion can remind your dog what she’s supposed to do.) When your dog goes in, praise her and immediately give her a couple of treats while she’s still in the crate. Say “Okay” and let your dog come out of the crate. Do 10 repetitions and then take a short break. Repeat the exercise another 10 times—or until your dog seems to know the game and enters and exits readily when you ask her to.

Saturday Afternoon: Now it’s time to get your dog used to being in the crate with the door closed. Give your cue “Go to bed” again, point to the crate and when your dog goes in the crate, praise her and immediately give her a treat. Then gently close the crate door. Feed your dog two or three treats through the closed crate door and continue to praise her while she’s in the crate. Say “Okay” and open the crate door to let your dog come out. Do 10 repetitions and then take a break for a minute or two. Then repeat the exercise 10 more times, slowly building up the time your dog stays in the crate with the door closed. After you finish your second set of 10 repetitions, take a half-hour break. Then repeat the exercise again. Over the afternoon, try to build up to having your dog stay in the crate for one minute.

Saturday Evening: When your dog is used to hanging out in her crate with the door closed while you sit nearby, you can move on to the next step: leaving her alone for a little while. Repeat the exercise you’ve been practicing, just as it’s described above—but this time, latch the crate door and start to move away from the crate. Say “Go to bed” and point to the crate. When your dog goes in, close the crate door and reward her with a few treats while she stays in the crate. After about 30 seconds, say “Okay” and open the crate door to let your dog out. Now you’ll close the crate door briefly. Say your cue, “Go to bed,” and point to the crate. When your dog goes in, close and latch the crate door, and then give her a treat. Stand up and give your dog another treat. Take a few steps away from the crate and then return to give your dog a treat. Say “Okay” and open the crate door to let your dog come out. Repeat the steps above 10 times, each time walking away in a different direction. After a short break, do 10 more repetitions, slowly building up the time your dog stays in the crate while you walk around the room. As your dog becomes more and more comfortable resting in her crate, you can gradually decrease how frequently you treat her. After you finish your second set of 10 repetitions, take a half-hour break. Then repeat the exercise another 10 times. Start leaving the room for a few seconds at a time, always returning to reward your dog while she’s in the crate. Try to work up to having your dog stay in the crate for one minute while you walk around the room and briefly leave the room.

Sunday Morning: This morning, you’ll teach your dog to relax for longer periods in her crate. You’ll need some treats, a new tasty chew bone or a KONG toy stuffed with something wonderful, like a little peanut butter or cream cheese, and something to occupy yourself. Ask your dog to go in her crate. When she does, praise her and give her the chew bone or stuffed KONG. Then close the crate door and settle down to watch TV or read a book in the same room. Keep your dog in her crate for about half an hour. (If she finishes her chew, you can periodically give her a treat or two, as long as she stays quiet.) When the half hour is up, calmly open the crate and say “Okay,” so that your dog can come out. Take her chew thing away, and don’t reward her with treats when crate time is over. In fact, it’s best if you just ignore your dog for a few minutes. Again, you want her to learn that great things happen while she’s in the crate, not when she comes out. An hour or two later, you can repeat the exercise. At this point in your training, your dog might start to object to confinement in her crate. If she barks or whines, you can ignore her entirely. Or make some sort of noise to let her know that she’s made a mistake. You can say “Oops!” or “Too bad,” and then immediately leave the room. Don’t come back until your dog has been quiet for at least 5 to 10 seconds.

Sunday Afternoon: Give your dog a good workout. After you’ve exercised your dog, repeat the training steps you practiced this morning, but this time you’ll move around the house. Ask your dog to go in her crate. When she does, hand her a delicious chew bone or a stuffed KONG. Then close the crate door and walk out of the room. Stay out of the room for 10 minutes. After the time’s up, you can return and let your dog out of the crate. (If she hasn’t finished working on her chew thing, take it away after she leaves the crate. She only gets special goodies during crate time.) If your dog makes noise in the crate while you’re gone, don’t return to let her out until she’s been quiet for 5 to 10 seconds. After a short break, repeat the exercise and continue to repeat the steps above, slowly building up the time your dog stays in her crate. Try to work up to one full hour of alone time.

Sunday Evening: If your dog can quietly rest in her crate for an hour while you move around the house, you’re ready to leave her home alone. Ask your dog to go in her crate and give her something delicious to chew or eat, just like you did before. Then close the crate and, without saying any goodbyes, leave the house for about 10 minutes. When you return, calmly let your dog out of her crate and take away her chew. Resist the urge to celebrate. Your dog will feel most comfortable going into and out of her crate if you act like it’s no big deal. Repeat the exercise as often as possible before bedtime, with exercise and potty breaks in between training times. Try to build up to leaving your dog in her crate, home alone, for an hour or two.

After the Weekend’s Over:  Your dog can start to stay in her crate whenever you leave the house, overnight and when you can’t directly supervise her during the day. Abide by the crate duration guidelines above, and keep the following tips in mind to make sure your dog continues to feel comfortable in the crate:  Always try to thoroughly exercise your dog before crating her. (Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes) Always take your dog out for a potty break before crating her and right after letting her out of the crate. Continue to feed your dog her meals inside the crate and always leave her with something to chew when she’s in her crate. If you reserve special things, like dinner, new chew bones, stuffed KONGs and pig ears for crate time, your dog will learn to love going into her crate. Leave your dog’s crate open so that she can access it at all times. Many dogs choose to rest inside their crates even when they don’t have to.

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