How Do You Crate Train a German Shepherd? The Ultimate Guide

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If you’re here, you’ve asked yourself this question…  “How do you crate train a German Shepherd?”

This ultimate crate training guide was written especially for German Shepherd Corner by my good friend Hindy Pearson over at Caring for a Senior Dog.  

You can find out more about Hindy and her favorite invention in the author box below.

Personally, I can’t think of anyone more experienced to answer the question – how do you crate train a German Shepherd?

What you’ll learn…

  • Why it’s a good idea to crate train.
  • How to choose a crate.
  • Where to put a crate.
  • What type of crate is best suited for various situations.
  • What to put in a crate.
  • A step by step “how-to” guide to get your GSD crate trained.
  • Tips on crate training a German Shepherd puppy at night.
  • And you’ll get an easy-to-follow sample crate training schedule.
  • How to stop your German Shepherd puppy from whining or barking in the crate.
  • The dos and don’ts of crate training.

By the end you’ll have all the answers to the question; “how do you crate train a German Shepherd”.  You’ll know the pitfalls, the tricks and you’ll be able to successfully crate train your GSD with confidence.

Welcome to the comprehensive guide to German Shepherd crate training, and the only one you’re ever going to need!

Before we get started, just a few notes from Hindy…

  • Although a lot of the time I’ll be using the word “puppy,” crate training can be useful for dogs of all ages, so keep that in mind as you read through the information presented here.
  • Replace puppy with adult or senior, whatever applies.  I also tend to use the words “him” and “his” rather than “her” and “she” – no idea why since my dogs (not our dogs) have always been girls, just know I mean both genders.

Take it away, Hindy!!

I know how overwhelming this may be starting to look, but please don’t worry…

The information is broken down into bite-sized chunks, with each topic clearly marked.  Take all the time you need, and re-read it as often as you like.

None of it is complicated, it’s just new!

If you want to dive right into a specific part, just use the links below and be magically transported to any section you’re interested in.

Quick Navigation Menu

  1. Why it’s a Great Idea to Crate Train Your German Shepherd
  2. Dog Crate Sizes: How to Choose the Right One
  3. How to Measure Your German Shepherd for a Crate
  4. 6 Types of Dog Crates
  5. My Crate Recommendation for House Training
  6. The Best Place To Put a Dog Crate For Puppy Training
  7. What to Put in a Dog Crate: Besides Your Dog
  8. How Do You Crate Train a German Shepherd? 5 Easy Steps
  9. Crate Training a German Shepherd Puppy at Night
  10. Sample Crate Training Schedule
  11. How to Stop Your GSD Puppy Whining in the Crate
  12. The Do This, Don’t Do That of Crate Training
  13. The Ultimate Guide to Crate Training – Conclusion

Okay, let’s get started!!

Why it’s a Great Idea to Crate Train Your GSD

Crate training = puppies = house training

That is a very accurate statement, however, a crate is not the only way to house train a puppy.  But, we won’t get into those details because that’s not what this article is about.

There are so many other reasons to consider training your dog to use, and love, a crate…


Imagine this…

You bring your puppy home and let him loose.  Next thing you know plants are overturned, clothes are all over the floor, and he’s lying in the corner happily munching on a television cord.

Such a young, small, and untrained creature running loose in your home is a bad idea and a potentially dangerous one as well.

You can’t watch him constantly, and it takes only a second to get into trouble.

Keeping him in a crate until he learns what’s what is the safest option for him, and the least nerve-wracking for you.

A Den of His Own

Dogs are den animals and are quite happy in a small (not too small) space.  

It becomes a place of their own, a bolt hole when the hustle and bustle get to be too much, a sanctuary when it’s fireworks or thunderstorm season.


A dog running loose in a car is an accident waiting to happen. One way to confine him is in a crate.

If you’ll be flying with your dog you will need him to be crated. If you’ll be visiting friends or family, the crate will make him feel safe in unfamiliar surroundings.

Thinking Ahead

How do you crate train a german shepherd

Hindy’s Dog Jack Recovering from Surgery in His Crate

You hope this won’t happen, but then again…

I never would have imagined my 4-ish-year-old dog Jack would suddenly become paralyzed and needed spinal surgery.

He needs to be confined for a good part of the day, and the crate has been an absolute lifesaver, and the best part is he loves it!

A crate is the perfect safe, place to recover from surgery, illness or injury.

House Training Tool

Last, but certainly not least, is the major reason for house training. Dogs will instinctively avoid soiling their den, that’s what makes it such a great tool.

Dog Crate Sizes: How to Choose the Right One

There are so many dog crate sizes, styles, and colors, choosing the right one can seem like an overwhelming task.

A good place to start is with this guideline. Once you have an idea of the size you’re going to need, you can then look at the style options.

Space Talk

No matter what you will end up using the crate for, your dog must have enough space to turn around, stand up without banging his head, lay down on his side, and stretch without being cramped.

At the same time, it can’t be too big, because it will affect your house training efforts.

The Purpose it will Serve

The purpose will influence the size you buy.

For instance…

Will it be strictly for house training, never to be used again? In that case, a crate that fits your puppy now and for the next few months is all you need.

If you plan on using it for house training, then keeping it throughout your dog’s life as a comfortable hiding place, rest area, and safe travel in the car.

Then you will either need more than one, or one that will fit his full-grown size.

House Training

When using a crate for house training, the crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand up without touching the roof, stretch out, lie on his side and turn around.

The reason why you don’t want it much bigger than that is because dogs won’t typically soil their living space.

If the crate is too big, he may have enough room to go to the back of the crate, pee or poop, then be far enough away from the mess to still be comfortable.

That defeats the purpose.

If house training takes some time, your dog may outgrow the crate, and you’ll find yourself having to buy another, and maybe even another.

Perhaps you should consider buying a large crate – details in the next section.

Long Term Use

If you like the idea of using the crate throughout your dog’s life, then the most economical thing to do is buy a large crate, one that will be comfortable for him when he’s full grown.

Some crates come with dividers that allow you to change the size to accommodate your growing dog, eliminating the need to purchase more than one.

If the crate you like does not have dividers, it’s easy enough to block off the extra space, then expand it as your puppy grows.

How to Measure Your German Shepherd for a Crate

Of course, this section applies if the crate will be used for house training only.

While standing (not you, your dog!), measure him from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail, then add 4-6”/10-15cm.

With your dog sitting, measure from the floor to the top of his head, and again add 4-6”/10-15cm.

This is not an exact science, but it’s a guideline and a good place to start.

Time to do Some Legwork

If this is your first experience with crates, and aren’t familiar with how they work or even how they look, it would be helpful to visit some pet supply stores to get an idea.

If you already have your dog, bring him with you and let him try out a couple.  If you’re getting everything ready before he comes home, it’s still a good idea to have a look around.

Even if you ultimately make your purchase online, you’ll be more knowledgeable when making your selection.

6 Types of Dog Crates

Have you begun your search for a dog crate…

Only to become overwhelmed by the large variety available?

And suddenly you realize you have no idea how to choose the right one?

To help you make sense of it all, I have listed the main crate types available, with the pros and cons of each.

Materials available:

  • Wire
  • Plastic
  • Fabric/Soft Sided
  • Stylish to blend with your décor

Factor in the following when deciding…

  1. Location of the crate – one spot or moving it around.
  2. Airline approved.
  3. Ease of cleaning.
  4. If for long term use, sturdiness is a factor.
  5. Blend into your decor.
  6. Will it serve multiple purposes – bed, quiet spot, car travel, recuperation from surgery, illness, or injury.

Wire Crates

Pros and Cons of Wire Crates

Best VentilationFor some dogs the open view can be stressful but, as mentioned, the crate can be covered.
Models with one or two doors that swing outward or slide up – more flexibility for use in small spaces or corners.May don’t offer enough protection against the cold. Again, a cover thrown over should help, as well as putting a pillow on the bottom.
You can easily see your dog, and he can see what’s going on.Some dogs are able to pee or poop through the wire onto your floor.
Option of covering the crate if your puppy is too distracted.Can be heavy.
Divider panels for adjusting size to suit your growing puppy.Can be noisy when your dog moves around.
Removable floor tray for easy cleaning.Some escape artists can, well, escape!
Sturdy and chew proof.
Many can fold flat for transport or storage.

Plastic Crates

Although typically used for air travel, they can also be used for crate training.

Pros and Cons of Plastic Crates

Light and less awkward to move/carry than metal ones.For some dogs the open view can be stressful but, as mentioned, the crate can be covered.
Top can be removed and the bottom used as a dog bed.Not many openings to see through, can be stressful.
Insulated against cold.Harder to get odors out of plastic.
Harder for dogs to see out, so less distractions.Lack of air circulation can cause your puppy to overheat.
If you buy an airline approved crate, you can travel with it as well.Not the prettiest looking thing – if that matters.
Harder for Houdini to escape from.Some have thin plastic doors, dangerous for puppies to chew.
Wire doors are available to prevent chewing.If you have a large crate, it can be awkward to create a barrier he can’t climb over. Meaning you may end up buying more than a couple over the course of his lifetime.
Indentation around edge of floor allows pee to drain away from where your dog lies (theoretically).
Some color options available if that matters.
Easy to take apart for cleaning.
If you’re planning on replacing them as your puppy grows, reasonably priced ones are available, especially if they don’t have to be airline approved.

Fabric/Soft-Sided Crates

For people who don’t like the idea of keeping their dog “locked in a prison” (even though we know that’s not the case!) – a soft-sided crate may be easier to live with.

Pros and Cons of Fabric/Soft Sided Crates

Light and easy to carry.Easily damaged.
Doesn’t take up storage space.Not particularly long lasting.
Can be used for camping or travelling.Some dogs can unzip the door.
Lots of styles, colors and fabrics for the fashion conscious.Not secure, since puppies can easily chew through the fabric.
Difficult to clean.
Can be a good choice for certain dogs, in certain situations, but not puppies or for housebreaking.


These include wood, rattan, wicker… and are an alternative for those who prefer a nicer looking unit.

Pros and Cons of Stylish Crates

Shouldn’t be difficult to find one that blends into your décor.Not suitable for destructive dogs who can easily damage the material.
Top can be used as a table, so no extra space needed.Not recommended for house training because material stains, and odors are very difficult to get out.
Fine for use as a dog bed or hidey hole.Can be expensive compared to other options.

My Crate Recommendation for House Training

Of course, I don’t know your situation, so you have to make the best decision for yourself.  Having said that, if you don’t mind, I’ll leave you with my thoughts on this issue.

The most sensible and practical crate for training is a wire one.

Here’s why…

  • They are easy to clean.
  • Have doors that pull up as well as swing-out.
  • They are durable.
  • Can easily adjust to the size of your puppy.
  • They have great airflow.
  • They allow your puppy to be part of the action with the option of covering it.
  • Easily fold flat for transport or storage.
  • Economical because you really only need one.

Check out my recommendations for wire crates on Amazon.

The Best Place To Put a Dog Crate For Puppy Training

The best place to put a dog crate for puppy training is in a high traffic area and a quiet one.


Day use

At some point(s) during the day, you will use the crate for training.  Whether it’s just getting your puppy used to it, or keeping him safe while you’re out for a bit.

You want him near the hub of the home where he can see and hear what’s going on, which is typically in/near the kitchen or living room.

Your puppy is a new member of your household, so putting him in a crate hidden away somewhere is not fair.  He wants to see what’s going on, be involved in family life.

Night use

It’s a good idea to start your puppy off sleeping in the bedroom with you.

He’s just been removed from his littermates, and/or taken from a shelter or foster home, and brought into this strange place.

That can be overwhelming, if not downright scary!

Allowing him to be close to his family, at least for the first few days, will enable him to feel safe and secure.  And your sleeping pattern may encourage your puppy to sleep.

If he’s fussing or crying, you’ll hear him. This is important because if he’s letting you know he has to go out but you don’t hear him, he’ll be forced to soil his crate.

And that will hinder your training efforts.

If you don’t plan on letting your puppy sleep in your room long term, after a few days (or weeks, depending on how things are going), start moving the crate to its’ final destination, as it were.

Each night move it a few inches until you get to the spot you’d like him to eventually sleep.

When choosing the location…

  • No draft.
  • Not close to a radiator or fireplace.
  • Away from direct sunlight.
  • Avoid areas of extreme cold or heat.

Second crate, or lots of moving?

Now that you see the daytime and nighttime uses for a crate, the question now is – do you move one between the two locations, or buy a second crate?

I don’t know your situation, so I can’t answer this question for you.  I can, however, give you a few things to think about that may help.

  1. Is your crate portable enough to move back and forth?
  2. How long do you plan on letting him sleep in your bedroom?  If it’s not for long, you may be able to get away with just one.
  3. Are you willing/able to invest the money in a second crate?
  4. If you do decide on purchasing another, think about what other uses it can have – i.e. airline approved for flying with your dog, safety during car travel, overnight stays…

What to Put in a Dog Crate: Besides Your Dog

So you’ve decided on where now we have to decide on what to put in a dog crate.

You didn’t think your dog was going to have to sit in a barren cage, did you? I hope not!

There’s definitely a lot we can do to make his crate nice and cozy. After all, we want him to look forward to spending time in it.

Here’s what you need…


Puppies = destruction. Some puppies do chew more than others, but for now, we’re going to assume your puppy is a big chewer until we learn otherwise.

You may instinctively want to put one of those nice plush soft beds in there, but it would be a mistake.

Even towels and blankets are fair game for the little guy or girl. If he manages to tear small pieces off, he could choke.

Two options to consider are Kuranda, or Amazon’s own padded pet bolster bed. They’re very popular, comfortable, great quality products. They are not 100% chew proof when up against a very determined puppy, but they are durable.

Once you see your dog can be trusted to not chew up his bedding, you can put any type you want in there.

Check out my recommendations for dog crate bedding on Amazon.


Water in bowls can be played with, and you don’t want him lying on a wet bed. A crate mounted bowl like the Kennel Gear bowl, is a better option for now.


Definitely leave a couple of toys, but what kind?

Soft toys and squeaky toys are best avoided when your puppy is unsupervised. They can be destroyed easily and become a choking hazard.

Why not look into heavy-duty rubber toys like a Kong? They’re tough and long-lasting and can be stuffed with treats, chicken, or anything else your GSD puppy enjoys, to keep him busy.

Throw it in the freezer to make the treats last longer.

Toys also help stave off boredom and provide mental stimulation.

Check out my reviews of the best chew toys for German Shepherds.

Your dog will quickly learn that crate time is fun time, because he gets the really cool stuff when he’s in there.

Crate Cover

Plastic or soft-sided crates are not very see-through, so you’re probably fine as is. Given how open a metal crate is, you may consider buying a cover, but see how your dog is getting on first, before spending the money.

Does he seem nervous or anxious with crowds of people around? Is he itching to get out to join in the fun?

If you answered yes to one or both, a cover may give him that added sense of security, and help him relax. You may only end up covering it at night, it’s a case of experimenting.

If you keep the crate in the corner, two sides are already covered, you may not have to do any more than that.

The next step is to find something to cover it with. Many people use sheets or blankets which, in theory, would be fine.

The reality is you just provided your dog with something else to entertain himself with.

He can easily get a piece of that through the bars and have a field day, shredding it to pieces. And what happens with little pieces? That’s right, possible choking hazard.

It’s best to get a cover, specifically made to fit snugly around the crate.

Check out my recommendations for dog crate covers on Amazon.

Welcome to The Training Section!

How Do You Crate Train a German Shepherd? 5 Easy Steps

How to Crate Train a German Shepherd SuccessfullyLet me say one thing so I don’t have to repeat it during each step.

Slow is good, very slow is better.

Do not move onto the next step unless your dog is completely relaxed and comfortable.

Keep each training session short, about 5 minutes. You don’t want them bored, or losing focus.

If at any point he shows signs of stress, fear, anxiety, or just plain disinterest, stop what you’re doing.

When you pick up the training again later, start at the point where everything was still good, and take it from there.

I know you’re going to ask how long it takes, and my answer always is…

It takes as long as it takes…

Some dogs will walk right into the crate, make themselves at home, and you won’t need to read the rest of this article.

Other dogs will take a long time, and that’s when your patience and commitment will be tested.

Okay, let’s go!

Step One

The first thing you want to do is have a good supply of “high value” treats. High value is something your dog loves but doesn’t typically get.  

Because training requires a fair amount of treats, make sure you keep the pieces small, low fat, and healthy. If your dog is more motivated by toys, start with a favorite.

Sit on the floor next to the crate, door open, and put a treat (or toy) just inside at the front, while he’s watching you. When he eats it/plays with it, praise him like crazy.

You’ll gradually move the treat further and further to the back of the crate until he has to go all the way in to get it.

Step Two

He’s fine going all the way into the crate to retrieve his treat or toy, now it’s time to feed him a meal in there.

Put the bowl of food all the way in the back, open the door(s) and let him eat. Praise him like crazy when he’s done.

Step Three

Now it’s time to close the door… gradually. The best time to try this stage of the training is when he’s tired from a play session.

When he’s in the crate, playing with a toy, eating a treat, or just exploring, close the door a tiny bit, open it, close it a tiny bit more, open it, etc… etc…

You’ll do this until the door is closed (don’t lock it), then open it right away. Fully close the door again, this time for 2 seconds, then open it, etc… etc…

By the end of step three, your dog will be eating a meal in the crate, with the door closed, and locked.

Step Four

At this point, he can sit quite happily in his crate, with the door closed. Until now you’ve been a constant presence, but it’s time for him to be okay without seeing you.

Walk away for, literally, one second and come back. Don’t look at him, don’t say anything just do it. Then try two seconds etc… etc…

Even if you think he’ll be okay for longer, don’t do it.

If he starts to whine or bark and you come back then, you’ve just taught him it’s a great way to get attention, and then you’ll have another issue to deal with.

Step Five


He loves his crate, the door is locked and you’re out of sight for 30 minutes. Now you have to leave the house, but only for a second, then a few seconds, then a minute…

Just like in step four, don’t talk to him, look at him, or say a word, just go.

Before you do this take him out for a nice long walk, tire him out with a game of fetch, and make sure he’s peed and pooped.

The reason I say not to look or speak to him is that if you make a big deal out of coming or going (and this includes the times he’s no longer using the crate), you will give him something to worry about.

If you don’t make a big deal, neither will he!

Going into the Crate on Cue

This was not included as a step because it could go anywhere in the process.

Rather than picking him up and putting him in, you want a cue that when he hears it, he knows what to do.

For example, you’ve decided to use the words “in your crate.” When he’s walking into the crate to get his food or toy, say “in your crate.”

Eventually, he will associate those words with the action, and wherever he is, he will know what to do.

Crate Training a German Shepherd Puppy at Night

How Do You Crate Train a German Shepherd at NightIt is perfectly normal to feel anxious, or even a little bit unsure, when figuring how crate training a German Shepherd puppy at night.

But these easy steps should help.

Let’s recap…

You’ve decided to keep the crate in the bedroom, at least for a little while, until your puppy is sleeping through the night.

Reasons for Your Decision

It will help your puppy feel more secure in unfamiliar surroundings

You will be able to hear him if he barks/whines to go out. If not, he may pee or poop in the crate, which could set back house training efforts.

Getting Your Puppy Ready for a Good Night’s Sleep

Tire him out!

Plenty of exercise during the day, and into the evening (just to be clear, I’m not talking about a marathon), and no naps too close to bedtime.  

A tired puppy is a puppy who will sleep.

Take Him Out to Pee and Poop Right Before Bed

Don’t give food or water roughly 3 hours before bedtime.  If your puppy has special needs, a medical condition, or you’re unsure if it’s okay, consult your vet.

Whining/Barking in the crate

Ignore him! I mean it, ignore him!

You’ve done everything right. You’ve tired him out, taken him to pee/poop, and made his crate nice and comfy. You closed the door and, wait… what’s that you’re hearing?

Poor little thing! You just want to check on him quickly – don’t.

He is in a strange environment, away from his littermates and the familiar. He’s bound to be afraid. If all he’s doing is looking for attention, don’t give it to him.

The second he sees you responding to his hails, even if you just poke your head through the door without saying a word, he has now learned that when he whines, or barks, you come.

He’ll also learn to do it louder next time.

You don’t want to go down that road, it will only lead to a dog that barks constantly.

If you skipped a step in your night time prep, and it’s likely he has to go out, try and wait for a bit of quiet before you open the crate door.

Handling middle of the night pee/poop breaks

Accept the fact they’re going to happen. Puppies just can’t hold it too long.

Avoid stumbling around in the dark. Gather all the things you’ll need in one place – sweater, jacket, shoes, flashlight, leash, poop bags…

It’s about getting the job done, and back to bed. Take him out, say “go pee” (or whatever cue you use), then in. That’s it.

Middle of the night potty schedule

One way to help minimize, or perhaps even eliminate the barking to go out, is to pre-empt his letting you know, by letting him know when it’s time.

To start with, set your alarm every 2-4 hours. If you’re not sure how long he can wait, err on the side of caution and go for shorter intervals.

When this is working well for a few nights, extend the time in between alarms by 30 minutes.

Extend this every few days (as long as it’s working well, otherwise go back a bit), until he’s sleeping through the night.

Sample Puppy Crate Training Schedule

To give you a general idea of how training works, here is a sample puppy crate training schedule to get you started.

You don’t have to follow the times listed, this is merely a guideline of what to do, when.

What’s so important about having a schedule?

No matter the age, all dogs should have a schedule. Routine brings security and confidence, and for a puppy, also helps with housebreaking.

Avoiding accidents means greater success, faster!

The younger the puppy, the more often they need to go out. Set your puppy up for success, by not leaving him in the crate past the point where he can control his bladder or bowels.

How long can you keep him crated?

8-10 weeks of age – 30-60 minutes

11-14 weeks of age – 1-3 hours

15-16 weeks of age – 3-4 hours

17+ weeks of age – 4-5 hours

Sample Crate Training Schedule

You don’t have to follow the exact times listed here, but by all means, if it suits your schedule, please do.

If you want to swap supervised playtime with crate time, and vice versa go ahead.  

Perhaps your puppy won’t wake up until 7:30 or even 8:00, that’s fine too. Customize it as you see fit.

Take your puppy’s age into consideration and the length of time he can be crated, if adapting this schedule.

7:00 am – Wake up and go out (bathroom break)

7:15 am – Free time out of crate, supervised at all time

7:30 am – Food and water (pick up food after 15-20 minutes) then go out

8:00 am – Free time out of crate, supervised, or part crate part free time

9:30 am – Go out, then crate

12:00 pm – Food (if eating 3x day) and water then go out

12:30 – 2:30 pm – crate

2:30 pm – Go out

3:00-5:00 pm – part crate, part supervised playtime out of crate

5:00 pm – Food and water (pick up food after 15-20 minutes)

5:30 pm – Go out

6:00-bedtime – crate/supervised playtime/trips outside

Expect to be taking your puppy out for bathroom breaks during the night.

How to Stop Your GSD Puppy Whining in the Crate

How to Crate Train a German Shepherd and Stop a Puppy from Whining in the CrateBefore we begin, let’s review the basics.

If we have those covered, it will be easier to understand what to do about whining or barking in the crate.


  • bought right size crate so your dog is comfortable
  • put a nice comfy, chew proof bed inside, with a toy and water bowl on the side
  • set it up in a high traffic area during the day, your bedroom at night
  • you’ve gone step by step through the process of getting him to like the crate
  • he’s not in the crate for hours at a time
  • he gets plenty of supervised playtime with the family
  • you take him out during the night, so he doesn’t soil his crate
  • you cover the crate if there are too many distractions and he can’t settle

So, you’ve been doing great, and he still won’t stop. What now?

Review Your Crate Training Routine

If you can, perhaps it would be a good idea to spend a few moments going over your crate training routine.

Here are a few points to think about, that may help:

  • While he was learning to like his crate, was the door closed too soon into the training?
  • If he was comfortable being in the crate, were you out of his sight for too long, and he got scared? Worried?
  • Is he getting enough supervised playtime around the house, with the rest of the family?
  • Is he getting enough exercise – both physical exercise and mental stimulation?
  • Did he have to eat, drink, pee, or poop before being put into the crate?
  • No one likes to hear the sound of a puppy crying, it pulls on the heartstrings. Did you succumb?

I’m only guessing here, obviously, I don’t know what happened in your training, but maybe this will help you recall your process.

Get him used to the crate again.

Try going through the steps of getting him to love the crate again.

Spending Time Alone

Your puppy needs to get used to spending some time alone, even when you’re home, otherwise, he will develop separation anxiety, and that becomes a whole other story.

If you’d like to try this without the crate for the moment, a small exercise pen or blocking off part of a room will do.

Leave him a fun toy he doesn’t usually get, or put a treat in a Kong to distract him.

Spend a couple of minutes with him, then leave. Don’t look at him, don’t say goodbye, stand up, walk out of your puppy’s sight.

Then come right back – literally a second, and reward him.

Do it again, maybe stay away for two seconds this time.

You want to be able to increase the amount of time so you’re able to leave him for several minutes, then half an hour.

Make sure he was already out so there are no accidents.

Remember, if he barks ignore him. Only go to him when he’s quiet. Any kind of attention you give your puppy when he’s barking teaches him it works.

Having said that, as he’s such a young puppy and you’re just starting with his training, a firm “no” is okay in order to teach him whining and barking are not acceptable.

Reward when he’s been quiet.

Once he’s gotten used to being alone for a bit, why not go back to trying it with the crate.

Not every dog can handle crate training, some take to it right away, others need a lot more time.

Perhaps your puppy needed some time getting used to you being out of his sight first, in a less confining environment.


If training has been going well for several weeks, then suddenly barking or whining starts, be safe and take him to the vet.  It is possible that a health issue has popped up.

The Do This, Don’t Do That of Crate Training

How Do You Crate Train a German Shepherd Correctly

Do This

  • Introduce your puppy to the crate gradually
  • Choose “safe” toys like Kongs, made from hard rubber. They can be stuffed with treats, chicken… and frozen to last longer
  • Buy the right size crate
  • Make the crate comfortable
  • Put the crate in a corner of a much-used room
  • Crate him periodically throughout the day when you’re home
  • Put the crate in your bedroom at night
  • Make sure your puppy has peed and pooped before he goes into the crate for an extended period of time. Accidents in the crate can set back your progress
  • Give him lots of exercise during the day – especially before crating him
  • As soon as you get home, take him straight outside

Don’t Do This

  • Use the crate as a substitute for supervising him
  • Keep him in a crate for longer then he can handle
  • Rush the process – it takes as long as it takes
  • Use the crate for punishment
  • Make a big deal about coming and going, don’t say hello or goodbye, just go!
  • Force him into the crate
  • Crate him only when you go out. You don’t want him to associate being in the crate, with being alone in the house
  • Don’t think bigger is better. The crate must be the appropriate size for your puppy at the moment, not the size he’ll be in 2 years time
  • Let anyone bother or tease your puppy while he’s in the crate
  • Crate a dog with a leash attached. It might be a good idea to remove the collar as well. He could get caught or tangled and choke
  • Don’t put paper or pee pads in the crate. One of the reasons to crate train is to teach him to wait
  • Let your dog out of the crate when he’s whining or barking. If you do, you’ve taught him whining/barking gets him what he wants, and he will keep doing it

The Ultimate Guide to Crate Training – Conclusion

Wow!! That was an earful, wasn’t it?

I know there is a huge amount of information here, but as I said at the beginning, take it easy. It’s new and anything new takes time to digest.

Read it through a few times, to get the gist of what the crate is all about, then read each section and it will all become clear.

I’ve done my best to provide you with as much information as I could, and to leave no question unanswered.

I do hope this ultimate guide to crate training will help you as you welcome your new pup into your life.

Please feel free to leave any questions for Hindy or me in the comments below.

Guest Post Author Bio

This post was written by guest author Hindy Pearson.  She is a long time shelter volunteer, dog trainer, and runs the Saffy Pearson Resource Centre.  A mobile center offering free advice for people who share their lives with cats and dogs.  She has a website called Caring For a Senior Dog and thinks the pet stroller is the greatest invention.

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About the author: Gabriella is a certified professional dog trainer with a special passion for teaching GSD guardians to train their dogs with kindness and clarity using positive reinforcement methods without force, pain, or fear. Join “Dog Speak” for free dog training tips and advice from a professional dog trainer.

  • Sunay Usta


    Thank you for all the great info on how to crate train. We have our 8 weeks old GSD for 4 days now and she seems to learn things quickly. She takes a lot of naps during the day and tries to nibble on everything she sees fit. We tell her no when she nibbles on thing which includes our hands and feet so we distract her by giving her toys to bite on. She doesn’t go into her crate when she wants to nap so we usually pick her up and put her in there. She falls a sleep on the carpet. Is it a good idea to put her in the crate after she falls a sleep elsewhere to get her use to sleeping in it?
    Also at night training hasn’t been going so well as she needs to use wee wee pads and she doesn’t wanna be in there at night. Is that normal to happen? Should I work on getting her taking naps in the crate during the day hoping that will help with night crate training?
    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Sunay!

      Thanks for your questions, they are all excellent and have simple solutions but will take some time and likely back and forth questions to be able to implement with success.

      I’d be really happy to jump on a quick free call with you and run you through the things that have worked for me as a professional dog trainer.

      Just reach out to me via email and we can set something up for a time that suits you. I’ve got some spots open on Sunday, so let’s chat. And as I said, there’s no charge! 🙂


  • Daniel samuel

    Wow, thank you very much it has been helpful to me from Nigeria.

    • Gabriella

      Happy to help, Daniel! 🙂

  • Andy


    We are approximately 9 weeks away from bringing home a new GSD puppy home and I like the idea of crate training. I do have one question though. Once the dog is crate trained, can you leave the door of the crate open to allow the dog to go in and out as he/she pleases? I know that will kind of defeat the purpose of a crate. But leaving the crate locked defeats the purpose of having a watchdog. I am thinking of scenario where someone breaks into your home at night and your dog is helplessly locked in a crate.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

    • Gabriella

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes, you absolutely can aim for leaving the crate open. Although I’d wait until your puppy is through their puppy stage, teething stage, and fully potty trained. Dogs are den animals and plenty of dogs choose to go to their crates when they sleep, nap, or need to chill.

  • Zeff


    Thanks for the great information. We have a 7 week GSD/Husky female pup and I’m wondering what we should do with her at night until she is comfortable in her crate. We have just started crate training and she doesn’t seem to mine being in there, until it’s bedtime. Her first night she cried, yelped, barked, and howled for 30-40 min when she went in there, and after each potty break. So should we continue to let her cry it out until she is comfortable, or find other sleeping arrangements until she gets more comfortable with her crate? Any information would be helpful. Thank you!

    • Hi Zeff,

      Thanks for reaching out with your question.

      Most crate training guides will recommend letting a puppy cry it out (and Hindi recommends it in this guide too). However, as my personal knowledge of training practices develops through my studies I often find that my viewpoints on best practices change. Since this guide was not written by me, I can’t go in and change the opinion but I will update it with a note about how I personally would handle a puppy crying in a crate.

      The way I view this situation now is, I wouldn’t let a human baby cry it out. The first thing I’d work on is spending more time making the crate the most fun and positive experience. Play games in and around it, feed her food and treats in and around it. Place her inside her crate and immediately let her out to a fun experience like a snuffle mat or another type of enrichment toy.

      Next, I’d experiment with the crate in different areas, perhaps even in your bedroom or just outside your bedroom door for bedtime. Often a puppy just wants to know they are close to their humans and something like moving the crate can help with this. Although my dogs are crate trained, I prefer the practice of tethering at night. This allows the puppy a sense of closeness and freedom while still ensuring they can’t go off and get up to mischief during the night or have potty accidents. My pups wear a harness and I use a leash to tether them to a solid piece of furniture. They have access to their bed or their crate so they can choose where to sleep within the range that their leash allows. In my experience, this is a less stressful way but of course, the final decision lies with you in how you want to handle this.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  • Jacob Crosby


    I recently adopted a year and a half old GSD, were are now beginning to crate train due to destructive tendencies when we leave the house. It seems to be an issue more related to separation anxiety more than being in the crate itself because he is able to sleep through the night in his crate with no issues. My grandmother is actually living with us as well and is able to keep our puppy company throughout the day but even with that he still runs around the house tearing things up seemingly looking for myself or my fiance. how to you think we should proceed?

    Jacob Crosby

    • Hi Jacob,

      Thanks for your comment.

      There is a type of separation anxiety where the dog becomes anxious where a person or certain people are not around. As opposed to the kind of separation anxiety that’s calmed if another warm body is around.

      I would most definitely get to a holistic vet to help you manage your boy’s separation anxiety in conjunction with working on ways to teach him it’s safe and okay to be without you for a while. Check out my article on separation anxiety for ways you can help calm symptoms and train him to feel comfortable alone.

      But your first step should definitely be getting to a holistic vet who can help with natural remedies or conventional drugs in the interim. Holistic vets are far more inclined to use a mix of both instead of just conventional drugs.

  • george

    our german shepherd is 11 weeks old and we have had him for about a week. we didnt want to bring him into our room as its 2 floors away from the garden so difficult to take him out at night ( also we have a cat in the room). for the first 3 nights i stayed close, sleeping in the living room so i can take him out and didnt respond to his cries if i knew he was safe and didnt need the toilet. from then i went upto the bedroom and he was sleeping 12-6am with about 15 mins whinning when he first went in. since then we are now going to bed at 11 but he seems to whine and bark constatly for 30 mins- 1 hour every time we put him in the crate. it seems to be he doesnt like the door closing. we are worried obviously due to the neighbous but we dont really know what to do. we are followign the bedtime routine etc he isnt able to go for walks yet as hasnt had his 2nd jabs. any suggestions we are desperate

    • Hi George,

      Thanks for leaving a comment sharing your situation.

      The first thing you can do is to spend more time getting your boy used to having the door closed and then opened again and slowly building up to having the door closed for longer. Keep it like a training session for 5 minutes and then let him get back to whatever he likes doing. If he’s whining for that long when you close the door for sleep time, it means he’s not quite comfortable yet.

      I know it’s tough when they are still too young to take out in public but you can do a lot with him indoors to help burn excess energy so he’s more likely to sleep right away at night.

      Training is a great way to do this. You can try playing games with him that are designed to teach bite inhibition. He’s got to learn that anyway, so playing these games will teach him and burn energy. Check out this article on biting to learn about these games. I recommend only the build-a-bridge game and the nose touch game because they suit his age the best.

      Also, you can play puzzle games with him. All you need are some treats and you can use items you have around your home like muffin pans, plastic cups, and other plastic containers. Check out this article on puzzle games and watch the video to see how you can teach him how to play a puzzle game.

      If you’re keen on games, check out Brain Training for Dogs here. I use this for all my dogs whether they are pups or adults. It’s a great way to tap into their natural intelligence and teach them how to live alongside us in a fun and positive way.

      Let me know how you get along with these tips. 🙂

  • Deborah Wolfe

    My husband (retired) and myself are getting our first GSD in 6-7 weeks. The information in this article will be invaluable. We have purchased a large metal crate with dividers, an attachable water bowl, a Goughnut TuG Interactive dog toy and dog stick, and a padded pet bolster bed, all from Hindy’s recommendations.
    I have read every single word and I am extremely grateful for all the information.

    Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

  • Ross


    Great advice, I am currently looking for my first German Shephard puppy and wish to create train him like you explained however I fear my work schedule might not be the greatest for the methodology you have described. I plan on taking a few days off when I get my puppy however, when work resumes days after bringing the puppy to my house I will need to leave him at home alone possibly for the 7am-330pm work day. How might I incorporate this into my training?

    • Hey Ross,

      Thanks for your question.

      8+ hours is a long time for a young pup to be alone. And not ideal because he won’t be able to hold his bladder or bowels that long. You can still crate train, which I highly recommend, not just for potty training or keeping him safe from chewing unsafe things. Crate training is great to give your pooch a den where he can just go and chill. Dogs are den animals so then need a chill-out place.

      Is there a way you can get a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to pop in every few hours to let your pup out for a potty run, play and some human interaction? Or perhaps you can find a doggy daycare in your area? Another option is hiring a dog walker. Or find someone you trust where he can spend the day while you’re at work.

      I hope you’ll be able to find a solution with one of these options. This way your pup will be happy and you’ll have the peace of mind you need when leaving for work.

  • William Stone

    I have a 13 month old German Shepherd. I am having a problem with him always nibbling on me. He does not break the skin. I bought a crate. I can not get him to come near it. Help.

    • Hi William,

      Thanks for your comment.

      This guide that Hindy wrote is the best way to teach a GSD of any age how to enjoy being in their crate. In conjunction with crate training you can try out these fun game for teaching bite inhibition. Since he’s older I recommend the nose touch game as a starting point. You can also try the build-a-bridge game but then I suggest sitting on a chair instead of on the floor since he’s already bigger in size.

  • Nina

    Thank you for such useful advice! My husband and I have just gotten a sweet 12 week old girl and are going through the process of crate training her. I am new to this whole “dog thing,” but Pyrrha has picked me as her person! We have been following a typical schedule as the one above, but she is still peeing a bit in her crate. What do you do when this happens, as a deterrent? I do not agree with physically punishing her (swatting her, rubbing her nose in it, etc.)–motivational training seems much more effective. Do you clean it up and just go on? Any help would be appreciated. 🙂

    • Hi Nina!

      Congrats on the pup!

      Try to figure out if you’re missing signs that she’s ready for a potty break and that’s why she’s having an accident. Like for example when do these accidents occur? After a nap or sleeping? After a meal? Or after a play session? These are all times that pups will need to have a potty break urgently. Check out my article on potty training, I share some signs to look for and essential times when your pup is ready to go potty.

      I totally agree with you on not punishing pups for mistakes. So cleaning it up with something like Icky Poo which is an odor remover especially for doggy accidents, you can find it here on Amazon. It’s important to use something like this because it gets rid of the scent. And it’s the scent that keeps them going back to the same spot.

      Something else to consider is, if Pyrrha is doing really well with potty training but she’s still having accidents you might want to visit her vet to make sure she doesn’t have a UTI. Usually when pups do really well and then have unexplained accidents it could be something medical like a UTI.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have other questions.

      Chat soon,

  • Janie Hastings

    We have had our 3 year German Shepherd for 7 weeks. We have purchased 3 heavy duty metal kennels. She breaks out on each one when we leave. Suggestions???

    • Hi Janie,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      From what you’ve described it sounds like she was a rescue or you adopted her from somewhere. Is that correct?

      If she came from a shelter it’s especially likely that she has separation anxiety and that’s why she’s breaking out of her crates. And if she’s not used to a crate that could make matters worse.

      I definitely recommend getting her crate trained using this guide. But also to work on curbing her anxiety. In a nutshell this entails you pretending to leave home by going out the door and then coming back in immediately. And then slowly raising the criteria until she’s calm. Once she’s calm with you being outside the house for an extended period, you then move to starting the engine of your car and then turning it off again. And eventually being able to back out of your driveway all while she stays calm.

      This is going to take time because you’re dealing with a fear. So be read to take baby steps and to work on this for weeks or even months, depending on how quickly she feels more secure.

      While you’re working on this, you might have to make arrangements for her to be in a daycare or with someone who will take care of her during the day while you’re at work or running errands. You really want to make sure she’s not reinforcing the behavior by doing it and also to keep her safe from hurting herself.

      The other option you have, is to get the help of a positive dog trainer to help you work through this. If you let me know where you are I’m happy to make a few recommendations.

      Let me know,

  • Jason Rogers

    Thank you so much for such a comprehensive training article. Really enjoyed reading this and learned so much.

  • Patrick

    We have an adult rescued GSD who has been slow to bond with us. Four months in, and we still don’t have a predictable pattern for elimination. We are trying to use crate training. She goes into her crate in the daytime, sometimes as a quiet space. When she comes in from outside, she goes right in. But when we must leave her alone for a few hours, she paws at the crate, has bent it, and has escaped. So now we use carabiners.
    This dog can hold her pee for over 24 hours, so that is not the issue in the night. She might be bored or might want to be with us. We would love to have her crated in our bedroom, sleeping with her people, but she won’t go up the stairs. She weighs about 65 pounds, so carrying her up is not a good idea.
    She has been quiet in the crate, through the night, more than once, but is not consistent.
    Usually, when she is in the crate and we’re home, she is quiet. It’s only nighttime (or perhaps when we’re gone) that she paws at the crate in order to escape.
    Very frustrating!

    • Hi Patrick,

      Thanks for your comment.

      You’ve got a lot going on there, so I’ll try to address things one at a time.

      The first thing that comes to my mind is that your dog suffers from separation anxiety. This is not uncommon for dogs that come from shelters or even bad backgrounds.

      To curb this you’re going to have to take baby steps and work with her to get comfortable with you leaving and her being alone. In a nut shell your steps will be to put her in her crate and ‘pretend’ to leave. So basically open the door, go out and then come back inside.

      This is usually a long process and you’ll probably have to work at it for a few weeks. Each time you ‘leave’ you should take just a little longer to come back inside again. If she starts whining, pawing, howling or anything like that it means you’re moving too fast. So take a step back to where you were ‘leaving’ and she was quiet. Then practice with her there for a while before increasing the time again.

      In terms of the potty training, the first thing I’d do is take her to the vet for a checkup. Dogs have unique communication skills and I find that even a fully potty trained dog will urinate randomly if they have something like a UTI. So just to rule that out, maybe get her checked out.

      Things like stairs can often ‘freak’ dogs out. But you can work with her to help her get used to them. So as a first step, I recommend feeding her on the bottom step. So place her bowl there and let her eat all her meals there.

      Then move up one step and let her eat there. And so on and so forth. If you’re not comfortable with her eating her meals there, then you could always place some high value treats on the bottom step. And so over the next days move the treats up step by step.

      I hope these steps are helpful. If you have other questions while you’re working on these things just drop them in the comments.

      Chat soon,

  • Erica Sam

    We have an 8 week old puppy and M-F he is in the crate from 7:40 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. I come home for a half hour, then he is back in the crate from 11:45 until 3:00 when my daughter comes home. So far he has not gone potty in the crate bit I can tell when I leave he doesn’t want to be in there. We have been letting him sleep on the bed the last several nights and no accidents and he sleeps through the night. We have gotten him to go in the crate for treats and meals but he doesn’t stay in there. What would you advise? I was thinking maybe a puppy play pen/excercise pen but his owner before said he is an escape artist and he tries to chew any little thing he see’s! When in the crate he has some water, a towel and a kong. I just don’t want him to get that bad anxiety but I have to keep him safe! It worked perfect for my last dog and my other small dog I have. He just seems different, not sure if it’s just because he’s so young and or is higher energy? We play with him, walk him in the backyard, he knows sit and almost down! He’s really good about going potty outside.

    • Hi Erica,

      Thanks for your question.

      I think you’re so right in using the crate to keep him safe. If he’s an escape artist the last thing you want is a Houdini stunt that could land him in trouble while you’re not there to protect him. So stick to the crate.

      You’re already on the right track by getting him into the crate for treats and meals. As a next step I’d suggest getting him used to being in there longer and longer.

      Any kind of training is best done is small steps…

      In short what I suggest is shutting the crate door while he’s eating or enjoying a treat. Hang around so he can see you. Then once he’s used to having the door closed for a short while, raise the criteria by extending the period the door is shut. And so keep extending the time until he’s happy to have door shut for an extended period of time.

      Then you can start removing yourself from his view for short periods and then increase the time you’re away from the crate and not in his view.

      Also, until he’s totally comfortable staying in his crate I’d suggest not allowing him to sleep on the bed. Of course he’d much rather snuggle with you than sleep in his crate. So allowing him to sleep on the bed and then leaving him in his crate will only make it more difficult for him. You can always introduce him sleeping on the bed at a later stage.

      Hope this helps.

  • Melvin

    Hey Hindy!

    Thank you so much for the great tips so far it has been working very well with my new pup, Rosie (almost 4 1/2 months old) so far! I do have a question as we are 3 days into the crate training as we could finally find the right size crate for her but she’s been sleeping in our bed for about 2 weeks beforehand. She has been fairly good with the crate throughout the day but at night after a good 4 hours of silence she starts to whine. We live in an apartment and I’m worried about causing noise complaints, is there anything I can do to help her get used to sleeping alone?

    Thanks again!
    Melvin, Evelyn and Rosie

    • Hi Melvin,

      It’s Gabriella here. I’m sure Hindy will chime in at some point but I’ll answer your question.

      The only way to get her used to sleeping alone is to ignore her. It’s touch and I understand your concern about the noise complaints but it won’t last too long. She’ll quickly learn that her whining is not giving her the reward she wants and she’ll stop.

      Just be aware that there’s something called an extinction burst in dog training so the whining might get worse before it goes way. The reason for this is because she’ll try harder to get her reward of you responding before she learns it’s not working.

      This burst doesn’t always happen but just be aware of it.

      People are usually very understanding if you tell them she’s in training to be happy in her crate. So if you do get complaints tell your neighbors what’s going on and let them know it won’t continue indefinitely.

      And one last thing. Have you eliminated the possibility that her waking you after 4 hours is not her way of asking to go to the toilet? Take her out tonight when she starts whining. If she doesn’t do her business then it’s not about her bladder. Then stick to ignoring her. If it’s to go potty, you’ll have some broken sleep until she can hold it.

      All the best! And remember this is not forever!


  • David & Tammy

    Great website!
    Question for you with regards to crate training
    My wife and I both work from 7:30 – 3:30pm weekdays. So Zen our 10 week old long hair GSD is in his crate throughout this time. I feed him before leaving each morning and he has to relieve himself during the time we are away… any suggestions?

    • Hi David and Tammy,

      I think 6 hours is too long for Zen to be inside his crate hence the reason he’s eliminating. Is there anyone close by like a neighbor or a friend who can pop in to take him outside for a quick potty run?

      Or you could get a dog walker for one walk a day say half way through your time away.

      Remember, this won’t be a permanent arrangement. When Zen is old enough his bladder will be big enough to keep it in. Of course as long as he hasn’t had a huge amount of water just before you leave.

      Hope this answers your question. 🙂

  • John

    I can’t thank you enough for this!!!

    I’m new to having a puppy and so also any kind of training. I didn’t quite know what I was letting myself in for. But my GSD puppy, Tommy, is the most amazingly smart dog. I think he quickly figured out that I was new to all this and he had me running up and down for the first week cos when he cried in his crate I’d go check on him.

    Now I’m going to follow your advice and move the crate to my room for now.

    Thanks again!
    John and Tommy.

    • Hindy Pearson

      Hi John,
      I see Tommy has you well trained!! Dogs are very clever, and it doesn’t take them long to figure out who they can wrap around their paw. Don’t worry you’re not alone. I’m so glad you found this incredibly helpful website, and I wish you a long and happy life with your new pal. If you have any questions please let me know, I’ll be happy to help. Cheers, Hindy

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