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To Crate or Not to Crate – that is the Question

There are several questions that tend to fall into the “holy grail” category when it comes to raising and training your German Shepherd. Whether or not to use a “prong collar” is one, and another is whether or not to crate train your puppy or even adult dog.

On the one side are those that believe that crating an animal is cruel. Keeping them confined to such as small space is not a practice that many want to play a part in as they detest seeing a dog in these small cages. I must admit that I was one of these people for many years, and raised several German Shepherds while I held this opinion. But keep in mind, that I am old enough to have lived through the times (at least a generation ago where dogs did not come in the house, much less live in the house. For the most part, dogs were raised to stay outdoors, ideally in a fenced in yard if one had that.

The other side, says that a dog crate is a great way to housebreak, or train a dog to be an enjoyable family member in the home. Properly used, a crate will condition the animal to live with its pack (it’s people and other pets) in a clean, non-destructive manner that is gratifying for the people and the dog.

Enlightened on use of the Crate

Several years ago, I had a co-worker that was a breeder of black and tan coon hounds. This was a hobby that he enjoyed that most of us knew nothing about. However, I took a business trip with him one time where it required me to stay at his house for a few days. When I entered the house, I saw several crates or kennels throughout the house. As part of his breeding hobby, he would have several dogs in the house at varying ages from puppies to older animals. During my visit, he explained to me that when properly handled, dogs will see their crate as their “safe space” where they can go to just get away from everything and relax. Dogs after all he explained, were “denning” animals in the wild, that would find small holes or caves that would become their “safe space” to get away from the world and even raise their offspring. As my friend showed me with his hounds, these dogs will see the crate as their den and will use that space for their own area away from everyone and everything.

For goodness sake, whatever you do, watch out for these

Because dogs won’t normally soil their den or living area, the primary use of the crate is to teach the dog to perform their bathroom duties outside. The crate can also limit access to the rest of the house while they learn the rules of the home, like not chewing on the furniture. A crate is not a magical solution for creating a great pet, and if not used correctly, the dog may feel trapped and frustrated, which can have a debilitating effect on the dog. So there are a few things that an owner using a crate must always be aware of:

  1. NEVER USE THE CRATE FOR PUNISHMENT – never place the dog in the crate in anger, or transfer your frustration on the animal in the use of the crate. Your dog will come to fear it and refuse to enter it.
  2. NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CRATE FOR TOO LONG – German Shepherds require a LOT of exercise and crating is the exact opposite of the exercise they need. A dog that is crated too long can become anxious or depressed. The crate is only a tool to help the owner teach your dog the rules of the house. You may have to change your schedule, hire a pet sitter or take them to a doggie day care, but never keep your dog in the crate for extended periods of time. What is the maximum length of time in the crate. It depends on the dog and the age. Remember, puppies need to go outside regularly in order to teach them proper bathroom behavior, so maybe 2 hours before taking them outside to potty. Adult dogs, probably 4 -5 hours at a time is not uncommon, although I have had dogs in the past that could go 8 hours in an emergency, BUT that was only in the very rare occasion.
  3. A crate should by used only as long as needed to train the dog to be a good house mate. After that, it should be a place that they may go to voluntarily when they want to get a little quiet time.

What type of crate should I use?

There are several types of crates available today and the all have different purposes.

  • Plastic or travel/flight kennels – this type of kennel is used primarily when traveling with your dog, but can also be used as a permanent kennel if necessary.
  • Fabric or collapsible kennel – these “crates” are ideal to use when traveling with your GSD and such as when you stay in a pet friendly hotel. As they see the crate as their “safe space”, this type of crate is good to give your dog a sense of security in strange places, especially if you are away from them for a time. One of our shepherds was prone to barking while we were out of our hotel room for dinner which would bother other guests. However, when we got one of these kennels, as she had been properly crate trained as a puppy, the kennel provided a place where she would remain in the room quietly while we were gone for dinner.
  • Collapsible or metal crate – probably the most popular type of crate, is great for setting up when needed and is able to fold up and slide under a bed when not in use. We prefer the type that has the temporary dividers that allow you to size for a puppy and grow with them as they get larger.
  • Decorative – finally, there are kennels now that can serve as furniture and blend in with your home decor.

How do I use the crate to train my German Shepherd to be a great housemate?





Introducing your dog to the crate

Crate training can take time; days or weeks, depending on your dogs age, temperament and past experiences. But the overarching methodology is to take the crate in small steps. The crate should always be seen as a pleasant experience for the dog.

First Steps – the crate should have a cushion or pad in the bottom, but a soft blanket will do. Put the crate in an area where your family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Take the door off of the crate, or secure the door open if needed. Let the puppy or dog explore the crate at their leisure as most dogs will be naturally curious. Many will already find the crate attractive and may sleep in there without being prompted.

If your dog isn’t one of these dogs, bring them over to the crate (always in a happy tone of voice) making sure the door is opened and secured, so that it doesn’t scare them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by throwing a couple of treats in the crate and let them enjoy the experience. If they won’t go in at first, don’t worry, but don’t force them in the crate. Continue tossing treats into the crate until they are walking freely in and out of the crate at will. If they don’t respond to treats, try tossing their favorite toy into the crate to see how the respond. You should be learning at this time, what motivates your dog, are they motivated by praise, or food rewards and approach them accordingly.

Side note: Several years ago, we brought home a 6 week old (yes I know that was too early, but it was a breeder thing) GSD puppy and was faced with the “first night with a new puppy” situation. We already had a 7 YO shepherd rescue that was very comfortable with her crate, however we rarely had to use it with her.

The first night was the usual whining and crying with the puppy until we put both girls in the crate together (making sure there was enough room for both), and the puppy whining stopped immediately with the other dog in the crate with the puppy. We maintained this ritual the second night, however on the third night the puppy was on their own.

Reinforcing the crate by Feeding them inside the crate

After introducing your dog to the crate, try feeding them their regular meals in the crate. This will reinforce that association of the crate with a pleasant experience.

If you dog is readily entering the crate at this step, you may place the food dish all the way towards the back of the crate. However, if they are still wary of the crate, you might want to place the dish only as far back as they will willingly go.

Once your German Shepherd is standing and eating comfortably in the crate, can you begin closing the door while they are eating, hopefully unnoticed. The first time you do this, open the door immediately after they have finished eating their meal. With each subsequent feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they are staying in their crate for 10 minutes or longer.

Keep in mind as puppies, part of your training regimen is to take them outside to do their business immediately after eating, so make that part of the ritual to take them outside after eating and exiting the crate.

After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no signs of fear or anxiety, you can leave them in the crate for longer periods of time. These practice sessions are ideally done with you in the house so the dog will feel comfortable with the normal hustle and bustle of the household, while they are comfortable in their “safe space” enjoying the peace and quiet it affords.

Practicing with longer crating periods

Now you will want to begin training your dog to enter the crate on command, and you will do that with practice sessions. To begin these sessions, call your dog over to the crate with a treat or toy. Give them a command to enter the crate such as “kennel” or “get in your crate” so that they associate the command with the physical space that is the crate. As your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them their treat, and close the door.

Sit quietly near the crate for a few minutes, then leave the room for a few more minutes, and finally come back to the crate and sit quietly near the crate. Then you can let them out of the crate.

In the beginning, practice this a few times a day as they grow accustom to the crate and the comfort and security it provides. Then gradually increase the length of time you leave them (in and out of site of the crate), until they stay in the crate quietly for 30 minutes or more. At this time, it should be safe for you to leave the home for a few minutes to an hour with them in the crate, or even overnight while you sleep, but only where you can attend to them as they need your attention.

This part of the process can take several days or weeks. My last GSD was fearless of the crate from day one and learned “go get in your crate” as her very first command that she learned. Another older shepherd rescue I had took more patience and diligence for her to learn the crating routine, but within a couple of months, she was very comfortable with her crate.

Crating you dog at night

I believe it is a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom, as your puppy will probably need to go outside during the night. I know, I know….this is a lot of work, but German Shepherds require a LOT of attention in the beginning to make good companions. We got this breed for a reason, and with them comes a lot of responsibility. If we aren’t up to the task, them maybe this breed isn’t for us.

Anyway, where was I……Put the crate in the bedroom at night, so that you can hear and address a puppies needs to go outside at night when necessary. With older dogs, you might want to keep the crate in the bedroom for the first few evenings so that they don’t associate the crate with isolation. Dogs are social creatures and want to be near us, and GSD’s tend to be “velcro dogs”, so the last thing that we want is for the dog to associate a crate with being away from people or it’s owner.

Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to move it to a location you prefer.

Summary

I realize that crate training may seem like a lot of work and it is. However, German Shepherds do require a lot of time and attention when they first enter your household. They are high maintenance dogs in the beginning, however this is the most valuable time you will ever spend with your dog. But this effort spent in the beginning will be paid back in so many ways, you will not be able to count your blessings. With a little consistent, patient guidance from the owner, the German Shepherd is the most loyal, loving creature on the planet……..bar none.

A Simple treat for your German Shepherd

What is my girl’s favorite treat? It turns out that sometimes the simplest things can give the greatest pleasure. I absolutely love seeing my girl happy and having a great time. As we are both easily amused, she gets a kick out of her marrow bones.



For her, we have a daily ritual where she gets her frozen marrow bone, every night after dinner. I usually get these from my local Publix grocery store, where I find them in the meat counter. Sometimes, they aren’t out in the counter, so I have to ask for them. But the Publix people are usually happy (again another happy person) to oblige and I see them pull out a large box full of the marrow bones, and they will tray up a couple of pounds of the bones, wrap them up and give them to me. Did I say give? I used to remember the time when these would be free, but grocery stores see the demand for the marrow bones these days, so now they are able to extract a couple dollars in revenue out of these, so why not.

So, when I get home with my trays of marrow bones, I will immediately put them in the freezer and let them get really hard. Then when it’s time, we usually give Kaiserin one of the frozen marrow bones every night while the humans are eating dinner. This keeps everyone busy and minding their own business.

She usually gets a good 30 – 45 minutes of chomp time working those GSD jaws on that bone getting every last bit of the marrow out. So in the end, usually the next morning, we will find the dead carcass of what is left of the round bone. So a good time was had by all.

We have used this routine with all of our shepherds and have never had a problem, but keep in mind, every dog is different. What works for my dogs may not work for yours.




For your GSD’s health

Does your German Shepherd have issues with anxiety as many of this breed does? My dog, Kaiserin, has an ongoing issue with separation anxiety that I believe stems from her being taken from her litter at too early of an age. The breeder demanded that we take her at 6 weeks which is too early in my opinion, and I have had second thoughts about this breeder ever since. Most opinion holds that you shouldn’t take your dog until at least 8 weeks in order for them to get that early socialization in with their siblings. I have had many shepherds over the years and this was the only one that I have taken at such an early age, and the anxiety in this one is definitely more pronounced than any I have had before.

I recently had an issue with a 11 YO shepherd that had a recurring appearance of lung cancer that manifested itself with a debilitating cough. After trying several home remedies and trips to the vet that resulted in prescriptions that did not help the cough, I spent much time researching something (anything) that could help this poor girl. What I found was a natural product called CBD Oil. Many of you may have heard of it, but I had not. After reading research articles on how CBD had help dogs with the cancer and how some vets believe that it can actually help attack cancer cells themselves, I was ready to get some for my girl Hawley. Remember, nothing else had helped, but after a week to 10 days after giving the CBD Oil to her, it had almost totally eliminated the cough and made her much more comfortable. While she did eventually pass as the cancer had become much to advanced by the time I started with the CBD, I am convinced that it made her much more comfortable towards the end of her life.

Since this time, I have also found the CBD to be beneficial for many ailments that dogs have including:

  • pain relief
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Helps reduce inflammation
  • Combats malignant cell growth
  • Promotes Cardiovascular Health
  • Helps shield the nervous system
  • Promotes increased appetite
  • Post surgery relief and support
  • Helps with seizure prevention
  • Promotes reduction in epilepsy conditions
  • Inhibits bowel dysfunction
  • Non toxic assistance with hips and joint inflammation

Back now to Kaiserin and her anxiety. I have found that the CBD helps her greatly with this proble and I now give it to her when we find that she needs it. For example, on a recent trip to Atlanta, I gave her the CBD as a travel aid, and this was the best trip we have ever had with her. She is a known “whiner” and in particular when she gets anxious. She was almost totally quiet the entire trip, I credit this totally to the CBD oil that we started giving her a few days before the trip.

So if your doggie has problems with anxiety as mine does, try the CBD oil and see if it doesn’t help. The fireworks of July 4th are coming up and you can bet that she will be getting her “oil” during that holiday time, so if yours hates fireworks as mine does, check out:

Naysa CBD Oil

http://germanshepherdstuff.com/shop

15 Amazing German Shepherd Facts

Think you know everything there is to know about the German Shepherd? Here are 15 German Shepherd facts you probably didn’t know.

german shepherd facts

  1. MAX VON STEPHANITZ
    Do you know his name? Well you should – he is considered to be the father of the German Shepherd breed. In 1899, breeder Max von Stephanitz, took notice of a wolf-like dog with black and yellow markings at Dog show in Western Germany.

He was impressed by the dog’s intelligence and discipline, he chose to purchase the dog and changed its name from Hektor Linksrhein to Horand von Grafrath. Max von Stephanitz started the German Shepherd Dog Club and created the guidelines for the breed’s standard. The motto for the new breed was “utility and intelligence“; good looks was not a priority.

In the years to follow Germany became more industrialized, and von Stephanitz was quick to realize that the needs for the German Shepherd might decline. To ensure that the breed would continue to be relevant, he worked with police and other service workers to ensure a place for the dogs in the working force. Since the breed was bred to be highly intelligent and athletic, they were the perfect fit. Max von Stephanitz is the reason the German Shepherd is used worldwide as a world-class working dog.