> Welcome to over 1,000,000 other GSD lovers here! Click to see why they are here <

To Crate or Not to Crate


While you may realize that we have already a tremendous amount of unique content on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG, the real benefits you would get regularly with the MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL. You can subscribe here on the site, and it's free if you own a German Shepherd or plan to get one.

When to use a crate

Using a crate is important for at least as long as your dog is not yet house-trained - which likely is the case if you have a puppy. A house-trained dog is one that will comply with all your house rules. House-trained comprises far more than the dog housebreaking, which means potty training a dog or dog toilet training. For details see House-training dogs.

Once your dog is fully house-trained, you may (and should) give your dog free run of the house all the time, ie even when you are away. When fully house-trained, nothing speaks against it, and a LOT speaks for it. Not least, only a German Shepherd that can freely reach every part of the house can be a good protector of every part of the house!

However, it is better to leave the crate in its place even when you are convinced that your dog is fully house-trained: Just like the dog would in nature, your dog may often prefer to retreat to his/her own den, especially when feeling unwell, at night, and when dozing. A small space where your dog can nestle down and feel warm and safe.

Purpose of a crate

The purpose of a crate is to provide your dog with a shelter, a place where (s)he can doze, sleep, play with toys while lying down, and chew on the provided chew toy - all while feeling safe and in hiding.

dog crateConversely, a kennel we consider a place where you can lock your dog away if you fear that (s)he would otherwise say make a mess in your house or frighten small children or whatever. If we can agree on this for now, then a kennel will have a roof and a lockable door, while a crate is unlikely to have a roof or a door at all. On the photo you see the crate of My New Puppy which is no more than two panels of wall protection and the Westpaw nap mat f f f f f f f f because we don't even have a kennel, and because our dogs always have free run of the house.

We are aware that commercial sites do not distinguish crate and kennel as clearly, and indeed they may not even have an appropriate crate at all, see below.

What crate to use

Commercial crates are neither necessary nor the most appropriate for your dog's needs. Why?

Dogs need to feel safe when they doze or sleep. Dogs feel safe when they doze or sleep in a place where they feel they can hide, so that they are not seen while not alert, and where they can observe the entrance to their hiding place, so that they can react fast.

This is all the more important for you if you have a German Shepherd as protection dog. The whole idea of having family protection dogs or better, trained protection dogs, fails when you lock your German Shepherd in a kennel or outside in the backyard garden. German Shepherd barking doesn't give you a German Shepherd protection dog!

Imagine an intruder enters your house through a front window. Yes, the German Shepherd barking will wake you up, but also the intruder will have lots of time to harm you if you "safely" locked away your dog. An experienced intruder will notice immediately whether you have a barking dog that's locked up, or whether you have a German Shepherd protection dog that's ready to attack him. For more, see Protection dog training.

Best crate for dogs

The best crate for dogs is one that suffices both these primary requirements. In addition, a dog den needs to be warm without being overheated, draft-free, and soft on the ground. Fresh water supply MUST be within the dog's reach, day and night. Don't worry "but the dog will pee at night": Not even a puppy does, as I have clearly documented in the New Puppy Diary.

Therefore, the best crate for dogs is one that's just a wooden box, with one side being open except for a say 2 cm or 1 in threshold, and the other sides reaching just above the dog's body when lying down. The crate floor has a thick blanket like the Westpaw nap mat. Wash the nap mat weekly with a non-smelling and naturally mild cleaning product. The crate has no roof. It is easy to clean by just reaching over the side panels. Put a water bowl in front of the entrance. That's it!

This is the best crate for dogs - not necessarily the best crate for you, and not the best crate for commercial crate producers. ;-)

Why is it not necessarily the best crate for you? Because in the beginning, while your dog is not yet house-trained, you may prefer a den for your puppy that has a roof too and is lockable (we call this a kennel, not a crate). Such a kennel can help reduce potty accidents and dog chewing or dog scratching on your valuable furniture etc.

With an untrained dog you will have to strike a compromise between what's the best crate for dogs long-term and what's the best crate for you in the short-term.

If you do all parts of House-training your dog right, then a German Shepherd puppy can usually be house-trained within a week or two. This includes housebreaking the puppy, meaning your puppy will be clean in the house too. Then you may not need to buy a commercial crate at all! Instead, you may prefer to put a few pieces of wood together to build the best crate for dogs yourself.

We show you how to build a dog crate in the MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL, and it's free for GSD owners. This also is FUN, and a very rewarding exercise for yourself. It will make you happy and proud. Guaranteed. :-)

Do not make the mistake to think "If I get a covered lockable kennel, my puppy can't have potty accidents elsewhere in the house". It doesn't work like this, because you must not lock a puppy away for more than an hour or two, when the pup needs to empty its small bladder. And the dog will try to avoid to soil his/her own den for as long as (s)he can hold the bladder tight.

What if you fear you won't get the puppy housebreaking right, and your gorgeous German Shepherd puppy may have a few potty accidents in the house? Then you may want to get one of those dog potties as described in Housebreaking a dog, and to accept a couple of potty accidents in the beginning. In this case, consider to keep your puppy in a non-carpeted area of your house during the first week or two.

Where to put the crate

Place the crate where there's no permanent running around of family members (say tumultuous children during playtime), no draft, no immediate radiator heat, and no wiring from electrical items like fridges etc. But don't put the crate too far away from where the family members usually remain during the day. Ideal would be a corner of an annex to your living room if you have that.

Why? Because your dog should have the chance to see and hear what's going on in the house, but likewise (s)he should have the chance to back out when (s)he needs to doze or sleep during the day, or when (s)he doesn't feel well.

Do not follow the advice you can find in some places, to regularly change the crate when your puppy grows up, or even to move the crate around between day and night time. This would confuse the instincts of your German Shepherd and may promote aggression and anxiety. Place the crate in its permanent place straight away.

When your puppy grows up, it's best to have no more than one change in size made to the crate. A commercial crate should have a divider which makes it easy to adapt the size of the crate to the size of your puppy (but only do it once, about mid-term). A self-made crate you would simply extend to one side. - Again, we show you how to build a dog crate in the free MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL.

However, you do not need to do this. It doesn't matter if in the beginning the crate is much larger than your puppy, because in nature a puppy wouldn't have a den of its own size either. Indeed, your German Shepherd puppy may be happy and develop well if (s)he has the same crate throughout.

Note that if the crate is in a separate room, always leave the door a bit open so that you don't cut off the German Shepherd's instinct that aims to protect you, and that your dog doesn't feel lonely or anxious either. This is all the more important while you have a puppy, but it is relevant at every age in order to keep your dog calm and healthy.

Benefits of Dog Crate Training and Puppy Crate Training

Once your dog uses the crate on its own initiative, the crate will allow your dog more time to retreat from the family action and to relax. This will contribute to your dog's overall health, and it will improve your relationship with your dog when you are together.

In addition, mid- and long-term, Crate training dogs will reduce the amount of dog behavior training required, see House training a puppy. This means it will reduce dog whining, dog barking, dog separation anxiety, dog aggression, and destructive behaviour.

Finally, crate training dogs helps to prevent that your bed or the couch is becoming your dog's primary domicile, and it also aids the dog housebreaking process if that's still an issue too.

In short, Crate training dogs is very beneficial regardless of your dog's age.

What a Crate means to a German Shepherd

Under normal circumstances German Shepherds love to use their crates. This has genetic roots and even when you leave a German Shepherd out in the wild, the dog will prepare its own small space to nestle down in, so that (s)he keeps warm and safe. A crate performs this function perfectly and is giving your dog a safe space that (s)he can consider and guard as its own. German Shepherds in particular need this small place to retreat, especially when feeling unwell, at night, and when dozing.

If you deprive your GSD of this, your dog is likely to become anxious, trying to herd and control the entire room or house. This is the most common reason for destructive behavior.

In the beginning, leave your German Shepherd puppy in the crate only for short periods of time. Take your pup out after an hour and give your dog attention (obviously unless the dog is sleeping). Play with your pup. Go for a walk. Slowly increase the crate periods until they cover a whole night or a short day at work - whether you are at work or indeed at home.

Always remember that German Shepherds are strong and active herding dogs by nature. Long and needless crate periods are unsuitable for this dog breed! Your overall aim should be that your German Shepherd uses the crate voluntarily and on its own initiative, and that your dog has free run of the house/premises once fully house-trained.

If you have several German Shepherd puppies give each of them their own crate, but don't force them to use their own crate just yet. They will usually use their own crate automatically, later when they feel like it.

Crate training and You

Both you and your German Shepherd will need to learn how to use the crate. For example, it's your dog's crate, not yours, so never pull out the blanket while your GSD is in the crate, and don't step into the crate. Likewise, don't use force to get your German Shepherd into the crate or out of it. Be considerate about this small space which your dog may treat as its own. Don't upset your dog or disturb the dog's guarding instinct.

Don't take your German Shepherd puppy out of the crate just because (s)he is whining or barking to get attention - see Crate training puppies. A puppy as well as an older dog should only be taken out of the crate when the dog has been calm for a few minutes. Your dog must not develop a connection between say German Shepherd barking or German Shepherd whining and getting your attention or even a treat!

To get much more help regularly how to have the BEST relationship with your German Shepherd, make sure you subscribe now to the free MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL. It is there to stay, with you and your dog. And the longer you pay attention to the advice we provide, the more you'll realize its unique value for you and your dog.

  12 Responses to “To Crate or Not to Crate”



    I have a big open kennel that I used from my last dog when she was having problems in the house. As you mentioned, my puppy really doesn’t like the big open sided kennel, so very rarely even looks at it. I was wondering if you could provide me with your crate plans? I haven’t gotten that far in your periodicals yet. I can make one myself, but since you seem to have a much better handle on she actually needs, I would appreciate any help you could provide.


    Also, I have a beagle/terrier mix. Should I build her a crate also? They both have beds in my room which is where they currently sleep, but don’t want to build something for my GSD and have it be a problem between the two of them.

    Thanks again, I really appreciate you taking the time to provide all this helpful information.


      Yes sorry Rob, for you as subscriber here’s the Building-a-Den Periodical.

      Re/ the beagle/terrier mix (and the GSD): If they both have their “crate” in your room, why change it? I mean, the crate (den) should only be for sleeping, feeling unwell, etc, NOT for punishment. And during the day I assume the dogs want to stay close to you anyway, hence just put down a blanket for them?
      Of course a padded nap mat like this is much more comfy as resting place.
      Or did I misunderstand your question?


        No you answered great. From the articles I could access I thought they needed a “den.” They love their beds in my room and sleep on them each night. When they are in the living room, Nikki, my GSD puppy, moves to 4-5 different spots while napping. So, I will get them a pad to sleep on in that room so that they can have a designated area and that should help with that issue.

        As always really appreciate your help and advice.


        You are most welcome Rob!


    I have a 8 1/2 old German Shep and he uses the doggie door to poop but not to pee? The only time he pee’s is when we take him to the door. Will he eventually go out of this or are we doing something wrong? Also, his crate has been sized for him and he has peed in it the last 3 nights and last night he pooped. I was placing his crate in the bathroom, would it be better to keep it in the family room (normal spot) or next to my bed?


    I recently adopted a 8 yr old German Shepard and hes completely house broken. The previous owner would keep him in his crate at night and during the day. I bought the biggest crate available but at 90 pounds he’s a big boy. Last night was his first night inside and it seemed every time moved he would hit the side of the kennel. I would just as soon not have him in it at all. Would this be a good or a bad idea? I have heard conflicting stories because he is so structured but it seems cruel to put him in that confined space. when he sleeps he likes to stretch out I have noticed and he can’t do that in the crate.



      We have NEVER kept a dog in a “crate” (correct: kennel), your observations of confined space are right. And if he’s “completely housebroken” I can’t see why you wasted money on a kennel at all?

      There are massive differences between housebreaking and house training though. Still, even My New Puppy has had free run of the house from the beginning, and even at night since age 28 weeks.

      Hope this gives you confidence/motivation?


    Hi, Tim. We have a 13 week old female pup and are having issues with her biting. It started to get worse when we all went back to work full-time after several short periods of time off work. She is crated while we are at work and then is out with us until bedtime when she is recrated. I feel like this is causing some pent up aggression, etc., or something. She is wanting to chew on baseboards and furniture right now, so I don’t feel comfortable leaving her out. Her biting gets to the point of ridiculous sometimes and we don’t know what to do. Any additional advice from what I’ve read on your site as far as crating goes and the biting? She went from a very sweet puppy to something else entirely when we started crating her. I would love to keep her with us at night in our room, but am unsure of what she might chew or do while we sleep. Help!


    Hello. We have a 1 year old male GSD. My husband insisted on him being an outside dog. He made a nice kennel in the garage. He comes in the house with us when we are home, but goes back out at night. I cannot stand it. I want to try to change it. Is it too late to housebreak our dog and train him to have good potty manners in the house too?


      In House Training Dogs To Behave Well is a LOT that would help you, incl. “Transitioning an Outdoor Kennel Dog to an Indoor Crate Dog”.

      Yes, I agree with you, and disagree with your husband. Why? All explained well in the book. Get your husband to STUDY the book. ;-)


    I have a 3 yr old German
    Shepherd, his name is Remi. We have had a issue with him jumping our wall in our back yard . I don’t want to use the electric fence, I don’t want him to be harmed in anyway. we are trying to see if a dog crate is good for hm . we recently adopted him from a family member and I love him. we also recently moved to a new home im not sure if that has anything to do with this new thing he is doing. he sleeps inside with us. please help. thank you


      I agree, both seem to be the reason, new family and move afterwards is a LOT to digest and so will take time. To speed things up I would have the dog sleep in a separate room, not bedroom, and do everything else to establish ourselves as accepted Pack leader – how you know from our Periodicals. At 3ys I would reckon you’ll have all under control within a week and he’ll stop feeling Separation Anxiety and stop jumping too.

 Leave a Comment?

Please first check:

  • To go live any question must be relevant to this page
  • Random visitors cannot expect a reply from anyone
  • To fight SPAM anything with a link lands in SPAM

MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG is a nonprofit organization, only the income from own product offers and suggested dog remedies allow us to support you!