When to use a crate
Providing 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 new puppy, and possibly is the case if you have a new rescue dog. A house-trained dog is one that will comply with all your house rules. House-trained comprises far more than Housebreaking a dog (potty training, toilet training).
Once your dog is fully house-trained, you can (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 dog 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 the dog can doze, sleep, play with toys while lying down, and chew on the provided chew toy - all while feeling safe.
Conversely, 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 - because you have not yet house-trained your dog.
If we can agree on this for now, then a kennel will have a lockable door and typically even a roof, 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 thin plywood as wall protection and the Westpaw nap mat because we don't even have a kennel, and because our dogs always have free run of the house.
Vendors and commercial sites do not distinguish crate and kennel as clearly, and indeed they may not offer a crate at all, see next.
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 or garden.
Imagine an intruder enters your house through a front window. Yes, the dog 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 dog that is free and waiting to attack him. For more, see Protection dog training.
Best crate for dogs
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