In the public article To Crate or Not to Crate you already saw the benefits of providing a crate to your dog.
Currently, 9.2% of the MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL subscribers keep their GSD outside the house. 90% of our GSD owners keep their German Shepherd inside the house.
In both cases, your dog will appreciate if you give him/her the right place to sleep, doze, rest, chew, and play on its own.
More importantly, giving your dog the right place significantly impacts on your dog's behavior: Many dog behavior problems result to a large degree from the dog not having a dog-suitable place on its own.
For a German Shepherd this is all the more important: Since our dogs have the herding instinct and the need to guard ingrained in their genetical heritage, German Shepherds need a special place.
While every dog needs its own designated resting place close to at least one human Pack member to stay healthy and to avoid behavior problems, a GSD needs a resting place that fulfils more requirements:
- A dog's resting place must be close to its 'Pack' (your family)
- A dog's resting place must not be locked
- A dog's resting place must not have a roof
- A dog's resting place must have sufficient size
- A dog's resting place must be of the right material
While we discuss each of these requirements below, we will also clarify the terminology because crate and kennel vendors are not clear and consistent here, and hence most dog owners use either the word 'kennel' or the word 'crate' without knowing the difference. We will then move on to how you can easily build a den for your dog yourself - whether crate, kennel, or dog house, or all of them!
Dog's Resting Place
First, a dog's resting place should be available in every room where you are and where you want your dog to join you.
Say, your dog sleeps in a separate area inside or outside the house but you want your dog to be with you in the living room when you are there. Then you must provide a designated resting place for your dog in the living room. This can be as easy and quick as throwing a suitable dog blanket on the floor and showing your dog to lie down on that blanket.
Why is this important?
Because, if your dog doesn't know its place, (s)he will be restless, trying out various places where (s)he feels comfortable and where you allow the dog to be resting - ie without enticing to change place, without scolding, and without giving any commands. Soon this restlessness becomes stress, then stolidity, and then aggression and/or health issues!
So, if you are currently facing any perceived behavior problems of your dog, one aspect to consider is whether your dog has its designated resting place in every room where you want your dog to be, or where your dog is allowed to be. Do provide such resting places, eg throw a blanket on the floor. Almost immediately you should be able to notice the massive difference this will make to your dog's overall behavior!
The blanket shown above is from Westpaw® and hence it is of the right material and of suitable quality for a German Shepherd:
- and pet-hair repellent
Posher, more comfortable versions of a German Shepherd resting place are more padded, eg the Nap Mat. We have both Westpaw's blanket and Westpaw's nap mat.
Even more padded is the GSD Bumper Bed. Both are also from Westpaw®, so these are made of the right material and they are of GSD-suitable quality.
Next higher up in the hierarchy of a home for your dog is the dog crate. A dog crate is not just for resting but also for sleeping. Unless you have a house the size of a palace, a dog crate should be available only in one room of the house.
Yes, a dog crate is always inside the house. Here you see that crate and kennel are not the same thing. Only a resting place like a dog blanket or dog bed as shown above can be (and should be) both inside the crate and inside the kennel.
This is a dog crate, and actually it's the best dog crate, for the following reasons:
- When your GSD is lying down, the side panels reach above the highest point of your dog. Your GSD both notices this and appreciates this: (S)he will feel safe when sleeping, ie when unable to react instantly to looming danger.
- When sitting or standing, your GSD can easily look over the edge of all side panels. Your GSD appreciates this because (s)he knows she can quickly check the outside whenever (s)he wants to.
- The entry side of this dog crate has only a low side panel. This allows your GSD quick reactions, ie getting out quickly. It also provides for easy getting in, and hence makes this dog crate ideal for a Senior GSD too. Have this entry side face a wall or better a room corner (at say 80 inch distance), and your dog will know that (s)he is not visible and hence will feel safe as mentioned above.
- There is no roof on a dog crate. A dog is not a rabbit that seeks to hide in a burrow, because a dog instinctively knows that it is too large for a burrow to be safe: In a den with a 'roof', the entry would need to be so large that a dog (and particularly a GSD!) would know that looming danger could get in while the dog is sleeping! The dog instinctively knows that it would have little chance to defend itself in a place where it can hardly stand up and turn around. Therefore, a dog in the wild would not choose a 'crate' with a roof - nonetheless almost every commercial dog crate vendor makes dog crates with a roof!
- The size of the dog crate is large enough for a German Shepherd to turn around, to fully stretch out, and of course to stand up (because the crate has no roof!)
- The dog crate is of dog-friendly material. Wood is dog-friendly material, as long as the anti-woodworm finish you use is 'green' (hypoallergenic) and does not exhibit its own smell. You will know that dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans (apparently, the best sense of smell have bloodhounds and bassets; and all herding dogs, like the GSD, have an excellent sense of smell too). Wood also is particularly good as material for a GSD crate because, again, a German Shepherd instinctively knows if the crate material is strong enough for the dog to feel safe while sleeping.
- Of course the crate has rounded edges, to be smooth and safe for your dog.
- The above dog crate is also suitable if you have a GSD puppy, regardless of age. Although if you wanted you could provide a small puppy with its own smaller crate, this is not necessary: A young GSD puppy's herding instinct and need to guard is not yet as much developed, hence it is not similarly crucial for the puppy to be able to look over the edges of the three high side panels. Instead, what you can do (but don't have to do) is to temporarily fix a curtain across the side of the low side panel as long as you have a GSD puppy of say age < 3.5 months:
While the pup can easily slip through the curtain, it may feel safer during sleep and hence is more calm when awake!
But you cannot buy this best dog crate: Crate vendors only sell kennels, or small puppy crates like the one pictured above.
Next higher up in the hierarchy of a home for your dog is the dog kennel.
Like a crate, a kennel is not just for resting but also for sleeping. However, unlike a crate, a kennel is a closed area for the dog, with a roof and a door, typically even with a lock. This is where the word 'kennel' as a dog shelter derives from, they all are closed areas for dogs.
In a kennel, dogs are locked away because the handler or owner fears trouble if the dog or dogs can freely move in and out. Either trouble for the owner or handler or other people, or trouble for the dog(s). Both is proof that the dog owner or handler failed to learn how to fully house-train the dog!
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
Again, you see that kennel and crate are not the same thing. Indeed, kennel and crate serve the opposite objective.
These are examples of dog kennels:
A kennel can be made for inside or outside the house. The first image above clearly shows an indoor kennel (in the living room), and the last image clearly shows and outdoor kennel (in the garden).
You can also clearly see that all of them are lockable from the outside, and the dog cannot escape through the roof - because that's the purpose of a kennel: to keep the dog inside the kennel until the owner or handler decides to let the dog out.
The first two or three pictured indoor kennels at least allow the dog to be close to its owner: the dog can hear you, see you, and smell you. Nonetheless these kennels too are entirely unsuitable for a dog - unless the dog is not yet fully house-trained, but then you really need to ask: Why not?!
Then there is a dog training issue to solve, not a crate/kennel issue! So better get the Complete House Training Guide ASAP before you waste your money on a kennel and keep your dog locked away like a rat.
The last two or three outdoor kennels go as far as locking the dog away from its owner, out of sight, in a cage! This serves no purpose at all - unless the dog has a contagious disease or is infested with fleas (but then there is a health issue to solve!), or the owner doesn't really want a dog (then there is a personal issue to solve).
Furthermore, if a GSD is locked away it's even counter-productive: Then the German Shepherd cannot guard it's 'pack', it cannot protect the family. Experienced intruders notice long before they enter the premises whether there's a dog that is free to attack them right upon entry, or whether there's a dog that's locked away in a kennel: The first dog barks from varying directions, the second dog barks always from the same direction. Also, the barking sound is very different too.
Kennel use and Dog Behavior Issues
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