Bringing your German Shepherd puppy home to stay is very exciting! It can also be very stressful, and not just for you and your family.
Your new GSD puppy is experiencing life apart from its mom and littermates for the first time. All the smells, sights, and sounds are new. You are new. It is a lot to take in all at one time.
Sometimes this means you may hear your German Shepherd puppy crying in the crate at night or during daytime naps. What does this mean? What should you do?
By the time you finish reading this in-depth article, you will understand why this happens and how to address a German Shepherd puppy who is crying while crated.
Should You Crate Train Your German Shepherd Puppy?
If this is the first time you have shared life with a German Shepherd dog, you may wonder if perhaps crate training just isn’t the right thing to do.
This is normal and natural.
But, as Train Your GSD Dog Training points out, it probably isn’t the crate that is causing the crying behavior.
It is simply that your puppy is learning how to sleep alone for the first time.
The goal isn’t to do away with the crate. Rather, the goal is to ease the crying and the feeling of being alone for your puppy. If you can do this, the crate will no longer be an issue.
When to Crate Train Your German Shepherd Puppy
If possible, you want to crate train your German Shepherd puppy starting the first night you bring them home.
Otherwise, you are just putting off the introduction of the crate. And you are likely to be listening to a crying puppy all night anyway because everything is so new.
It might be tempting to just let your new GSD puppy sleep with you for the first night (or few nights, or a week, or month….you see where this is going).
But you have to remember your tiny and adorable German Shepherd puppy isn’t going to stay little for long.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), adult German Shepherd dogs can easily grow to weigh 90 pounds and stand more than two feet tall!
If the idea of having to share your bed later with an enormous, shedding, snoring canine doesn’t sound appealing, don’t let your little puppy share your bed now. Persisting with crate training can pay off if you know what to do.
How to Ease Your German Shepherd Puppy’s Crate Fears
Imagine you are a little furry puppy. You are used to sleeping in a huddle with your littermates all snuggled together around your mom.
Suddenly, your sleeping arrangements are changed. Mom is gone. Your littermates are nowhere to be found. In place of the comfy dog bed (or blanket, or whelping bed) there is a cold steel (or plastic) box.
So the first order of business that is urgent is to get your new GSD puppy comfy in their new crate!
Here are some expert tips to make the crate look and feel and smell homey and safe for your puppy:
– If at all possible, put in something from the puppy’s previous home, be it a toy, a blanket, a treat, or something else that smells like “home.”
– Add in something that smells like you that you aren’t attached to, like an old shirt or a pair of socks.
– Make sure your puppy’s crate pad is thick and comfy and also moisture-wicking so any “accidents” don’t leave them sitting in wet all night.
– Make sure the crate is roomy enough to give your puppy someplace else to pee and poop if they cannot wait (remember, it can take up to 12 months for your puppy’s G.I. system to fully mature and potty training is a trial-and-error process!).
– Place the crate in a cool, dark, quiet place that won’t trigger your puppy’s fears.
– Cover the crate partially for naps and bedtime (but not so much that there is no ventilation). Aim for protecting your puppy from drafts and light but still allowing for sufficient airflow.
– Add in a comfortable puppy blanket so your dog can snuggle up in it.
Ease Into Extended Crate Time With Short Training Sessions
When you first bring your German Shepherd puppy home, it may be late in the day and you may not have time for a bunch of crate sessions right away.
This means you may have to deal with some whining and crying the first night.
It can help to place the crate in your bedroom if possible. This way your dog can at least see and smell you. And if your new GSD puppy needs to potty, which they likely will, you can take care of it right away.
But starting the following morning, you should begin proper crate training for your German Shepherd puppy right away. And you should establish reasonable expectations for the outcome.
As PetMD points out, even the best crate training in the world may not completely stop your puppy from whining, crying, or barking.
This is because you have chosen an intensely people-oriented dog breed! All dogs are oriented towards people to some degree, but the German Shepherd dog breed is particularly people-focused.
Your puppy just wants to be with you. This is why you don’t want to jump into extended crate training sessions. You want to start with very short and sweet sessions just to get your German Shepherd puppy used to being in the crate.
Start with just 10 or 15 minutes at a time at timed intervals throughout the day.
As you do this, make sure the crate is in a quiet place, but not a place that is far away from you and your family. The more easily your puppy can sense your presence, the less likely they are to get very lonely and start crying loudly.
A Sample German Shepherd Puppy Crate Training Schedule
As you learned earlier here, crate training under the best of conditions can be stressful for a puppy.
This is why it is so important to time your crate training sessions so that your German Shepherd puppy doesn’t experience any unnecessary extra stress. This is especially important while your puppy is also going through potty training!
Here is a sample crate training schedule that you may want to try out and adapt to your daily schedule and your GSD puppy’s needs.
- 7:00 am: Wake up, potty time.
- 7:30 am Breakfast!
- 8:00 am Potty break.
- 8:15 am First crate training session.
- 8:30 am Free (supervised) time out of the crate.
- 9:15 am Potty break.
- 9:30 am Second crate training session.
- 9:45 am Free (supervised) time out of the crate.
- Noon: Lunch!
- 12:30 pm Potty break.
- 12:45 pm Third crate training session.
- 1:00 pm Free (supervised) time out of the crate.
- 2:00 pm Potty break.
- 2:15 pm Crate time plus nap time.
- 3:15 pm Potty break then free (supervised) time out of the crate.
- 5:00 pm Dinner!
- 5:30 pm Potty break.
- 6:00 pm Pick up water in preparation for bedtime (depending on your puppy’s age).
- 8:00 pm Potty break.
- 8:15 pm Crate time, bedtime.
What To Do When the Crate Whining Just Won’t Stop
Sometimes, no matter what you try and how well it may have worked for other dogs (even other dogs you have crate trained!) your German Shepherd puppy may not stop crying and whining.
What should you do if this happens?
The first thing to do is to talk with your dog’s veterinarian. While some amount of crate whining and crying is normal when a new puppy is first getting used to the crate, sometimes crying and whining can have other meanings as well.
It is always smart to have your new GSD puppy checked out by your veterinarian right away anyway – ideally in the first 24 to 48 hours.
But if your puppy keeps whining and crying, there may be another reason. Your dog might be sick or injured and need treatment. It is much better to talk with your veterinarian and know for sure than to worry and wonder and get no sleep at night.
Sometimes puppies may develop separation anxiety and get very frantic about trying to get out of their crate. When this happens, self-injury becomes possible.
You don’t ever want to wait when this happens. It may be helpful to ask your veterinarian for a referral to a dog trainer so you can address the separation anxiety before it leads to self-harm or an ingrained behavior pattern.
By understanding the most common reasons your German Shepherd puppy might cry in their crate and what to do to ease loneliness and fears, your new puppy will soon settle into your family. If you looking to buy a new crate for your dog here is a list of our recommendations.