How to Crate Train a German Shepherd Puppy at Night

Medium
1-3 Months
General

Introduction

Crate training your German Shepherd at night will give you peace of mind while you sleep. Your Shepherd puppy will eventually realize his crate is a safe, comfortable, and secure place for him to sleep. He will start to see his crate as his personal bedroom space, and when he's ready to turn in for the night, he will likely go into his crate all on his own. For you, crate training your German Shepherd puppy for night time sleep will mean you can rest peacefully knowing he's not going potty inside the house, chewing on your couch, or digging up your carpet. Puppies can cause all kinds of mischief when left to their own devices. Crate training your German Shepherd puppy gives him a detailed plan of when it's time to go to bed and where he needs to be to do so.

Defining Tasks

To crate train your German Shepherd puppy for night time sleep, you're going to need to set up an appropriate size crate in an area where you are comfortable with him sleeping. When he's a very young puppy, he may want to be close to you in your bedroom or at least nearby. If you have trouble sleeping with a whining puppy, you may consider putting him in a spot away from your bedroom. 

This training will be repetitive and rewarding. The most difficult part of crate training your German Shepherd puppy is remembering that he's going to need to go potty overnight because he's still little. By the time he's ready to sleep through the night, your training should be just about complete, and he will be heading to the crate all on his own when he's ready to go to bed.

Getting Started

Ensure the crate you choose for your German Shepherd puppy is just the right size for the dog to stand up and turn around once he's an adult. You can start with a smaller crate as a puppy and increase in size if you have additional crates available. Be sure to set up the crate with lots of soft, comfortable bedding and some chew toys to keep him entertained when he's awake inside the crate. Your German Shepherd puppy will also need lots of tasty treats as he gets to know his new crate and to reward him for making good choices in the crate.

The Safe Place Method

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Most Recommended
4 Votes
Step
1
Pick a crate
Choose a crate the right size for your German Shepherd. You can choose a crate now for his adult size and install a partition to size it appropriately for your puppy or get a small crate now and a new crate as he grows older and larger. The crate should not be too large but just right for your German Shepherd to stand up and turn around inside. Do not give your puppy German Shepherd too much room, as he may use some of the extra space to go potty.
Step
2
Bedding
Add comfortable, soft bedding to the crate to make it a comfortable place for your German Shepherd to be at night.
Step
3
Toys
You may want to add one or two chew toys for your puppy to chew on while he’s waiting to fall asleep or when he wakes up to entertain himself until you let him out of the crate to go potty.
Step
4
Placement
Place the crate in a room where you are both happy with your German Shepherd sleeping at night. He might like to be near you or he may want a cool, quiet place to sleep at night. Remember while he is house training, he will need to go outside every few hours to go potty.
Step
5
Sleepy time
When your pup is sleepy, even during the day, place him in the crate. Before sleep, be sure to take him outside to go potty.
Step
6
Treat
Once your German Shepherd puppy is inside his crate, give him a treat and let him settle down. Sit outside the crate for a moment, blocking the door so he cannot get out. Do not close the door just yet.
Step
7
Settle and sleep
Once your German Shepherd begins to settle down and sleep, close the door and step away. For these first few times in the crate, try to stay close by so you are around when your puppy wakes.
Step
8
Waking
Once your German Shepherd wakes, he will probably cry. Take him out of the crate and outside to go potty as quickly as you can.
Step
9
Repeat and practice
You will need to put your German Shepherd puppy in his crate each time he is sleepy so he can get used to sleeping in the crate. Start putting him in the crate for night time sleep as well the same night you introduce the crate.
Step
10
Rewards
Give your puppy rewards for staying in the crate and for getting in the crate. Once he wakes, you might want to hold off on treating him until he goes potty to avoid becoming distracted and risking an indoor accident.
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The Nighttime Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Dinner and play
Be sure to give your German Shepherd dinner and playtime before bed. You might want to feed your puppy at least three hours before he is to go to bed in the crate for the night. Play with your German Shepherd to exert any excess energy he has. He’s a puppy, so he has quite a bit of energy.
Step
2
Potty first
Take your German Shepherd puppy outside to go potty. Give him a treat once he’s done going potty. If he still has a bit of energy to get out, play with him a bit. He should be tired once you put him in the crate.
Step
3
Crate
Get your German Shepherd’s crate ready with soft bedding and a toy rope or other quiet chew toy.
Step
4
Place in crate
Place your German Shepherd puppy inside the crate and give him a treat. Close the door.
Step
5
Whining
Ignore your puppy as he whines. And he will whine. But know he is okay. He is safe. And he will settle down.
Step
6
Potty
The only time you don’t want to ignore your Shepherd puppy’s whining is if he needs to go potty. If you took him out before bedtime, he shouldn’t have to go again right away. If it’s been a few hours, he probably needs to go. This will change as your puppy gets a bit older, but until he’s about eight or nine months old, expect at least one visit to the potty during your sleeping hours.
Step
7
Sleep
Your German Shepherd puppy will eventually go to sleep. He will sleep soundly, and over time, he will see his crate as his personal sleeping space. Giving him this space to sleep at night will increase his sense of security and build trust with you.
Recommend training method?

The Good Night Command Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Introduce crate
Set up your German Shepherd’s crate and introduce it to your puppy. It should have soft, warm bedding and a toy or two for your pup to chew on while falling asleep.
Step
2
Command
Tell your puppy it is time to go to bed. You can give him a command such as 'go night-night' or 'it's time to go good night.' Be sure you say the same words each night as you put your German Shepherd inside his crate.
Step
3
Place in crate
Put your puppy inside his crate. You may need to pat on his bedding and encourage him to walk in, sniff, circle around, and lie down.
Step
4
Treat
Once your pup is inside his crate, give him a treat for obeying, listening and going to bed.
Step
5
Repeat command
Use the command again to tell your German Shepherd puppy good night. This will just condition him to recognize the words and the action of going to bed.
Step
6
Ignore
Your puppy is likely to whine, especially for the first few nights he's in his crate alone. Ignore him. If he has gone potty and he is sleepy, he will go to sleep. He may need to go potty in the middle of the night, however, so be sure to take him out if he wakes after a few hours in the crate.
Step
7
Upon waking
When your German Shepherd wakes up, he's going to need to go potty right away. Be sure to take him out of his crate and take him outside to go potty. Use this opportunity of going potty to give him a treat to reward for sleeping in the crate as well as for going potty outside.
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Written by Stephanie Plummer

Published: 02/13/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Elise
German Shepherd
7 Months
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Question
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Elise
German Shepherd
7 Months

Chewing everything. What’s the best way to make her stop?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mary, You will likely need a multi-faceted approach in this case. Check out the article I have linked below. I recommend a combination of teaching commands that increase self-control - like Leave It, confining pup to a crate when you are not there to supervise them so they aren't being allowed to chew without your interruption and training instruction, encouraging pup to chew their own things by giving toys like dog food stuffed Kongs (kongs are not exciting by themselves for most dogs. It's the addition of treats and dog food that teaches pup to like the toys), and even spraying a deterrent spray, like vinegar or bitter apple on things pup is chewing over and over again. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Loki
German Shepherd
2 Months
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Question
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Loki
German Shepherd
2 Months

We are having issues with our puppy sleeping in his crate. We are on our 5th night now and every night has been the same, the whimpering continues for 2 hours and I mean real bad whimpering keeping up the whole street. Its only when someone returns to the room will he settle and only when he's released from his crate with someone sleeping on the sofa will he settle sleeping on the floor.

Please advise what we should do.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lloyd, First, even though it's hard, I don't recommend letting pup out to sleep next to you by the sofa. That will make this overall process 10x harder in the end. Pup learns that crying gets him out, so in the end the crying becomes more persistent instead of less. Two weeks is a normal amount of time to adjust to the crate, so stay strong. Second, practice the Surprise method during the day, to help pup adjust to time alone in the crate and learn to be quiet, when everyone isn't so tired and you can use treats because its the day (don't give treats at night). If pup is already okay with the door closed initially, skip to the point where pup is already at in the method below, instead of having to start with step 1 if you are past that. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Pup will need to go potty at least two times at night, likely more often while learning how to settle in the crate itself. If it's been more than 2 hours since pup last went potty and they wake up crying to go, take them out. Keep that trip super boring though. Take them on leash, keep speaking quiet and to the point - like telling pup Go Potty. Don't give treats, food, or play. After pup goes potty, put them straight back into the crate to go back to bed, and ignore any crying then, knowing they don't need to potty. You want potty trips to be boring so pup won't be motivated to wake up for other reasons besides a true potty need. If pup learns to only wake for potty needs, then as pup's bladder matures and they get used to being alone in the crate, the wake ups and crying should decrease gradually as well. If you find it helps, you can put the crate into your room. If you want pup to be okay sleeping in another room later, you will have to make that transition later, but there will be certain things you can do with an older dog that aren't options for you yet, to help make that transition. Pup needs to be in the crate and not let out when they cry though, unless it's to go potty. I would give it another week, being very consistent with not letting pup out unless to pee, practicing the Surprise method often for 30 minutes to 1 hour at a time during the day, multiple times a day even if you are home (the surprise method practice is important), and keeping night time potty trips boring. When pup is older you can discipline the barking using an unscented air canister, not citronella though, called a pet convincer, to interrupt the barking, in addition to rewarding during the day. Pup is still learning how to cope with being alone and confined though, so they need time to see that if you don't free them, they are still safe and end up being fine, to adjust and start calming down in the crate, opposed to an older dog whose protests are a bit different. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rocky
German Shepherd
3 Months
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Question
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Rocky
German Shepherd
3 Months

How to get him to be calm at night

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
241 Dog owners recommended

Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.

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Question
Bailey
German Shepherd
12 Weeks
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Question
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Bailey
German Shepherd
12 Weeks

I don’t have a challenge. I was getting up during the middle of the night at least to let her go out to potty and then putting her back in her crate for the rest of the night. She started just sitting in the grass and not going potty, so I decided to test her all night, for the last week she goes to bed at 9ish and I don’t hear a sound from her all night until I let her out at 5:15am. If she is doing fine should I worry it’s too long for her to be in her crate that long for her all night sleeping? She seems just fine!

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
241 Dog owners recommended

Hello! It sounds like you are doing everything right! Usually by around 4 months of age, dogs can go an entire 8 hours at night without needing a potty break. You must have an early bloomer!

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Question
Dallas
German Shepherd
2 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Dallas
German Shepherd
2 Months

Crate sleeping. He is crying and howling for hours. Help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kerin, At 8 weeks of age I am guessing that you recently brought pup home? If that's the case, then know that what you are experiencing is completely normal. Pup is getting used to sleeping alone and that's an adjustment. Usually the first five days are the worst. It typically takes about two weeks for most pups to adjust completely; however, you can help that adjustment be as smooth as possible by doing the following. 1. When pup cries but doesn't have to go potty (like after you return them to the crate when they just went potty outside) be consistent about ignoring the crying until they go back to sleep. The more consistent you are the quicker the overall process tends to take even if it's hard to do for the first couple weeks. Some pups are very persistent and do cry for hours on and off the first three nights especially. You are not alone in this but almost all improve soon if you can stay consistent early on. 2. When pup does truly need to go potty (when it's been at least 2 hours since pup last peed), take pup to go potty outside on a leash to keep pup focused and things calmer. Don't give treats, food, play, or much attention during these trips - boring and sleepy is the goal, then right back to bed after. This helps pup learn to only wake when they truly need to go potty and be able to put themselves back to sleep - helping them start sleeping longer stretches sooner and not ask to go out unless they actually need to potty. Pup will generally need 1-2 potty trips at night even after trained for a couple months though due to a small bladder. 3. Wait until pup asks to go potty by crying in the crate at night before you take them - opposed to setting an alarm clock, unless pup is having accidents in the crate and not asking to go out. This gives pup the chance to learn to start falling back to sleep when they wake in light sleep if they don't really need to go potty, instead of being woken up all the way when they could have held it a bit longer. 4. Practice the Surprise method from the article I have linked below to help pup get used to crate time during the day too - so that there is less crying at night due to pup adjusting to being alone more quickly during the day. Surprise method - only give treats during daytime practice, not at night though: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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