Crate TrainingI am a little biased because I personally don't agree with the general use of crates. To me it is the same idea as chaining a dog in the yard...I don't agree with that either. I think most people don't use crates correctly. Usually, it seems to be a place where the dog is punished for something he has done wrong.
The crate should be a positive experience for your dog, never a place for punishment. I have always lived in a small house and there really hasn't been enough room for a crate. However, I do understand some people may need to confine their dog in the house. For example, when getting a new puppy it may make sense to corral them while house breaking your dog. With that said, let's talk about crate training and how it can be helpful, particularly for house breaking your puppy.
Dogs in the wild will use a hollow tree or a cave where they are protected from allowing other animals to attack them. Your crate should emulate this type of experience for your dog. It should be a haven for them, not a place to be feared. Your dog should want to go the crate. Again, it should be a positive experience and place for him.
One very prominant trainer always uses a crate when getting a new dog or puppy. His theory is his dog needs to 'earn' the right to freely roam around the house. His dogs always go straight to the crate when they enter the house. He will 'reward' them by letting them out of the crate.
The crate should only be big enough for the dog to stand and turn around. A crate which is too large will allow the dog to sleep in one area and relieve themselves in another area of the same crate. This is very contradictory to being able to house train the dog.
Small puppies will sleep 15 to 18 hours per day, this is normal and helpful for potty training. They will learn the crate is a place for sleeping. After sleeping for so long, when he wakes up he will need to relieve himself. Puppies should only be allowed to relieve themselves outside.
A crate is never meant to be used as a place of punishment for the puppy, so a couple of safe toys would be welcome for crate-time. A kong filled with peanut butter or cream cheese goes a long way towards keeping a puppy quiet in a crate. Be careful of the toys you choose to leave - soft squeaky toys with bells are not healthy for pups. To often they will chew up these soft toys and get parts of them stuck in their bowels which often kills them.
Start crate training while you remain in the same room with the crated dog, frequently praising him and letting him know clearly it is pleasing to you that he remains in the crate, quietly. Frequent trips out of the room with quick returns with a praise through the bars will condition the dog to your comings and goings.
Gradually extend your absent periods, and in a short time, you can be gone several hours. While in the crate, the dog should not be scolded except for chewing on the wires. Some dogs will cry and scream when placed in a crate, you can make it clear you are not pleased with the screaming but often it does not impress the pup. So ignore it.
Crate confinement, done correctly, works so well many dogs soon choose the crate for naps and, in general, consider it their own private domain. They learn they can go into their crate and sleep and no one will step on them or jump on them. Some trainers will feed their dogs in their crates. Some will never feed outside the crate.
At night take the puppy out and give him an opportunity to do his duties. If you are in a protected area (a fenced back yard) let him go free of the leash. Be sure to stay out there with him. Lavishly praise him with GOOD OUTSIDE, or whatever when he has completed his duties. Take him inside at once and put him in his bed.
A puppy is NEVER ALLOWED TO HAVE FREE ACCESS TO THE HOUSE unless you have your eyes on the pup. If he poops on the floor because you turned your back for 45 seconds - well you screwed up and made a mistake. Don't blame the pup for your mistake.