Most new pet owners misunderstand the purpose of a dog crate. It is not a "cage" used for punishment of the poor puppy. A crate is a wonderful tool if used correctly. It is, in fact, the fastest and easiest way to potty train a puppy. The puppy should consider the crate his safe "den". Once you understand this fact, you will be able to use the puppy's den to your advantage and develop an appropriate potty training strategy.
You need to think like a dog for this to work. A dog never selects a busy area for his "den". He usually selects a dark corner off by himself where he feels secure, safe and protected. He will select a spot under a table, between furniture, or under a chair where he is able to see approaching people or other animals. The dog reverts back to his natural instinct of being a wolf no matter how domesticated we think he is. Therefore, use this concept to your advantage.
Now that you understand the dog's purpose for the crate is his "den", we can continue. The dog will not make his den dirty. If a dog is properly trained to love his den, he will have the instinct to keep it clean. This is the main reason why a crate works in potty training your dog. A dog feels comfortable and safe in his crate and above all he wishes to have a clean environment.
A puppy follows a set pattern as the time to go potty. When he wakes up from a nap, after he eats, after he plays hard, or after it has been a while since he last went potty -- take the puppy outside to take care of his business. A puppy can not hold it a long time so you need to be trained to anticipate when he has to go potty. The better trained you become, the better trained your puppy will be.
The following schedule should help to train the puppy's owner along with the puppy:
Puppy wakes up in his crate, you wake right up. Both you and the puppy go immediately outside. The puppy goes potty, you praise the puppy. Puppy comes back into the house for breakfast. After breakfast you both go back outside for the puppy to go potty. Puppy goes and you praise the puppy. The puppy now can play for a while safely in the house, then back outside, potty, praise, return into the house, naptime in the crate.
Puppy wakes up from his nap, time to go outside. Puppy goes, you praise, back into the house for lunch. Puppy eats lunch, goes outside with you and goes potty, you praise, back into the house for playtime. Puppy plays hard. Time for you to take the puppy outside to go potty, puppy goes, you praise. Back into the house and puppy's afternoon naptime.
Puppy wakes up from his nap, you both go outside, puppy goes, you praise, back in the house for playtime. Time to go back outside, puppy goes, you praise, back in the house. Do you follow the pattern here? Time for puppy's dinner, puppy eats, puppy goes outside with you and goes potty, you praise, back into the house and more playtime. Follow the routine?
You both go outside, puppy goes, you praise, back into the house. Time for bed. Puppy goes into the crate. The puppy may need to get up in the night. Follow the same routine as during the day. You take the puppy outside, he goes, you praise, back into the house and return to the crate for the rest of the night, hopefully.
Depending on the age of the puppy, he may need to go more than once or twice during the night. This improves with age. Remember in the middle of the night when you have to get up from your warm bed, why you love your puppy.
Please be patient. Aren't you glad that the puppy is waking you up to go potty?
If you work, don't expect the puppy to hold it for 10 to 12 hours while you are at work. Make arrangements to go home at lunch, or have a neighbour or friend come over and let the puppy out to go potty, praise and play routine is still followed.
As the puppy gets older and can hold it longer, the crate is not as necessary. Just make sure if you allow your dog freedom that he is still confined in a safe place. Watch out for electrical cords and unsafe chew items. Get on the floor and crawl around to see what is at your dog's level. Where can he get into trouble? Make it safe.