I have many discussions with owners that are seeking advice on house training. I don't believe there is any right or wrong way, but in my experience I have found crate training to be the most effective.
How big should the crate be? Don't buy a crate that your puppy is going to outgrow within weeks. Purchase one that comes with a divider so your puppy can grow into the crate. This crate should be thought of as a den, a safe haven...not a place of punishment. Your pet should feel like he/she can go into the crate at anytime. I always recommend leaving the door open. The puppy should be able to go into the crate lie down,stretch out and be comfortable. He or she should not be able to use one end for resting and the other end for elimination. If that is happening then chances are your crate is too big..this is when you need to use the divider to make it smaller. Remember, animals don't like to sleep/rest in their own feces or urine....who would?!
What should be put in the crate ? A bed and an assortment of toys and bones.In other words things to keep them entertained and comfortable. On hot days if they are going to be confined for a couple of hours a bowl of water.
When should the puppy be confined to the crate? I think one of the biggest mistakes that new puppy owners make is giving their new little buddy too much freedom. Why?.....They feel bad about putting them in the crate! Well,my usual answer is 2 fold - first, crate training is only temporary and second, you will feel a lot worse when you have an adult dog who is going to the bathroom all over your house!!!! I have found that most dogs actually enjoy their time in their "den". So lets get back to the original question.... a puppy should be confined to his/her crate whenever 1) the owner is home but unable to keep a watchful eye 2) when an owner plans to leave the house and 3)nighttime.
Additional Tips - At nighttime, especially during early weeks of training, if your puppy cries during the night you have to assume they need to go outside...yup.that means you have to drag yourself out of bed! Never a a fun time in the dead of winter!
I suggest to my clients that they come up with a keyword that teaches our dogs (through repetition), that they need to go to the bathroom...mine is "hurry up". Nine times out of ten if I say " hurry up", my guys will do their business.... really helpful when I'm running late and they are outside sniffing everything in sight.
I encourage owners to take them to the same area of the yard, always go with them and use a collar and leash. Our dogs are smart and they are also creatures of habit. They are quick to see a pattern and put two and two together!
When a puppy firsts arrives home the first weeks are all about getting to know one another. You will quickly learn the subtle or maybe not such subtle cues that a puppy gives off. Have fun with your new family member. Be patient, it will all come together before you know it!