Q. I have reviewed all of your content on crate training—thank you! All of the articles suggest using the crate to support housebreaking, but also say not to rush crate use as it will create a negative relationship with the crate. If you need the puppy to be in the crate when you are not home but he doesn't like the crate, what do you do? Leave the puppy out of the crate in a cordoned-off area and clean up any messes? Or, gently push him in the crate and then work to overcome the fear/uncertainty/mistrust?
A: Many people with puppies that are still learning to like the crate set up an exercise pen or enclosed, small area for the puppies to spend time in while the owners are at work. If you gently push the puppies into the crate, they are building negative associations with crate each and every time. This choice really takes you further backwards in the long run.
Make sure your mudroom or exercise pen has been puppy-proofed. Cover one end of the space with newspaper or puppy pads (depending on how long you will be gone). Set up the crate, water bowl, and safe puppy toys and chews at the other end.
Try to keep the number of times the puppy is confined to a space like this to as few as possible. Instead, arrange for someone to watch your puppy during the day or have a dog walker come in at noon if you aren't able. Time in a space like this can work against your house training efforts in the short-term if you are gone for longer than your puppy can hold it. However, sometimes it's unavoidable when crate training effectively.
For more tips on crate training, see Where’s the Potty: How to House Train Your Puppy and Crate Training.