Crates and Housetraining
What does a crate have to do with housetraining? Plenty! For starters, it prevents your Lab from having accidents in the house. Dogs are den animals, and their instinct is never to soil their den — in this case, the crate. Putting your Lab in his crate when you aren't there to supervise keeps him from having an accident on your carpet.
Crates Aren't Cruel
You might worry that putting your Lab in a cage is cruel. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Your Lab will appreciate having a place where he can relax and feel safe. What's cruel is not protecting him from making mistakes and then punishing him when he does something wrong. Teaching your Lab through positive means — by showing him what you want and preventing him from doing the wrong thing — is much more effective than yelling at him after he makes a mistake.
To help make the crate special for your dog, make it a happy place. Besides sleeping in the crate at night, he can eat his meals in there, too. Every time you put your Lab in his crate, give him a treat and say “Crate!” “Place!” or “Bed!” in a happy tone of voice. Pretty soon, all you'll have to do is call “Crate!” — or the word of your choice — and your Lab will scramble to go to his bed so he can get that yummy snack.
Use the Crate Responsibly
Except for nighttime, your Lab should never spend more than four hours at a time in his crate. For one thing, he needs plenty of opportunities to exercise. Plus, if he's left in his crate too long, he'll have an accident inside it, which defeats the purpose of crate-training.
If you are gone for longer than the four hours, leave your Lab in his safe room instead. Open his crate, put a couple of chew toys in it, as well as food and water dishes in one part of the room. Cover the floor with papers, so that any accidents will be easy to clean up. If you find that your Lab consistently potties in a certain area, you can gradually take up the papers, leaving them only in the favored potty spot.
The crate is not meant to be a place for punishment. Never put your dog in the crate in an angry fashion. You want it to be a safe, secure place for him.