This is such a common question! The answer is:
I generally suggest that if your dog enjoys their crate, you might as well keep the momentum for the first year to 18 months. This will carry you through puppyhood and the “adolescent experience”, so to speak. Dogs between 6-18 months become more independent and can sometimes get a bit destructive as a result.
There’s no rush!
When you do decide to leave them loose in the home, you’ll want to be sure that puppy proofing is done and that you start with very small increments. In fact, you can use this very same guide to work through that process, imagining that the living room or the main floor is their “new crate”. Many people opt to gate off an area to start, or at least close the doors to the bedrooms, bathrooms, and stairs.
Continue monitoring for the first few weeks as their behaviour can change with this newfound freedom. What you see on day one, may not be how your luck continues!
If you notice that they are getting into things, having accidents (too much freedom can do this!), or becoming destructive, it’s no reason for punishment; it’s information. It’s time to go back to crating or confinement for another month and try again. Maturity helps. Everyone in their own time.
At this point, I install a baby gate near the front door to block access as we come in and out of the home – this prevents door-darting and keeps your dog from getting loose and getting lost.
They grow up so fast…