Sorry, double post, but now that the crate issue is resolved, I figured I'd answer the questions
What type of crate do you use and what materials does your doberman lie on.
We use an XL Vari Kennel Ultra, with a large folded blanket inside to lay on. He's never chewed his blanket, and we've never had to partition it off when he was smaller since he's never eliminated in it.
How did you train your doberman to use the crate, how long did it take?
We started by feeding him meals in the crate to create a positive association with it. We played games by it and had him chase toys and treats in it. We'd put him in it with the door closed for short periods, and let him back out before he started crying. We've NEVER used it for punishment or time-outs.
The first night he was in it, he cried for about 20 mins, the second night for about 8 mins, and after that he hasn't cried at night at all. And he doesn't cry in it when we put him in there to leave the house anymore either.
I rotate safe chew toys in it, so he never knows what fun things he will find in there when he goes in.
All in all, it took about a month for him to be totally accepting of the crate and to go in it willingly when he tell him to.
What uses does the crate serve for you and how does your doberman see the crate? (bedroom, punishment, etc)
The crate is his bedroom at night and while we are out of the house or can't watch him (like when we're in the shower or something). It has never been used for time-outs or punishment. He hasn't needed very many time-outs, but when he does, he lays on his fleece blanket in the main room for a few minutes. We never wanted him to associate the crate with unhappy things such as time-outs or punishments - and it has worked for us. He goes in his crate willingly when we ask him to, and lays down immediately. He knows it's not a bad place and has accepted it beautifully.
When did you stop using the crate?
We haven't stopped using it. We probably always will considering he likes it and he can stay out of trouble when we are gone or at night.
What techniques did you use to Housebreak/potty train you doberman? (puppy pads, etc)
We put up a tall gate in the doorway from our family room to the rest of the house so he was confined to the room where we spend most of our time so we could keep a close watch on him. And we took him out every 20-30 minutes for "potty" and praised and rewarded him every time he eliminated outside. He also went out 10-15 mins after eating, playing, and napping. We keep a close eye on him for sniffing around, restlessness, or circling. We've never given him a chance to make a mistake since we take him out so much and keep such a close eye on him.
And we've utilized his crate for night-time and when we aren't home. He's NEVER eliminated in his crate.
He is 17 weeks old, and in the 7 weeks we've had him, he's only had 2 VERY minor accidents, when he's started to squat to urinate, but we've caught him and took him outside. He's never even attempted to defecate in the house.
How long did it take it become 100% reliable, no more mistakes.
I am not going to consider him house-trained until he is 6 months old and hasn't had an accident in the house for 30 days. Once he hits both these milestones, we will be considered trained.
He's already close to his 30 days without an accident though, but he's got about 2 more months til he's 6 months old.
How does your Doberman alert you that they need to go out.
He hardly has a chance to tell us he needs to go since we take him out so often, but in the few times he's had to alert us, he's sat by the door and stared at us.
Do they go on different surfaces and in new locations easily? (if traveling and no grass is available)
No, Red will only eliminate on grass. Also, he has a hard time going if he is not in his own yard. He's only urinated twice on walks since we've had him - he usually holds it til we get home - and he'll only eliminate in someone else's yard while we are visiting if he doesn't have a choice. He's like people who refuse to use public toilets, and wait until they get home to use the bathroom, LOL