There are a lot of people who would rather not have to crate their puppy (and of course, they don’t have any option but to do so), making it difficult if not impossible for them to do so.
What do they say?
“I hate the crate. I don’t like the noise it makes. I don’t want it in my bedroom.”
But what can we tell you that they won’t? We can tell you that a crate is often a place where your dog feels safe and comfortable.
Your puppy will come to associate the crate with this feeling and eventually, over time, it will become part of a relationship between you and your puppy.
It will be a part of your home, it will be part of your life, and when one or both of you has to leave for work or school, it will be in the same room where you keep all the other items that need to be shipped out from home. It is an extension of you as an individual.
The problem is: that there are people who never want this extension – that being “the dog in their bedroom with nothing but barking and whining and snoring for company.”
These people don’t want this comfort when they are at home with their family – and just like all the other things that make life pleasant for us as individuals, they want this comfort at home with our dogs, too.
When faced with these two very different desires – one person wants to live in their own world while they are home while the other person wants their dog to live comfortably in theirs – there is no easy answer; we need to take into account both needs at once in order to provide the ultimate solution: hassle-free confinement (with fur) or positive reinforcement (with love). This is why we call our product “Housebreaking A Puppy Without Crates.”
It doesn’t matter which one you choose; but if both choices seem too difficult for you (a) or too perfect (b), we recommend using our “Introductory Packages” instead, which combine both approaches (as shown on our introductory packages page).
Housebreaking a Puppy Without a Crate
The dog you have is a puppy. Of course, puppies do not know squat about housebreaking; what they do know is that you can’t leave them out in the yard all day, which is why even if your ‘dog park’ only has one or two other dogs to keep them company and explore, you need a crate.
So you buy a crate and put it wherever the pup wants to go. In the first week, the dog learns that he can go outside and run around (the best one-on-one exercise), but after that, it’s no use; he doesn’t understand why he can’t just lie down in front of the door without having to go outside to do so. So then you add a low-hanging fence or some sort of long leash.
The problem remains: the pup still refuses to leave the crate. Why? It turns out that puppies don’t understand why they should obey commands like “Sit!” or “Stay!” They are too young for these commands yet are still developing their own mental models of what should be done and how something should be done.
For example, how big a dog does it take for something like “Stay?” To become part of his mental model of being good? There are obvious answers: a big dog will probably say “No! I am going outside! I don’t need anything from you! But I may come back when I am hungry…
So be patient with me until then! Stay!” And then come back when he gets hungry… He will probably also say something like “Whoa there, buddy; it was just an exercise for you. You don’t have to stay forever… Stay now! Stay forever if my guard is down… Just stay until my guard comes up again…
Don’t make me stay alone on this walk home tonight after work… Oh, wait. My guard comes up again while we walk home together… Go away till your guard goes down again… Come back here when your guard goes down next time…Okay.. Go away now as soon as your guard goes down once more… And repeat this process over and over again until you get tired of it…
It takes a while for puppies to master this lesson — maybe 5 weeks or so — but once they get into it.
The Best Methods for Housebreaking Your Puppy
After years of trying, I finally came up with a decent way to housebreak my pup without a crate. I’m not selling the idea or method here; it is just common sense. The best way to keep your pup from peeing in your bed is to not let him out until he has had enough exercise and socialization time.
Here’s an example from my own experience: I have a small, two-bedroom apartment in New York City. After giving my pup daily walks and lots of exercises, I was finally able to remove him from his crate when he became too big for his crate. Within a few days, he managed to lay in the middle of the living room floor (safely) which is nearly as large as the entire apartment!
I recommend that you do this too: if you cannot keep your dog in a crate, house him so that he has plenty of space and exercise time early on in his development. And then let him be as large as possible before you start putting him inside again.
In this post, I will guide you through some practical tips for breaking housebreaking puppy habits without using crates or other containment devices — but first, let’s talk about why we should not use crates at all (and much more on why we should not do it anyway).
Training Your Puppy to Use a Potty Pad or Toilet
You don’t have to teach a puppy how to use a crate or the potty. You can simply let it use its instincts and give it lots of attention so that it is comfortable enough to go to the bathroom in its own environment.
Most puppies are not used to being touched in public, which means you need a lot of patience and persistence over time.
One of our clients had a dog who would pee on the carpet in his living room but would also pee outside his crate in the garage. Since we started working with him, he had become much more comfortable using the dog bed. In fact, this client was so impressed with his dog that he bought another one for himself!
Using the Paper Training Method
“Housebreaking a puppy without a crate” is the title of this post. It refers to a simple technique that I often use with my dogs. It is both easy and effective, and to do it you need nothing more than paper or cardboard; a pen; a ruler; and of course, some patience.
Like most things in life, it is worth doing it the right way (which also applies to dog training). So, here are the steps:
1. Draw one line on each side of the cardboard (or fold up one of your pants legs for really big dogs).
2. Write “Puppy” on each line.
3. Fold up each line into a square for easier folding and a more manageable size (the puppy will be the same size as the lines!).
4. Fold down one of the corners to create an X shape (this will make sure your puppy cannot escape from her crate). This fold should be at its widest point as shown in figure 1 below:
5. Your puppy can now be very comfortable in her crate, but she will not easily escape once in there (you have taught her that if she stays put she’ll be okay). She can also sleep comfortably there – she has learned that when you give her something — usually food — she needs to stay put until you are done with her duties (such as picking up her toys) or leaving her alone until you are done with your evening routine like brushing or bathing (or cleaning your house).
Safely Introducing Your Puppy to an Enclosed Yard or Small Space
The small space is a big part of the process. It can be scary when you first introduce your puppy to it, but it is necessary for safety and well-being.
The most important thing to remember about introducing a new dog to a small space is that you must provide them with a safe place to play. It cannot be a crate or even the same kind of crate as the one they have at home.
They need something that will keep them contained and contained safely in their own space, where they have room to run around and exercise (in their own way).
Most people think of dog kennels as “cages” in which they put your dog while they are away from home. The problem is that this isn’t very safe for dogs (or people) because dogs are naturally afraid of enclosed spaces and also tend to panic when presented with one for the first time.
When you bring your puppy into this situation, your puppy will not be able to escape without being hurt. So make sure there are no potential hazards:
- Place an unbreakable chain or fence where your pup can sit down without worrying about what might happen next — lock it up in a cage outside, so he cannot escape; or
- Leave an area clear enough for him to run around freely without worrying about accidentally falling downstairs or getting stepped on by his owner;
This is why many people put their puppies in crates while they are away from home (as well as why many people don’t actually use crates at all).
It makes sense if you have reason to believe that someone else (or even yourself) might be coming into the house, otherwise, you could get into trouble if something happens while you are out of sight and sound of your puppy — especially if it falls over or gets stepped on…but then again it may not be such a good idea either!
There should always be an alternative location where the pup can go when he needs to go out for a pee or do his business — though we don’t recommend putting him in a car with windows rolled up!