How to Train a Puppy Without a Crate in 9 Steps


When house training your puppy, many would recommend that you use a crate when you are starting out. However, it is also possible not to use the crate when house training your pup. There are plenty of reasons why a dog owner won’t opt for a crate. Some people just don’t like crates, others may have brought in a dog that had a traumatic experience with the crate from their past owner, or some don’t have adequate space in their home.

Using a crate is not essential when it comes to house training your puppy, it is just the preferred choice for many owners. There are alternative methods you can use, but they all have a common denominator – constant supervision.

Steps in Training a Puppy Without a Crate

1. Learn your puppy’s specific behaviors that signal they are about to do their business.

You should always be ready to pick your puppy up and take them to the right potty spot. Some of the signs you can look out for are circling around, sniffing the ground, squatting, or attempting to escape to a quiet area.

It may sound like a lot of work, but there are ways you can make it easier for you. You can have your puppy sit on your lap or sleep beside you, rest assured that they will not do their business on you.

2.    Use a leash when walking around the house with you.

Having your puppy attached to you on a leash called the Umbilical Cord Training. Constant supervision is also needed in this method. It requires effort and concentration of the part of the owner, although it is not as demanding as “pure constant vision” because of the physical attachment between the owner and the puppy.

Where ever you go, your dog goes with you with this method. This is great because it minimizes any “accident’ because you are there to interrupt your puppy right away when they are doing their business in areas they shouldn’t. You can immediately take them to the right potty spot and let them finish doing their business there.

You can use a 6-foot leash, which is the ideal length to give your puppy room to move around and having them close enough at the same time. A longer leash would be too loose and can tangle around your puppy’s legs and yours, as well. On the other hand, a shorter leash would be too restrictive.

You have to keep in mind that you need your puppy to get used to wearing a collar and a leash. Don’t expect your puppy to get used to wearing a collar immediately. You should take it slowly. It may take them 6 to 7 days to get used to it.

3.    You can use a pet barrier, baby gate, or puppy playpen if you want to restrict your puppy to a small room.

You can use the kitchen, the bathroom, or some small room you have in your house. You have to make sure that the area is large enough for a place to sleep and some water at one end and a puppy pad on the other.

4.    Stick to a regular feeding schedule and potty breaks.

You have to establish regular feeding times and observe your puppy five to thirty minutes after eating if they need to do their business. As you start your training, you may want to bring your puppy outside to their potty spot every two hours during the day. You can increase the length of time between their potty breaks for an hour every week until you are on an appropriate schedule that you can stick to on a daily basis. Eventually, your puppy will be accustomed to doing their business during the scheduled times.

5.    Establish a designated potty spot outside for your puppy.

You have to be consistent and stick to your chosen spot. Take your puppy to the designated area and wait until they actually do their business. Your puppy will associate the odor of the spot to doing their business. You should always take your puppy to the same spot so they can learn where they are supposed to eliminate.

6.    Take your puppy to their potty spot first thing in the morning, after naps, and before bedtime.

You have to be patient. Give your puppy time to do their business, and it may take several minutes. Allow your puppy enough time so they can finish and sniff around. It just means that they are familiarizing themselves with the surroundings and making themselves comfortable to do their business.

7.    Give your puppy a reward for successfully going potty outside.

You can praise your puppy by petting them and saying “good boy” or “good girl.” You can also give them a small treat every time your puppy goes potty at the right spot. Do this regularly, and your puppy will associate going potty outside with treats and positive reinforcement.

8.    Startle your puppy with a clap or the word “no” when you catch them in the act of going potty at the wrong spot.

Remember not to scare your puppy, and you have to take them to the right potty spot immediately, so they could finish off there. Never yell at them. If you scare your pup, they may associate potty time as something bad. You have to focus on positive reinforcement rather than punishing your pup. When they successfully finish doing their business at the right spot after you take them there, give them a treat as well and praise them.

You also have to remember that when you pick your puppy up mid-accident, you have to do it calmly and quietly because it can also be scary for them.

9.    Let your puppy sleep near you or beside you at night.

If you are a light sleeper, you can let your puppy sleep with you in your bed. You can snuggle them close to you. Your dog will stir when they want to go potty, and you will undoubtedly wake up. This way, you will be able to bring them outside to do their business. Remember that puppies have to relieve themselves as soon as they wake up. It is very seldom that they can sleep six to eight hours without having the need to go potty.

If your puppy can’t sleep in your bed with you, you can set up a bed for them on the floor that you can easily reach. You can also opt to set the alarm every two to three hours for night potty breaks for your puppy. When you return inside, make sure that your puppy is sleeping before you can go back to bed. It is hard, but you have to do it if you want your dog to be house trained.

Keeping Your Puppy Safe at Home

When you are doing a crate-free training for your dog, you have to puppy-proof your home for their safety.

Set Boundaries

New puppies and dogs should spend their first days or weeks in a restricted space when you are not available to supervise them. This will cut down the chance of them having accidents inside the house. If you have a small dog or one that is not athletic or overly hyper, you can set up an exercise pen or a baby gate so they can also see what is going on in the other areas of the house and can alleviate boredom, as well. If you have a larger and energetic dog, you may use a closed door.

Pick Up Your Cell Phone, Remote Control, Shoes, or Anything Your Dog Can Chew On

If you don’t want your things to be your puppy’s chew toy, pick them up, and put them somewhere they can’t reach.

Cover Electrical Cords

Install chew-proof covers and child-safety guards on electrical outlets that are unused. You can use aquarium tubing or spiral cable wrap as cord covers.

Do Not Leave Toys Lying Around the House

Your puppy will mistake children’s toys for dog toys. Those small toys can be dangerous for your dog. They can accidentally swallow the toy, and it can lead to unfortunate situations. Your dog should have their own toys. When you catch them chewing on something they should not redirect them to an approved toy.

Secure Blind and Curtains Cords

Dogs and cats are known to strangle themselves when entangled in cords. Remember to tie the cords and keep them high where your dog can’t reach. You also have to make sure that your window screens are secure before you leave the house or leaving your dog in a room with a window. You also have to beware of plastic bags and choke collars, for they are also strangling dangers to your dog.

Avoid Kitchen Mishaps

Never fail to put food away after eating or preparing a meal. You can also install childproof locks on cabinet doors that your dog can reach. This will prevent them from getting into toxic cleaners, chemicals, and food. Some examples of harmful food for your dog include chocolate, avocados, grapes, coffee, macadamia nuts, raisings, alcoholic beverages, and onions.

Weed Out Toxic Plants

You should be aware of the poisonous houseplants and get rid of them if you have them in your house. Common poisonous houseplants are ivy, cyclamen, dieffenbachia, dracaena, pothos, Schefflera, and philodendron. Move them to a place where your dog can’t easily access, such as a three-seasoned or screened-in porch. Some of these plants, when ingested, can cause minor discomfort, but some can be deadly.

Use Trash Cans with Lids

One way or another, your dog will try to get into the trash, so you should use a trash can with a lid the tightly latches. Don’t forget your recycling bins, as well.

Keep All Medicines Locked Away

All medicines, both over-the-counter and prescription, should be locked away in a linen closet, child-proof under-sink cabinet, or in the medicine cabinet. If you have medications in your purse, you should keep it somewhere high or in your closet. Don’t forget toothpaste and soaps too. Several types of toothpaste contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. You can also find xylitol in chewing gum.

House Training Basics that You Need to Know

Most owners choose outside as the designated potty spot for their puppies, while some choose a potty spot inside for some reason. You have to make the decision on whether you want the potty spot outside or inside before you get your puppy. You also have to prepare properly and commit yourself to see the house-training trough until your dog masters it.

Outdoor Training

Outdoor training is the preferred choice is you are an able-bodied, healthy person with access to a peaceful and quiet street, yard, garden. Outdoor potty training will benefit you because it is easier to train your puppy this way, easier to maintain, and kinder on your nose.

Once you have trained your dog, there is significantly less chance that you will need to wipe your floors and carpets clean because of their mess. There are also downsides with outdoor training. It can be inconvenient for you and your dog when it is raining or snowing.

Indoor Training

Indoor training is more ideal if you live on the 27th floor of a tall building, and you don’t have easy access to the stress or a yard. It is also recommended for owners who have mobility problems. In these situations, it would be cumbersome to take your dog outside repeatedly on a daily basis, especially when your puppy can’t hold it anymore because “outside” is too far.

When you plan to potty train your dog indoors, mistakes are likely to happen. There will be instances when your puppy’s potty spot will be missed. You will end up constantly cleaning up the mess. You have to clean the spot thoroughly and it can be very tiring if you do this more than once a day.

Choosing this method will also require you to set aside space in your house for your dog’s exclusive use as their toilet.

Indoor training can be a lot more difficult when you have a larger dog because they produce a huge mess. This type of potty training is more suitable for smaller breeds.

Combination of Outdoor and Indoor Training

You might want to do a combination of the two if you work long hours or are mobility impaired. It can be confusing for the dog. However, if done with proper planning and care, it can be the right solution for some situations.

Methods of House Training a Puppy Other than Using the Crate

Paper Training

The idea for this training is to start inside then move outside. You will train your puppy to potty of papers or pads inside the house. This should prevent your pup from doing their business elsewhere. The pads are absorbent and will hold the pee and poop making it easier for you to clean up.

Although you can use a good old newspaper, several owners choose puppy pads because they are more absorbent. There are scented variants, as well. You can also opt to use sided trays to hold the pad in place. It could also make cleaning easier.

You can also choose to use litter boxes. There are some novelty toilets available in the market, but to some, these are completely unnecessary. You may also need a playpen, x-pen, or baby gates to keep your puppy confined in a small area whenever you can’t supervise them.

Paper training relies on three facts:

  • Puppies will get used to going potty in the same area they’ve regularly done their business before.
  • Puppies will want to go potty in spots where they can smell they have done potty before.
  • Puppies will do their business on covered and softer surfaces than cold, hard floors.

How to Paper Train Your Puppy

  • Decide where will be your puppy’s potty spot inside the house. Pick an area that is relatively small where you can confine your puppy easily with a puppy playpen, x-pen or baby gates. Choose an area with a tiled, hardwood, or linoleum floor so it’s easy to clean and won’t soak up urine. You should avoid carpeted areas. The ideal rooms are the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry rooms.
  • Cover your puppy’s area with newspaper or puppy pads, and you can set up their bed, bowl of water, and some toys. When the area is completely covered, they simply cannot miss. Your puppy will learn that they have to potty on the paper or pad.
  • Don’t leave dirty paper or pad down long. Change the paper or pad immediately after your puppy eliminates. You want your dog to get used to a tidy and clean place. Remember that dogs don’t want to spend time close to their waste.

After cleaning, you can keep a piece of the previously used paper or pad. You can use it to encourage your puppy to potty in the area you want. Puppies tend to eliminate where they have before. When they smell the odor of their waste, they will be drawn to that area to do their business again.

When it comes to accidents, it is important to clean the area thoroughly to prevent your dog from eliminating there again.

  • Eventually, your puppy will learn to do their business close to that same spot, and the rest of the paper or pad stays clean. When you notice this behavior, you can start cutting down on the area covered by the paper or pad. First, remove 1/3 of the paper or pad that is under the puppy’s bed and water.

Remember that puppies have the instinct not to potty close to their bed and water supply. They will naturally gravitate to the paper or pad on the other end of the area. You have to supervise your puppy still. If they attempt to do their business in the wrong spot, you can intervene immediately and redirect them to the right potty spot. Let them finish relieving themselves there and give them a treat or praise them once they are finished.

You must also praise your puppy every time they go potty on the right spot without your help. Giving them a reward will encourage them to potty in the right area.

  • When your puppy is regularly eliminating on the paper or pad, you can now slowly decrease the area that the pads or paper cover. Do it day by day, and sheet by sheet. Remove the paper or pad closest to the bed and water area first. If your puppy goes potty off the paper or pad, you may need to increase the area covered with paper or pad once more.
  • When you have reduced the size of the paper or pad, you can begin moving the paper or pad to the final potty spot you have chosen. For most owners, it would be outside. However, some will still choose the area to be inside the house.

Don’t rush. Move the paper or pad gradually, a little each day. Your puppy should follow the paper or the pad. Make sure to clean the area thoroughly every time, so there will be no odor left. Your dog will likely eliminate on the same spot even without the paper or pad because they can smell the odor of their waste in that particular spot.

Umbilical Cord House Training

Umbilical cord training is based on the principle of constant supervision where your puppy is attached to you by a leash. You will need to focus and put in a lot of effort for this method to work. However, it will not be as demanding as the pure constant supervision due to your physical attachment to your dog. They are not able to sneak out or go anywhere they want because of the leash.

How to Do Umbilical Cord Training

  • First, your puppy should get used to wearing a collar and leash. Do it slowly, and don’t take them by surprise.
  • When your puppy is finally comfortable with the collar and leash. You can attach your dog to you or a family member. Six feet is the ideal length for a leash. You can loop your belt through the handle. Don’t loop the leash around your ankle, because when your puppy grows stronger, they can pull you over.
  • Never fail to take your puppy to their potty spot on a schedule that suits their age and activities. You also have to watch for cues that they are about to do their business, such as circling around, sniffing the floor, becoming agitated, or squatting. Whenever you notice the signs, take your puppy to their potty spot right away. Of course, don’t forget to praise and reward them for every successful potty.
  • When you catch your puppy relieving themselves in the inappropriate area, you can say a calm but firm “no” and take them to the correct potty spot. Never shout or get angry, because they can become scared.

When they are able to finish doing their business in the correct spot, praise, and reward them. What’s good about umbilical cord training is that you can immediately catch your puppy when they are eliminating in the wrong area.

  • If you take your pup for a scheduled potty time, but they weren’t able to go relieve themselves, return inside the house and observe them intently. You can take them back outside after five, ten, or twenty minutes to try to potty again.
  • When your puppy has successfully eliminated outside, you can give them a chance for some freedom off-leash. Let them go for a short while. The time will depend on their age and how trustworthy they are.

If your puppy is under twelve weeks, you can let them go for 3 to 5 minutes. For 12 to 16-week old puppies, you can give them 10 minutes. If your puppy is over 16 weeks, you can give them 15 minutes. Remember that even when your puppy is off-leash, you still have to supervise them

One of the downsides of umbilical cord training is it can be tiring because your dog is tethered to you at all times. However, it forms a strong bond between you and your puppy, and the exhaustion will be well worth it.

Related Question

How can I figure out what house-training method is best for my puppy and me?

If you have to go to work daily, crate or paper training may be the preferred one for you. If you spend the majority of your time at home, the umbilical cord training will be perfect for you and your dog.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter what method you used when it comes to house training your dog. The most important thing is you have to be committed, consistent, and observant. Your dog won’t learn what is the right thing to do if you are not dedicated and consistent in training them. It can be hard, but you will reap the rewards as your dog ages. You still have to follow up on the training even if they have learned the behavior. It will make them not forget the action later on.

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