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This is the 8th part of my 13 part series: House Training – The Ultimate Guide.
There are many reasons an owner may not want or be able to use a crate during house training.
Some people just don’t like them, others may have adopted a dog that experienced abuse from a previous owner involving a crate and some just don’t have the room for one in a small home or cannot stand the look of one ruining their interior design.
The good news is, you can succeed at house training without a crate. Using one isn’t essential, it’s just the preferred option for many.
So what are the alternatives? There’s a few, but they all essentially come down to one thing: ‘constant supervision’.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- What Is ‘Constant Supervision’ House Training?
- How Does Constant Supervision House Training Work? What’s The Basic Technique?
- What Equipment Do You Need? How Do You Prepare?
- Who Is This Method Most Suited To? Who Should Use It?
- Is House Training Without A Crate Difficult?
- My Complete House Training Program
- Top Picks For Our Dogs
What Is ‘Constant Supervision’ House Training?
Constant supervision house training covers a range of techniques that don’t involve the use of a crate. Instead it relies on constantly watching your dog or puppy, 100% of the time.
Using a crate takes of advantage of the fact a puppy will not eliminate inside their den if it isn’t so large that they can toilet at one end and sleep at the other.
So when you cannot supervise them, you pop them in a crate.
But if you’re not using one, no other confinement space will be so small that your puppy is discouraged from eliminating in there.
Without a crate, you have no opportunity to take your eyes off your puppy with a guarantee that they won’t make a mistake. And every mistake is a missed opportunity to train the right thing, a backward step in training and certainly some deep cleaning to do.
Therefore, the only quick path to success is constant, and I mean CONSTANT supervision. You must watch them like a hawk to be sure they won’t potty on your floors and carpets. They can never be left unsupervised.
How Does Constant Supervision House Training Work? What’s The Basic Technique?
The idea is a dog or puppy who isn’t house trained can never be left alone or unwatched in the home.
It takes just a few seconds for a puppy to relieve themselves where they shouldn’t and you simply must prevent this.
So you have to learn to watch for your puppy’s particular behaviors that signal they’re about to relieve themselves and be ready to jump into action to take them to their bathroom spot.
Some signs to look out for are sniffing the ground, trying to escape to a quiet spot, circling around or squatting.
You have to be watching so keenly that you either prevent any mistakes, or catch every mistake and correct them, stopping them in their tracks and directing them towards pottying in the right place.
This sounds a lot of work, and it is, but you can make things a little easier on yourself.
You can sometimes have your puppy sitting in your lap, or sleeping beside you and they will not toilet on you (although it’s not completely unknown!) so you can relax then a little.
You can also attach them to a leash and have them walk around the house with you as you go (umbilical cord training). If you’re physically connected, they cannot sneak off and make a mistake.
But the most important thing is that you always have either an eye on them, or a physical connection, so you always know what they’re doing.
What Equipment Do You Need? How Do You Prepare?
As with all methods of house training, there is some equipment you’ll need. But constant supervision training, especially if you are training your puppy to toilet outside, is the method that requires the least.
With true constant supervision where yourself or a family member is home 100% of the time, you don’t need a crate, a playpen or puppy pads.
All you need is a leash, collar, some food treats as a reward for doing the right thing and some cleaning equipment for the inevitable accidents.
But many of you will need to spend at least some time out of the home and leave your puppy alone. So you will likely need puppy pads and a baby gate or play pen at least.
Some Form Of Confinement Is Almost Always Necessary
Nobody, but nobody can have their puppy with them and supervise them 100% of the time.
If you do not have a crate and need to pop out for a couple of hours, you should instead confine your puppy to a larger but fully puppy proofed area, preferably one that is easy to clean.
The best advice is to create an area in one of the following two ways:
- Use a baby gate or pet barrier to restrict your puppy to a single room, usually a bathroom or the kitchen.
- Purchase and use a ‘puppy play pen’ or ‘x-pen’ which effectively fences off a small area for your puppy to spend time in that keeps them out of trouble.
With both options, you must make sure that the space available is large enough for bedding and some water at one end and some paper or a puppy pad for pottying at the other.
My article on house training products and supplies details what you need and why for all methods of house training.
After reading the article you will easily be able to decide what equipment and tools you need, without wasting money on unnecessary things.
Who Is This Method Most Suited To? Who Should Use It?
It’s a method best suited to people who can spend all day with their puppy. People that work from home, or the retired.
It’s also suitable for people who just do not agree with the use of a crate.
Furthermore, it’s a necessity for people who have a crate phobic dog or have received advice from the rescue center when adopting not to crate their dog.
It’s worth noting that every owner uses constant supervision in their house training, whether using a crate or not.
When using one you can enjoy short periods where you don’t have to watch your puppy and know they will not have an accident, and you will enjoy not having to clean up so many mistakes because there will be fewer.
But when a puppy is outside of the crate, you will be using constant supervision too. It’s the only way.
Is House Training Without A Crate Difficult?
As a fair assessment, I would have to say constant supervision is the hardest method to use.
You have to watch your puppy closely every second of the day. This is VERY hard to do. Life gets in the way in the form of washing, cooking, visitors, phone calls, household chores and more.
Spending so much time having to supervise without breaks is draining, and when you slip up they can sneak off and potty anywhere.
Additionally, you have no crate to temporarily confine your puppy during which time they will ‘hold it’. So without crating, accidents in the home will definitely be increased by comparison.
Furthermore, compared to paper training there’s no paper or puppy pads your puppy can go to of their own accord. So you must always be on high alert.
But if you have the time, are always home and can get into the habit of supervising your puppy, the method is effective and you will certainly succeed.
But I would still recommend utilizing paper training and a baby gate or puppy play pen for the unavoidable times where you just cannot be there to supervise. You can pop them in their play pen and at least keep the rest of your home clean.
Any dog that isn’t yet house trained must be closely supervised at all times. And the second they make moves to potty where they shouldn’t, you have to interrupt them and take them to the right spot.
This is the be all and end all of this method.
I recommend and use the crate method myself, but if it doesn’t suit your situation, constant supervision is a method that with patience and consistency will have you find success.
But constant supervision isn’t only for crate averse owners, it’s a very large part of any house training program. It must be used any time a puppy is free in the home and not in their crate or long-term confinement area. This method plays a large part in my detailed puppy house training article that you can read by clicking here.
There is another method that uses constant supervision and no crate, one that requires slightly less concentration so is a little less demanding on the trainer. And you can read about that here: ‘Umbilical cord house training‘.
My Complete House Training Program
This was part 8 in a 12-part series where I’ve provided all the guidance you could possibly ever need and covered everything I can think of for you to be able to successfully house train your puppy or adult dog.
Please see the entire series linked to below:
- Part 1: House Training – The Ultimate Guide
- Part 2: Basic Need To Know Facts Before You Start
- Part 3: The Mindset And Approach You Must Take
- Part 4: House Training Products, Supplies And Equipment You will Need
- Part 5: Accidents Happen: How To Remove Pet Stains And Odors
- Part 6: Feeding Choices Make A Massive Difference
- Part 7: How To Use A Crate To House Train A Puppy
- Part 8: House Training WITHOUT A Crate: Constant Supervision
- Part 9: How To Paper Train Your Puppy Or Dog The Easy Way
- Part 10: Umbilical Cord House Training: What is It? How Does It Work?
- Part 11: House Training Your Puppy – An Easy to Follow Guide
- Part 12: How To House Train An Adult Dog – And Solving Common Issues
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Top Picks For Our Dogs
- BEST PUPPY TOY
We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
- BEST DOG CHEW
We Like: Bones & Chews Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
- BEST DOG TREATS
We Like: Crazy Dog Train Me Treats - One of our favorite treats for training our service dog puppies.
- BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.
For a list of all the supplies we get for our new service dog puppies check out our New Puppy Checklist on the PuppyInTraining.com blog.
I have a rescued lab/golden retreiver mix, I got her when she was 8 weeks old, she had been a outside dog when we got her.
We used training pads to potty train her. We tried to catch her whenever she needed to poop and take her outside. Within a few days she was sitting at the door to let us know when she needed to go. It took a little while to get her to do this when she had to pee, but she did eventually, and we haven’t had accidents for quite some time.
The problem we have is that she goes to the door when she has to go to the bathroom, but she also does it when she just wants to go outside. I feel like I need to take her every time, because I don’t want to ignore her and have her have a accident. I take her out at set times also, but she still needs to go in between. How do I know when she needs to potty, and when she just wants to chase butterflies?
I believe that housebreaking your puppy without a crate can be very challenging task. This method of training is more easily done in practice for small dogs due to the smaller volume of waste that is produced by a larger breed.
Whatever did people do before crates ??? I would never put my pup in a crate. Over the years I have had several dogs. I house trained them all without a crate..I was raised in the 60s and 70s when crates weren’t even heard of. Everyone had dogs and raised them without the use of a crate…Society is getting lazy, people want to take the easy way out. They want to reap the benefits without any effort on their part. Unfortunately this means putting a poor innocent puppy who has just been taken away from its mother and siblings, put in unfamiliar surroundings with humans he doesn’t know. The puppy is scared, homesick for its dog mom and siblings so hey, lets throw it in a cage and make it hold its poop and pee until the humans decide it when it can relieve himself…Animal cruelty is what it is….When humans are put in cages, its because they have been convicted of a crime. They’re put in a cage called jail. Its punishment…If you aren’t able to make the sacrifices necessary to give a puppy a home without throwing it in a cage, don’t get a puppy.. There are older dogs, already housebroken in shelters and rescues that need a loving home.
I have 5, yes 5 little dogs. three are the offspring of my baby girl sophie who we recently lost to cancer. They are now 12 yrs old and poop and pee all over, even on my bed! I have learned a certain “hate” for them and I don want to. I try and put them out every time they step off the bed and I seems to be helping, but I don’t have any help from the others that live here, (husband and two teens). Other than what I’m doing I don’t know what to do. We are getting a brand new manufactured home in less than two months,,Help!! I think I want o crate but he oldest one,named trouble,,pees on everything including his own bed , mine, even his food bowl. I seems they all know better, but like you said, constant supervision…I can’t stand the pee pads anymore ,they are used to sleeping with all of us, I can’t get consistant help so I am at my wits end. Please help!!!!!!!!!
If you need to house train your dogs then we have a whole series on house training starting with our ultimate guide for house training a puppy. We’ve had up to 5 dogs at our house at one time, but we never had to potty train 5 dogs at one time. It might be helpful to bring in a certified professional dog trainer to help assess your situation and give you some tips. Also, it’s going to be very tough to get your dogs house trained without the help of your family. You might want to have a family meeting and try to get everyone on board. Good luck with your training.
Hi – I have just got a puppy 8 weeks and I when I brought it home realised it was riddled with fleas and worms and skin complaints, whisked it off to the vets and it has now been put on all sorts of medications. Also seller asked to meet me which I thought was strange and never gave me anything for the puppy, nothing so that same day I ran around purchasing a bed and some good food for him. That night he just walked straight in to the bed and fell asleep. I have him in an alcove cubby hole like and he seems as happy as larry there. I awoke to him crying at about 3am and went down and rocked him back to sleep which only took about 20 mins. The vet shop recommended training pads which I have over the kitchen floor and as he hasn’t had his jabs I can’t take him outside yet so I have to put up with him doing it on the floor. I tried putting him in a crate and he went absolutely hysterical to the point that it was hurting him to howl any longer so he goes back to his bed. Second night I go down again and settle him back in. He seems to sleep for about 3-4 hour blocks. Anyway on the 3rd night I hear him cry but I sat on my top step and he calmed down and went back to sleep so he slept through the whole night without me having to go down only problem is you then have to deal with a smelly poo that’s been left in the kitchen over night. I went back to pet shop to ask if they sold litter trays which I felt the puppy would identify with more, the puppy does not seem to have any idea that these pads are to urinate and pooh on no matter how many times I put him on them he just walks away and does it somewhere else. I heard that if you keep them in a crate you have to get up to them every 2-3 hours throughout the night, is this true? Broken sleep 3am is bad enough. I must say I am hoping things will improve when he go out but I don’t see the pads doing much at the moment that said I have only had him 3 full days. Any advice as I know he absolutely will not stay in a crate and I kind of wish he would at times as I am constantly watching and waiting for the next crouch for a wee or poo.
Congratulations on your new puppy! I’m sorry to hear about the fleas/worms/skin issues your puppy started out with. It’s a tough start for your puppy when he doesn’t feel well.
Check out this extensive article on house training your puppy to help you with your puppy pad training. Here’s an article on how to crate train your puppy. When you work on the puppy pads training or if you get a tray you might try using a leash to keep him in the area when you work on his potty training. Regarding keeping your puppy in the crate at night it depends on the individual puppy. Most of our puppies will sleep through the night after about 1-2 weeks of crate training and some sleep through the night on the first night. However, we’ve had others that get up every 2-3 hours and that has lasted as long as a month. Every puppy is different, but over time they have all learned to love sleeping in the crate. Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your training!
It’s actually not as hard as explained. You have to wait your puppy for two weeks. Like a hawk, yes, but once they choose their pee spot you simply use the training pad to soak the urine and the dog will smell back to the pad for the next time. Congratulate them slowly as they go back to the spot. Replace the pad and clean the area daily because if it’s too messy, they will just pee around the pad but they will usually choose one area to pee at.