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Raising Fido: housetraining with structured alone time

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

What if I said you could have a completely housetrained puppy in just 3 weeks? Sound too good to be true? I promise, it isn't! Want to know how? Read on.

If you want to housetrain your pup as fast as possible the gold standard is to follow a training plan that includes prevention, management, and positive reinforcement. It’s kind of like baking a cake, you must have all the ingredients and then put them together properly to get the results you want.

We do a lot to prepare a home environment for babies and toddlers to prevent them from harm, or from doing things they shouldn’t by way of things like baby gates, bumpers, child-proof latches, monitors, etc. Consider, if you will, this to be a situation requiring a similar mindset and you’ll be on your way to a housetrained pup in no time.


  • Have a crate that is large enough for your pup to lie down comfortably stretched out, stand up, and turn around. If you have a large breed dog there are many convertible style crates on the market that come with an extra piece you can insert to make the crate space smaller until they grow into the full size.

  • Set up a small long-term confinement space in a busy common area of your home (the kitchen is usually a good option for almost all homes). This designated space will be for “free periods” and will be the only place in your house that baby Fido will hang out for the duration of housetraining when they are not in their crate, outside, or on your lap.


  • Have a schedule to follow for taking pup outside. The younger the pup, the more frequent the outings should be. For very young puppies, take them to potty generally every 30-90 minutes during the day. Be sure to go outside with them every time.

  • If nothing happens after being outside for 5 minutes, then bring pup back inside to their crate for another 30 minutes before trying again. If pup does some business, then they can have free period in the long-term confinement space.

  • Pups usually will need to go out at least once during the night. Set an alarm to get up and take them out.

Positive Reinforcement

  • Praise your pup for “getting this right” the instant they finish their business.

  • Praise alone is not guaranteed to be received as a reward for your pup at this time so don’t take chances. Always bring treats that you know your pup likes each time you go outside so that you are ready to deliver a pleasant consequence as soon as pup has finished doing their business. Your reward needs to be delivered within 1-2 seconds following the elimination outside if you want this behaviour to get stronger.

I realize that it is incredibly difficult to not have your new puppy come everywhere with you in the house to hang out and play and cuddle, but the faster you get onboard with following a well-vetted housetraining plan to the “T”, the faster baby Fido will become fully housetrained and then be able to move freely around the house with you.

Dogs are highly social animals and as such they aren’t generally born with a propensity for relaxation when left alone. Trainers who advise new puppy parents to deliberately work on alone time training are correct in this advice; however, I like to find efficiency wherever I can because truthfully you have limited time in your day to dedicate to training all of the things. If you housetrain with a plan that involves these three elements outlined above, then alone time training often naturally comes along for the ride. By using their crate in combination with a long-term confinement space your pup will gradually become conditioned to your disappearance always predicting your reappearance via your natural coming and going from their line of sight many times over as you go about your own “business”. Now that’s a great 2-for-1 deal!

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