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How to Housetrain a Puppy in 5 Days Using a Cardboard Box

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

You can housetrain your dog in just five days with a cardboard box.

You can housetrain your dog in just five days with a cardboard box.

How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

Housetraining is easy and should not be one of those behaviors that test your patience. Dogs are naturally clean animals and do not want to pee and poop where they sleep, so with very little effort, you can teach them that the house is sacred.

The method I am going to explain takes about five days. In some cases, it might take a little less, but it rarely takes more. If you get your puppy on a Friday night, you can teach him on Saturday and Sunday, but you must be willing to take off work the next week to continue training.

Invest the Time to Train Your Puppy Early

If you are not willing to take off work the next week for the sake of your puppy, you will probably spend weeks dealing with this issue. Remember your choice when you are cleaning up puddles for several weeks after bringing your puppy home.

Invest a little time now. Your new puppy is worth it.

Carboard box won't fit? Use an end table.

Carboard box won't fit? Use an end table.

Five Days to Housetrain Your Puppy

This method only works if the puppy is going to share your house, and it will only work if the puppy is going to sleep next to you at night. If you are going to banish your puppy outside at night, or make her sleep alone in the garage or bathroom, go find some other web page. I am not interested in helping.

If you want to let your dog be a part of your family and sleep in your bedroom, the first thing you need is a cardboard box. The cardboard box takes the place of the whelping pen where your puppy was raised. It will keep him confined to a small area while you are sleeping or not able to watch him.

What Kind of Box Should I Use? How Big Should It Be?

The box should be big enough for the puppy to stretch out and sleep but not so large that he can move away from any mess he makes. It should be tall enough so that he cannot climb out.

You can purchase and use a commercial crate if you want, but the main problem with crates is that dog owners will feel that they have to continue using their investment for a long time. Long-term use of a crate is fine if you want to incarcerate your dog and cause him to develop psychological abnormalities. I do not want my dogs to be afraid and run to a crate every time a strange noise scares them or a visitor comes over—there are enough neurotic dogs out there already.

In comparison, a cardboard box is free, and as soon as the housetraining is finished, it can be broken down and tossed in the recycling bin.

A dog should never be an impulse purchase. Only bring your puppy home when the cardboard box is ready and you have time to spend on housetraining.

Friday: The First Evening With Your New Puppy

Do not give your puppy anything to drink after about six in the evening. If you arrive home after that, do not give him anything at all in the evening. Do not worry—he is not going to starve or die of thirst.

(If you are bringing home a tiny Chihuahua, Yorkie, or Maltese, you can give him a little Nutrical just to keep his blood sugar up during the evening—you can order the product from Amazon or find it in most large pet stores. I have housetrained a normal seven-week-old Maltese without this product, but if you have purchased a teacup puppy, they do not have much reserve and hypoglycemia may be an issue. Discuss this problem with the breeder before taking your puppy home.)

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Play and Walk With Your Pup

Play with him outside, but do not overwhelm him, then take him for a final walk at about 11 pm before you go to bed. Do this even if you have to wake the puppy up to go outside. If you do not take him for that final walk, he will probably need to urinate in the middle of the night.

Offer Your Pup a Comforting Touch at Bedtime

When it is bedtime, I put the exhausted puppy next to my bed and hang my hand over the side while she is falling asleep in her cardboard box. If she wakes up, the puppy can smell and touch my hand and is not going to be frightened of being alone.

You will also be bonding with the scared little puppy, so deal with the discomfort for a few nights.

A Typical Housetraining Day

5 a.m.

As soon as your puppy wakes up, take him outside or to his pads. Do not put him down until he is at the appropriate place.


Give him his diet, let him play with one of his toys, or play with him in the yard. When the puppy is tired he can be taken back to his box, but bring it out of the bedroom and keep it next to you.

Late morning

When the puppy wakes up, take him for a potty break before bringing him in for a light meal. Some puppies will need to urinate and defecate almost immediately, some will want to play first, or you can take him for another short walk to stimulate his bowels. When he is tired let him take another nap in his box.


As soon as your puppy is awake, take him out to potty. I try to give my puppy the largest meal at this time, and plenty of playtime after.

About 6 p.m.

Give the last meal of the day, take away the water, and after your puppy has had time to play carry him go to his cardboard box to sleep. The box needs to be where you are for the evening—in the living room watching TV, in the office on the internet, etc.

11 p.m.

Take the puppy for a potty break and walk, even if you have to wake him up to do so.

11 p.m. through 5 a.m.

Most puppies will be able to sleep through the night if taken for that last potty break. Some small dogs are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.

Saturday: Day Two

Your puppy will probably wake you up early, maybe as soon as the sun is up at 5 a.m. He might whine to wake you up, and he might lick your hand if it is still in his box.

Do not ignore him. He does not have a “snooze” button, and this is not the time to catch a few minutes of extra sleep. If your puppy is forced to sit in his cardboard box and urinate where he sleeps, you will be setting yourself up for a lot of extra work.

Morning Potty

Rub the sleep out of your eyes and take your puppy out to go pee. He might need to go as soon as you put him down, so lift him up and carry him outside (or to the area of the apartment you are going to use the wee-wee pads). After your puppy has urinated, you can play with him for a while. I prefer to awake from my stupor and play with the puppy for about 20 minutes outside since many puppies will have to go again after a short playtime.


If you want to catch another short nap before beginning your day, you can take the puppy back to his box and set your alarm for another hour. If you are ready to begin your day, go ahead and give him his breakfast and some water. (The breeder may have given you some of the food he is used to eating. Raw food will make the stools more compact so I begin switching my puppies to raw dog food immediately; for the first few breakfasts I will allow them to eat some of the commercial dog food too.)

Nap, Potty, Walk

Bring the cardboard box into the living room or kitchen and when the puppy is finished eating let him take another nap. If he is not ready just after eating, play with him and he soon will be.

After about two hours, you need to wake your puppy up and take him outside or to his wee-wee pads. If the puppy does not want to urinate right away, do not give up and let him run around the house. Stick with it.

After the puppy goes potty, praise him excessively; this is a good time to take your puppy for a walk. Tired puppies like to get plenty of sleep.

Second Meal, Nap, Potty

Around 11 in the morning, I give my puppy his second meal. He is already tired after his walk, so a full belly and a tired puppy equal another nap. (If not, take him for another short walk. Do not overdo it, since if you walk too far you might end up carrying him back!) Leave him in his cardboard box until after your lunch, but then take him out again before he asks to get up.

Other Meals

I usually give a second snack (usually a raw chicken leg, which is both nutritious and fun for the pup to chew on) with his regular meal around three or four, and then the final light meal of the day at about six. When your puppy has eaten that final meal, take away the water.

Walk, Bedtime

Take him for another short walk around the yard or up and down the stairs of the apartment, then let him sleep in the box while you are watching TV. Sorry, this is one weekend you cannot go out and leave the puppy alone. Remember, if you ignore your puppy this weekend, you are going to be dealing with the consequences for a long time to come.

Nighttime Potty

Even if your puppy sleeps through the evening, you still need to take him for a little potty walk about 11 p.m. Since you probably woke him up to do so, he will be wide awake and want to play with you or one of his toys as soon as he has done his “business.” Give him some time, but do not take him back to his cardboard box until he has peed and is ready to sleep again.


He should sleep the night through, but make sure you are sleeping as close to him as possible. Try to hang your hand over the edge of the bed and into his box. If he does wake up, he will appreciate the comfort.

Small puppies learn to hold their bladders easily and are able to be housetrained by the time you bring them home.

Small puppies learn to hold their bladders easily and are able to be housetrained by the time you bring them home.

The Next Few Days

Here's what you'll do next, again assuming that you started training on a Friday.


If your puppy does not wake you up at 5 a.m., make sure you have your alarm set and take him out for a potty break as early as the sun is up. Remember, do not put him down until he is outside or on top of his wee wee pads.

The rest of the day can go on pretty much like Saturday. Are you used to attending church on Sunday? Sorry, this is one weekend that you will have to forget about it. Concentrate on your project!

Spend the day at home, catch up on your TV shows or look at your favorite sites on the internet. Lunch, the afternoon meal, and the evening snack should all be the same time as Saturday.

Do not forget about taking him out for his evening potty break around 11 p.m. Wake him up if you need to.


By the third morning, your puppy is getting into your routine. Do not think about breaking it. You will still be home with him, so make sure he has his meals on time, his bathroom breaks on schedule, and lots of attention.

When he goes to sleep in the evening, be sure to wake him up for his 11 p.m. break.


This is just another day of waking at 5, feeding on schedule, plenty of naps, and a late evening potty break.


Is it getting tedious yet? Getting up early is no fun, but then again cleaning up accidents on the carpet for weeks to come will be even less of a joy. Spend the day caring for your new puppy.


After your morning routine, you can leave the puppy alone today in a puppy pen. The pen is not to keep him from urinating in your house—all puppies like to explore and chew and if you leave anything down on his level he will find it and might chew it up.

(Besides starting my dogs on a diet of raw meaty bones, I provide a piece of driftwood to chew and small PET-type water bottle.)

Do not leave him alone for a long time. I would not plan on being away for more than 3 hours. Make sure he has something to chew on and a soft blanket to lie down on. You certainly do not need to leave food down for your puppy. Water is debatable. If you are going to be gone for 3 hours your puppy will be fine without water.

If you are leaving water down because the puppy will be alone all day, you have another problem. Your puppy will probably pee in his pen and this whole process will need to be started again. It will not go as easily the second time.

Sometime during the day, you can cut away the front of the box and keep using it as a bed for a few days. Most puppies will sleep in it during the evening and not get up in the morning until you take them out (Still very early—sorry).

If your puppy still has any accidents in the house, just take a deep breath and get over it.

Having an open door makes housetraining go easier; having an older dog to teach right from wrong makes things that much smoother.

Having an open door makes housetraining go easier; having an older dog to teach right from wrong makes things that much smoother.

This Method Works With Many Breeds

This method will work with most breeds and almost new members of your household. Puppies from pet shops or internet puppy wholesalers that come from puppy mills were probably raised in cages filthy with their own pee and poo. They have to learn to be clean and may never be housetrained, so take a little extra time to look around and buy from a responsible breeder.

Not all puppies are able to hold their bladders by seven weeks, but most are. By the time you bring your new puppy home at eight weeks, he should not urinate in the house.

Some dog writers claim that puppies are not able to hold their urine until they are around 12 weeks of age. This is false. I have trained many puppies over the years and know that this is false.

Expect Accidents to Happen, and Don't Punish Your Puppy

This does not mean there will never be an accident. Sometimes a puppy will be playing with kids or his toys and just cannot hold it. He will squat and urinate where he stands. It is really not his fault—anyone who has raised a toddler knows that those accidents happen even after potty training.

Do not punish your puppy for that accident. Never hit him. You can housetrain him in 5 days, just be prepared for an occasional mistake.

Smile and give your puppy a scritch behind the ear.

More About Training Your Puppy

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is in the dogs mouth in the first picture?

Answer: That is a chicken foot. Chicken feet can be an important part of a dogs diet since they contain a lot of calcium and are easy to chew. If you can get chicken feet in the area you live in it is much better to start your puppy on this type of chew than on some rubber ball that has to be purchased from a pet store.

If you are interested in learning more about how to feed your puppy correctly, there are many sources out there that will tell you about feeding a raw diet. I have an article at: that will give you details on the ingredients you need to add to a puppy´s diet to stay healthy. If someone has convinced you that this is going to cost too much for your puppy, I also have an article on raw ingredients that are not expensive at:

Go out and get him some chicken feet today!

Question: We got a puppy last week. He goes perfectly outside and lets us know when he wants to go. However, we left him home for 2 hours (after five days of training) and he peed inside. So now, he goes outside, but if we're not around to open the door, he'll just go inside. We don't want to crate him. How can we teach him to hold it for a few hours when we're not around?

Answer: Not all puppies from all breeds can hold their urine that long. Some, like the Italian Greyhound, have small bladders. It sounds like you are going to have to invest in a playpen. It is not the best solution, but if you are going to be gone for 4 hours, some tiny puppies just cannot handle it. Hopefully, he will grow out of it.

Question: What should we do after the initial five days of housetraining? We have had great success following your program with our eight-week-old Welshie. I took off work this week as advised. Any suggestions for the road forward?

Answer: How you proceed after that first week depends on what you want from your dog. I like my dogs to sleep in my room, on the floor, so when the puppy is newly housetrained, I let her sleep next to my bed, but no longer in a box. The room is small, so she does not wander around and chew on things or defecate during the night.

As soon as I wake up, I take the puppy out so that she can do her business. I live in the tropics so my front door is open during the day so that the puppy can go out as often as she needs to. If you are going to be gone for several hours during the day, be sure to provide a playpen for her to limit her movements. She will be okay "holding it" for several hours, but you should not expect her to go 8 hours without urinating.

After several months, usually, when the puppy is 5 or 6 months old, I leave my door open at night. The puppy is used to sleeping through the night without any problems by that point.

Question: What if it’s a hot day the day you bring your puppy home can you still give her water after the journey?

Answer: Yes, but you cannot overdo it. If you do, your puppy might drink fast and start vomiting.

The best solution on a hot day is giving her a few ice cubes to lick on. She is going to be cool, not drink that much, and it will also keep her occupied as she is getting used to her new surroundings.

© 2014 Dr Mark


Dalia Apodaca from Monterrey, Mexico on September 07, 2020:

Thanks for sharing. I will get a 7-week chow chow next week and I will follow this method. Makes a lot of sense. Any additional recommendations for chows are really appreciated.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 23, 2020:

Nateonan--is your puppy sleeping normally? I do not really have this problem, because I would not put my puppy up to rest until he was tired and ready to bed down. I know this is not easy to hear, but what the pup needs is more exercise so that by the time you put him back in the sleeping area he is glad to just close his eyes and sleep. This will not need to be for all time, since after a few days of being really exhausted he, being a dog and a creature of habit, is going to lie down and sleep when you put him in his area.

Nateonan on August 20, 2020:

Hi, i was wondering how do i do the leaving the puppy alone for a few hours if the puppy whines and cries extremely loud when away from me for more than a second? Thank you

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 19, 2020:

Amanda, yes, I always put a blanket in there for them to sleep on. As you will see with your Bernedoodle (congrats, by the way) it is hard for some puppies to sleep at night when taken away from their littermates.

Here are some tips on helping your puppy sleep through the night. Hopefully you will not even need them.

Amanda on August 18, 2020:

Should you put anything in the cardboard box? A pad or a blanket? I'm so excited to try this! I have a new mini-bernedoodle coming next week (9-10 weeks) and would love to make her as comfortable as possible!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 05, 2020:

notmyfirstdog--no, not everyone can take a week off of work. Then again, not everyone should be getting a puppy. It is okay if you are the kind of person who does not care much.

I do not let my dogs sleep in my bed either but those that do have freedom to do so. Not everyone wants to behave in the same way, so the wording is just fine.

Notmyfirstdog on August 05, 2020:

i feel as if this article was a little rude. Not everyone can take a week off of work. And every dog ive ever had does not sleep in bed with me. I see no issue with this. My dogs do have a place to sleep in the house just not in bed with me. Maybe things should be reworded next time.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 30, 2020:

Tom, plenty of apartment dwellers train their dogs using puppy pads. A bathroom is a great place to keep the pads since the tile floor is easier to clean up if there is an accident. Best of luck with your Pom.

Tom on May 28, 2020:

Hi Dr Mark,

We are getting an 8 week pomeranian tomorrow and will be following your technique. But we live in a 5th floor flat so have no back yard to take it to till it's had all its vaccinations and we can go to the park. Will play time in a flat suffice? And can we use the bathroom as it's potty place?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 13, 2020:

Jax, some people try it but using pads and the yard delays housetraining. It is a better idea just to use the yard the first week. Yes, just walk in the back yard.

Introducing a new puppy and an older dog is not always easy. Make sure you do not shower too much attention on the new puppy, and do not scold the older dog if she is trying to teach the puppy manners.

I hope all goes well for you and the Lhasa. Congratulations.

JaxGonin on May 13, 2020:

Hi Dr Mark - we are getting a Lhasa Apso pup in a few weeks time and we already have a Shih Tsu poodle cross (who sleeps on our bed). I want to try your method, and I get that for the first week you're pretty much carrying pup outside or their puppy pads. Would it confuse the pup if you do both? Puppy pads at night and outside during the day?

When you say take them for a walk - I assume you mean just out in the garden or around the house until they have their second vaccination?

Lastly - do you have any advice on how best to introduce puppy to our resident Shih Tsu?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 01, 2020: