Housebreaking a puppy starts with the wrong premise – breaking. It’s as if you want to make the puppy stop being a puppy and function like a perfect little toy. That’s neither fair nor realistic.

A pet owner who wants to establish a positive relationship with the pet is focused on housetraining. This approach shows the puppy how to live comfortably in your environment.

Forget the old school methods that teach you to start paper training and swatting a puppy the first day it’s home. Whether you bring home a puppy or an adult dog, you’re taking this animal from the environment it knows and going into an environment that’s totally foreign to it.

The dog has no idea what room is okay to go in and what room is off limits. A shelter dog is usually so excited to have space to walk and freedom to roam that your home is a virtual theme park of wonders. Add to that the presence of maybe other pets or children, and the excitement is almost too much to contain.

Housetraining takes a lot of your time. You need to work with your dog in every room. If the living room is off limits and you notice him sniffing for a place ready to relieve himself, then gently pick him up, say “No” firmly without shouting, and then place him on the floor of the kitchen or the place you want him to go or take him outside.

You may have to do that dozens of times until he gets the message, but it will happen. Make sure you balance the “no-no” spaces with the “yes” spaces. Once your dog has learned the essential house rules for potty zones, you still have to allow for the unexpected.

A dog, particularly a puppy, who is alone and frightened by a thunderstorm or other loud noises may have a potty accident. Or there may be a medical issue that requires you attention. Like humans, dogs can get urinary tract infections that make bladder control difficult.

A sudden change in potty training levels can be a cue that your dog’s behavior change is from a physical problem, not defiance. As your dog ages, bladder control will fail just as it does for many aging humans.

Any drastic change in routine can get your dog off his potty training path to success, too. Visiting relatives, home remodeling or emotional distress are all factors that can cause a dog to be lax in housetraining.

Think about what’s going on around the home as possible reasons why the dog is feeling confused about what’s happening around him and responding erratically. Restore order as you patiently go back and reinforce housetraining in positive ways.

When your dog learns to follow a potty break routine, you have to avoid doing anything that makes the lessons harder. One way you can help this process is in managing the dog’s food intake.

Monitor and log the crate time and potty-breaks and make a note of any pattern in your dog’s elimination. Make sure that the food you provide and the timing of feedings don’t compromise training.

Feed your dog at the same time each day. If you feed him in the morning before leaving for work, put out the food as soon as you wake up. The dog can eat and begin to digest the food while you’re getting dressed and having your breakfast. Then the dog will be ready to potty before you leave. Never leave the dog food out all day. If your dog (especially a puppy) eats gradually all day long without a potty break, you’re asking for an accident to happen.

For crate training a puppy, make sure there’s a supply of water in a container that won’t tip. Also leave a few small dog biscuits or treats in case he gets hungry during the day – but don’t leave a full meal.

When you get home, take the dog out and then feed him. Don’t wait until late evening to feed dinner to the puppy or you’ll be cleaning up feces in the crate or on the rug. Allow a reasonable time for the digestion to occur.

No matter how much the dog begs, don’t give table scraps or snack foods. These are not well tolerated by most dogs and some snack foods can be harmful to the dog.

Just because a dog will eat what you give him in food scraps doesn’t mean it’s suitable for him. Feeding him the wrong kind of foods is likely to result in doggie diarrhea. If you don’t give your dog the non-nutrient snacks and junk that you eat, he won’t develop a taste for it – which is definitely better for everyone in the long run.

High quality dog food is made with added nutrients and designed for the age and weight of your dog. If you’re on a budget, find a place to skimp besides your dog food budget. Cheap dog foods can contain ingredients that cause stomach upset and have minimal nutritional value, so your dog may get fat but doesn’t grow and thrive.

If your dog gets diarrhea (even from high quality foods), check with your vet. There may be an ingredient in the food that doesn’t interact well with your dog’s digestive system. Ask the vet for a recommendation. If the next high quality food gets the same results, then your dog may have an internal illness or food allergy that the vet can diagnose.