Whether your dog’s a new puppy who hasn’t had a chance to make any mistakes or an older dog who’s been driving you crazy with housebreaking mishaps for years, he deserves a fresh start.

It’s hard not to be resentful and angry when your dog is peeing and pooing everywhere in spite of your attempts to teach him to do the right thing. Many owners begin to believe that their dogs are intentionally having accidents to be spiteful. Even more seem to believe that their dog "knows better," but has accidents anyway.

Remember, housebreaking doesn’t magically happen; just because your dog sometimes goes in the right place doesn’t mean he knows he’s always supposed to go there. Just as human babies aren’t born potty-trained, puppies aren’t born housebroken. It’s our responsibility to teach them what to do, using a patient, reasonable approach that encourages the proper behavior and discourages unwanted behaviors.

When you’re housebreaking your puppy, it’s important to remember that no two dogs are alike. Just because your friend says her puppy was housebroken in 3 days doesn’t mean that your dog’s a bad dog for taking longer. And please don’t be mad at your poor dog because you’ve easily housebroken all of your other dogs and he’s having a harder time catching on. It’s completely normal for some dogs to take longer than others, even if you’re doing everything right. Help your puppy along as best as you can and try not to compare him unfairly with other dogs… who knows if your friend’s telling the truth about that 3-day housebreaking program, anyway?!?

Try to teach your dog using the same patience you would use in potty-training a child. If you think of him as unsure and confused but trying to do the right thing, you’ll tend to have more appropriate responses than if you’re thinking of him as evil, spiteful and trying to drive you crazy.

All that being said, YOU get a clean slate at the beginning of your new housebreaking program, too. Don’t waste time feeling bad about not doing it right the first time or feeling guilty that you were angry at your dog or may have corrected him unfairly. It’s completely normal to get frustrated when you don’t know what to do and when your best efforts don’t yield good results. Making mistakes doesn’t make you bad, it just makes you human, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Now that you’re starting a program that will work, you’ll understand better how to educate your puppy without using harsh methods and without the frustration that comes along with not knowing what to do to fix his problems. Just the fact that you’ve made the effort to start this new housebreaking program with your dog is proof enough that you’re a good, responsible dog owner who’s trying to do the right thing, so give yourself a break!

Go to Commandment #3.