Preparation and patience are key to building a happy relationship

House-training your dog or puppy requires patience, commitment and lots of consistency. Accidents are part of the process, but if you follow these basic house-training guidelines, you can get the newest member of your family on the right track in a few weeks' time.

Establish a routine

Like children, dogs do best on a regular schedule. The schedule teaches them that there are times to eat, times to play and times to do their business. Generally speaking, a puppy can control his bladder one hour for every month of age. Therefore, if your puppy is two months old, they can hold it for about two hours. Do not go longer than this between bathroom breaks or they are most likely to have an accident.

Take your new dog outside frequently-at least every few hours-and immediately after he wakes up, during and after playing, and after eating or drinking.

Pick a bathroom spot outside, and always take your dog (on a leash) to that spot. While your dog is relieving himself, use a specific word or phrase that you can eventually use before they go to remind him what to do. Take him out for a longer walk or some playtime only after he has eliminated.

Reward your dog every time he eliminates outdoors. Praise or give treats-but remember to do so immediately after they finished, not after they come back inside. This step is vital, because rewarding your dog for going outdoors is the only way to teach what is expected of them. Before rewarding, be sure they are finished. Puppies are easily distracted and if you praise too soon, they may forget to finish until they are back in the house.

Put your dog on a regular feeding schedule. What goes into a dog on a schedule comes out of a dog on a schedule. Depending on their age, puppies usually need to eat three or four times a day. Feeding your puppy at the same times each day will make it more likely that they will eliminate at consistent times as well, making house-training easier for both of you.

Pick up your dog's water dish about two and a half hours before bedtime to reduce the likelihood that he will need to relieve himself during the night. Most puppies can sleep for approximately seven hours without needing a bathroom break. If your puppy does wake you up in the night, do not make a big deal of it; otherwise they will think it is time to play and will not want to go back to sleep. Turn on as few lights as possible, do not talk to or play with your puppy, take them out and then return them to bed.

Supervise your dog

Do not give your dog an opportunity to soil in the house; keep an eye on them whenever they are indoors.

Tether your puppy to you or a nearby piece of furniture with a six-foot leash if you are not actively training or playing. Watch for signs that your dog needs to go out. Some signs are obvious, such as barking or scratching at the door, squatting, and restlessness, sniffing around or circling. When you see these signs, immediately grab the leash and take him outside to his bathroom spot. If he eliminates, praise him and reward with a treat

Keep your dog on leash in the yard. During the house-training process, your yard should be portrayed as any other room in your house. Give your dog some freedom in the house and yard only after he becomes reliably house-trained.

When you cannot supervise, confine

When you are unable to watch your dog at all times, restrict them to an area small enough that they will not want to eliminate there.

The space should be just big enough to comfortably stand, lie down and turn around. You can use a portion of a bathroom or laundry room blocked off with baby gates.

You may want to crate train your dog. (Be sure to learn how to use a crate humanely as a method of confinement.)  If your dog has spent several hours in confinement, you will need to take them directly to their bathroom spot as soon as you return.

Mistakes happen

Expect your dog to have a few accidents in the house-it is a normal part of house-training. Here is what to do when that happens:

Interrupt your dog when you catch them in the act.

Make a startling noise (be careful not to scare him) or say "OUTSIDE!" and immediately take them to their bathroom spot. Praise your pup and give a treat if they finish there. Do not punish your dog for eliminating in the house. If you find a soiled area, it is too late to administer a correction. Just clean it up. Rubbing your dog's nose in it, taking them to the spot and scolding them or any other punishment will only make them afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence. Punishment will often do more harm than good. Clean the soiled area thoroughly. Puppies are highly motivated to continue soiling in areas that smell like urine or feces. It is extremely important that you use these supervision and confinement procedures to minimize the number of accidents. If you allow your dog to eliminate frequently in the house, they will get confused about where they are supposed to go, which will prolong the house-training process.

Make plans for when you are away if you have to be away from home more than four or five hours a day, this may not be the best time for you to get a puppy. Instead, you may want to consider an older dog who can wait for your return.