How to Train Your Dog to Ask to Go Outside

Hard
4-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

One of the hardest parts of potty training is getting your dog to let you know when he needs to go out. Imagine how nice it would be if your dog could come to you and tell you in plain English that he wants to go outside and take care of business. Of course, he can't exactly walk up to you and say, "Hey dude! I gotta go outside." But at the same time, there is no reason why he can't be trained to let you know in another way that he needs to pee. 

The good news is that there are several different ways you can use to train your pup to "ask" you to take him outside. We all know how hard it can be sometimes to tell that our four-legged friends are trying to let us know he needs to go out before he ends up making a mess. This could be because some dogs are better at telling you of their needs than others. 

Defining Tasks

Of course, it could be that your dog is already trying to tell you, but you simply aren't getting the clue. It is possible that you just don't understand his efforts. There are several signs he might already be using such as standing by the door, whining, growling, or wagging his tail. He might also start pacing, sniffing at things like furniture legs, or scratching at the door.

The goal is to teach him a specific method of letting you know that he needs to go out and take care of his business. Of course, if you see any of the above-listed signs, you should probably go ahead and take him out as quickly as possible. It could be that he is trying to train you to recognize the fact that he needs to go out. 

Getting Started

Before you start trying to train your pup to let you know he needs to go outside, he needs to have been potty trained at least to the point at which you can take him out every couple of hours or so and he will use the bathroom instead of making a mess in the house. There are a few things you may need as part of your training program, including:

  • Treats
  • A bell
  • A leash
  • A toy or noisemaker

The only other things you need are plenty of time and patience. Your dog will appreciate you being patient as he learns this new skill and so will you when you no longer have so many messes to clean up. 

The Ring the Bell Method

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Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Buy a bell
Buy a bell that you can hang on your door handle. It must be hung low enough that it can easily be reached by your pup when he needs to let you know it's time to go out.
Step
2
If he is scared of the noise
If your pup appears to be afraid of the noise at first, you can dampen the sound a bit by putting a little tape on it until he gets used to it.
Step
3
Each time you take the dog outside
Each time you go to take your pup outside, gently take his paw and ring the bell with it. Then take him outside immediately. When he goes potty, be sure to praise him and give him a reward.
Step
4
Repeat the process
Continue to repeat this training process until your pup understands he needs to ring the bell each time he needs to go outside.
Step
5
Rewards are part of the process
Each time your pup gets it right, be sure to reward him with treats and plenty of praise. Be patient and prepared to spend plenty of time working on this training. While it may take a while for your pup to learn this trick, it will pay off in the end.
Recommend training method?

The Bring Your Leash Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Place the leash
Place your pup's leash in a location that will make it easy for your pup to reach it when he wants to let you know he needs to go out. Choose a location near the door for the best results.
Step
2
Here, hold my leash
Each time you go to let your dog out, give him the leash to hold in his mouth. If he holds it, give him a treat, praise him, and let him out. If he drops the leash, put it back in his mouth until he will hold it for a few seconds, at least long enough to get out the door.
Step
3
Give him space
Now that your dog is used to holding his leash with both of you next to the door, it's time to give him a little space. Give him his leash and then start to walk away slowly. Stop when you are a few feet away and call him to come to you with the leash. When he does, give him a treat.
Step
4
Over and over and over again
Keep repeating the above training until your pup has become comfortable with this activity. He may even start to follow you with the leash in his mouth.
Step
5
Just walk on by
In this case, increase the distance slowly over time until your dog will bring you his leash each time he needs to go out. Be sure to reward him with praise and treats. Of course, be sure you take him outside every time he brings you his leash. This will reinforce the behavior to the point where he no longer needs to be treated, but will always bring you his leash when he needs to go out.
Recommend training method?

The Bark to Tell You Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Take a toy
Grab one of your pup's favorite toys and wave it around to get him excited enough to bark.
Step
2
Reward time
Reward your pup with a treat when he barks. Be sure to train your pup to bark no more than 2 to 3 times by giving him the treat after the third bark. The last thing you want to do is encourage your pup to bark too much.
Step
3
Each time he barks
Each time your pup barks give him a treat and praise him.
Step
4
To the door
Once your dog has learned to bark on command, take him to the door and making him speak. When he does so, be sure to praise and reward him immediately. Then take him out.
Step
5
And in the end
The rest is all about repetition. Practice this training as often as possible. The more you practice with your pup, the faster he will master this trick and the fewer messes you will have to clean up.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Crosby
Airedale Terrier
4 Months
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Question
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Crosby
Airedale Terrier
4 Months

He will not let us k ow when he has to go out. We tried the bell n he played with them all the time. He will not poop outside. I know when he has to but he run a from me until he is far enough away from me then he poops in the floor

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Pam, Most dogs won't let you know they have to go potty outside until they have been accident free for about three months - from you keeping a schedule and moderating their freedom, so pup not alerting you is normal. Pup has to see your home as an area that's supposed to be kept clean first. The bell simply teaching pup how to alert once they are willing. I recommend following a combination of the tethering and crate training method to get pup to the point where they associate your home with cleanliness and become motivated to alert to go outside. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Winnie
Mix
8 Months
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Winnie
Mix
8 Months

My little pup is so sweet and pretty low energy. She potty trained pretty easily, but her way of asking to go out is to silently sit by the door. This is fine during the day when I'm around, but overnight if she has to go out, this does not work! We’ve had a few mornings where we’ve woken up to poop in the kitchen or by the back door. Is it too late to teach her to bark or ring a bell to go out? I wish she’d just come up to the bedside and whine like my old dog! Any advice would be much appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello April, It's generally not too late to teach a pup to do something like bark or ring a bell. First, teach pup the Speak or Bell command, so pup will either bark on cue, or ring the bell when you point to it or command it. Once pup has learned those commands on cue, then every time you go outside, give pup that command, reward as soon as they do it, then take pup outside, rewarding after pup goes potty outside also. Next, command pup to speak or ring the bell, then open the door for pup to go outside but don't give the treat until after pup is outside. Next, command pup to speak or ring the bell on the way outside to go potty, but wait until pup rings the bell, goes outside, then goes potty, before giving the treat right after pup goes potty. Once you get to that final step, it will just be a matter of practice before pup decides one day to ring the bell on their own while they are sitting by the door to go outside and no one is coming - how long that takes depends a lot on the specific dog, but keep reminding pup to ring that bell or bark on the way out until pup can do it on their own every time. You can give hints too, by pausing by the bell or at the door on the way out, waiting ten seconds to see if pup will figure out how to get that door open - by ringing or barking - as soon as they do, praise and open it instantly. Practice this often, giving the command to bark or ring the bell if they don't guess right after ten seconds. To teach the initial bell ring, check out the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/ring-a-bell-to-go-out Speak: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak If you teach speak I would also teach Quiet, and be aware that you may go through a period where pup barks at the door just to go outside to try to get a treat. If pup has already learned to ask to go out by barking, then if that happens, just discontinue the use of treats for going potty, but still praise pup for actually going potty. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kiko
Golden Retriever
4 Months
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Kiko
Golden Retriever
4 Months

Kiko is an incredibly friendly puppy! However, he’s very energetic and curious, and is very mouthy! When he wants to play with our older dog Ruby, he will bite her tail or her legs, or any part of her he can access really, and she is not a fan at all. I’m looking for a way to gently discourage him from doing so, as I think it will also help my two dogs get along better. For reference, my older dog is a female Border Collie-Lab cross breed.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sam, For the biting, I recommend teaching pup the Leave It command. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I also recommend teaching pup Out - which means leave the area, and using the section on how to use out to deal with pushy behavior, and you enforce Out on behalf of the older dog so they don't have to deal with pup. This helps pup learn respect for them as an extension of pup respecting you, and takes the pressure off the older dog to handle things. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Laia
Belgian Malinois
18 Weeks
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Laia
Belgian Malinois
18 Weeks

Hiya she seems to be going toilet inside and when we take her out for long periods of time she just holds until we get home.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Here is detailed information on potty training, as well as crate training if you decide to use a crate to help with potty training. Potty training: Know Your Pup. As you spend time with your puppy, learn your puppy’s love language. Just as some people prefer gifts, touch, or time spent together, puppies can be the same way. Some puppies love praise or pets, while others prefer treats. As you get to know your puppy, consider what reward your puppy loves the most. Create a Daily Schedule. It is best to have a routine for your puppy. A schedule helps them understand when to eat, play, and “go to the bathroom.” Your puppy should go out frequently and the routine should be the same every time. When? Start the day by taking your puppy outside, and repeating based on age and ability. They should also go out after napping, chewing, playing, and within 10 to 15 minutes of eating. Although some puppies can sleep for seven hours, it is important to set an alarm and take your pup out during the night. When you do, don’t make a fuss about it. Quietly take them outside with minimal stimulation and light. Praise them if they go to the bathroom and gently return them to their bed or crate. You don’t want them to get stimulated and ready to play in the middle of the night! As you get to know your puppy, you will become aware of their individual habits. Click here to learn more about house training schedules for puppies. Where? Take your puppy to a specific area to urinate or defecate. Be consistent. You can create an area by using urine-soaked paper or bowel movements to help create an aroma to stimulate your puppy. How? Take your puppy out on a leash so they can focus on the desired activity. This will help prevent them from wandering off to play. Once your puppy is in the selected area, use your verbal cue, such as “Hurry Up,” “Poopies,” “Go tinkle,” or any phrase your puppy responds to. What? Know the signs that your puppy has to go to the bathroom. Every animal may have a different “I gotta go” gesture, which often include restlessness, sniffing around, circling, scratching at the door, barking, and, eventually, squatting. At the first sign that your pup has to go, calmly and quickly take them outside to their bathroom spot. Deal with Accidents. Accidents are a normal part of house training a puppy. What to Do If you see your puppy in the process of urinating or defecating inappropriately, calmly and quickly interrupt them in the act. Tell them to stop (either by a jarring sound or command), and immediately take them to an appropriate location for elimination. After your puppy goes to the bathroom, lavishly praise them and offer a treat. Thoroughly clean up accidents, so your puppy is not attracted to this area again. Create a consistent feeding and watering schedule. Depending on the age of your puppy, they will eat three to four times a day. A consistent feeding routine can create a regular bathroom schedule. Take away water about 2 hours before bedtime. Learn more about ideal dog schedules here. What NOT to Do Don’t punish your puppy when they have an accident. At that point, it is too late. When a puppy has an accident in the house and they walk away, within seconds they have already forgotten about what they did. Taking them to the scene of the crime and yelling and/or rubbing their nose in it does not help and, in fact, can harm your puppy! Supervise. The best thing you can do is to prevent accidents and the best way to do this is to supervise your puppy at all times. You can tether your puppy to your waist with a five or six-foot leash and carefully observe them for signs that they need to go to the bathroom. If you can’t supervise, then crate or confine your puppy. The more accidents your puppy has in the house, the more confusing it will be for them and this can delay house training. Reward, Reward, Reward. It is important to give your puppy a reward for their good behavior. This can be for commands such as sitting and coming to you, or for appropriately eliminating outside. In a puppy, a reward can be a couple kibbles of puppy food or a treat, such as a small piece of meat. The treat should be exciting for them and only available as a result of good behavior. Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.

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Griffin
Bichon Frise shihtzu
14 Weeks
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Question
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Griffin
Bichon Frise shihtzu
14 Weeks

We are potty training our new puppy. We just got him monday and today is Friday. We are taking him out constantly and watching him a lot. So far so good on him going potty outside not many accidents. My question is how do we eventually get him to start telling us he needs to go out ? We have not heard a bark yet.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Whitney, The first step is to get pup to the point where they are 100% accident free. The more accidents you can prevent during the process through managing their unsupervised freedom and schedule, the sooner that often happens. Once pup has been accident free for at least a couple of months pup will generally have generalized their natural desire to keep a confined space clean to the rest of your home, and will start to want to keep your home clean also...It's at that point that many dogs will start to ask to go outside. For many dogs that doesn't happen until closer to six months, assuming potty training started at about 2 months, and pup was accident free most days by four to five months, then stayed accident free with your help taking pup out on a schedule for another couple of months. If pup doesn't begin alerting you on their own by about 6 months, you may want to teach pup to ring a bell to go outside. Pup needs to be potty trained long enough to be motivated also still, but some dogs aren't sure how to alert and the bell can help with the communication part. Peanut Butter method (soft cheese or liver paste can also be used instead): https://wagwalking.com/training/ring-a-bell-to-go-out Many puppies will begin to occasionally ask to go outside sooner than 6 months, but I would still maintain pup's potty schedule strictly. If you depend on pup to alert each time too soon, a lot of puppies will start having accidents again and regress in their training, making it take longer. A couple months into potty training most puppies will stay accident free as long as you keep up with their potty schedule, and don't exceed the maximum time they can hold their pee for at that age - which is pup's age in months plus one. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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