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

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

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

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
Ruby
terrier
2 Years
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Ruby
terrier
2 Years

Ruby was adopted a week ago and is very shy and timid. She does not play with toys, is scared to go out front on walks. She knows to go outside to the bathroom (but has had a few accidents) but she does not bark or do anything to let us know she needs to go, we just take her as often as possible. How can I get her to let us know she needs to go, if she doesn't bark or play with toys yet to train those ways? Also, how can I get her less scared of the world to get her to go on walks and exercise her?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
590 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would hire a trainer to help guide you along this process. It will involve several different things. First, I suggest teaching her to ring a bell when she needs to go potty and rewarding her with treats when she potties outside, to help increase her motivation to go outside - this will be half the solution but probably won't be enough on its own. The Peanut butter (or liver paste or soft cheese instead) method: https://wagwalking.com/training/ring-a-bell-to-go-out Second, she isn't likely to ask to go out right now because outside is scary for her. For her to be motivated to go potty outside she needs to get over her fear of being out there - the two are connected. I suggest spending a lot of time outside doing fun and relaxing, low pressure things with her. Simply sit outside with a book, sprinkle treats in the grass for her to find, practice easy tricks and commands with treats, play any games she likes, and simply spend time out there - whenever she looks at something that could be scary and stays calm or is still thinking about how to react - praise confidently and give a treat. Whenever she looks at something, then looks back at you - give a treat. Whenever she generally does something to relax more, investigate, be friendly, and show good courage - praise confidently and give a treat. Your attitude should be calm, happy, and confident - not soothing, worried, or frustrated (that can be one of the hardest parts to implement honestly as pet parents). For the toys, take things slow. Focus on getting her more familiar with her surroundings, teaching basic commands to build your relationship, and working on a schedule. As she starts to do better teach games and toys using methods like the one from the article below: https://blog.petflow.com/fetch/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Luci
petite griffon
2 Years
1 found helpful
Question
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Luci
petite griffon
2 Years

Luci is a street dog from spain adopted just of 2 months ago and she cannot get use to letting us know when she wants to do a pee/poo... I would like to know the simpliest way to teach her how to let me know when she wants to go outside please x

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
590 Dog owners recommended

Hello, It normally takes a few months of a dog being consistently potty trained before they will start to tell you when they need to go outside on their own. Before then you need to stick to a strict potty schedule and initiate taking them outside for them to prevent accidents - any accidents will make this process take longer. To help the process along you can teach her to ring a bell when she needs to go outside. This will teach her a way to alert you when she needs to go out, but her desire to keep your home clean through strict potty training that forms a long term habit of only peeing outside will still need to be firmly in place for her to be motivated when the urge hits her. The bell can speed up that process though. Follow the Peanut Butter method from the article linked below: https://wagwalking.com/training/ring-a-bell-to-go-out Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

I’m potty training my dog with a crate for punishments of releasing in the house. I put Daisy on a 6’ leash and take her out about every 20 minutes or so. This works and Daisy now pees or poops on my command , I have had many potty accidents in the house and am working with Daisy diligently and watch her like a hungry hawk. I have had little accidents in the house go down since I first brought Daisy home from several times to 1 time 2 days ago today she peed at night and when she did this she knows she’s in trouble. I need to know how I can get her to alert me to take her out to go potty instead of me judging it for her. Daisy whined on leash before and taken out to go potty with success but not all the time.

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Question
Bailey
Labradoodle
3 Months
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Question
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Bailey
Labradoodle
3 Months

Bailey goes out to pee and poop but she doesn’t go to the door and ring the bells to alert us. There’s no signal. She pees in the house probably about once a day which isn’t bad but it’s very frustrating. I wish she’d alert us by ringing the bell. I take her to the door and hit the bells with her paw before we go out but so far nothing on her own. We’ve had her for 1 week. Any suggestions?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
590 Dog owners recommended

Hello Butch, First, know that it is early for pup to learn to alert you on her own. Most dogs won't begin to alert on their own until potty training is almost 100% - meaning that you are very strict with taking them on a schedule and limiting freedom until potty training is mostly accident free (less than 1 every two weeks). Focus the most on preventing accidents through giving less unsupervised freedom and taking her out on a consistent schedule - and not expecting her to alert you yet - and you will get there sooner because you will have fewer accidents. With the above said, you can still work toward her ringing the bell and I do recommend working toward that even while taking her out consistently and not waiting for her to alert. The main issue with how you are teaching it right now is that you are grabbing her paw and physically making her ring the bell so she is not having to make that choice on her own to begin associating the bell with going outside - I don't say that to condemn what you are doing because what you are doing is extremely common. A more effective way to teach her would be to put a little peanut butter on the bell and point to the bell while saying "Bell". As soon as the bell rings because she is licking it - give an additional treat. Practice this until you can point to the bell and say "Bell" and she will bump it with her nose without the peanut butter and then you give her a treat. When you can do this with your hand very close to the bell, then over several sessions, slowly point from a couple of inches away so that she has to move toward the bell when you point to it. Once you can stand in front of the door, point to the bell from where you are and she will go over to it and ring it, then begin giving the treat after she gets outside and not right then. Finally, point to the bell on your way out, open the door when she rings it, then give the treat only after she goes potty outside. This too will take time, so try not to get discouraged, but once she is fully potty trained, since she will know how to ring the bell to get the door open by that point, she will have the tools to alert you when she needs to go potty - she has to be potty trained well enough that she is motivated to hold it inside your home though first. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Babe, Ruth
Standard Poodle
5 Months
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Question
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Babe, Ruth
Standard Poodle
5 Months

We have trouble on their potty training. First, they are a pair of sisters. We tried all that suggested: sticking to the schedule, looking for their signs to take them out, etc. the only thing that we are sure is they can hold their bladder quite well during times they are in the crate. They don’t pee and poop in their crate. Some times, 3 min after they are back in the house, one of them peed again on the floor.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
30 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question and such a cute play on the dog names! Your pups are still young and the fact that their bladders are not yet mature may play a part. It's important to note that any mistakes inside on the floor must be cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner because even despite your efforts, a regular cleaner will leave traces of odor behind that a dog's sensitive nose will smell. And then, they'll pee there again. Are you accompanying your little pups outside? If not, they may play in the yard and forget to pee when they are out there. This is a great article on training Pugs, but the same goes for Poodles: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-pug-to-pee-outside Your intelligent pups may pick up on this method quickly too, solving the house soiling issue: https://wagwalking.com/training/signal-for-potty It may be wise, if only one of the pups is peeing inside, to get a vet checkup just to make sure that there is no medical reason for the accidents. Good luck and have fun with your duo!

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Question
Beowulf
Norwegian Elkhound
8 Weeks
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Question
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Beowulf
Norwegian Elkhound
8 Weeks

Advice on potty training an 8 weeks ago puppy and teaching him to me me know when he has to go outside

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
590 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shannon, Check out the article linked below on potty training. The crate training method tends to work the best/quickest, but followed carefully, the other two methods can work well also - consistency and preventing accidents is key more than anything. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Know that, even when done correctly, it takes most puppies an average of three months to become potty trained. Potty trained is also defined normally as a dog holding their bladder between scheduled potty trips - where you are still the one initiating the trips outside, the dog is just accident free while inside so long as you maintain their schedule. It usually takes several more months for the dog to have developed a long-term habit of keeping your home clean, to be sufficiently motivated to actually tell you when they need to go potty without you initiating it. Most dogs naturally learn to tell you when they need to go on their own, when such a long-term consistent habit of keeping your home clean has developed - so that the dog actually doesn't want to have an accident either. The exception to this is that most puppies will let you know they have to go when in a crate when they wake up during the night - which can help them learn to alert you at other times if you respond to that alert by taking them outside to go when they wake up and cry. With all that said, expect pup to need you to keep track of their schedule and take them out regularly for quite some time, even after accidents are a rarity; you can help pup learn to alert you when they need to go out a bit sooner by teaching pup to ring a bell. It will still take pup a while to ring it of their own initiative but not quite as long as it would normally take a dog to figure out their own way of alerting - such as barking, going to the door, or nudging you. Bell methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/ring-a-bell-to-go-out Once pup knows how to ring the bell when you tell them to or point to it, give a treat each time they do so on command right before you go out the door. As they improve, command them to ring the ball on your way out, but wait until after they go potty also to give the reward so that they begin to associate ringing the bell with needing to go potty eventually. Pup will do better if you don't physically make them ring the bell (don't lift their paw and hit the bell but tell them to instead), but if they ring the bell physically on their own when you tell them to, so that they actually have to think about how to do it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Leo
Labradane
10 Months
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Question
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Leo
Labradane
10 Months

My dog is 10 months old, a rescue and we don’t know much about his story. When in a house, he signals at the door by sitting and whining or scratching. But our home is an apartment. He does not give us signals that he needs to go out and he’s had an accident about once per week since we got him 2 months ago. It’s a 6 story apartment, and it takes several minutes to get to the pet area. Will a bell method still work? We haven’t tried it yet, we’ve just been keeping him on a regular schedule and for the most part are able to avoid accidents. But I’m afraid by not addressing it he will learn it’s ok to potty inside.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
590 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karen, I do highly suggest teaching the Bell method still. You will need to continue with your scheduled potty trips most likely - so that he is not waiting until the last minute to go out with your long trek outside, but the bell method could fill in the gap for times when he needs to go sooner than the scheduled time but isn't alerting right now. When teaching the bell method, choose a method and teach him to ring the bell on cue at first - such as the Peanut Butter method. Bell article: https://wagwalking.com/training/ring-a-bell-to-go-out Once he will ring it when you tell him to or point to it, then instead of forcing him to ring it by physically moving his paw or nose to it (a common approach), give the bell command or point to it, so that he rings it himself and has to actually think about it more, then reward him and take him outside. Eventually, once he is good at ringing it, have him ring it on cue, take him outside, and once he goes potty outside give the treat then - after pottying not after ringing the bell (so that the full "trick" is to ring the bell, go outside, and go potty to earn the reward), work up to this gradually though just like with any training, rewarding small efforts with the bell at first. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Coco
Labrador Retriever
11 Weeks
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Question
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Coco
Labrador Retriever
11 Weeks

We got Coco when she was 9 weeks old. She is now 11.5 weeks and honestly potty training has been nicer than expected. She has quickly learned to sit by the door and whine to get us to take her out. She still has about 2 accidents a week but hey that's great. My problem is, she's been whining at the door even when she doesn't have to go potty. She just really likes the outdoors. I give her dedicated outside play time so it's not like I'm trapping her inside the apartment all day. Now I can't tell if she has to go potty or if she just wants to play outside and it's making the potty training process a little difficult. I live in an apartment so I can't just leave her outside to play all day. I want her to only tell us when she needs to go potty, and leave the outdoor play time up to me so I can determine where to fit it into my day. Do you have any advice on how to train her to only ask to go out when she needs to potty?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
590 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rachel, At this age you will have to respond to some false potty asks, but pay attention to how often pup genuinely has to go. If pup is asking to go when it's been less than an hour, most of the time you can safely ignore them unless they were just running around excited or ate or drank a lot - which can make them need to go sooner. When in doubt, take pup outside. If it's been at least an hour since pup last went or you think they might truly have to go sooner, you will need to take them potty. When you take them though, keep things all business - no play or treats unless they pee first. Things should be quiet, calm and super boring until they empty themselves. Give 10 minutes to go potty, walking them around slowly and telling pup to "Go potty" to get things going, then if they don't go during that time - straight back inside and crate for 45 minutes (or sooner if it's been over an hour since they last went potty), then try taking them again. Going potty is their ticket to fun, just going outside is not. This won't be a perfect answer at this age - you will probably still get some false asks that you will have to respond to while pup is still learning, but doing the above should decrease the false asks, and when pup is fully potty trained and accidents are less of a risk, you can more safely call pup's bluff on this later. My own dog tried this when she was a puppy. It did get better once potty training was more underway and she discovered that potty trips weren't that exciting unless she went potty. When you take pup outside to play, also use a different sentence/command...such as "Do you need to go potty?" vs "Want to go outside?"...This may not be something formal you teach, but most people end up asking their dog a similar question when taking them out, so pay attention to how to word both and be sure to word them differently. If you have two exit doors, you can also take pup potty through one door and out to play through another door - pup will eventually probably begin going to the door associated with what they need, such as the play door if that's what they are wanting, which will help you tell - but that will take time. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Cairo
Australian Shepherd
12 Weeks
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Question
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Cairo
Australian Shepherd
12 Weeks

If I teach this method for puppy to alert us, won't they also ring bell when they just want to go outside to play? Also, what if I can't let them out right at that minute? Seems like there'd be a lot of false positives, or if I can't drop everything and run then that will confuse. Naturally, while still a puppy I'm with him all the time, but as he gets older I won't need to supervise him 100% of the time, so I don't want him ringing the bell while I'm on a conference call or taking a shower, or whatever - and then I'm not there to let him out. In the past I've just let my dogs out on a somewhat schedule knowing they can hold it. Clarification would be so appreciated. :)

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
590 Dog owners recommended

Hello Pam, As a puppy, when a puppy says they have to go, you have to take them immediately or an accident is soon to follow due to limited bladder capacity; however, if you take pup out every 1-2 hours (like a puppy needs anyway at this age), pup should have less need to ring the bell in the first place, and the bell is simply a backup for when pup needs to go and you aren't taking them often enough. As pup becomes an adult, the same thing applies - if you are taking pup outside every 3-4 hours on a schedule, they shouldn't need to ring the bell as often. You can prevent frequent bell rings that are associated with needing to truly potty outside, by taking pup on a schedule, then the bell rings are just backup for times when pup needs to go sooner than the schedule - so that pup rings the bell then instead of having an accident. You can't delay taking pup for too long once they ring the bell, since if trained right, they truly do need to go at that point and could have an accident if you wait, but a healthy, young, adult dog can generally wait 2-5 minutes if you indicate that you heard them by responding with something like "Do You need to go outside?". Asking to go out at false times is the number one issue with this approach. To prevent that, keep potty trips boring - take a young pup potty on the leash, to prevent distractions, give them 10-15 minutes to go, then back inside if they do not go. If crate training, you can put them into the crate for thirty minutes after the false ask, then take them potty again after thirty minutes - which is a good practice for potty training a young puppy anyway to prevent an accident when their bladder isn't empty and they are free. As soon as pup gets good at ringing the bell to go out, transition giving pup a treat after the bell ring to only giving pup a treat after they both ring the bell AND go potty - at the end of pottying. Discontinue treats altogether if false asks become a big issue even then. Don't let pup play outside after ringing the bell unless they go potty first. When you take pup outside to Play, use a different word or sentence to indicate you are playing outside than what you use for pottying, such as "Go Outside?" Vs. "Need to Potty?". Know that many dogs find ways to ask to go outside on their own, such as barking, running to the door, or pawing at you. The bell is simply a substitute that's a bit more polite instead of one of those things, so false asks are a common problem with all puppies at a certain point, even without teaching a bell Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden.

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Ranger
Australian Shepherd
5 Months
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Question
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Ranger
Australian Shepherd
5 Months

We live in a townhouse. When we first got ranger we used pads/grass pads to have him relieve himself when we weren’t able to take him out. He got very smart with using them. 1 month ago we decided to focus solemnly on having him go outside, we got the bells and put them on the door and he mastered ringing the bells and rings it when we go outside. He’s gone potty a couple times when outside but sometimes he will hold it for HOURS and then go on the pad (we keep one close to the door just in case of an emergency). We take him out about 7-10 times a day and sometimes he just won’t relieve himself outside because he either gets distracted or just doesn’t want to.Im not sure if it’s because he’s used to using the pads or the scent draws him to it or what.. I give him treats and praise him when he goes outside but he just thinks he’ll get a treat EVERY time he goes outside. Please help or any advice would be amazing!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
590 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sarah, When you take pup potty, walk them around slowly on the leash the whole time you are outside, to help their body feel the urge to go. Encourage sniffing as you walk. Tell pup to "Go Potty" and keep a couple of treats hidden in your pocket. Purchase a potty encouraging spray such as "Go Here" or "Hurry!", and spray it on the area you want pup to go potty on before you take them outside each time. When pup does finally go potty outside, praise and reward with the treat. It's normal for pup to expect treats in general. Teaching pup the Go Potty command and practicing overtime should help pup learn that the treats are only for going potty as you insist that they must potty first. If treats continue to confuse pup, you can skip the treats and just work on the walking and adding scent. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Louis
Boston Terrier
16 Months
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Question
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Louis
Boston Terrier
16 Months

Hi Louis is fine with using the bell method the only problem is he will keep pressing the bell every five minutes as he knows we will let him out. How do we stop this as sometimes we ignore the request thinking he just wants to go outside and he then relieves himself in another room.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
30 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question. This is tricky - Louis likes to be outside that is clear! I think the best way to tackle this is to take Louis out on the leash every time he rings the bell. Wait till he does potty and then bring him back in right away. Next time he rings the bell, same thing. Then, he'll learn that the bell means potty not playtime. Of course, it is important to take him for walks and outside for playtime often, just not when he rings the bell. Good luck!

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