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Potty training your dog can be a daunting task, but if done right with love and patience, you can also teach your dog to tell you when she needs to go outside. That’s right; she can ring a bell to tell you she needs to go potty instead of barking and scaring you or waking a sleeping baby. Teaching your dog to ring a bell is easy to do for puppies and may take a little extra practice for adult dogs.
Imagine cooking dinner, sitting down watching television, or enjoying family game night and hearing the ringing of a bell instead of a loud and obnoxious bark. If you have company over and your dog can ring a bell to signify she needs to go potty, it will not only be a calmer gentler request to go outside, but your guests will also be delighted at the talents of your dog.
House training your dog is a matter of repetition. Bell training is very similar. Only adding the bell and teaching your dog to ring it will require extra patience. Introducing the bell while you are house training a puppy can be fun for you both. You can add a bell as a fixture for the door your dog will use to get outside. You could also train your dog to use a bell anywhere in your home as a signal for needing to get outside. She could learn to touch a bell with her nose or pick up a bell from a particular and consistent holding spot like an end table and ring it to signal to you she needs to go outside to go potty. Avoid keeping a bell in various places, and be sure to remain consistent, using the same location for the bell and one training technique so as not to confuse your dog.
Just like with house training, bell training will take time, commitment, and patience. Have some special treats on hand just for this training. You will also need a bell and a decision on where to place it and how your dog will interact with it before training starts. This process for a puppy could take two to four weeks. For a house trained dog, teaching her to use a bell as part of her requests to go outside to go potty may take a little longer simply because you are retraining by breaking the old habit of barking or scratching at the door to go outside and teaching her a new method. Have patience with both puppies and older dogs.
The Hanging Bell Method
Choose a bell
Choose a bell you can hang at an appropriate level close to the door you wish your dog to use to go outside. Your dog will want to nudge the bell with her nose or ring the bell with her paws.
Introduce the bell
Introduce the bell to your dog by sitting on the floor near the door with her and showing it to her. Allowing her to sniff the bell, give her a treat every time her nose touches it.
Show the bell
Continue showing her the bell, only this time ring the bell so she can hear the noise it makes. As you continue to show her the bell, every time her nose touches it, and she makes the bell ring, give her a treat. Do not treat if she only touches the bell but does not make it ring.
Hang the bell
Hang the bell in the appropriate spot by the door.
Encourage your dog to ring the bell with her nose. Reward your dog every time she is able to ring the bell.
Ring the bell
When she is able to ring the bell every time you show it to her, begin to place her treats outside the door where she can see them. Showing her the hanging bell again, encourage her to ring it.
Open the door
When she rings the bell, open the door, allowing her to receive her treat. As you are bell training, watch for signs that she may have to go potty. Each time you take her out to go potty, point to the bell and encourage her to ring it. Open the door and let her go outside to go potty.
If she goes potty after ringing the bell, reward her.
Point to the bell
Each time she goes to the door to be let outside, point to the bell, encouraging her to ring it before you open the door to let her out. Getting her used to the bell may take several days. Getting her to associate the bell with going outside to use the potty may take several more days. Be patient with her and show her the bell every time.
Leaving the bell at the door, continue to point to it every time she needs to go outside. Eventually, your dog will ring the bell on her own to let you know she needs to go potty outside.
The Bell Command Method
Show the bell
Away from your door, show your dog the bell she will use to signify she needs to go outside. While showing it to your dog, touch her nose with it.
Once you touch her nose, say the word “Bell,” and give her a treat. You can use any keyword you would like, such as “touch” or “Bell.”
Hide the bell
Hide the bell behind your back or in a closed hand. Bring the bell back out into the open and say the word “Bell.”
Touch the bell
Encourage her to touch her nose to the bell, and if she does not on her own, touch it to her nose. Once the bell touches her nose, give her a treat.
Continue to practice this, until she touches the bell on her own when you say the word “Bell” or the keyword you have chosen. Once your dog has mastered touching her nose to the bell, begin the next steps of taking her outside each time she touches her nose to the bell.
Near door and out
Show her the bell while standing next to the door and say the word “Bell.” When she touches her nose to the bell, take her outside and into the area where you would like her to go potty. When she goes potty, give her a treat.
Repeat these steps for her to master the idea of the bell needing to be touched by her nose and then relating that to going outside to go potty. Each time you take her to the bell, use the command word to get her to touch it before opening the door to let her outside.
Barking at the door
If she goes to the door or barks to go outside, point to the bell and use the command word, “Bell.” She should begin to understand she needs to touch the bell to her nose before going outside to go potty.
The Coffee Table Bell Method
Place the bell
Place a bell the right size for your dog's mouth on a side table or coffee table that your dog can easily reach.
Ring the bell
Before you take your dog outside to go potty, pick up the bell, ring it, and offer it to your dog to hold in her mouth.
As you give her the bell in her mouth it should ring as well so she can hear the sound it makes when in her mouth.
'Go potty' signal
Each time she signifies that she needs to go outside to go potty pick up the bell and place it in her mouth.
Point to the bell
Over the course of a few days and several trips outside, begin to point to the bell when she needs to go outside indicating she needs to pick it up herself.
Every time your dog goes to the bell and places it in her mouth, take her outside.
Over the course of several weeks and lots of practice, your dog should go to her special table and pick up the bell herself to ring it and let you know she needs to go outside.
Be sure to offer your dog treats and rewards every time she picks up the bell herself to let you know she needs to go potty.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 01/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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