Teaching your dog to ring the bell if they want to go out is a great way to have a built-in reminder for when it is time to let them out for a potty. This can be especially helpful for older dogs, or those with medical conditions that require frequent potty breaks.
Once they have the basics of ringing the bell down, you can bring a spare bell on a string with you when you travel so that your dog can bring their trick with them to hotels or when visiting friends and family. It is a great trick for adding some consistency to the sometimes stressful environment of new places.
You can train younger dogs to do this behavior as well. The trick with older dogs is simply to be more patient and do plenty of repetitions before moving to the next training step in order to make the training session about success and confidence building. It is a myth that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but sometimes they do need a little more patience.
Prevent accidents! This trained behavior will help you prevent your older dog from having accidents in the house by giving them a way to give you a clear signal that it is time to go out, without wining or pawing at the door.
Once you have taught them the basics of the trick, you can make it a requirement for going outside.
What you will find is that in time, once ringing the bell is a requirement before going out, your dog will ring it on their own when they are ready. You don’t actually have to teach this last step, your dog will just naturally do it when they have had enough prompting and practice.
If you use a clicker to train your dog, then make sure to have that and some small treats handy. If you don’t use a clicker, just make a special sound or word to “mark” the behavior you want at each step, always followed promptly by a reward.
The instructions below may take several sessions to accomplish. Be sure to start at the last step your dog mastered for lots of practice at the start of a new session before trying to move on to a new step. This builds confidence and keeps your dog engaged in learning.
Thelma is a rescue dog that I have just recently allowed in the house. She has had several potty accidents since, and doesn't appear shameful or trying to hide to make the mess... which makes me think she just doesn't know that she needs to ask to go out. She doesn't give a warning before she goes either. I have been trying to potty train her and thought about the bell method. Do you have any additional suggestions for potty training as she is and older dog?
Hello! Your observations seem correct in the sense that she probably has no idea where to go to the bathroom. While training her to ring a bell is a good idea, I often tell people when adult dogs have potty issues, it is wise to start completely over as though they are puppies. If that doesn't work after a few more weeks, going with a bell might be your last stop. I am going to send you quite a bit of info on potty training. It is geared towards puppies, but the process is the same. 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.
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