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Do you have a dog who doesn’t listen when you call for her? Or ignores you altogether? Perhaps you have just adopted a puppy or given a neglected and untrained rescue dog a loving home, and you need a quick way to potty train your new dog. A straightforward process that can solve these issues--and which is easy on your dog and your ears--is bell training.
Bell training is relatively simple and allows your dog to have a point of reference or association with whatever action you link to the sound. In this manner, training your dog to come when called or to ring a bell to come inside or to go potty becomes a beneficial skill for your dog to acquire. With a little bit of practice and lots of patience, you’ll learn to come running when that bell rings, too!
The famous Pavlov’s dog experiment applies to bell training. When done correctly, this exercise will help you and your dog communicate clearly with each other. Your dog will understand your expectations, and the dog will be able to let you know what her needs are at a given time. This process can eliminate misunderstandings, frustration, and accidents around the house.
Although bell training is a skill a dog can learn over a short period, all dogs are not created equal. Be patient and always bring a positive attitude to each training session. Keep those exercises short--five to ten minutes per session--and repeat them a few times a day. Soon your dog will ring that bell to let you know what she needs.
For all three of these training exercises, you will need a bell. Bells or materials to make them can be found in craft stores. There are also bells specially made for dog training that you can order online. Make sure the bell is one that your dog will be able to reach, and the sound is one you can stand.
Additional materials to have on hand are treats, patience, and an upbeat, positive attitude. Your dog will pick up on your enthusiasm for this project, and the two of you will be talking to each other in bell-speak in no time at all.
The Bell to Recall Method
Pick a reward for your dog
Choose a reward for your dog to receive when he responds to the bell. This may be grabbing his leash to take him for a walk, picking up a tennis ball to play, or giving him a dog treat.
Ring the bell to get your dog's attention
As soon as your dog responds the bell, whether she looks at you or in the direction of the ringing, or steps toward you, move to Step 3.
Give the recall command, 'come'
Tell your dog to "come" toward you at the sound of the bell.
Use the reward as a lure
Show your dog the reward you'd chosen earlier. She will begin to associate the bell ringing and the 'come' command with something fun and exciting.
Repeat these steps as needed
Practice these steps in short sessions until your dog comes to you at the sound of the bell and your 'come' command.
The Bell to Come Inside Method
Select the right type of bell
Choose a bell that can hang from a doorknob or hook, then place the bell on the outside of the door.
Put a dab of food on the bell
Put a small amount of peanut butter or spreadable cheese on the bell to entice your dog to touch it.
Reward any movement toward the bell
Praise and treat your dog for any movement she makes toward the bell, then gradually to when she sniffs and touches the bell.
Make the bell the focal point
After you've established the association between bell and treat, hold the lure off to the side of the bell or behind it entirely. Wait until your dog touches the bell and then give her the reward.
Replace the reward with the door opening
When Steps 3 and 4 are fully established, slowly remove the treat lure and replace it with the door opening each time your dog "rings" the bell.
The Bell to Go Out Method
Teach the 'touch' command
Say "touch" to your dog and show your dog the bell.
Praise and reward
Once your dog's nose hits the bell, praise her and give her a treat.
Repeat Steps 1 and 2
Repeat the first two steps of this process between 10 and 15 times until your dog is touching the bell once you give the "touch" command.
Affix the bell to the door
Hang or affix the bell to the inside of your door at a height your dog can easily reach. Then repeat Step 3 until your dog is ringing the bell on the door.
Associate the bell with going outside
Once your dog has mastered Step 4, reward her by only opening the door after she ringing the bell and when she wants to go potty. Otherwise, she might ring the bell whenever she wants to go out and play. Practice these steps repeatedly in short sessions until your dog has developed this skill.
Written by Erin Cain
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 12/15/2017, edited: 01/08/2021