Potty Training Your Puppy with a Bell
Potty training your puppy with bells can be one of the simplest and most reliable ways to housetrain your dog. The bell-training technique is a great way to help your puppy communicate his needs and ensure fewer accidents in your home. These tips can even work for older dogs that need to learn a new way of going potty outside.
Why Bell Training Is So Great
Bell training is a reliable method that is easy for you and your puppy to understand. If you train your puppy just to stand at the door when she wants to go outside, you might miss her cue if you're busy or focused on something else. And of course, barking can be misinterpreted. Ringing a bell to go outside is a reliable means of communication.
Steps to Train Your Puppy
The steps to train your puppy to use a bell are simple and straightforward.1 You need a bell and a delicious treat that really motivates your pup. There are two main types of bells: one on a ribbon that hangs from the doorknob, or one you attach to the wall. Of course, you should be ready to shower your dog with lots of praise and encouragement.
1. Teach your puppy to touch the bell.First, dangle the bell near your dog's nose while saying "bell," and give your puppy praise and a treat whenever he touches it with his nose. Then move the bell back a little so he has to step toward it to touch it. (Some pet owners give their dog a treat for just touching the bell a few times, then add the word "bell" after the initial positive association is made.) You may need to put something tasty—like cheese or peanut butter—on the bell to get his attention. If you prefer clicker training, then "click and treat" when he moves toward the bell, and again when he touches it.2
2. Teach your puppy to touch the bell to go outside.The advice for this second part varies depending on what your dog responds to best. For clicker training, you might wait until you know your dog needs to go potty, then present the bell, and click and open the door when he rings it. If you taught your puppy to respond to the word "bell," then you might hang the bell on the doorknob, point to the bell and say "bell!" When he touches the bell, praise him, open the door, and let him go outside. If he starts ringing the bell just to go outside and play, try putting him on his leash and only taking him to the place where he goes potty, then bringing him right back inside.3 Other trainers suggest simply waiting until you take your dog out for a potty break, and make sure you have him ring the bell first. Just before you go outside to potty, say "bell!" and then praise him and take him outside once he touches the bell.4
Be Patient with Your Pup
Whichever method you use for training, remember the key is patience and praise. Each step might take several days or more to master, so it's important to keep things fun and lighthearted. This will help your pup associate positive emotions with the desired action and reinforce his desire to do it.
As with any training, even when teaching simple commands like "place," the key is repetition. If your pup seems to struggle with a step or starts to get things wrong, just backtrack a little. Review a previously mastered step and try moving forward from there.
Remember to take lots of breaks, and don't turn your lives into focusing on just one training goal. Some puppies may be adjusting to a lot right now, including a new home. If your puppy seems anxious, try getting a Mother's Heartbeat Heated Puppy Pet Bed. This bed has a heartbeat device and bone pillow that helps relax puppies, making them feel safe.
Some dogs catch on faster than others, so don't compare your dog's progress to your friends' dogs. If you have any issues, there's no shame in hiring a pet trainer to help. Sometimes you just need a little guidance to figure out what motivates your dog and what type of training she responds to the best.
1. AKC Staff. "Teach Your Dog to Ring a Bell to Go Outside." AKC.org, 11 July 2017, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/teach-dog-ring-bell-go-outside/.
2. Bindoff, Aidan. "How to Train Your Puppy to Ring a Bell to Potty." Karen Pryor Clicker Training, 1 October 2007, https://www.clickertraining.com/node/1171.
4. WebMD. "Teaching Your Dog to Ask to Go Out." Pets.WebMD.com, https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/teaching-dog-ask-go-out#3-4.