February 18, 2022

Teach Your Dog to Ring A Bell to Go Outside

A potty bell is an easy way for your dog to communicate that they need to go outside and eliminate. The first step is to teach your dog how to ring the bell, then associate it with the door and specifically with relieving themselves outside. The bell is a way to signal that they need to go, so for it to work, it’s important that your dog already understands that they only eliminate outdoors.

What Type of Bells are Best?

When it comes to choosing bells for your pup, there’s no right or wrong answer. Usually you’ll see jingle bell style bells that dangle from the door knob. There are several other options available such as a dinner bell style of bell or more high-tech options. Choose the one that best suits your home and your lifestyle.

Teaching Your Dog to Ring the Bell

Teaching your do to ring a bell to go outside involves three steps: teaching your dog how to ring the bell, applying that training to the door and finally getting your dog to associate the bell with going outside to eliminate.

1. Reward Your Dog when They Ring The Bell

  • Hold the bells upright in your hand and wait for your dog to check them out on their own.
  • Most dogs will sniff the bells or lightly tap them with their nose. The moment your dog does this, mark the behaviour with a clicker or by saying “yes” and reward them with a small treat.
  • If your dog hesitates to touch the bells in your hand, put them on the ground and give them some time. Don’t pressure them. They may be startled initially by the sound.
  • For dogs that are extra nervous, you can reward them for looking at the bells or stepping towards the bells and gradually work your way up to having them touch the bells on their own.

2. Move the Bells to the door

  • Hang the bells on the doorknob and put your hand behind them to encourage your dog to touch the bells while they’re attached to the door.
  • When your dog’s nose touches the bells, mark the behaviour with a clicker or by saying “yes” and giving them a small reward.
  • If your dog is touching the bells too lightly to have them make a sound, wait until they ring it again with a bit more force. Once they realize they aren’t being rewarded when they tap them too lightly, they will generally try to tap them harder when they see they aren’t getting their reward.
  • Once your dog has gotten the hang of tapping the bells while they’re attached to the door, move further away from the door and wait for your dog to offer the behaviour on their own. Try not to point or talk to your dog, just give them space and let them figure it out.

3. Apply the Behaviour to Toileting

  • Now you simply have to wait. Wait for your dog to offer the behaviour of ringing the bells. When they do, reward them quickly, open the door and let them outside.
  • Reward them again after they eliminate outside.
  • Once you’re seeing success with your pup using the bells and eliminating outside, reward them only after they have eliminated outside.
  • Once your dog is consistently using the bells and eliminating outdoors, you can remove the food reward altogether.