Teach Your Dog to Ring a Bell to Go Outside

teach dog to ring bell

Want to teach your dog to ring a bell to signal that they need to go outside? The training process is easier than you might think!

A potty bell is a clear and easy way for your dog to communicate with you that they need to eliminate. We need to first teach your dog how to ring the bell, then help them associate it with the door and specifically with relieving themselves outside.

It's worth mentioning that teaching your dog to ring a bell is not going to housetrain your dog.

The bell is a way for them to signal that they need to go. So for it to work, it's important that your dog already understands they must only eliminate outdoors.

For help with potty training, try this blog.

What kind of bells should you get?

There is no right answer for this, but the bells you'll see us using are these jingle bells that dangle from the doorknob (or can be hung on a nail next to the door.)

There are several other options, including this "dinner bell" style bell, or this more high-tech option. Choose the one that best suits your home and your lifestyle; the training stays essentially the same.

So, how do you teach your dog to ring a bell?

The process to teach your dog to ring a bell to go outside involves three steps: first, teaching your dog how to ring the bell.

We then apply that training to the door, and finally help your dog associate the bell with going outside to eliminate.

See the video above for a visual demonstration, and you'll find the written instructions below!

Step 1: Reward your dog when they ring the bell.

Before you get started, an important note; please don't ring the bells yourself or grab your dog's paw to help them ring it! The noise can initially be startling for some dogs, so we don't want to risk setting back your training by rushing through the process.

  • Hold the bells upright in your hand and wait for your pup to investigate them. You can also slip your hand behind the bell to encourage them to check them out.
  • Most dogs will sniff the bells or lightly touch them with their nose. The moment your dog does this, say "yes!" and reward with a small treat.
  • If your dog won't initially touch the bells in your hand, put them on the ground and give her a bit of time. Try not to put pressure on your dog.
  • For dogs that are very nervous of the bells at first, you can reward simply for looking at the bells or taking a step towards them, then work your way up to touching them.
  • If you were using your hand to help them touch the bells, you should now begin gradually moving your hand towards the top of the bells, and only rewarding your dog for touching the bells, not your hand.

Step 2: Move the bell to the door.

Now we're going to apply this same training to the door! Be sure to use a door that leads directly to the outside.

  • Put the bells on the door and slide your hand behind them to encourage your dog to touch the bells in this new location.
  • Anytime your dog's nose touches the bells, mark "yes!" and reward.
  • If your dog is touching the bells too gently to make a noise, simply pause for a few seconds after they ring the bell. Once they realize they aren't being rewarded, they will typically hit the bells a bit harder. Reward that!
  • Now gradually slide your hands higher up the bells, and reward your dog for touching the bells and not your hand.
  • Your next step is to move further away from the door, and wait for your dog to offer the behavior of ringing the bells. Try to avoid pointing or excessively talking to your dog – give them a bit of space and watch them work!

Step 3: Applying the Behavior to Pottying

Now it's time to apply this new behavior to its intended purpose – teaching your dog to ring the bell to be let outside to potty!

  • Now, you will simply wait for your dog to offer the behavior of ringing the bell. When they do, reward them quickly, open the door, and let them outside.
  • Reward again after they eliminate outside.
  • Once you're seeing success, you can begin to only reward after they eliminate outside.
  • Lastly, the food rewards can go away altogether once your dog is consistently ringing the bell and eliminating outdoors. Over time relief of using the bathroom can actually be a reward for your dog!

Need extra help? See our blog on potty training here, or feel free to contact us for information on our virtual and in-person training options.

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