Many of my clients come to me asking how to train a dog to use a bell to go outside. The title of this post is actually quite misleading.
I’m not going to teach you how to train this skill. The reason why is that it is a bad idea.
During my career I’ve met hundreds of dog owners who have trained their dog to use a bell when they need to go potty. In a large majority of those cases the dogs in question had learned how to ‘game the system’.
What I mean by that is the dog had learned to ring the bell….whenever he felt like it. He may or may not need to go to the bathroom. His bladder may or may not be just about ready to burst. Perhaps he just wanted to go outside to chase butterflies, bask in the sun, or run around barking at neighbors.
What I’m getting at is when you know how to train a dog to use a bell to go outside you’ll often find that the dog is abusing the privilege by ringing the bell 50 times a day! Now you are at the beck and call of your dog. It doesn’t matter if you are taking a shower on the other side of the house, relaxing by reading a book, or otherwise engaged….if your dog rings that bell then you’ve got to get up and go attend to the needs of your dog.
When you got your cute little puppy did you ever imagine that you’d end up being a butler to your dog? That is what happens when you use this bell system.
My advice is to avoid this training altogether.
How To Train A Dog To Use A Bell To Go Outside- Alternatives
So the question that often comes up with my clients is, “Well, if we’re not going to learn how to train a dog to use a bell to go outside…then what are we going to do?” The answer is simple, train the dog to hold it.
With my clients I’m constantly preaching a very simply concept of ‘who is controlling the outcome?’ What I mean by that is when you look at various behaviors that your dog does, trained or not, who is controlling the outcome? If your dog is controlling the outcome then HE is the one doing the training. If YOU are the one controlling the outcome, then YOU are the one doing the training.
In the case of bell training, your dog is controlling the outcome. She is the one at the back door ringing that bell and she is the one training and controlling you. I don’t like that. I don’t like putting myself in a position where the dog is telling me what to do and when to do it.
When I’m house training a young puppy or older dog I’ll keep the dog on a leash so that he or she can’t sneak away. Then I’ll simply take the dog out at regular enough intervals so that the dog learns to hold it and go out on my terms. It’s as simple as that.
How To Train A Dog To Use A Bell To Go Outside- Other Areas To Avoid
Along with potty training with a bell there are other areas of housebreaking that you want to avoid at all costs.
At all costs avoid using potty pads, avoid indoor bathroom structures for your dog, and avoid litter box training. All of these train the dog to go to the bathroom indoors whenever they like. Obviously this isn’t ideal or hygienic. Train your dog to eliminate outside and outside only and you’ll be much happier.