To bell train your puppy — teach your new puppy or adult dog to ring a “potty bell”—can be a lifesaver if you’re working on potty training your puppy. Teaching your dog to ring a potty bell when he needs to go outdoors is simple, convenient, and can help you avoid accidents (or, in the case of my stoic pups, the dreaded, silent potty stare).
So, how exactly does it work? Some claim that all you have to do is put a bell on the door and ring it every time you take your puppy outside until he starts ringing it on his own. Professional behaviorists, dog trainers, and AKC experts, on the other hand, recommend a more deliberate approach to teach your puppy to ring a potty bell.
Specialists at the AKC (American Kennel Club) outlined the following three-step process for an effective training experience:
1. Train your puppy to nose-touch the bell and reward with a treat
2. Motivate your puppy to ring the bell at the door and reward with a treat.
3. Train your puppy to ring the bell only when it’s potty time, not all the time!
· Take care of your puppy. Limit his access to other sections of the house while you’re first starting to house-train him, whether that means closing off doors to bedrooms or crate-training him, so he has his own space – especially if they’ve just moved into their new home.
· Create a routine. Puppies have a strong sense of routine. You can teach your dog to “go” at specific intervals by feeding him at the same time every day and providing regularly spaced walks and outside potty breaks.
· Never penalize your puppy for going potty indoors. Accidents occur, and puppies don’t understand cause and effect the same way humans do. Clean up the mess, remind yourself that the more consistent you are, the more fruitful your efforts will be, and move on.
· Reward your puppy when he gets it right. As soon as he uses the restroom in the appropriate location, reward him with a treat.
If you have concerns about your pet’s toilet habits, consult your veterinarian. You know your puppy better than anyone else.
1. Bell Training Works and It Starts with Touch Training
While specially-made puppy training bells like the Mighty Paw Smart Bell or Caldwell’s Potty Bells are available for purchase either online or from your local pet store, you can still build your own type of bell at home using simple craft shop supplies. In my case, it’s an antique holiday ornament jingle bell hanging on a shoelace!
These adorable and strong potty bells easily snap around your door handle, lever, and other objects, allowing your puppy to ring instead of barking or scratching.
Once you’ve decided on a bell, the first step is completed. Congrats! You’re now ready to bell-train your puppy. Make sure you have enough snacks on hand. You’ll also need your clicker if you’re doing clicker training.
Begin by exposing your puppy to the bell. “For bells that hang from a hook or door knob, a small dab of spreadable cheese, puppy-safe peanut butter, or some other soft treat can be spread on the bell to encourage your puppy to approach the bell and touch it with his muzzle.” says animal behaviorist Mikkel Becker of Vetstreet.
ِOnce the bell is set up; it’s time to get to work.
- Say the command “touch” to your puppy and show him the bell, holding it a few inches away from his nose.
- As soon as your puppy’s nose touches the bell, click your clicker or say “yes!” and immediately give him a treat. The clicker or “yes” signals to the puppy that he has done a good job, and the treat is his reward. Repeat the first two steps 10-15 times, or until your puppy consistently touches the bell when you say “touch.”
- · Next, each time you signal your puppy to “touch” the bells, move them a little further away from him or to the side. You gradually increase the distance and time of your puppy’s response to the command “touch.”
In brief, the best way to bell-train your puppy fast is through regular bursts, so try this “touch” practice daily – at 10-15-minute intervals.
2. Place the Doggy Bell next to the door
After a week of practice, you should be ready to move on to the next step!
In this phase, your puppy will progress from touching the bell to ringing it adjacent to the door. First, hang your puppy’s potty bells on the doorknob of the most frequently used door, including the back door, to take your pet outside. The bell can also be either hung or mounted close to the doorframe.
Some households and apartment buildings have high-tech options, such as an electronic doggy doorbell, which is a good solution for puppies who dislike jingle sounds. Whatever bell type you use, it should be set in respect of the height of your dog– meaning at his nose or paw level.
Call your puppy over and continue house training with treats in hand. WebMD ASPCA pet behaviorists suggest the following steps:
- Hold the bell and say “Touch” holding it out to your puppy as close as the rope or hanger will allow.
- When your puppy’s nose reaches the bell, click or shout “yes!” and reward him with a small treat.
- Repeat this step until your puppy immediately touches the bell when you say “touch.” Some puppies won’t need much time because they’ve already gotten the nack of touching the bell.
When your puppy has mastered contacting the bell while in your hands, you can move on to simply pointing at the bell and saying, “touch.” Use the same technique to mark and reward them. They’ll most likely pick it up right away.
3 Ringing Bells for Going Outside (and Nothing Else!)
Now that your puppy can ring the bell on command, it’s the perfect time to teach him that he can ring it himself anytime he wants to go outside. But you must also demonstrate to him that ringing the bell is only appropriate during potty time. After all, you don’t want him ringing it all the time.
Follow these steps any time you take your puppy outdoors for a bathroom break to train him to ring the bell:
- As you walk your puppy up to the door, say “touch” and point to the bell.
- When your puppy’s nose reaches the bell, click or shout “yes!” and always reward with a treat.
- Do this each and every time you take your puppy outside.
As behaviorist Mikkel Bekker points out, it’s all about consistency: “All members of the family and caretakers need to encourage the new signal all the time.” With enough repetitions and consistency, your puppy will learn that in order to go outside, he must press his nose against the bell.
Throw a party the first time your dog rings the bell on his own: give him lots of praise, reward him, and immediately take him outside. Then, as soon as he uses the restroom, give him another delicious treat –which will help make the connection between ringing the bell, going outdoors, and eliminating in the proper location.
Dog Bell Training – Do’s and Don’ts
- Use a command to familiarize your puppy with the bell and teach him what to do with it. Most dog owners call “bell” or “touch” when making this action. A command tells a puppy what to do and when to do it. Once your puppy associates “touch” or “bell” with touching the bell with his nose, you’ve conquered the first hurdle.
- 10-minute increments: Short training sessions help your puppy consume your input. You can always come back later. Your puppy should enjoy his training sessions, not find them tedious. Nobody should nap here. Do 10 to 15 minutes, then come back a couple of hours later—not so long that your puppy will forget what he learned, but long enough for him to find it fascinating again.
- The “potty bell” is for using the bathroom. Make sure your puppy knows that bell training is only for potty breaks. You want your puppy to play outside, but while toilet training with the bell, they must go out, do their business, and come back in. If your puppy associates the bell with playfulness, he’ll never stop ringing it. Let your puppy play before he rings the bell. This ensures he gets outdoor playing, just not when the bell rings. Start with potty pads and gradually transition your puppy to the outdoors.
- Build a relationship. Have a shared language of bells or recorded buttons diminishes frustration between a pet owner, their pet, and any relevant parties. For example, if you have a pet sitter come to your house, the bell system can help your dog adjust better to your absence because they’ll be able to express basic needs to their sitter.
- Start with a loud bell: Newsflash! Puppies don’t enjoy loud noises – including the sound of the bell. What can you do? You want to hear the bell from anywhere in the home so you can help your puppy fast. He’ll probably be startled most by the bell. It may not be possible at first to hear your puppy ring a bell from a mile away. Start with modest jingle bells – or sleigh bells – or wrap them in cloth or tape to reduce the noise of the bell. Make it so you can barely hear it at first, and then gradually work your way to a louder sound. Don’t scare your puppy with the bell. You want him to give that string of bells an enthusiastic punch with his nose or paw and not run fleeing under the bed after.
- Not rewarding after they go outside, especially when potty training a puppy. Remember. Puppies are very food motivated. Always vocally praise good behavior and then reward with dog treats. Not every puppy likes to go outside. If not rewarded, your puppy might likely just end up loathing this whole experience.
- Overconfident: This is going to be a process, so try not to push it. When you start potty bell training your new dog, he won’t bell ring to go outside after the first day or the second day. It’ll take a while to understand what this bell is for. You must cautiously introduce him to the “puppy doorbell” and reassure him that it’s not a toy. Start by rewarding your puppy whenever he touches the bell with his nose.
- Not believing your dog can learn: Whether it’s a puppy or an older dog, all dogs of any breed can learn this skill. Don’t underestimate your dog’s ability to learn new tricks, regardless of age, size, or breed.
To bell-train your puppy is simple, fun, and not limited to small dogs. In a few weeks of consistent training, puppies of all sizes, ages, and breeds can master the potty bell.
Bell training is a terrific approach to toilet-train your puppy while also being a lovely trick. One dog training process for two important goals? That’s something to ring a bell about.