Bell training a dog is the perfect way to bridge the communication gap between dog and owner! Giving your dog an easy way to tell you that they need to go outside can relieve stress for everyone, never leaving their potty breaks to guesswork.
All it takes is a little time and patience to start using a dog potty bell!
Using potty bells is the best way to avoid some of the other signals dogs already give us when they need to use the bathroom, such as whining, scratching on the door, or barking.
Training them to use dog potty bells can be extremely fast and easy, depending on the time set aside for training and the dedication to the newly emplaced system.
Types of Bells
Old school or the new school, whatever dog potty bell you choose is perfect as long as it works for you and your pup!
Digital bells offer a higher-tech option for those who prefer a modern ring. A simple touch of your pup’s nose or paw is enough to make the doorbell jingle. There are other training opportunities using these, as well!
If you haven’t seen Bunny the talking dog, this Sheepadoodle and her owner use tons of the digital buttons attached to audio sounds for communication. But don’t worry, one is enough for now!
Physical bells are less expensive and serve the same purpose. They can be hung from door handles or around the door frame to be at the perfect height for your pup. A single bell, a cluster of bells, or a whole string of them will work for this! You can buy them online or you can make DIY potty bells from craft supplies.
Personally, my German Shepherd worked well with some leftover Christmas bells that we scrapped together for her potty bell. It was long enough that the bells were close to the ground for when she was still a small puppy learning how to signal to us that she needed to use the potty. As she grew, we didn’t have to change the potty bells to adjust for her growth since the string of bells was about a foot and a half long from the door handle. Our homemade potty bells made apartment living with a big dog easy!
Step by Step
Having your dog touch their nose to the bell is the first step. When first introduced, your dog will be curious about the new object. Giving them a dog treat and rewarding them with a positive “yes” will show them that touching the potty bell on the command “touch” is the right thing to do!
Work on this step for around 15 minutes a day for a week and your dog will have the command and signal down in no time.
Make it more challenging for them as they start to understand the command. Move the bells further away from them to make them move around to get to them.
2. Touch on door
After your dog masters the art of touching the bells when shown them and given the command, it’s time to move them to the area that you plan to place them long-term. Go through the same movements as step one with the command “touch” and positive encouragement.
Doing this will have them associate the area with the bells over time. This step shouldn’t take more than a few days since most of it is continuance training from step one, just in a different place!
3. Ring when Needed
Unless you want to hear those bells all the time, this is the step to make sure your pup gets down perfectly! Ringing the bell when they need to go outside is the goal, so you will need to associate the two actions with them.
When you are going to take your dog outside, give them the command of “touch” with the positive rewards then take them out to the potty. Over time, they will learn that the sound of the bell ringing signals a potty break.
The first time that your dog rings the bell on its own will make you so proud! Take them out to potty, reward them again when they do potty, and continue to reinforce the bell system.
Consistency is key!
Having your dog potty trained can prevent any additional stress on you and them. Potty training requires a constant schedule and expectations to ensure your dog understands what you are asking of them. Taking them out at similar times will teach them when they should expect to use the bathroom.
When to expect a potty break
- When you first wake up
- After eating or drinking
- After playing
- As soon as they are let out of a dog crate
- Before bedtime
- During the night (for young puppies)
These times are perfect times to work on training the bell system. It’s all about associating the bell to their potty break!
Crates are the Key
One common misconception about dog crates is that they are a bad thing and just punishment for bad behavior. This just isn’t true if you treat the crate as what it should be! A crate should act as a safe space for your dog and be a living space solely for them.
Dogs don’t like to mess up their living space, they prefer to not use the bathroom where they sleep. So it is best to use this to your advantage and quickly establish that their crate is a no bathroom zone. When you establish that their living space is not a dog place to use the bathroom, it will help you show them that your living space is also a no potty zone! Add blankets and toys in the crate to give your dog a den-like environment. Their ancestors are cave-dwelling wolves!
If your dog starts to cry or scratch at the crate, they may need to use the bathroom! Make sure you listen to them, the fewer times they make a mess in the crate when they are young or new to crate training, the fewer times it is likely to happen in the future.
Crate training is worth the time and effort!
Dog crates are not one size fits all. The incorrect crate size can cause more problems than needed, so finding the right size the first time is preferable.
You can find crate sizes based on breed and weight online, but a good rule of thumb is to find a crate that is as long as they are from nose to tail plus 3 inches. Crates should be big enough for the dog to turn around in but not big enough where they could use the bathroom in a corner and then lay far enough away from it that it wouldn’t bother them.
If you want to buy a dog crate that will fit your puppy as they grow up, buy one that has a moveable wall inside of it so you can move it back as they get bigger.
What NOT to do
There are a few things that you should avoid when training your dog to use a potty bell.
Do not use the sound of potty bells to mean anything negative! If your dog associates the sound of the bells ringing with something bad, they will not want to ring the bells themselves. Keeping the bells as a positive communication tool.
Try not to ignore them when they ring the bells to use the bathroom. Once they learn how to use the potty bell, when they ring it, they mean business!
Tips and Tricks!
- Hang your bell system from the door you most commonly take your dog out from to better help them associate the potty bells to potty time.
- Some dogs don’t like loud sounds that the physical bells may make, try smaller bells or a soft-sounding digital one.
- Smarter breeds are able to pick up new tricks faster than others, for a multiple dog household, train them together so they learn from each other.
- If your dog starts to have accidents more often in the house, it may be suffering from a UTI or other health concerns. Look into booking an appointment with your local vet.
- When going out to potty, it’s potty time, not playtime, so make sure the dog is not being stimulated by toys or kids when they should be focused on using the bathroom.
- Always supervise puppies while they are in the house, not catching an accident will show them that it is okay to use the potty in your home.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long does it take to bell train a dog?
Bell training a dog takes no more than a few weeks. Some dogs pick up new tricks and tasks extremely fast. Others take a little bit more time and patience to understand their new task. Just take it one day at a time and your pup will catch on!
2. How do you train a dog to ring a bell to go outside?
It’s all about connecting the action and sound of the bell’s ringing to going outside to potty. Start with the command of “touch” and positive rewards when your dog touches the bells, move to the area the bells will be rung and repeat, and then move to ring the bells before potty breaks. Read above for more in-depth training steps!
3. How do you potty train a puppy with a bell?
Potty training is an important step in raising a young pup. Teaching them that the bell connects to potty time will make bathroom breaks a breeze. Utilizing crates and a routine, you can potty train a puppy on the bell system to prevent accidents inside your home.
4. What is the fastest way to house train a dog?
Establishing potty times, learning the bell system, and having a crate are some of the best practices you can start to house train a dog. Staying consistent in your training is the fastest way to get through house training. Having to backtrack and retrain is what will cause a dog to not understand or be confused about potty training.
5. What do I do if my dog makes a mess in the house?
If you catch your dog in the act, correct them with a firm “no” and take them outside. Cleaning the area thoroughly will remove any of the leftover smells that might encourage your dog to use the bathroom in the same place again. You can also take the accident (such as the rag used to soak up the pee) outside to help continue to establish that in the yard is the correct potty area for them.
6. I work all day and don’t have time to take my dog out, what can I do?
Long workdays can be stressful for both you and your pets. Not just because they love you and want to spend time with you, but also because they may have fewer times to use the bathroom during the day. If this is the case, using a potty pad might be helpful to prevent the dog from using the bathroom in other areas of the house. You can also look into a local dog walker, make a deal with the neighbors, or think about getting an electronic dog door with a fenced-in backyard or wireless dog fence.