Teaching your dog to ring a bell to go outside

Any dog can be taught to ring a bell to alert his owner that he needs to go outside to do his business. By using consistent, positive reinforcement, your dog will learn this behavior in nothing flat – allowing you and your dog to communicate on a new level you never thought possible.

The first step is to attach a bell to the knob of the door that your dog uses to go outside. The type of bell isn’t important. You can use jingle bells from soon-to-be discarded holiday decorations, or an inexpensive fishing bell found in the sports aisle of your local department store. What is important is to adjust the bell’s height on the door so that your dog can easily touch it with his paw or nose. This can be done by suspending the bell on a piece of sturdy ribbon or rope that hangs freely from the knob. Once this is accomplished, you are ready to begin.

Whether your dog is in the process of being housebroken or is an old pro, the same training method may be employed for either. Consistency is the key to success, so once you’ve started the bell-ringing program, continue it until your dog has learned the wanted behavior. Having your dog on the leash will aid in controlling his motions, so keep the lead by the chosen door for easy access during this time.

When your dog exhibits his usual body language that he needs to go outside, use one verbal signal, such as “Want to go outside?” or simply, “Outside?” Whatever the verbal clue is, use the same one every time so that your dog will begin to associate it with going outside to eliminate.

After your dog has made you aware he needs to go and you have clearly stated your verbal signal, take the lead in close proximity to his collar (about 6 inches) in one hand and have some type of reward treat in the other. Gently, but firmly, lead him to the door and let him see you guide the treat to the bell. Hold the treat so that it touches the bell in plain view of your dog and he will naturally come closer to investigate. Again with the lead, guide his head to the bell/treat location and assist him in nudging the treat with his nose so that the bell makes a sound. You can also train him to use his paw to ring the bell by grasping one of his paws in your hand and guiding it towards the bell to make it ring.

Once this has been completed, praise him by saying “Good dog”, give him the treat, open the door and let him go outside. Repeat this sequence whenever your dog needs to go outside until he has mastered the task.

That’s really all there is to it. By reinforcing the wanted behavior, your dog can learn this and any other “trick” you care to teach him. Every dog loves to learn, and genuinely delights in demonstrating his accomplishments, especially if a treat is his well-earned reward.

Enjoy this and all training sessions with your dog. Because after all, a well-trained dog is a source of pride for its owner and just a simple pleasure to be around.

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