Years ago, I had a doggie potty problem. It involved pee and poo puddles on my carpet, unused potty pads and petrified puppy looks.
Daisy, my oldest dog, was about a year and a half old and we still hadn’t nailed down potty training. Most of the time things were OK. But there were still plenty of accidents.
Daisy and I had a communication problem. Whenever she had to go, she would literally just stare at me (which is also her signal for “pet me, hug me, love me”). Sometimes I’d ask “Do you have to go potty?” The answer was always a wagging tail, of course (Daisy would never pass up an opportunity to go outside and sniff). But this wasn’t an effective system. Most of the time I missed the point entirely, thinking she just wanted affection. As a result, I was spending way too much time with the wet vac and carpet shampoo.
Frustrated, I talked to some more experienced dog owners at agility school. One of them suggested I try hanging a bell on the door and teach Daisy to ring it to go outside. The method is simple – attach a bell to a string, hang the string on your doorknob. The dog uses its paw or nose to ring the bell when they need to go out and relieve themselves.
I decided to give it a try, and voilà! Within a week, my timid dog was potty trained!
How to Potty Train Your Dog Using a Bell
I was so ecstatic that my doggie’s potty dilemma was solved so easily. Here’s how I did it.
- Get a bell and hang it from the door using string, yarn, chain or whatever material works for you. You can also set up a bell station somewhere near your door. Alternatively, you can buy a special “dog potty bell.”
- Before you let your dog out, ring the bell and say “potty” (or whatever word you use for your dog).
- If they relieve themselves, say “good potty!” I rewarded Daisy with a treat when she did this. If she didn’t go, I’d just ignore it and bring her back inside.
- Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Eventually, Daisy started pushing the bell with her nose all by herself! When she did this, I would say “potty” to reinforce the purpose of the bell, and then I’d let her out, saying “good potty.” I’d reward with a treat when she came back in.
- Don’t punish your dog for false alarms – ignore them. Sometimes Daisy would ring the bell just to go outside and sniff. I never scolded her for this, but just ignored it and brought her inside. She didn’t get a cookie for false alarms, which reduced the incentive.
- Reinforce. Reinforce. Reinforce. This whole process took less than a week! Now, 8 years later, she’s still doing it and has even taught my younger dog to do the same. To this day, I constantly reinforce the behavior by saying “potty” when my dogs ring the bell.