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When we first got our mini Goldendoodle, we knew we wanted to train her to ring a bell when she needed to go outside. This seemed like a great way for her to be able to communicate to us that she needed to go potty.
We had heard about people doing this and thought it would be cool to train our dog to do it as well.
The main reason we were interested in teaching our dog to do this is that it makes it easier to know when your dog needs to go outside. The dog doesn’t have to cry and beg and make you guess what they want.
You know that when they ring their bell and you hear it from all over the house, they need to go outside.
In a way, it’s like giving them a voice to be able to express their needs and for us humans to know exactly what they are wanting.
Many people have been successful at training their dog to do this so we knew it was possible. The breeder that we purchased our dog from gave us the idea to train her in this way.
With our dog’s high level of intelligence and her willingness to learn things and please us, we knew it would be doable so we set out to make it happen.
When we got our dog 13 years ago, there wasn’t much information about doing this. We didn’t read about or learn how to do it from someone who had successfully done it.
Instead, we used simple training principles and figured it out on our own.
Now that we’ve had 13 years with our dog and she has been ringing her bell the entire time, I feel capable of teaching others how to train their dog to do the same thing.
The following article will outline the simple steps we used when we taught our dog to use the bell when she needed to go outside.
Table of contents
If you’d like to jump right into the training steps, click on a link below to be taken to that specific content.
- Buying and Installing a Bell
- Step 1 – Introducing the Bell To Your Dog
- Step 2 – Establishing a Routine
- Step 3 – Rewarding Good Behavior
- Step 4 – Be Consistent
Buying and Installing a Bell
There are all kinds of bells on the market for this purpose. Whether you want a cheap one or a more elaborate one, there is one that will suit your needs.
We chose a very cheap solution and have been using the same one since the first time we hung it up. It has been her bell from day one and it has worked great.
The one we purchased was a cheap Christmas bell 2-pack and it was probably only a couple of dollars. We also purchased some string and a hook and installed it on the drywall beside the door.
We attached the bell to the wall at about chest level to our dog so that she could reach up and use it very easily.
One important thing to look at when choosing a bell is to make sure it is loud enough. You don’t want to put a bell up that you can barely hear unless you are sitting in the same room.
The point of the bell is so that your dog can communicate their needs even if you aren’t in the room.
I’m often on the other side of the house or upstairs when I hear our dog ring her bell. We have no problems hearing it as long as she rings it and doesn’t just do a lazy move and touch it with her nose, which she sometimes does.
At her age, she assumes that she can just look at her bell and we should know what she wants. She doesn’t always want to put in the energy to lift a paw and ring the thing.
Cheap and Simple Bell Solution
I prefer to keep things simple. Less moving parts and less technology means fewer things that could go wrong. That’s why we went with the bell we did and why it has lasted for her entire life so far.
If I were going to do it all over again, I would opt for the same cheap solution that we did with our dog. I would probably use the same exact bells that we used or I would use a simple mountable bell like the barkOutfitters GoGo Bell Dog Doorbell or the Mighty Paw Metal Potty Bell.
These types of bells get the job done and they are loud enough to be heard from nearly anywhere in your house.
Good things about this type of bell.
- It does the job for the cheapest amount of money.
- Nothing to break unless your dog hits it so hard it falls off the wall in which case, it’s easy to put it back up.
- It’s loud enough to hear across the house unless you have a huge mansion.
My vote goes for this type of bell since it costs the least and it is a set it and forget it solution. We installed ours 12 years ago and it’s still hanging on the wall getting rung by our dog each day. It has been used a lot and is still going strong.
More Elaborate Bell Solution
If you would like to have something that is a step above the old-fashioned cheap solution, there are plenty of options.
There are some very nice ones on the market if you are interested in having something beyond just a simple solution.
One of the more popular solutions that people purchase hang from the doorknob and these work great but they might get annoying to hear this string of bells ringing each time you open and close the door.
If you would like one of these that hang from your door knob, here is a cheap solution that will work great.
We would rather have a bell on the wall so that she can ring the bell and that’s it. We would know to open the door and let her out.
Electronic / Wireless Bell System
I think having a bell like this is going a little overboard but that is only my opinion. I also think they could work quite well.
These are typically wireless units that have a button that your dog will push. Once pushed, the bell will send a wireless signal to receivers throughout the house similar to the way a doorbell works.
The idea is that you will be able to hear when your dog rings the bell anywhere in the house.
The downsides of using a bell system like this?
- Costs more than one of the simple solutions mentioned above.
- Potential for things to break – electronic items break or stop working, unlike the cheap, good old-fashioned bell system that I use.
- Batteries to change – the costs keep adding up as you have to continually change batteries.
When they work, I’m sure they are great and if you like the idea of having a wireless electronic solution, this may be the best one for you.
If the wireless solution sounds like something you’d be interested in, I would highly recommend the Mighty Paw Smart Bell.
This bell system doesn’t use batteries and uses activators that send a signal to a receiver. When your dog touches an activator, the receiver will make a sound letting you know that your dog needs to go outside or come back in.
These are waterproof and you can add multiple activators so one can be inside and one can be outside.
Learn more about the Mighty Paw Smart Bell system.
Getting Started Training Your Dog To Use The Bell
After you have chosen the bell that you are going to use and installed it, now it’s time to get going with teaching your dog how to use it.
If you have a young puppy, it’s the perfect time to be teaching them to use a bell. You will need to teach them to go outside to potty anyway, why not add this simple step in so that you have a well-trained dog as they grow?
We began this training with our dog right after we brought her home at 7 weeks old. She has never known life without a bell in our house because we got her started so young.
It has become a part of her life and she has always known to look for the bell in order to let us know her potty needs.
She’s never had another way of telling us that she needs to go outside so she has become a master at this over time.
The process is super simple for training a dog to use the bell.
Step 1 – Introducing the Bell To Your Dog
When you start, you will want to introduce your dog to the bell and the sound of it. You’ll first want to hold it in front of your dog so that your dog can sniff it and touch it with his or her nose.
When they touch it with their nose, reward them by saying “good girl” or “good boy” and then give them a small treat.
Be sure not to allow the bell to ring loud at first because this could do more damage than good and could make your dog scared of it going forward.
You may need to have a few introduction sessions per day until they are comfortable with touching the bell and the sound that it makes.
Step 2 – Establishing a Routine
After the bell introduction has been made, you’ll want to establish a routine of when your dog will need to go outside. Of course, if your dog is still a young puppy, they will need to go outside a lot more often than an adult dog does.
When our dog was a puppy, every few hours we would take her to the door and we would say the words, “go outside” in some way or another. This was our command to her for going to the potty and a command that we wanted her to learn.
We would say something like, “want to go outside?” or “let’s go outside,” always putting the emphasis on “go outside.”
Upon saying this, we would reach down and ring her bell so that she would see that the bell rings before she gets to go outside.
This is really the main part of the training. If you ring the bell every time you let your dog out, your dog will eventually pick up on this and start doing it on their own.
Step 3 – Rewarding Good Behavior
Like any other type of dog training, rewarding your pup when they do something good is a great way to teach the behavior that you want.
When you ring the bell for them before letting them out, give them a small treat and make sure you do it while they are in close proximity to the bell.
When they have gone outside and have finished with their business, give them another small treat as you let them back in. This will reward your dog for ringing the bell and going outside to do what they are supposed to do.
Step 4 – Be Consistent
It didn’t take a very long time of doing this until our dog started to understand that the bell needs to be rung when she needs to go outside.
The hope was that she would figure out that she needed to go outside and she would go to the bell and ring it herself. She finally did this one day and we were so proud of her.
The very first time she rang it, it was a very light touch with her nose that we could barely hear. The point is that she did it though. We immediately got up and rewarded her and opened the door for her so that she could go outside.
That started the process of her knowing to ring her bell when she needed to go outside. After that, she kept getting better and better at it.
As a puppy, we still would ring her bell for her each time we let her out when she didn’t do it herself. Our goal was to never let her out unless the bell was rung in some way.
The consistency started to pay off and she began to do this herself regularly. Over time she got used to it and she knew that that’s what she needed to do.
She would walk up to it and raise her paw and knock it with great force or sometimes she would just barely touch it with her nose. She would usually ring it louder if she had to go real bad or we weren’t in the same room.
Over time, she’s gotten to where she will ring her bell just because she wants attention.
This is one thing you will need to be cautious of in the beginning. Make sure you only use it for letting them out to go potty or they may take advantage and drive you crazy ringing the bell for everything.
Our dog has used it occasionally to get our attention. However, at this age in her life, she knows the bell is for her to go outside but she is pretty intelligent so she uses it to her advantage sometimes.
Sometimes we may be ignoring her or she may want a toy out of her toy box and she will ring it. If we open the door to let her out, she just looks at us as if to say, “uh, I don’t need to go outside! I just want a toy or someone to notice me.”
This often happens when we have company over or we are talking amongst ourselves and not paying her as much attention.
Dogs are smart so they will pick this up over time. Just make sure that you are not letting them take advantage of it and abuse it when they are young and just learning it. Otherwise, you may wish you had never bought the bell in the first place.
Advantages of Using a Potty Bell
- Gives your dog a voice to communicate better – I’ve seen some dogs that simply cry and the owner has to wonder what they want. Why not make it easy for them to communicate this?
- Fewer accidents in the house – when your dog knows exactly what to do to get your attention, there won’t be as many accidents.
- A way to show off your dog’s intelligence to visitors – it’s always a hit when our dog rings the bell when people are visiting.
Disadvantages of Using a Potty Bell
There really aren’t any disadvantages to having your dog ring a bell when they need to go outside. It has been one of the best things we have ever trained our dog to do.
However, if there is one drawback it might be that your dog can take advantage of it if you aren’t careful with training – they’ll begin to use the bell anytime they want something.
This isn’t likely but as mentioned above, our dog occasionally will use her bell because she is bored or wants a toy out of her toy box.
You don’t want to reward this behavior but at the same time, you don’t want to ignore your dog when they are ringing it. This will take time to know whether your dog actually needs to go outside or if they are pulling your leg.
How Long Does it Take to Train a Dog to Use a Bell?
This will all depend upon your dog and the training methods that you employ. It will also depend upon how much you are willing to work with your dog in order to accomplish this.
You will probably need to work with your dog for 2 – 4 weeks for this type of training to fully sink in. It may take less or it could take more time than this.
This is a timeframe in which you would become confident that your dog has got it down pat. You know that your dog is going to ring that bell when they need to go outside.
Our dog was fully trained and consistently using her bell within a couple of weeks and she has only gotten better with it over the years.
However long it takes, it’s so worth it. It’s one of the best training tools we used for our dog and one that has been extremely useful for her as well as for us humans who live in the house.
What if The Training Doesn’t Work For My Dog?
Since every dog is different and responds differently to various training methods, your dog may not respond quickly to bell training. Some dogs may be scared of the bell sound and some may be a bit too stubborn to pick it up.
If your dog is one of these, you may need to do some additional things to help your dog out.
- Add peanut butter or yogurt to the bell. Make the bell something that they will love by making it a place where good things reside. Dogs typically love peanut butter so by adding something like this to the bell when introducing them to it, you will be making it more enticing for your dog.
- Try a different bell. If you aren’t having any luck with the bell you are using, it may be as simple as using a different bell before giving up on it altogether. Check out a few of the options outlined above.
- Make sure the bell is at the proper height for your dog. This is another simple solution but it could be that your bell is too high and your dog just doesn’t want to reach up and ring it. Try using it at different heights and different locations around the door.
It’s highly unlikely that your dog won’t eventually catch on to this. It’s really simple and as long as you reward your dog immediately when they do it, they will learn to do it more and more.
We’ve had so much fun over the years with our dog ringing her bell to go outside. It’s especially fun when visitors are at our house and she rings it loudly. People are generally in awe of the intelligence level of a dog to be able to do this.
However, I always wonder why every dog doesn’t do it? It’s only a matter of training and the training is simple to do. Our dog doesn’t ring a bell because she is more intelligent than your dog. She does it because we taught her to do it and teaching her was simple.
Your dog can learn it just as easy.
The fact is, ringing a bell to go out and potty is as simple to teach as teaching a dog to sit or shake hands. The key is to actually do it and spend time with your dog to teach this.
Once your dog learns to do this, you will be glad you took the time to teach them.