Ringing the Bell
You’re probably asking yourself, why would I want my dog to ring a bell to go outside? Here are a few reasons: your dog will not ruin your door by scratching at it, you can not "hear" your dog sitting at the door, and barking at the door can at times become disruptive. Once your dog has mastered this technique he will ring the bell and yes, you must let them out ASAP during the initial learning period. As your dog matures you can also teach him, "just a moment", so you will have a few minutes to get there. We have used this technique on puppies as young as 8 weeks of age, and no dog is too old to learn. Of course if your house is very large this bell technique may not work for you. Sit at the furthest part of the house, have someone ring the bell at the door you’d be letting your dog out of, do you hear the bell ringing? If so we are ready to continue.
You will need to purchase a bell (strip of jingle bells, holiday bell, and cow bell, all available in department and craft stores) and hang it on the doorknob on the door you will be using to take your dog out to eliminate. Be sure the height of the bell is appropriate for your dog and as puppies grow you may need to alter the height.
Take your dog to the door, ring the bell, ask him "go potty?” take him directly outside to the area where you want him to eliminate. Give him your command, "go potty". Once he does so praise him with both verbal and treat reward. The treat needs to be something he only gets when he goes potty outside. Repeat this process every time you take him outside for the next several days.
Next, gently touch the bell to your dog’s nose, causing the bell to ring, ask him "go potty?", and repeat the above steps. Repeat this process every time you take him outside for the next several days.
Before you know it you will find your dog approaching the bell when he needs to eliminate. If he seems to be having a difficult time pushing the bell loud enough for you to hear, smear a very small amount of peanut butter or spread cheese on the bell. Use this to lure him to the bell, allow him to lick the bell, causing the bell to ring, give a verbal praise. Repeat the above steps.
Once he begins to ring the bell on his own you MUST take him out every time he rings the bell.
Some dogs are too smart and will ring the bell to go out and play or for a treat; as puppies we let them get away with this and take them out every time. For adult dogs and as puppies get older and eliminate less often you can teach them “Just a Minute”. As long as you know your dog does not have to go out ASAP (as a dog parent we know when they REALLY have to go out) tell him “just a minute” and ask him to sit. The “sit” will help teach him patience. Often after a moment he will walk away and realize he doesn’t really HAVE to go out. If he gets up and walks away let him, do not discipline him for getting out of a sit since we did not tell him to “stay”. If he continues to sit or at least stays by the door he most likely has to go out, say to him “go potty” and he should ring the bell. If he doesn’t ring the bell on his own ring it for him. Practice just a minute, sit, go potty steps every day, spacing out the time from the initial bell ring to the second bell ring. Your goal is for him to ring the bell, you tell him just a minute (you should not have to tell him to stay any longer, he should do it on his own) and he knows if he wants to go out he has to ring a second time.
Don’t get discouraged; as long as you take the time to practice your dog can master the bell ringing. You will also see that once your first dog knows this routine, he often teaches it to the new puppy and house breaking will be a thing of the past!