How to Bell Train A Dog

Contrary to popular opinion, teaching your puppy to ring a potty bell with its nose is a straightforward process.

We will walk you through the steps to effectively bell train your dog in this guide. 

Here, we’ll look in detail at the following:

  • Is bell training good for a dog?
  • How to bell train a dog
  • How to potty train a dog with a bell 
  • How to train a dog to ring a bell to go outside
  • Choosing the right bell
  • How long does it take to bell train a dog?
  • Bell training top tips

Is bell training good for a dog?

Bell training is used to replace your puppy’s barking, whining, or clawing at the door when he needs to go outside, which can be stressful for both you and your pet. 

How to potty train a dog with a bell 

Keep positive reinforcement training methods in mind as you create your training sessions. You want this learning process to be as enjoyable as possible for your dog.

What you’ll need to teach your dog to ring the bell

Check that you’ve got everything you’ll need to get started on the right foot:

  • A potty bell
  • Delicious treats
  • If you’re clicker training your dog, you’ll need a clicker.

If your dog is too tense to concentrate, seems indifferent, or wants to go to the bathroom, get those distractions out of the way before you begin training.

One of my favorite times to train is shortly before my dog’s mealtime — he’s generally really curious about what I’m doing at that time!

Above all, remember to make your workouts brief, sweet, and enjoyable and always conclude them with a meal or a favorite game.

Introduce your dog to the bell 

Begin by teaching your dog how to use the bell. Consider using a spreadable treat like peanut butter on the bell to encourage your dog to approach the bell and touch it with its nose.

Pro tip: If your dog is scared of loud noises choose a soft bell to start out with. You can always amp up the volume later.

Once the potty bell is enticing to your dog, the training begins.

Step 1: Teaching your dog to touch the bell

Use commanding words like “touch” and show your dog the bell, which should be a few inches away from her nose.

When your dog’s nose touches the bell, click your clicker or exclaim “yes!” and immediately reward her. The treat is the reward, and the clicker or “yes!” acts as a signal that the dog has done the proper thing. 

Repeat until your dog consistently touches the bell when you say “touch.”

Pro tip: If you use “touch” to mean touching your hand or something else, use a different cue word to avoid confusion for the dog.

Next, move them a little farther away or to the side so your dog’s reaction to the “touch” command progressively grows in distance.

Dog training is most effective in short, regular spurts, so do this “touch” practice every day for no more than 10-15 minutes.

Step 2: Place the bell near the door

You should be ready to go on to the next step after a week of practice.

After completing this phase, your dog will go from touching the bell to ringing it close to the door. Hang your dog potty bell from the doorknob, take the bell in your hand, and say “Touch,” holding it out as near to your dog as the rope or hanger will allow.

As soon as your dog’s nose reaches the bell, click or exclaim “yes!” and reward her with a goodie.

Repeat this step regularly until your dog immediately touches the bell when you say “touch.” Some dogs won’t need much time once they’ve learned the knack of ringing the bell. 

Step 3: Teach your dog when to ring a bell 

This phase focuses on improving your dog’s ability to ring the potty bell independently at the door he uses to go outside for potty breaks.

Place the bell near the entrance, at a height where your dog may easily make contact with it, and begin training sessions with the bell in that location.

Continue to offer the cue you’ve developed verbally or non-verbally and reward when your dog successfully makes contact with the bells throughout your training sessions.

When it’s time for your pup to go outside—after you’ve attached your leash but before you go through the door—encourage him to ring the bell. Head outdoors as soon as possible following a successful jingle.

Don’t worry if your dog can’t or won’t accept your cue when he’s in a rush to go outdoors. If your dog doesn’t ding the bell on his own, jingle it manually before opening the door to send him out.

Continue your brief practice sessions until he can tinkle the bell effortlessly before you both walk through the door for his toilet breaks.

How to bell train a dog

How to train a dog to ring a bell to go outside

This is a crucial stage since your dog may now use the bells for its initial function. Your immediate action is necessary for it to realize that going outdoors to use the potty is entirely its choice.

Now that your dog has mastered the art of ringing the bell on order, it’s time to teach her that she may ring the bell anytime she wants to go potty. But you must also demonstrate to her that ringing the bell is reserved for toilet time, and you don’t want her ringing it continually.

Pro tip: Keep your dog on a leash when going outside during this training period. Give him a short walk to pee/poop, then back inside. If the dog is allowed to romp and play every time he rings the bell, he may start ringing the bell just for playtime! The leash keeps the outing limited to business. Once the dog is reliable and understands the concept, you can do without the leash if you have a fenced yard.

Follow these instructions every time you take your dog outdoors for a toilet break:

Teach your dog first to touch the bell. Continue to train your dog to ring a bell on its own. When your dog has mastered ringing a bell, it is time to wean them off the treats.

Teaching your dog to equate bell ringing with going outdoors rather than obtaining a treat is critical or your dog may start ringing the bell only to earn a treat from you. 

When your dog succeeds in ringing the bell to go outdoors, make the reward enthusiastic positive comments. With enough repetition and consistency, your dog will learn that she rings the bell with her nose to go outside, not to receive treats.

Choosing the right bell

Doggie doorbells can be low-tech or high-tech. It is up to you to decide which style best suits you and your house. Here are the three most common varieties.

Hanging bells 

The most basic potty bell is a strap with six bells hanging from it. The strap should be made of durable material, such as nylon or leather, and adjustable in length. There is no setup required, and no tools are necessary. If necessary, they are effortless to shift to another door.

Many dogs are naturally drawn to pull and tug on dangling objects, so they pick up on how to use these rather quickly. The disadvantage is that they will make noise every time a person opens and closes the door, which might irritate some individuals if the door is used frequently.

Shop doorbells 

These devices are made of a bent piece of metal that serves as a basic spring. A single bell is attached to the spring’s end, and it is often affixed to a door frame or a wall surface near the door. When your dog touches the bell, it bounces up and down and gives a long ring. 

Position it at any height that is comfortable for your dog. 

Wireless bells

Wireless potty bells are the most advanced and they need to be assembled first. You will find a doorbell button in the package, generally made of white plastic and is water-resistant and dust-resistant. 

It is bigger than a normal doorbell and requires very little pressure to operate, so your dog can easily trigger it with its nose or paw. The device may include batteries that  you need to replace regularly.  Attach the button to the wall at whichever height you like, with sticky tape or screws.

The component that generates the noise when the button is pressed is the receiver, which can be anywhere in your home within 1,000 feet away from the doorbell. 

You may hook the receiver into the main power outlet. The most advanced doorbells have adjustable loudness, and some even let you select a ringtone.

How long does it take to bell train a dog?

As soon as your dog is able to walk about the house, you can begin bell training. Dogs are intelligent, and they can learn to ring the bells in as little as two weeks. 

Keep in mind that each dog has their own personality and peculiarities; if you continue to teach your dog, he or she will eventually associate the bell with going to the bathroom. In a few short daily training sessions, most dogs can acquire the basics of bell training.

Bell training top tips 

Bell training allows your dog to tell you — loudly and unequivocally — that he has to go outside to relieve himself. Patience and consistency are essential when teaching your dog to use a potty bell. To teach your dog to ring the bell, keep using the same commands and actions.

Keep the training sessions brief, but as frequent as possible during the day. Older dogs can be trained for ten to fifteen minutes each day, while pups can be trained in five-minute increments throughout the day.

Treat your pooch to praise when he uses the bell to indicate that it’s time to go outdoors. If you have a nervous dog, don’t use a loud bell that will scare them away from using it.

How to bell train a dog

Bell training is for all dogs

Young pups will not be able to focus for extended training sessions, but including the sound of the potty bells into their play (e.g., right before going outdoors for a pee break) is an excellent approach to help them feel joyful about the sound the bells make.

It is never too late to teach a dog to ring the bells—even elderly or deaf dogs can be trained to do so because all they know about the bells is that they have to make contact with them to get a treat or praise!

Key takeaways on bell training a dog

  • Anyone can teach their dog to use bells to communicate its need to go outside.
  • Be patient and consistent. 
  • Respond to your dog’s needs when he rings the bell.

Bell training your puppy may appear to be a difficult task needing months of bonding and hard effort, but you can learn by simply introducing it into your daily routine with your dog.

Use treats sparingly in the initial learning stage. 

If you live in an apartment, bell training your dog might be more difficult since the dog may need to travel longer to reach a toilet area. However, learning this one-of-a-kind talent will make life easier for you and your pet, as he will be able to get your attention immediately.

Kate Basedow, LVT
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