How to Train Your Dog to Ring a Bell to Go Out

by Louise Lawson
A small bell is a handy tool to alert you when your dog needs to go outside.

A small bell is a handy tool to alert you when your dog needs to go outside.

bell image by Liz from Fotolia.com

Housebreaking your dog is an essential part of shaping a happy, healthy companion. Every dog gives his owner a cue to indicate he needs to go outside, but some cues go unnoticed and accidents happen. If you’re having trouble picking up on your dog’s cues, teach him to ring a bell to go outside. It may sound like a silly trick, but hearing the sound of a ringing bell is better than having to clean up a mess on the floor.

Step 1

Teach the dog to touch a target with his nose. Rub a fragrant treat such as liver or a hot dog on the palm of your right hand. Hold your palm toward the dog, and tell him “touch,” moving your palm close enough that he can smell the food on your hand. Reward the dog with a small treat when his nose makes contact with your hand. Repeat the “touch” exercise until the dog consistently touches your palm when you give the command.

Step 2

Tie a long piece of string to a bell and hang it near the door. The bell should be level with the dog’s nose so he can ring it without jumping up on the door frame. The length of the string will vary, depending on the height of the dog.

Step 3

Rub a bit of treat along the side of the bell, and stand the dog near the door. Give the “touch” command, and point to the bell, encouraging the dog to touch the bell. Once the dog rings the bell, praise him with a treat. Call the dog away from the bell, and repeat the “touch” command. The dog will begin to associate the sound of the ringing bell with a treat, and will gladly run to the bell when he hears the command.

Step 4

Incorporate the “touch” command with the dog’s desire to go outside. When you notice the dog sniffing or pacing as if he needs to go out, ask the dog if he needs to go outside. As he runs to the door, tell him “touch” and point at the bell. When he rings the bell, open the door and let him out.

Step 5

Watch the dog quietly to see if he goes to the bathroom. If he goes potty, reward him with a small handful of treats. If he goes outside but doesn’t potty, refuse to give him a treat. Rewarding him for ringing the bell when he doesn’t need to potty will teach him he can repeatedly ring the bell and get a treat even if he doesn’t really need to go out.

Items You Will Need

  • Treats
  • Bell
  • String

Tip

  • Choose a bell large enough to make an audible sound, but not so large that the dog can’t get it to ring. If the bell is too heavy, the dog will try to ring the bell without success, and may have an accident.

Warning

  • Don’t punish the dog if he seems confused. Some dogs may learn the behavior in one or two sessions, while others may need dozens of attempts to master the behavior.

Photo Credits

About the Author

Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.