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Ring a bell to go outside


© Bowtie Magazines

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from Bowtie Magazines.

Reprinted with permission from Dog Fancy, July 2006, Volume 37, No. 7. To subscribe:

If you sometimes miss your puppy's message when she tries to let you know she needs to go potty, you're not alone. Missing a pup's "gotta-go" message is one of the most common reasons for house training accidents. By the time most pups are 3 to 4 months old, they're beginning to have enough bladder and bowel control that they usually have time to make it to the door. Once there, however, they still need a way to get outside.

There's an easy solution to that communication problem: Teach your pup to ring a bell when she needs to go outside.

Hang a bell or swag of sleigh bells at puppy level on the door you usually use to take your pup out to eliminate. Just before you open the door, shake the string and ring the bell, then open the door and take your pup outside.

Dogs seem to think whatever happens just before an event causes that event. Because the bell rings before the door opens, your pup might think it makes the door open.

If you're consistent, within a week or so your pup will try ringing the bell herself, to see if she can make the door open. When you hear it, praise her, and quickly take her to her potty area.

This trick will greatly reduce accidents. However, there are two potential snags:

  • Your pup rings when nobody's around to go out. Prevent this by confining her to an area potty papers when you leave her by herself. This area shouldn't have access to the door with the bell. You'll prevent your pup from thinking that the bell sometimes doesn't work.
  • Your pup rings to go outside to play, not potty. If you don't mind letting your pup out whenever she wants, don't worry about this. But if you only want her to use the bell as a potty signal, take her to her elimination area on leash whenever she rings it. Wait there with her for three to five minutes, then take her back inside. She'll realize ringing the potty bell won't buy her outdoor playtime

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