How to teach your dog to ring the bell to go out

It sounds like a great idea – get your dog to ring the bell to go outside.  But how do you teach it? This blog will show you how to get your pup to ring reindeer bells, electronic touch-button bells and old-fashioned desk bells.

Let’s start with reindeer bells, the kind that hang from your doorknob.  Firstly, some dogs are skittish around new things that make sounds.  If that is the case, start slowly by laying the bells flat on the floor.  Then go at your dog’s pace – whenever he moves toward the bells, say “yes!” and give him a treat.  Once he is making the connection that when he gets closer to the bells, good things happen, wait for him to move closer to the bells before yessing and treating him.  Eventually, you will only reward when his nose or paw touch the bells.  Once he starts doing this consistently, hang the bells in their final location and continue to reward when the bells are moved and make a sound.  Terrific!  You are halfway there.

By the way, break up all the sessions into 15-minute increments and take a break of at least 30 minutes between sessions.  So, we have your dog consistently ringing the bell.  Now, we have to pair the command “ring the bell” with your dog ringing the bell.  Now, say “yes! ring the bell!” at the exact time your pup’s nose/paw hits the bell and treat him.  Do this for at least 10 times and then start initiating the command prior to your dog ringing the bell.  So the timing is – 1) dog stands next to you 3 feet from the bell; 2) you say “ring the bell!”; 3) dog rings the bell; 4) you immediately say “yes! ring the bell!” and treat him.  Repeat at least 10 times or more until your dog is consistently ringing the bell on command.

Next step, pairing the ringing of the bell with going outside.  Now, command your dog to ring the bell and as soon as he does, say “yes! ring the bell! Go outside!”, treat him and take him immediately on leash out the front door for 10 seconds.  While outside, say again “yes! ring the bell! Go outside” and treat him again.  Rinse and repeat many times, like at least 30. 

Your dog can now ring the bell and expect to go outside.  The next steps are to have him ring the bell prior to going for a walk or going out the back door to the yard.  In no time, your pup will be ringing the bell fairly often, probably more often than he really needs to go outside.  At the beginning, you will be opening the back door or walking him out front a lot, but you’ll come to figure out when he really needs to go and he will scale back the false alarms.

Ringing the other style bell is very similar to the above, I just prefer the physical reindeer bells because sometimes the other style bells don’t ring every time they are touched.  Enjoy!

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