House training a puppy or adult dog can be a frustrating process involving many accidents and constant vigilance.
However, training your dog to ring a bell by the door when they need to go outside can make things much easier and headache-free.
Doggy doorbells provide a clear way for your dog to communicate their potty needs and allow you to prevent accidents proactively.
In this blog post, I’ll outline a simple 5-step process for teaching your dog to use a potty bell consistently and correctly. With a bit of patience and positive reinforcement, you can train your dog to ring to be let out in no time.
Soon your dog will be letting you know when nature calls and house training will be a breeze!
Step 1 – Choose a Dog Doorbell
When selecting a dog doorbell, consider your dog’s size, whether you want a wall-mounted or freestanding model, and the volume of the bell’s sound; larger, louder bells work best for homes with multiple floors.
Considerations – size, mount type, sound
When selecting a dog doorbell, you’ll first want to consider your dog’s size and abilities. Larger bells are easier for dogs to strike with their nose or paw, while smaller bells work for little dogs.
Think about a wall-mounted bell versus a freestanding bell on the floor. Wall-mounted bells keep the bell in place but may be hard for small or elderly dogs. Freestanding bells are more accessible but can slide around.
Also, consider the doorbell sound. Louder, shrill bells are best for multi-level homes, so you can hear them no matter where you are. Look for adjustable volume if possible.
Recommendations for different homes
The best dog doorbell for your home depends on your living space.
For single-story homes, a simple freestanding bell by the door is convenient and easy to hear. In multi-level homes, choose a loud, wall-mounted bell high up where your dog can reach but the sound resonates downstairs.
For apartments and condos, pick a bell with adjustable volume so you can hear it inside but it’s not disruptive to neighbors. Outdoor mounts work for homes with potty areas in fenced yards.
Regardless of home type, make sure the bell is placed where you need your dog to alert you to go out.
Step 2 – Place the Bell Strategically
Mount the doorbell at your dog’s nose level so they can easily reach it, near the door you use to take your dog outside for potty breaks.
Height – accessible for dog
When placing your dog’s new doorbell, it’s crucial to mount it at the ideal height for your dog to reach.
Measure your dog from the floor to the tip of its nose. This is the perfect nose-level height for your dog to easily ring the bell with their snout or paw.
Ensure it is mounted low enough for them to reach while seated or standing. For smaller dogs, place it just a few inches off the ground. For larger breeds, mounting it around waist height is comfortable.
You want the bell within easy access so your dog can ring it without needing to stretch, jump or stand on their hind legs. The bell should be positioned for effortless ringing.
Location – near door used for potty breaks
The most effective place to locate your dog’s doorbell is right next to the door you’ll be using to let them out for bathroom breaks.
Whether you’ll be taking them to a yard, dog run, or going for walks, choose the main doorway that leads to their potty spot.
Mount the bell on the wall within a foot or two of the door, so it’s positioned along their path in and out. This trains them to ring the bell on their way to the door to go potty.
Placing it directly adjacent to the outside access door forms the association that bell ringing leads to the door opening next. Be consistent and always use the same door for consistency.
Step 3 – Introduce the Bell
Allow your dog to examine, sniff, and paw at the new bell, so they start associating it with noise, then reward your dog with treats for any interaction with the bell.
Let the dog inspect the bell and make a noise
When first introducing your dog to the doorbell, let them curiously explore it with their nose, ears, eyes, and paws. Allow them to paw at it, sniff it all over, and watch as you ring the bell so they can become comfortable and familiar with this new object.
Ring the bell yourself and vocally praise your dog each time they hear the sound. Getting them used to the bell’s visual presence, scent, feel, and noise it makes is key.
Interacting with the bell in a calm, relaxed setting will build positive early associations before formal training begins. Be patient and let your dog set the pace for investigating their new bell.
Reward the dog for any interaction with the bell
Any time your dog approaches looks at, sniffs, touches, or makes the bell ring during this introduction phase, reward them enthusiastically with verbal praise and treats. This establishes the bell as a positive thing worth interacting with.
Getting up to sniff the bell, reaching a paw out to bat it, or accidentally bumping it with their nose should all be met with an excited “Good dog!” and a tasty treat reward.
Be ready to click the clicker or deliver treats the moment they engage with the bell in those early stages.
Rewarding all bell interactions, no matter how small, will teach your dog to actively investigate and use the bell for good things.
Step 4 – Ring the Bell Before Going Out
Every time you take your dog outside for a potty break, ring the bell yourself first, then say “go outside” excitedly, so they associate the bell sound with the reward of going out.
Ring the bell each time before taking the dog out
An important step is to establish a clear association between the sound of the bell and going outside. Get in the habit of ringing the bell yourself every single time right before you open the door to let your dog out.
Make the bell ring, then immediately open the door and lead your dog outside for a potty break. This repetitive pattern conditions your dog to recognize that the bell sound means a trip outside is next.
Ring the bell and go out first thing in the morning, before and after meals, after naps, before bedtime, and anytime you notice signs your dog needs to go.
Verbally associate the bell with going out
In addition to ringing the bell before going out, enthusiastically use verbal cues like “Outside?” and “Go potty!” after ringing so your dog connects the bell to positive rewards.
When you ring the bell to go out, say excitedly “Outside time! Let’s go pee!” in a happy tone. Use the same phrase each time so your dog learns it.
When returning from a successful potty trip, give praise such as “Good potty outside!” and a treat. The verbal cues and positive reinforcement will help your dog understand the bell signals a chance to earn a reward by going potty in the appropriate spot outside.
Step 5 – Encourage Dogs to Use Bell
When your dog rings the bell on their own, reward them immediately with upbeat praise and treats, and be patient with consistent rewards during training over weeks, not days.
Reward dogs for ringing a bell on their own
The most crucial step is rewarding your dog every single time they ring the bell on its own, without any prompting from you.
The moment you hear the bell jingle from your dog pawing at it, immediately go to the door and praise excitedly, “Good bell!” then open the door and allow them outside.
Make sure to give treats and verbal praise within seconds of them ringing the bell, so they associate the bell ring with earning the reward of going out. This positive reinforcement for self-initiated bell ringing teaches your dog that the bell is their way to let you know they need to go out.
Be patient – can take days or weeks
Don’t get discouraged if your dog is slow to learn to use the doorbell; this training often takes weeks of consistency before they understand. You’ll likely need to proactively ring the bell and reward them for weeks before the dog starts using it independently.
Remain calm and patient, continuing to positively reinforce all bell use. Keep training sessions brief and upbeat. Don’t punish lack of progress.
Some dogs pick it up right away, while others need more time and repetition. Be prepared to train for 10-15 minutes several times per day for many weeks or even months before your dog reliably rings the bell on its own.
Continue rewarding consistently
Persistence and consistency are key when training your dog to use a doorbell. Reward every single instance of desired bell-ringing behavior with upbeat verbal praise, an excited tone, petting, and treats.
Stick to the same reward each time rather than switching it up. Consistency helps your dog understand that bell ringing always leads to the same positive result.
Continue rewarding every bell ring even after your dog has learned, not just during initial training. This reinforcement maintains the behavior over their lifetime and prevents regression.
Consistent rewards for every bell ring, no matter how long it has been in place, is the best way to ingrain this communication signal.
Training your dog to ring a bell to go outside takes patience and consistency, but it can greatly simplify housetraining by avoiding accidents and giving your dog an easy way to communicate potty needs.
By following these 5 simple steps of choosing and placing the bell, introducing it properly, ringing it before going out, and consistently rewarding your dog’s bell use, you can teach even stubborn dogs to ring a bell in a matter of weeks or months.
While it may take some time, this inexpensive training investment pays off through better communication and a housetrained pet.
With a doggy doorbell in place, you’ll gain freedom knowing your floors and belongings are safe. And you’ll have a happier dog who can clearly indicate when nature calls!