Dog trick tutorial: Teaching a dog how to operate a potty bell

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Dog trick training: Teaching a dog how to operate a potty bellDog trick training is always the best when additional benefits result from it in addition to just having fun and a good time together. Teaching your dog how to operate a potty bell is a pretty handy trick. This gives your dog a way to get your attention when she needs to go outside for potty business. It can also save doors from being scratched and floors from being soiled by “oopsie’s”.
It is a fairly simple and practical exercise for your dog.

There are different solutions available, such as bells to operate with the paws or the nose. I am introducing some different product in this essay.
I am using a potty bell that Mila touches with her nose. But teaching the dog to operate a bell with the paws works after the same principle.
In order learn how to operate a potty bell with her nose or her paw, it is helpful, if she knows the “Touch” command already (touching things with her nose). If you want her to operate the bell with the paws it may as well be helpful, if your dog knows, for example, the “shake hands” trick (putting her paw into your hand) already.


Learn how to teach your dog the “touch” in this dog trick tutorial.

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You need:

  • One potty bell
    Treats (and maybe your clicker if you like)

Here’s how you teach your dog to operate a potty bell:

Step 1: Familarizing

Familiarize her with the new tool by first letting her sniff the new bell. If during the action she already rings it accidentally, reward that. For now do not hang the bell at the doorknob already. If you put it up to early your dog may be ringing the bell when you are not prepared to go outside with her or you just went outside and will not do it again. If no potty walk follows the ring, the noise will remain meaningless to her. also do NOT allow your dog to play with the bell. If she mistakes it as a toy you may need to take it away from her, because she will start to throw it around or chew on it. Keep it away for now and only offer it for your “ringing” training sessions under controlled conditions.

Step 2: Teach your dog to “touch” and ring the bell

Once she has sniffed the new tool, teach her to touch it on purpose: Just hold the bell and command her to “touch” it. Reward every ring.

Step 3: Take things to the next level

As soon as she has understood what she is supposed to do with the bell and is doing it reliably, hang the bell at the doorknob before every potty walk, have her leash on her and be ready to go outside for a potty walk. Then command her to ring it. Make every potty walk a bell training session. Right after the ring go outside with her. At this point stop rewarding the action with treats. The “reward” is now that she can go outside to do her business.

Step 4: Everyday use

Try and leave the bell hanging at the door knob and every time she rings it, go outside with her for potty. If you feel that she is now ringing the bell all the time, exercise the last step a little longer (only putting up the bell right before a potty walk). If she does not start to ring the bell on her own, after she has learned how to do it with her nose or paw, command her to touch it right before every potty walk and let her draw the connection. Once she has grabbed the purpose of the bell, she will make good use of it.

Now that you have trained your dog – Don’t let your dog train you!

Some dogs tend to “misinterpret” the bell as a “I want to go outside for whatever reason, but mainly play”-tool.
Mila even sometimes unhooks her bell and brings it to tell me she wants to go outside.

It is important that you have a good feeling for the “real” potty times of your dog, because you and your dog will likely need to find the perfect rhythm with this new tool. That may take a little while and you may be forced to ignore one or the other ring in order to not transform into her “personal butler” whenever she pleases to go outside for any reason but potty.

Once your dog knows how to operate the bell, only react when you are sure that she rings for potty and nothing else.
If uncertain, go outside after the ring, but keep the walk crisp and focussed on the potty business. Don’t take any toys outside. And don’t allow any other distractions. Waive anything that makes the walk interesting and could spark her to ring for that again and again.
Sooner or later both of you will have found the perfect rhythm:
She will know that ringing the bell for any other purpose than potty will not be successful, and you will know, IF a ring is really a “potty ring”.

Here’s what happens when Mila introduces her own ideas on potty bells:

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It may sound a little complicated right now, but a potty bell is actually a really good tool. SO good that when sometimes Mila has unhooked her bell again and I forget to hang back it up again I find her with her legs crossed waiting at the front door, desperate because she has no idea how to tell me that she really needs to go other than using her potty bell. 🙂 Meanwhile she is really thinking twice, before she unhooks it.

Learn more about different potty bells and how to choose the right product for your dog in this post.

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