Teaching a dog to ring a bell to go outside is a great command. It opens up communication between the dog and owner. It provides a way for the dog to communicate it’s needs. Sometimes the dog will ring it to potty and sometimes it’ll ring the bell just to get fresh air.
I like the hanging bells the best.
So, how do you teach a dog to ring a bell to go outside? First, you should already understand clicker basics. Using a clicker or another marker will be necessary for teaching your dog.
It is paramount that you truly understand clicker training. I can not over emphasize this point enough. The timing of the clicks is crucial and this is something that your average dog owner fails to comprehend. A half a second off is too much. You must be precise with your clicks. Keep this in mind as you read the rest of the tutorial.
Assuming that you understand clicker training, take out your dog bells. Before we start clicking, we want to desensitize the dog to the bells. For some dogs, this step will only take a minute. Other dogs may be more alarmed by the sound of the bells.
Either way, allow the dog to sniff it, paw at it etc…… Allow the dog to investigate it and get used to this new object. During this process, keep a bait bag on you that is filled with high quality treats that are organic.
After you are satisfied that the dog is comfortable around the bell, that’s when the real training begins. We want the dog to associate ringing the bell with getting a treat.
When a dog knows that you have treats, they will try anything. They will nudge your hand, jump on you and eventually touch the bell. When the dog touches the bell, click & treat. Personally, I like to say: “Bell” or “Good Bell” in a high pitched voice.
I wean the dog off of treats quickly. I switch the reward to opening the door and letting the dog go outside. Sometimes, I’ll give treats as soon as we go a few steps out of the door.
This is one of the few commands that has a really unique reward. Going outside is amongst a dog’s favorite things to do. Eventually, they will learn that ringing the bell is the “key” to going outside.
Some dogs will take advantage of this and ring the bell all the time. However, if you know your dog doesn’t have to potty then it’s at your discretion. The intermittent reward will not cause your dog to forget how to use the bell.
It sounds simple but really it is. Place the bell on the door and wait for her to touch it or paw at it. Remember, dogs will try anything to get to a treat. Soon they will make a connection and say: “oh, this is what my owner wants me to do!” Eventually, they will have that “Ah Ha” moment. Take advantage of that moment and build on it.
Most dog owners have this level of communication with their dogs. It’s guaranteed to impress your friends!