Training Your Dog to Signal When They Need to Go Outside

Training Your Dog to Signal When They Need to Go Outside

In the Dog Blog, we recount our journey with, an endearing dachshund puppy. He was playful, adventurous, mischievous, and an absolute pro at cuddling. But like many dachshunds, proved to be a bit of a challenge when it came to housebreaking. His transition to a fully house-trained pup wasn’t a walk in the park; it took seven months of dedication. The solution that finally worked wonders for us? Dog bell training.

Training your puppy or adult dog to ring a bell when they need to go outside is a game-changer. It offers a clear and convenient means for your dog to communicate their bathroom needs, minimizing the chances of accidents. Wondering how to implement dog bell training? We sought guidance from Denise Herman, the brains behind Brooklyn’s Empire of the Dog, to guide us through this process.

Step 1: Select the Right Dog Training Bell

The first step in this journey is to choose the right dog training bell. You can purchase one, or if you’re feeling crafty, create your own using sturdy string and jingle bells or a cowbell. It’s worth noting that jingle bells have a cross-shaped opening at the bottom, which might snag your dog’s toenails. While cowbells produce audible sounds, some dogs may find them scary. To muffle the cowbell’s noise, you can add a strip of duct tape to its edge or stuff it with baby socks. Gradually increase the volume of the sound as your dog becomes more accustomed to it.

Here are three trainer-approved dog potty bells available on

  1. Service Dog Doorbell: VIMOV’s Pet Training Bells, offered in pairs, resemble the call bells you encounter at hotel lobby service desks. With a rust-proof finish, a non-skid base, and a large, flat button, your dog can effortlessly nudge it with their paw. If you have a multi-floor house, consider placing a bell on each level. “If you’re upstairs with your dog, having a bell at the top of the stairs makes sense,” advises Herman. “If your dog rings the bell, and you can’t hear it, it’s like an existential crisis for them.”
  2. Hanging Dog Doorbell: This is the precise dog bell we used for Bluetree’s Dog Doorbell features a robust nylon strap and seven large jingle bells, which can hang from various door handles. It boasts adjustable snap buttons for resizing, depending on your dog’s height. However, Herman cautions against installing it on your front or back door, as it may result in overuse due to constant door opening.
  3. Wireless Dog Doorbell: The Mighty Paw Smart Bell is a two-piece set comprising a bell and a receiver. Plug the receiver into an outlet and attach the bell to your wall or door using 3M adhesive tape. It offers various volumes and 38 distinct ringtones. Herman advises that you should monitor if the bell is too challenging for your dog to operate with their nose or if they dislike the ring tone, as this might discourage use.

Step 2: Teach Your Dog to Touch the Bell with Their Nose

Before your first training session, cut treats into raisin-sized pieces. Herman suggests using tiny treats since a 15-minute training session might require 50 to 60 treats. You can opt for organic, all-natural, and grain-free dog treats.

Teaching your dog to touch the bell with their nose or paw is referred to as targeting. If you don’t have a bell, a soup can will suffice. Say “Touch” and place the can or bell within reach. No need to coat it with spreadable cheese or dog-safe peanut butter. “Time it right, and your dog will instinctively investigate it,” Herman explains. When your dog’s nose contacts the bell, say “Yes!” and immediately reward them with a treat placed on top of the can. If you’re employing a clicker in your training, use it instead of saying “Yes!” Let your dog revisit and smell the object. Each time they smell it, say “Yes!” and provide a treat on the can or bell, reinforcing the idea that this action leads to a treat. Repeat this process 15 to 25 times or until your dog consistently touches the bell with their nose or paw. Gradually position the can or bell farther away or to the side each time you say “Touch.” This encourages your dog to turn their head or take steps to reach it. Practice for three to five days, aiming for at least one 15-minute training session daily. Keep in mind that puppies might have shorter attention spans and need frequent breaks.

Step 3: Teach Your Dog to Ring the Bell by the Door

Hang your training bell on your doorknob or a hook near your door and have your treats ready. Call your dog over and say “Touch,” extending the bell towards them. For service bells, click or say “Yes!” and reward your dog whenever they hit the upper half of the bell. If they touch the lower half, reward them half the time. This technique, called pre-shaping, creates an incentive for your dog to focus on the more rewarding top half of the bell, according to Herman. Next, split the service bell into thirds. In approximately 10 to 15 repetitions, your dog will understand which part of the bell yields better rewards. Herman notes that dogs are remarkably adept at grasping market rates.

  • Top: Treat every time
  • Middle: Randomly treat 50 percent of the time
  • Bottom: No treat Repeat this step until your dog successfully touches the bell five times consecutively with their nose or paw.

Step 4: Teach Your Dog When to Ring the Bell

Now that your dog is a proficient bell-ringer, they need to comprehend that ringing the bell signifies a quick bathroom trip, not an opportunity to play or explore. “You must discern when your dog truly needs to go,” Herman advises. “If your dog came in just 30 minutes ago and is ringing the bell again, it’s for recreational purposes.”

To instruct your dog when to ring the bell, request that they touch it with their nose or paw right before you open the door. Subsequently, say “Yes!” and reward them with a treat. Do this consistently every time you take your dog outside. Even if the bell makes no noise the first time your dog touches it, say “Yes!” and offer a treat. Once your dog completes their bathroom duties, reward them with another treat. This reinforces the link between ringing the bell and going potty outside.

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