Tips for “Potty Bell” Training

A lot of people like to teach their dog to ring a bell so that the dog has a way to indicate to the owner,...


A lot of people like to teach their dog to ring a bell so that the dog has a way to indicate to the owner, “I’ve got to go potty now!”

Potty bell training can be a fabulous skill for dogs to learn, but it has to be done correctly. Here are a few tips if you are thinking about potty bell training for your dog:

  • You cannot potty bell train your dog until your dog is potty trained. The first step in potty bell training your dog is teaching your dog that outside the home is the place to eliminate. For tips on how to potty train your dog, check out this article I wrote for Karen Pryor Clicker Training a few years ago, How to Potty Train Your Puppy the Clicker Way.
  • Hang your dog’s leash near the bell. One of the biggest problems people get into with potty bell training is that once the dog understands “bell = outside,” she may ring the bell constantly so that she can go outside and have fun. Here is the biggest rule of potty bell training – ringing the potty bell means you are going outside, on your leash, for a potty break, and that’s it! Your dog should not ring the potty bell and get free access to the back yard. If your dog rings the bell, you should automatically leash up, take her out to the designated potty spot, and wait. Be very boring – no play, treats, attention, etc., until after she goes to the bathroom. Then you may reward her in any way you wish (treat, game of tug, go for a walk, etc.). If she does not go to the bathroom within five or ten minutes, bring her back in the house.
  • Some dogs are afraid of the bells and are hesitant to touch them hard enough to make them ring either with their paws or nose. You can select different indicators for these dogs – a scratch at the door, an “Easy” button they can push, etc.
  • Not sure how to train your dog to ring the potty bell? You may like this quick and short, and simple article from Jess Rollins at, House Training Your Dog Using a Bell.

Potty bells can be great communication aids for dogs and their people, but tend to go wrong if the dog is allowed to learn that potty bell = fun play time, whenever I want! By not allowing your dog free access to the yard and only providing her with leashed elimination opportunities in response to the bell, she will learn that potty bell = elimination break rather than “doggy party time.” Certainly, if you’d like to have a doggy party with your dog, feel free to do so AFTER she eliminates.

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