When Mike and I (Steph) got our dachshund puppy Django, we were over the moon in love with him. Our adorable little puppy was playful, adventurous, mischievous, and the best cuddler in the world. He, like most dachshunds, was also notoriously hard to housebreak.
Django, like all puppies, had regular "accidents" in our home before becoming fully housebroken. While some dogs can learn to go potty outside by the time they are 3-4 months old, other dogs may take longer to train. Django was 7 months old when he finally stopped peeing in our apartment. What helped us teach Django that going potty was an outdoor-only activity? Dog bell training.
Training your puppy or adult dog to ring a potty bell to go outside allows your dog to easily and clearly communicate when he needs to go to the bathroom. Dog bell training is convenient for both you and your dog and helps prevent accidents. But how does dog bell training work? We sat down with Denise Herman, the founder of Brooklyn's Empire of the Dog, to walk us through the training process.
To get started, you will need to purchase a dog training bell. You can also make your own with sturdy string and jingle bells or a cowbell. Keep in mind that jingle bells have a cross-shaped opening in the bottom, which might pull your dog’s toenails. While cowbells can be heard from anywhere in your house, some dogs are terrified of loud noises. To muffle the cowbell’s sound, wrap a piece of duct tape around its edge or stuff baby socks in it. Make it where your dog can hardly hear the cowbell at first, then gradually work your way to a louder sound.
Here are three trainer-approved dog potty bells that you can find on Amazon.com:
VIMOV's Pet Training Bells come as a set of two. They are like the call bells that you see on service desks in hotel lobbies. With a rust-proof finish and non-skid bottom, they feature a flat and wide button that your dog can easily hit with his paw. If you have two floors in your house, you may need to put a bell on each floor. “If I was on the second floor with my dog, I might put a bell at the top of the stairs,” Herman says. “If your dog rings the bell and you cannot hear it from where you are, it is like an existential crisis for him.”
This is the exact type of dog bell we use for Django. With a heavy-duty nylon belt and seven extra-large jingle bells, Bluetree’s Dog Doorbell easily hangs from any type of handle. It also has adjustable snap buttons, so you can resize it based on the height of your dog. “The pitfall is that you cannot keep it on your front or back door,” she says. “Because every time you open the door to do anything else, your dog is going to hear the bell, and that is going to dilute the meaningfulness of it.”
The Mighty Paw Smart Bell comes in two pieces — bell and receiver. Plug the receiver into your power outlet. Then stick the bell on your wall or door with 3M adhesive tape. It features four different volumes and 38 different ringtones. “If the bell is too hard for your dog to touch with his nose or he does not like the ringer sound, it would be something that he would avoid,” Herman says. This weatherproof bell only needs 0.75 pounds of pressure to send a wireless signal. It reaches up to 1,000 feet, so you can install it where you spend most of your time and never miss an alert.
Before you start your first training session, cut chicken, hot dogs, or cheese into raisin-sized pieces. “I keep my treats tiny because if I'm training a dog for 15 minutes, I might use 50 to 60 treats,” Herman says. You can also use these organic, all-natural, and grain-free dog treats.
Practice for three to five days, aiming for at least one 15-minute training session per day. Puppies might only be able to train for one minute at a time. While they are capable of learning quickly, they have short attention spans and need frequent breaks.
Now that your dog is an expert bell-ringer, he needs to learn that ringing the bell only means a quick potty trip. It is not a time to play, hunt, or sniff. “You have to know when your dog is shooting blanks,” Herman says. “If he came in 30 minutes ago and he is ringing the bell again, it is for recreation.”
To train your dog when to ring the bell, ask him to touch it with his nose or paw right before you open the door. Then say “Yes!” and give him a treat. Do this every single time you take your dog outside.
Even if the bell does not make any noise the first time your dog hits it, say, “Yes!”, give him a treat, and take him out right away. As soon as he goes poop or pee, give him another treat. This will help him make the connection between ringing the bell and going potty outside.
We would love to hear from you! If you have any dog bell training questions or want to share a potty training experience, please leave a comment below.
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