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How to teach your dog to ring bells for potty training

So you have a new puppy and you are starting on the daunting task of house training your new pet. Maybe you have got a small play pen and pee pads set up (spoiler alert: we don’t recommend those!) Perhaps you have invested in a crate and are starting to crate train your puppy on a systematic schedule of letting them out every few hours.

Thats all great and wonderful but the question remains… “how will my dog tell me when they need to go out?” 

Crate training can solve one part of that question as some puppies will learn to whimper/cry if they need to potty in the morning. You can also seek out other cues from your puppy such as them waiting by the door for it to open.


There are also more tech-savvy options like the Mighty Paw Smart Bell but really any set of bells will get the job done.

You can teach your puppy to ring the bell with their paw or their nose. I personally prefer teaching the dog to do a nose touch to the bell so that they don’t potentially scratch up a door.

  1. Start by holding the bells in your hand and have a treat. You can use the treat to lure the dog into touching the bell, or simply wait for the puppy to touch their nose to the bell. As soon as the puppy makes any movement towards the bell, say “yes” and reward with a treat!

  2. Gradually raise your criteria. In the I might reward a few times for just making a movement towards the bell but I’m quickly going to want the dog to actually push their nose into the bell, and then to do it several times and make a strong ringing sound. I’ll also move the bells into different positions (hold up higher, down lower, to the opposite side of your body, etc) so that the dog generalizes what its expected to do.

  3. Once the puppy is ringing the bells consistently, you can pair a word to it. It can be “bells” or “outside” or any cue you want to give. I would pair the verbal cue with a physical cue as well so typically I’ll say “bells” and point clearly to the bells.

  4. Now you are read to hang the bells on your door.  Give your command and hand signal and reward the puppy for ringing the bells.

  5. I’ll spend 1 week or so consistently telling the puppy to ring the bells every time we go outside. I cue them to ring the bells and then immediately open the door.

  6. Next I’ll begin fading out the verbal command and just point to the bells and wait for the puppy to touch them before opening the door. I’ll do this for a week or so until I see the dog has a good understanding.

  7. The final step is walking towards the door and the dog understands its job is to ring the bell without any cuing. Throughout the day try and see if the dog offers to ring the bells at any point on their own and reward with opening the door.

With consistency early on, you will find teaching your dog to ring the bells will be a huge help in progressing your potty training goals! If you need more help with potty training or other obedience issues, feel free to reach out to us anytime at our website – ocdogranch.com

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