Monday, January 18, 2016

Bell training: A great idea for Train Your Dog Month 2016

Liam standing by the bell for train your dog month
The Association of Professional Dog Trainers has devoted the entire month of January to the promotion of dog training. People who live with dogs are encouraged to set aside a little time this month to teach a dog a new trick or reinforce an old lesson the pup may have forgotten.

I think this is a great idea, and when I sat down to write this post, I started thinking about all of the cute and clever things my dogs can do. Sitting, giving high 5s, backing up, holding a stay.... All of these little tricks are crowd pleasers. And they come in really handy. When my dogs are nervous or somehow excitable, I can ask them to throw out a quick trick as a confidence boost.

But then I got to thinking.

When I had Sinead in my shy dog class, one of our classmates asked several questions about improper puppy peeing. She couldn't get her dog to tell her when he needed to go out. And as a result, this guy did a lot of peeing in the house.

Training helps with that. And I have a great idea anyone could start this month.

Liam and Sinead sitting by their dog bell
Dog bells, like the set pug Liam and Boston terrier Sinead are sitting next to here, are designed to help your pet tell you when it's time to go outside. Teaching your dog to use these bells involves a simple step-by-step process:
  1. Pick one door you'd like your dog to use when he/she needs to go outside.
  2. Hang dog bells (anything that is loud and rings easily will work, including Christmas decorations) at your dog's snout level by that door. 
  3. When your dog is standing by the door, shake the bells and say "ring, ring!" Then, push the pup outside. 
  4. Watch carefully. 
  5. If the dog has gone potty outside, hand out a cookie when the pup comes back to the door. 
  6. Repeat. 
Anytime your dog goes out the door, you should repeat this ring, ring and cookie business. You can speed things up by using your dog's foot to tap the bells, but some dogs can be really foot sensitive. If yours doesn't like toe touching, skip this step.

Most dogs, including mine, pick up on this routine within a matter of weeks. But there is a little finessing involved. Smart dogs will begin ringing the bell repeatedly in order to get a cookie. Handing out treats ONLY when the dog goes potty can help with that.

So what do you say? Think this is a good trick for January? If you give it a shot, leave me a note in the comments. I'd love to know how it worked out for you.

And for other great ideas about Train Your Dog Month, click here


  1. This sounds like a great idea. We only have cats though :)

    1. Oh, my sassy cats totally have the bell thing figured out. My old cat, Troy, would ring the bells in the morning when it was time to go to work, as I took him out that door to my office every morning. And Maggie will sometimes ring the bells when she wants the darn dogs to go outside and get out of her way :)

  2. This does sound like a great idea. Ruby hates the cold and doesn't usually want to go out in it so we have had some accidents. Or not really accidents, more like I'm not going out in -7 so let me find a corner where no one will notice.