How to Bell Train Your Dog to Go Outside

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I’ve talked about our dog Fletcher before {like here and here}, so you probably already know a little bit about him. In case you don’t, he’s a 7-month-old chocolate lab, and he’s a keeper. 

Use Nudges dog treats from @Walmart to teach your dog how to ring a bell to let you know when he has to go outside! #NudgeThemBack #ad

I mean, seriously. Look at that face.

As sweet and loving as he is, training a puppy is no joke. Everyone says that it’s like having a newborn in the house, but it is WAY harder than that. It’s like having a super-destructive toddler who wants to eat everything in sight, doesn’t listen at all, sprints away from you at the most dangerous possible moment, gets into the knife drawer as soon as you turn your back, and has learned to take his diaper off and will only pee and poop on the floor.

Use Nudges dog treats from @Walmart to teach your dog how to ring a bell to let you know when he has to go outside! #NudgeThemBack #ad

Now, I am certainly no expert on dog behavior or raising a puppy, but I will gladly talk about what worked for us during the puppy stages. And one of the best decisions we ever made was to teach Fletcher to ring a bell when he has to go outside. Even better, it was probably the easiest thing we’ve taught him, too!

The way our house is laid out, we can’t see our front door from most of the areas on the first floor, including from the family room, which is where we spend most of our time. This wasn’t an issue when we first started housebreaking Fletcher, because we kept him gated in the kitchen and living room with us. But once he was completely housebroken and we started letting him go anywhere on the first floor, we started noticing that he would sometimes have accidents right at the front door, because the poor little guy would be patiently sitting by the front door waiting for us to take him out, but we didn’t know because we couldn’t see him. 

So when he was about 4 months old, I decided to bell train him. All you need to bell train your dog is a bell, some dog treats, and quite a bit of patience. 

I got a large jingle bell around Christmas at Joann Fabrics; but if itsyou should be able to find a similar one at a craft store or online. I just hung it from the doorknob on the front door, the door where we take him in and out. 

For the dog treats, I use Nudges Grillers and Sizzlers, which I found at Walmart. We’re trying to eat healthier in our house, and it’s important to me that Fletcher eats well too, especially during any kind of training. Training involves pretty much a constant stream of treats, so you want to use ones that are easy on the dog’s tummy, but that they will do anything to get.I’m pretty sure Fletcher would sell our entire family in order to get his Nudges. 

Use Nudges dog treats from @Walmart to teach your dog how to ring a bell to let you know when he has to go outside! #NudgeThemBack #ad

I got the Chicken and Steak Grillers, as well as the Beef & Cheese Sizzlers. I love them because they’re relatively big, so they’re great for random treats, but they’re also soft, so they’re easy to break into smaller pieces for training.

Use Nudges dog treats from @Walmart to teach your dog how to ring a bell to let you know when he has to go outside! #NudgeThemBack #ad

Plus, they’re made with real meat, they have no artificial flavors or fillers and they’re made in the USA with only USA-sourced protein. {Also, unlike most dog treats, these actually smell amazing. David and I have actually been tempted to taste them, they look and smell so good, but we haven’t been able to bring ourselves to do it.}

When you start the bell training, you need to keep a few things in mind. To begin with, as soon as you hang that bell, you need to take the dog out whenever he rings it. Even if you know he’s just playing with it or just went out 30 seconds ago, he needs to learn that the bell means it’s time to go outside and go potty. That’s it. {This would be where the patience part kicks in.} Fletcher caught onto that pretty quickly, although he still occasionally uses it for attention or when I go upstairs or {heaven forbid} into the bathroom and leave him alone. So it’s probably a good idea to wait for a nice day, and not a frigid week in the dead of winter, like we did. 

Second, he needs to ring the bell every single time he goes outside. For the first few times, you’ll need to help him ring it, either with his nose or with his paw. We taught Fletcher to hit it with his nose by gently moving his head to the bell. The second the bell makes a sound, praise him like crazy, and out he goes. If he pees or poops within 2 or 3 minutes, then again praise him like he just cured polio and give him a couple small pieces of Nudges. If he doesn’t go, bring him back inside and wait to repeat the whole process the next time he rings the bell.

It’s important to remember to only give him the treat when he goes potty, not when he rings the bell, because otherwise, you’ll be listening to a constant stream of jingle bells, and it will likely drive you insane.

Use Nudges dog treats from @Walmart to teach your dog how to ring a bell to let you know when he has to go outside! #NudgeThemBack #ad

I could not believe how quickly Fletcher caught onto the bell. Within about 8-12 hours of introducing it for the first time, he walked up to the front door, rang the bell and sat down. When I took him out, he immediately peed, and I just about threw him a ticker-tape parade. Even now, a few months later, I still get so proud when he rings the bell to go out.  

Check out all the flavors of Nudges dog treats and let me know which one you think your dog would love the most! For more about Nudges, check out their website and visit them on Facebook!

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  • Stephanie
    October 17, 2015 at 11:44 pm

    Our German Shepherd puppy caught on quick too, and she does the same thing… ring it for attention when she is feeling ignored. We trained her by hitting the bell with her paw every time we took her out the first day. We had a lot of luck with the bell. She had maybe 2 accidents the first 24 hours, but hasn’t had one since. Our older dog usually just waits for the puppy to ring the bell to go potty, and he was never trained to use it (I got lucky and he only had 1 accident in the house ever with absolutely zero training, and I rescued him at 5 weeks old) but he did use the bell once. I think he was just seeing if he could get our attention with it too.

    What do you do if he keeps ringing it but he doesn’t actually have to potty?
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  • Meg
    December 4, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    We have 2 pound puppies and as perfect as our little chihuahua is, she has been a booger to train. Thanks for the tip, fingers crossed!!

  • Katie
    February 16, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I have an almost 5 year old mini (tweenie) dachshund and a brand new, just got her a day ago, 10 week old mini dachshund. I like the idea of this bell training, however, my husband and I are gone from 7 in the morning until almost 6 o’clock at night. If she rings the bell and we aren’t home then this wouldn’t work for us. Maybe i’m wrong. Any suggestions??

    • Joyce
      August 15, 2016 at 8:38 am

      This is meant for when you are home. I have used this system with my last pup and about to with our new pup. It is a complete floor save. We aren’t always in the area of the door, and who is? I highly recommend trying it. No matter what training system you put in place for your pup wouldn’t be useful if you are not at home. If your pet is not able to wait for that long of a period of time you will need to find a system that works for you to keep accidents contained to an area you choose. You could purchase a crate larger than what your pet needs and leave an area at the rear of the crate designated for the pup to relieve on that is covered with newspaper or wee wee pads. You could also gate your pet in a room with a floor that can be protected as well with newspaper or wee wee pads until they understand that this is where you want them to go rather than your gorgeous New carpet or hardwood floor that could be ruined. There are also circular gate systems that you can purchase to keep them in an area larger than a crate if you have a space that is difficult to put a gate in.

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  • Danielle
    August 6, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Great post! Will definitely be trying this with my lab puppy – just introduced him to Nudges.

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  • Barbara
    September 1, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    We have a HUGE bell hanging from the door; I am adopting a four year old terrier mix who will soon be having knee surgery. Although our apt. is a studio and we’re always home, it doesn’t mean we’re not involved in our own thing. If she rang this bell, the town would go on alert. I’ll look for something a little less magnificent or she might pee herself from terror.

    • Jenn
      September 1, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      Hahaha!! Now that the stores are starting to put out Christmas stuff {don’t even get me started…} you should be able to find something slightly less terrifying. 😉
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  • Nikki
    September 23, 2016 at 6:00 am

    I’m about to adopt a puppy, and he’ll be a mostly inside dog. We’ll definitely be working on training him with a bell! Thanks for the tips.

  • Michelle
    September 23, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    At what age can you try this. My 10 week old goldendoodle is afraid of the bell…any suggestions?

    • shelby
      November 30, 2016 at 11:11 am

      maybe you should try a smaller bell?

  • Mandy Atkinson
    March 16, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Hi! Getting my new whoodle puppy, Clancy, tomorrow and am sooo excited!! Do we need to be consistent about which door we take him out or could we get bells to hang at each door we may use? Any suggestions appreciated!!

    • Jenn
      March 24, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Hi Mandy! Congrats on your new puppy, that’s so exciting! I think at the beginning, you may want to choose which door you want him to go wait by when he has to go out. If you’re taking him our a bunch of different doors, that might confuse him. Even when Fletcher wants to go out back to run around, he still goes and sits by the front door. Then, when we come to get him, he runs to the deck door. 🙂 Good luck with training Clancy!!
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  • Connie
    March 23, 2017 at 11:14 am

    This is how I trained my chihuahua Scooby at 10 wks old! I think it’s the best method! He’s 2 1/2 yrs old now and still always rings the bell!

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