From: Drew Vogel firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Bell Training your dog
With an early start and concentrated effort, it is possible to train your dog to ring a bell whenever they want to go outside to relieve themselves. Bell training is not difficult, but it requires a great deal of consistency and dedication during the training. Here’s what you need to prepare for the training:
Get a dog. 😎 (I chose a Jack Russell Terrier and named him Stanley.)
Get a bell (I got a “Large Brass Parrot Bell” at my local pet store).
Get a cord to tie the bell to your door (I used an old nylon leash).
Tie the bell to the cord.
Attach the cord to the door, at about dog-paw height (for Stanley, the bell is about 6 inches from the floor).
A crate for the dog. The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up, lie down, and turn around in. If your puppy is going to grow into a big dog, you can buy a crate for the size they will grow to be, but temporarily partition it down to the correct size for your puppy. There are several compelling reasons to use a crate, but the most relevant to this discussion is that dogs are reluctant to mess where they lay, and this will encourage development of bladder/bowel control. However, be aware that puppies cannot hold their bladders for a full 8-hour work day! They need to be given the chance to relieve themselves frequently.
I got Stanley when he was 5 months old and started bell training right away. I’ll be anxious to hear about successes with younger dogs.
At first, I fed Stanley only twice a day — once at 8:30am and again at 5:30pm. (Stanley is now a self-feeder. I don’t meter or time his feedings.) About 45 minutes after each meal, I’d take him to the bell hung on my back door. Then, I’d take his paw, hit the bell with his paw (VERY important — the dog must strike the bell, not you), verbally praise him, and take him outside. We’d stay outside until he did his duty or a reasonable amount of time (5-10 minutes) then it was back inside with loads of praise and a treat if he did his potty while outside.
|Stanley was crate trained as well. I’m a big advocate of crate training — this allows the owner to leave the home without worrying about coming back to find an overturned garbage can, messes on the floor, or other signs of doggy-destruction, and a crate is like a little apartment for the dog — when Stanley is feeling tired or stressed, he’ll go lay down in his private space. I know that he likes having his own space a lot.Â Crate training assisted in Stanley’s training a great deal since dogs don’t like to mess where they sleep. When it’s time for me to leave for work in the morning, I say “Get in your box” and he goes right in and lays down.
However, some owners do not like the idea of crating their dog. In this case, consider creating a space where the dog stays when no one is home, for example, the kitchen with dog-proof barricades at the doors to prevent the dog from roaming the house. Dogs, when left on their own, feel the need to defend all of their space. If the dog has run of the house, they feel the need to defend the whole home. If they’re penned in the kitchen (for example), that is a more managable space. Even better with a crate.
If the dog makes a mess in the house, they get a firm scolding over the mess (never EVER push the dog’s nose in it!). Then, clean the mess with paper towels and take the soiled towels outside and set them where you want the dog to potty. Go back inside and get the dog, ring the bell with his paw, praise him for ringing the bell, take him outside, allow the dog to smell the soiled paper towels and praise him. Though this may seem a little odd to a human’s way of thinking, this makes perfect sense to the dog.
The hard part is this — a short time into the training, the dog begins to get the idea that ringing the bell means that they get to go outside. They want to test the idea. Every 30 seconds. I mean it. Every 30 seconds. And guess what? You have to follow the steps listed above each and every time during this, the most critical, training time. This is when the dog is learning and making the bell training their own, and when you’re most likely to get frustrated. You’ll certainly get your exercise opening the door for them! Stay strong and take the dog out each time — a little inconvenience at this point will lead to a well-potty-trained dog.
|During this time, Stanley and I were also doing light Alpha Training — training that establishes the alpha order in the household (essentially, who is the “boss dog”). To accomplish this, I would lay Stanley on his side on the floor in front of me, his back to my crossed legs, and I would gently hold him down for 30 minutes a day each day for a month or so. He could do anything he wanted while laying there — sleep, look around — anything except get up. Once 30 minutes had passed, I’d let him up, give him just a little bit of praise (nothing extravagant since he’s just obeying me, something he’s expected to do anyway), and let him go about his business. This type of training is essential for a well-behaved dog, and especially important if you have a dog that will grow large.|
That’s the gist of this training. The alpha training and bell training is very much worth it — Stanley hasn’t had an accident in the house in a long time, and if he rings the bell to go out and I don’t respond within a minute or so, he rings the bell again. And again. It’s great!
Should you need any further help, or want to talk about the finer points of bell or alpha training, please let me know via email. Please let me know how it goes — it went so well with Stanley that I swear by the method. I’m anxious to hear your story.