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How to train your dog to ring a bell to go outside

Back in October we adopted three year old adorable Chloe (I mean how cute is she?) and she came with a fancy dog dish, about 20+ extra pounds, and a bell (large jingle bell) on a ribbon to hang on the back door. She walks up to the bell and “rings” it (ie, knocks against it) to go outside. Brilliant.

Here are instructions on how to teach your dog to ring a bell to go outside from the ASPCA (www.aspca.org):

Stage One: Teaching Your Dog to Touch the Bell with His Nose

Many pet stores sell dog doorbells (I have seen them at PetSmart) or you can make your own using a couple of sleigh bells from a crafts supply store. Attach some kind of sturdy string to the bells. (You’ll use the string later to hang the bells on a doorknob or on a hook next to your door.) Before starting your first training session, break a number of tasty treats into raisin-sized pieces. Use something your dog loves, like dog treats, or raw fruit or veggies.

  1. Say “Touch” and present the bells to your dog. Hold them just an inch or two away from his nose. He’ll probably move toward the bells to sniff them. (If he doesn’t, you can rub a treat on the bells to make them a little more interesting.)
  2. The moment your dog’s nose touches the bells, say “YES!” and immediately give him a treat. Your timing of the “YES!” is important. Your dog needs to know he’s doing the right thing the instant he touches the bells with his nose.
  3. Repeat 10 to 15 times or until your dog readily touches the bells with his nose.
  4. When your dog confidently pokes the bells with his nose as soon as you present them an inch or two in front of him, start to present the bells a little further away or off to the side each time you say “Touch.” Your dog will have to turn his head or take a few steps to touch the bells.

Spend three to five days practicing the exercise above, aiming for at least one practice session per day. Then you’re ready for Stage Two.

Stage Two: Teaching Your Dog to Ring the Bell on the Door

Use the string connected to the bells to hang them on your doorknob or on a hook next to your door. Get your treats ready and call your dog over to the door.

  1. Take the bells in your hand (with them still hanging on the knob), say “Touch,” and hold them out toward your dog.
  2. Right when your dog’s nose touches the bells, say “YES!” and then deliver a treat.
  3. Repeat 5 to 10 times or until your dog readily touches the bells as soon as you say ”Touch.”After a short break from the three steps above, do the exercise again, but this time just point to the bells instead of holding them.
  4. Say “Touch,” and point to the bells.
  5. As soon as your dog touches the bells with his nose, say “YES!” and give him a treat. (If he doesn’t touch the bells, go back to steps 1, 2 and 3 above, holding the bells in your hand when you ask your dog to touch them. After practicing these steps for a couple of days, try just pointing to the bells again.)
  6. Repeat the exercise 5 to 10 times.

Plan to practice Stage Two with your dog for three to five days, just like you practiced Stage One.

Stage Three: Teaching Your Dog to Ring the Bell at the Right Time

Now you can put your plan into action. When you take your dog outside for a potty break, ask him to touch the bells with his nose right before you open the door.

  1. Approach the door with your dog. Say “Touch,” and point to the bells.
  2. The moment he touches the bells with his nose, say “YES!” Then open the door and let your dog go outside.

Ask your dog to ring the bells every time you take him out. With repetition, your dog will learn that he has to touch the bells with his nose to make you open the door. Eventually, when he wants to go outside, he’ll go to the door on his own and ring the bells. The first time this happens, praise him enthusiastically and immediately let him outside. Give him a few tasty treats after he does his business to make sure he understands that you love it when he rings his potty-break bells.

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