Potty bells are a blessing and a curse… but mostly a blessing.
Without them, I’m not sure how I could have gotten the once-timid Matilda to let me know when she needed to go out.
Potty bells have opened other avenues of communication, too. When she first learned to use them, Matilda changed… she started to look to me for her needs, when she needed reassurance, and she started to become more creative about finding ways to earn her treats.
But… she certainly doesn’t need to go potty every time she rings them. Cow, who learned to use potty bells just by watching Matilda, also likes to abuse them.
So, how do you teach your dog to stop ringing the potty bells all the time, and only ring when she actually has to go potty?
Helpful Hint: If your potty bells are annoying, consider getting a Paws2Go electronic potty bell. You can make it silent, and it will still light up and alert you with a phone notification.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Abusing Her Potty Bells
It’s tough to tell if your dog is ringing her potty bells in vain.
Sometimes, I’ll ignore someone’s ring, only for them to keep ringing every few minutes, and then when I finally try to take them out, it turns out they needed to unload a massive poop.
At other times, I’ll believe the ring, only for the ringer to sniff around for toads and not pee. I’m not naming names. Ok, it’s Cow. It’s always Cow.
Naturally, it’s better to take your dog out too often, than to ignore her rings and let her have an accident.
One rule of thumb: never take your dog out if she’s ringing in the midst of going crazy over a squirrel, mailman, whatever. Your dog must learn that erratic behavior is not going to lead to a walk.
Potty Trips Are For Potties
When your dog rings her bell, she needs to know that the end result is a quick potty trip. Not playtime, not time to hunt, sniff, or dilly-dally.
This is especially true if you’re still potty training.
Take your dog out for just a few minutes, and only go to her usual potty spot.
If you have a fenced backyard, you may still want to go out with her on a leash so you can make sure she does her business, and you can keep her from getting distracted. This isn’t always necessary, but it can help. Some dogs take longer to potty on a leash, though. There’s no need to over-complicate things – if letting her out is easier for potty breaks, that’s totally fine.
Adventure walks are so important for bonding, exercising, and stimulating your dog’s mind. Just be sure they don’t begin with your dog ringing her bell, or she may associate ringing her bell with a fun adventure.
Your Dog Is Bored… And That’s Fair
It’s almost inevitable that your dog will, sometimes, ring her bell without having to go potty. You can minimize instances by ignoring her rings, but if she’s truly bored, she’s going to keep ringing.
And that’s okay.
If my dogs are bored, if I’m getting too caught up in my work, I’m glad they have ways of letting me know.
When you think your dog is ringing her bell out of boredom, why not play with her indoors, give her a food puzzle toy, or play hide and seek?
You can tire your dog out with mental stimulation. You don’t have to go on a run to get your dog to relax.
It’s essential that you don’t start playing with your dog immediately after she rings the bell. You don’t want the bell to mean “let me out… or play with me!” Wait a few minutes before you start playing.
Should You Yell At Your Dog For Ringing The Potty Bells Too Much?
The clatter of potty bells can be grating. Especially when you already went out five minutes ago, and you just sat down to watch TV or get some work done.
I definitely snap at my dogs sometimes when they’re ringing like crazy and I’m already stressed.
And they look at me like they’re confused. Because they are.
When I’m stressed enough to snap at my dogs, that’s when we need a walk the most.
Sometimes, I need to swallow my pride and admit that my dogs know when we need a walk better than I do. Sometimes, it’s important to just trust them, and go for that walk… even if they don’t actually have to pee.
How you react to your dog abusing their potty bells will influence how they use them in the future.
If you call your dog away from it, she’ll know that even if she doesn’t get her walk, she can still use the bells to get your attention… and you know what, that’s not awful, but not desirable.
The best thing you can do about potty bell overuse is just ignore your dog. You can contain her to another room or put the bells away if she’s driving you nuts.
Dogs are smart. If you’re consistent in how you react to the bells (by ignoring her or going for a quick potty break,) she’ll pick up on it.
If you play with her, keep her entertained, and go for plenty of adventure walks, she won’t feel much of a need to abuse those potty bells.