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How To Train Your Dog To Use Potty Bells In 3 Easy Steps

How To Train Your Dog To Use Potty Bells In 3 Easy Steps

Your dog is going to love her potty bells.

It’s amazingly empowering for her when she has a clever and reliable way to get your attention.

You’re going to be pretty impressed when she rings her bell and patiently stares at you, waiting for you to take her for a potty trip.

Using potty bells is your dog’s first lesson in communicating with you. When she learns this skill, she will feel closer to you, knowing she can depend on you to understand her needs.

You can start this training with any pup or adult dog. It only takes a few sessions for most dogs to catch on.

Why You Might Decide To Use Potty Bells

When I was having trouble potty training Matilda, potty bells made it so much easier.

She would often sneak off and have accidents. Since she was used to using potty pads, as we lived in an area where it wasn’t always possible for me to take her out, she hadn’t really learned to communicate her needs.

Any small dog may have trouble getting attention when they need it. Their subtle signals may go unnoticed.

Potty bells are easy for anyone to understand, particularly if you plan to have a pet sitter who may not immediately pick up on your dog’s signals.

The Downsides Of Potty Bells

Your dog might abuse the potty bells. She might start ringing them whenever she wants to go outside and sniff.

However, this is a habit that can be easily mitigated by taking the steps below.

Potty bells can be loud. You may not want to have them in an apartment building if your neighbors are especially sensitive to noise, or if someone in your household works nights and sleeps during the day.

If potty bells are too loud, you can try Paws2Go, an electronic potty bell button that sends an alert to your phone. It also lights up. You can choose to make it silent.

Overall, I think potty bells are useful for just about anyone. If you end up disliking them, it’s easy to bridge the behavior into a different potty signal.

Matilda rang her potty bell to go out.

Step 1: Get A Potty Bell

Original Potty Bells from CaldwellsThe potty bell is going to be a permanent installation in your home.

It needs to always be available for your dog to ring.

Install the potty bell on the door you use to take your dog out. If you have multiple doors, you can get multiple bells.

I recommend the Original Potty Bells because they are long enough for short dogs to reach, and they have a snap so you can hang them anywhere and take them with you on-the-go.

When You Don’t Have A Potty Bell

You do not necessarily need to have a potty bell to teach your dog to communicate when she needs to go outside.

You can also have her spin, bark, or do anything to get your attention. The principles are the same: you must have your dog complete the action right before you take her outside.

However, you can hear potty bells from another room. This makes it easy for your dog to get your attention when you’re not closeby.

Step 2: Train Your Dog To Ring The Potty Bell

When you first install the bell, lure your dog near it with some treats. Give her a treat whenever she approaches the bell. Praise her for the tiniest jingle.

Small dogs might be afraid of loud, scary bells – at first. Once your dog discovers the power they will have over you when they ring the bells, they will lose their fear very fast!

At this stage, just make sure your dog knows how to use the bell. She will choose to either tap it with her paws or her nose.

Using a command is optional – your end goal is for the dog to ring the bell on their own, without a command. But it may be easier for you to get the dog to use the bell if you say a command at first.

You can say, “Bell!” or “Ring!” and then praise your dog when they jingle their bell.

Once your dog seems to have a bell-ringing method down, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Have Your Dog Ring Before You Go Outside

Now that your dog knows how to use the bell, command her ring it immediately before you take her outside.

Do not give her any more treats for ringing. Instead, provide an immediate cause-and-effect by opening the door the moment they ring.

Phase out the command as your dog begins to ring the bell on her own. Be consistent. Take the dog out EVERY TIME she rings the bell. Even if she hits it by mistake. Even if you just took her out.

It will not take long for your dog to realize that whenever she rings the bell, you will take her outside.

Should You Ignore Excessive Ringing?

When your dog realizes that you take her out every time her bell rings, she will ring the heck out of that bell.

She will ring it when she sees a squirrel, and when she wants to go out and play.

If you have an excessive ringer, make sure that when you take her out, you are on potty duty only.

Do not let her chase squirrels, and do not let her play. Each bell ring results in a trip to her potty spot, or a quick potty walk – not a free-for-all outdoor playtime.

If your dog rings when you only just took her out, she could just need to poop again.

She could even have a urinary tract infection, causing her to need to pee many times – she’ll need to be treated by a vet, in that case. 

Only ignore your dog’s ringing if you’re sure she won’t have an accident, and if you know she just wants to chase the birds outside.

Ready to stop accidents for good?

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.

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Friday 17th of January 2020

[…] need to teach your dog to communicate when you have to take her out. You can do this by trainingĀ her ring a potty bell, having her spin, bark, […]

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Wednesday 18th of December 2019

[…] someone who’s getting a new puppy, or struggling with potty accidents, potty bells are a real game-changer. Paws2Go is an electronic version of the potty bell, you can record the […]

Theresa Bennett

Thursday 19th of September 2019

My puppy is confined to an area of the house that does not have access to the door where the bells are. I tried putting a second set of bells in the area where she is confined to but all she did was ring the bell constantly to get out of her confined area. I removed those bells and now just keep asking her if she needs to go out. Once we get to the front door she'll sometimes ring the bell but only if prompted. Other times she doesn't want to go near them. I assume that means she doesn't really have to go potty. I take her nose and hit the bells and take her out anyway. Clearly she isn't telling me on her own that she needs to go potty. I guess my question is how do I achieve the goal of her telling us she needs to go out?


Monday 15th of May 2017

I need help, my dog Chewie knows how to ring the bell, and will definitely ring it, but he doesn't ring it on his own to let me know he needs to go. When I am working, or at home, I need for him to let me know. Right now he will only ring it when I get up and tell him it's time to go "outside" "potty" and when I walk over to the door. I don't feel like he is fully potty trained until he can let me know that he needs to go outside. I don't know what to do. Any suggestions?

Lindsay Pevny

Tuesday 23rd of May 2017

It did take a while for Matilda to start ringing on her own. What helped was, I'd go near the bell but not ask her to ring it, slowly phasing out the prompt. It also helps to open the door a crack immediately after he rings, so he makes the connection that the door opens when he rings.

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Wednesday 11th of January 2017

[…] She was alone when she pooped inside, and I suspect she did not even try to ring her potty bells. […]

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