Should I bell train my puppy?
Potty bells — seems like a genius level idea, doesn’t it?
You teach your puppy to ring a bell hanging by the door when they need to go out to potty. No more constantly watching for signs she needs to go, no more taking her out every hour “just in case”–she’ll TELL you when it’s time!
Only soon enough, you think maybe you’re being played, as your puppy has discovered the trick to make you come let her outside to play…anytime she wants to play. But you can’t NOT let her out, because she may have to pee or poop.
And, what’s worse, she still sneaks off to leave you unwanted…”surprises” in spots around the house!
A few weeks, or months, later, she’s still ringing the bell at random times, pretty much anytime you sit down to take a work call or try to watch a show with the family.
There’s no predicting when she may need to eliminate, and she won’t go “on command”, so it’s really hard to plan ahead for when you’ll need to be gone for a few hours.
You may think to yourself: “self, what have I done?
Why isn’t this working? Is my dog too dumb to “get” this house training thing?
…Or am I the one who’s too dumb to teach her?”
The truth is, neither of you is even a little bit “too dumb”…
Truth is, your puppy is super smart (and I suspect, so are you–after all, you ARE reading this post 😉)
Maybe not such a genius idea after all…. Read on to find out why I don’t recommend potty bells.
Problem #1: You may not be teaching your puppy what you think you’re teaching
Let’s back track just a smidge, and recall what house training a puppy entails:
- Where TO go
- Where NOT to go
- To hold it until she’s in an appropriate spot TO go–this is at first a physical capability, but later on can become a trained thing.
Very strictly, cause-and-effect, your puppy has learned that if she rings the bell, you stop what you’re doing, come to her, and open the door. (or, if you’re extra diligent, you come put a leash on your puppy and take her to the yard)
Whether she potties or not once she’s out there likely has nothing to do with the bells, in her mind. And in the meantime, if you’ve allowed yourself to relax a little on the “eyeballs on the puppy at all times” supervision, she’s able to relieve the ‘gotta go’ discomfort wherever SHE chooses.
Your very young puppy, much like a toddler learning to use a toilet, often isn’t even aware she needs to “go” until just before she pees or poops. Most puppies under 12-13 weeks really can’t hold it very long at all.
So even if she’s put together the idea that ringing the bell gets her taken outdoors, and that outdoors is a good place to eliminate, the chances are slim of her realizing she has to go, knowing to ring the bell, and then being able to hold it long enough for you to arrive and get her to a desirable potty spot.
Which means, your puppy will be missing opportunities to practice where TO go, and where NOT to go, relatively often.
And this means your house-training process is less clear to your puppy, and therefore may become a long, drawn-out thing that is never truly reliable. 💩😫
EVERY TIME a dog eliminates, it’s an opportunity for him to be on track to be house trained, OR to be on track to be NOT house trained.
Problem #2 (the bigger problem): “potty bells” put control of a really important dynamic in the paws of your untrained puppy or dog.
Your puppy or dog has taught YOU to come ‘on command’.
And she also now controls access to a very valuable thing– the outdoors.
In a relationship where human guidance and leadership are absolutely necessary, we undermine our credibility as leaders in a pretty significant way, when the ‘follower’ gets to make us jump up and attend their wants and desires.
When your puppy reaches the ‘testing’ developmental stage, starting as early as 13-14 weeks, even more so during adolescence, if who is guiding and who is following is not absolutely clear, all the time, I can promise, from over 15 years’ professional experience, you are going to run into some problems.
So…can I still keep the bells?
You could teach your puppy that ringing the bells means you will put her leash on and take her to the potty spot, where she must go potty. No running around the yard, no free-sniffing all around for 30 minutes.
“But what if she doesn’t go?”…right back to house training 101: you’ll put her in her crate, set a timer for 20 minutes, and take her out on her leash again…repeat until success.
“That’s a pain in the neck”…
“She’ll still be able to ‘make’ me come take her out, when SHE wants”…
Or… you continue on for a little while longer, with a house training process that YOU control, where YOU set the schedule.
At first, that schedule will allow for a young puppy’s frequent need to eliminate, and, if you’re smart about it, teach the puppy to eliminate ‘on command’.
Gradually, before you know it, that schedule can use your puppy’s knowledge and instinct of where NOT to go, to stretch out the time and create the ability to ‘hold it’.
Down the road, this translates to a dog that pees and poops when you need her to, where you want her to…
…and no more “little surprises”. 😉
Are you making one (or more) of these very common puppy house training mistakes? Success may be much closer (and simpler) than you thought. CLICK HERE to learn about the most common mistakes new owners make in house training
Have you tried bell training your puppy? Let us know how it went in the comments below! ↓