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Training Your Dog to Use a Doggy Door or Bell for Potty Breaks

Training Your Dog to Use a Doggy Door or Bell for Potty Breaks

House training your dog is an important part of dog ownership. Dogs naturally want to keep their sleeping and living areas clean, but they need our help to learn where and when to potty. Using a doggy door or training your dog to ring a bell when they need to go outside makes house training easier and prevents accidents in the home.

Some key benefits of training your dog to use a doggy door or bell include:

  • Gives your dog more freedom and independence to let themselves outside.
  • Signals to you when your dog needs to go out.
  • Helps establish a routine and schedule for potty breaks.
  • Reduces the number of accidents in the home.
  • Saves you time from having to constantly monitor your dog.
  • Lets older dogs out if they can't hold it as long.

With consistency and positive reinforcement, most dogs can learn to use a doggy door or ring a bell to indicate they need to go potty within a few weeks or months. The key is starting training early and being patient!

Choosing a Doggy Door or Bell

If you decide to train your dog to use a doggy door, there are a few options to choose from:

  • Electronic dog doors – These doors unlock when your dog approaches wearing a special collar. They are convenient but expensive.
  • Flap dog doors – Less expensive manual flap doors mounted into an exterior door or wall. Make sure it is the right size for your dog.
  • Plastic dog doors – Cheaper option that mounts into sliding glass doors. Locks are available for security.

Consider where you will install the doggy door, the size of your dog, energy efficiency, and security. An improperly fitted doggy door can let in bugs, wind, dirt, and stray animals.

If training your dog to ring a bell, choose a bell with a tone your dog can hear that hangs low enough for them to reach. You can buy specialized potty bells or repurpose a standard bell. Make sure it is secured so it doesn't fall and hurt your dog.

Introducing a Doggy Door

Follow these tips when introducing and training your dog to use their new doggy door:

  • At first, prop the flap door open so your dog learns where the opening is.
  • Place treats and toys around and through the doggy door so your dog associates it with rewards.
  • Walk your dog over to the door and signal a potty break command like "go potty." Praise and treat your dog for using the door.
  • Once your dog understands the door is an exit, close the flap halfway so they push through it.
  • When your dog uses the door on their own to go potty, reward them with treats and verbal praise.
  • Supervise initial usage until you are sure your dog understands how to operate the door properly.

Be patient – it may take a few days or weeks for your dog to understand the purpose of their new doggy door!

Hanging a Potty Bell

Follow these steps to hang and train your dog to use a potty bell:

  1. Choose a bell and hanging location. Hang it from the doorknob or wall at your dog's nose height.
  2. Call your dog over and ring the bell yourself while saying "go potty" before taking them outside.
  3. Do this consistently every time you take your dog out for a week or two.
  4. Start having your dog nose or paw the bell lightly before taking them out. Reward them with praise and a treat.
  5. Once they are consistently ringing the bell, open the door immediately when they do and let them outside.
  6. Continue rewarding your dog every time they ring the bell and only let them out when they use the bell signal.

Within a few weeks, your dog should learn to ring the bell on their own when they need to go! Take away the bell once your dog is potty trained.

Tips for Successful Doggy Door Training

Proper training is key when teaching your dog to use a doggy door. Here are some top training tips:

  • Use positive reinforcement like praise and high-value treats.
  • Be patient! It takes many repetitions over weeks or months for dogs to learn.
  • Stick to a consistent potty schedule, especially for young dogs.
  • Supervise initial usage to correct any errors or confusion.
  • Consider crate training to help establish good potty habits.
  • Use a key phrase like "go potty" when sending your dog out.
  • Never punish your dog for accidents and avoid startling them near the door.
  • Install sidewalls around exterior dog doors to guide dog through.

With time and consistency, your dog will learn to independently signal when they need to go outside by using their new doggy door or ringing their bell!

Bell Training Tips for Dogs

Training your dog to ring a bell to go outside takes patience and consistency. Here are some top tips for successfully teaching bell training:

  • Keep training sessions short and always end on a positive note.
  • Reward your dog every time they ring the bell and go potty outside.
  • Be consistent with the cues you use like "go potty."
  • Don't let your dog outside if they haven't rung the bell first.
  • Hang the bell from the doorknob or wall in an easy to reach spot.
  • Consider tying a rope to the bell your dog can tug on if they can't reach it.
  • Use a phrase like "good potty!" when your dog goes to the bathroom outside.
  • Limit access to the bell until potty training is established.

Stick to a routine, use plenty of praise and be patient. With time, your dog will get the hang of signaling you with their bell when they need to go!

Troubleshooting Doggy Door and Bell Training

Doggy door and bell training doesn't always go smoothly. Here are some common problems and how to troubleshoot:

Dog is scared of the doggy door: Prop open the flap and place treats around the opening. Practice walkthroughs and praise. Go slow.

Dog rings bell just to go outside: Ensure you reward pottying outside, not just bell ringing. Limit access to the bell temporarily if needed.

Dog waits until the last minute: Stick to a strict potty schedule. Use crate training. Limit access if bell trained.

Dog has accidents inside: Thoroughly clean all accident sites with enzymatic cleaner and limit access if needed. Keep to a strict schedule.

Dog goes out but doesn't potty: Supervise and give 5-10 minutes max outside. Don't let your dog play until after they go potty.

Dog goes potty inside right after being outside: Could signal a bladder infection or digestive issue. Consult your vet.

Be patient, positively reinforce good behaviors, and consider seeking professional help if you continue to struggle with training. With time, your dog will learn to properly signal when they need to go using their doggy door or bell system!

Establishing a Potty Routine

An important part of successfully teaching your dog to use a doggy door or bell is establishing a predictable and consistent potty routine. Here are some tips:

  • Take your dog out first thing in the morning, after meals, after naps, and before bedtime.
  • Praise and treat your dog for going potty in the right spot.
  • Use cue words like "go potty" or "hurry up" to signal it's time.
  • Pick a few consistent potty spots in your yard and always take your dog to that spot using a leash until trained.
  • Gradually space out potty trips as your dog ages. Start at 30 min for puppies and work up to 4-6 hours for adults.
  • Exercise and play with your dog after they go potty, not before.
  • Watch for signs your dog needs to go like pacing, whining, circling.
  • If bell training, hang bells on doors leading to your potty yard.

An older dog can typically hold their bladder longer and transition to a broader routine focused on key times like morning and evening. A predictable schedule teaches dogs proper potty habits and signals to them when it's time to ring that bell or use their doggy door!

Using Crates in Doggy Door and Bell Training

Crate training is very helpful when teaching dogs to use a doggy door or ring a potty bell. Benefits of crate training include:

  • Dogs instinctually avoid soiling in their crate/den which teaches bladder control.
  • Prevents accidents around the house.
  • Provides a space for your dog when you can't actively supervise.
  • Makes establishing a potty routine easier.
  • Allows freedom without giving full house access right away.

When crate training:

  • Keep sessions short at first to prevent accidents.
  • Use an appropriately sized crate so your dog can stand and turn.
  • Place the crate in a central living area.
  • Provide water but avoid food and treats in the crate.
  • Use praise and treats for compliance.
  • Never use the crate as punishment.

Crating when you are away and at night, combined with scheduled potty breaks, teaches dogs to hold it until it's time to use their doggy door or signal with the bell. This integrated approach sets your dog up for success in their house training!

Continuing Potty Training After Doggy Door or Bell Habits Form

Once your dog learns to consistently signal they need to go out by using their doggy door or bell system, be sure to continue reinforcing house training habits:

  • Stick to your potty schedule for the first year, then gradually extend times between trips.
  • Continue giving verbal praise and occasional treats when they go potty in the right spot.
  • Clean all accidents thoroughly with enzymatic cleaner to remove odors.
  • Limit access and supervise again if you notice frequent accidents in the home.
  • Transition from crate to free roaming of the home gradually as habits solidify.
  • If bell training, muffle or remove the bell once potty training is reliable.
  • Watch for signals that your dog needs to go out and let them outside immediately if they do.
  • Consult your vet if regression persists beyond your dog's juvenile period.

While doggy doors and potty bells are great training tools, you will still need to reinforce good potty habits throughout your dog's life. With time and consistency, you can maintain their skills in letting you know when nature calls!

Common Dog Breeds That Excel at Doggy Door and Bell Training

Some dog breeds tend to do better at doggy door and bell training than others. Good candidates are intelligent, highly trainable, and eager to please. Here are some top picks:

Labrador Retriever – Labs love to eat, so food-motivated training works wonderfully. Their affectionate nature also makes them very responsive to praise.

Golden Retriever – Goldens aim to please their owners and are quick to learn new tricks. Their calm temperament helps them focus during training.

German Shepherd – Smart and energetic, German Shepherds thrive with the mental and physical stimulation of new training tasks.

Poodle – From toy to standard, poodles are one of the smartest breeds. They are very trainable and learn quickly with consistency.

Shetland Sheepdog – "Shelties" were bred to be responsive partners and excel at agility, obedience, and tricks like using a bell or door.

Border Collie – This energetic working breed needs mental challenges to stay occupied, making them great trainees.

Of course, any breed can learn to use a doggy door or bell with proper training and encouragement. But these breeds often pick up the skills quickly and are highly motivated to keep using them long term.

Preparing Your Home for a Doggy Door or Bell

Before bringing home a new doggy door or bell, make some home preparations to set your dog up for success:

  • Choose an appropriate exterior location for a doggy door with easy access.
  • Measure your dog to buy the right sized doggy door.
  • Consider installing a patio, gravel path, or grass mat outside the doggy door if the ground is muddy.
  • Pick an easily accessible but out of the way spot for hanging the bell.
  • Child-proof doors and rooms you want to keep your dog out of.
  • Designate an indoor potty spot lined with pee pads just in case.
  • Set up exercise pens or baby gates to confine your dog until trained.
  • Stock up on enzymatic cleaner, treats, bell or flap, and crate or bed.

Making a few upfront changes to your home will help you manage your dog's access and set them up to succeed with their new doggy door or bell! The small time and money investment is well worth it for years of future potty training success.

Puppies Versus Adult Dogs in Potty Training

Is it better to start doggy door or bell training with a puppy or adult dog? Consider these key differences in training puppies versus adult dogs:


  • More work upfront but advantage of no prior habits.
  • Need constant supervision and frequent (hourly) potty trips.
  • Best to use an exercise pen instead of free roaming until trained.
  • Progress quickly with consistency but are still maturing physically and mentally.
  • Require positive approaches – never punish for inevitable accidents.

Adult Dogs:

  • May have existing potty habits needing correction.
  • Can hold bladder longer (up to 8 hours) which helps training.
  • Mature both physically and mentally so can progress more independently.
  • Need confinement when left alone until fully trained.
  • Require patience and supervision if rescued from an unknown background.

The key for both puppies and adult dogs is using confinement, supervision, routine and rewards-based training. Develop realistic expectations based on your dog's age and history when designing your doggy door or bell training approach.

Additional Tips for Doggy Door Training Success

Here are some final tips to help make your doggy door training process go smoothly:

  • Avoid scolding or startling your dog near the doggy door, which can create fear.
  • Teach a cue like "go potty" or "out" to signal when to use the door.
  • Supervise all initial usage until proper habits form.
  • Reward outdoor pottying heavily in the early stages.
  • Clean up any indoor accidents thoroughly using enzymatic cleaner.
  • Add weather stripping or a secure flap if drafts from the door become an issue.
  • Consider installing a fence around your dog's potty area for safety and to prevent wandering.
  • Check the door size periodically as your dog grows if trained as a puppy.
  • Practice obedience training like come and stay to complement the door training.

Patience, routine and positive reinforcement are key to doggy door success. With time, your dog will learn to love the independence of their new doggy door!

Additional Tips for Potty Bell Training Success

To maximize your chances of successfully training your dog to ring a bell to go potty, keep these additional tips in mind:

  • Hang the bell from something secure that won't shift or fall onto your dog.
  • Consider tying a bell to a rope or ribbon if your dog has trouble reaching the bell.

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