You step on some poo in your living room and wonder how you didn’t realise your puppy needed the toilet. Does it ring a bell?

Good – you’ve landed on the right guide: How to bell train a puppy. You know bell training right? Not the kind where you ring the bell, and they bring you dinner. It’s to do with preventing smelly accidents from happening indoors and working on communication with your pup. 

In this article, we’ll tell you everything about what bell training your puppy actually is, and how it might help your puppy’s toilet training move along.  

Here’s what we’ll go through:

  • What puppy bell training is
  • How to start bell training a puppy
  • Tips on training a puppy to ring a bell

Let’s get started!

white puppy waiting at the door
Photo by Courtney Cook on Unsplash

What is puppy bell training?

Puppy bell training is all about communication. To make it really simple, you’re teaching your puppy to ring a bell when they want to go outside and use the toilet. A bit like an inverted doorbell, really. 

Bell training a puppy to go outside is incredibly useful for a wide range of scenarios like:

  • A puppy who struggles to alert you when they need to go outside
  • A puppy who isn’t keen on using a safe space like a crate, so they might sneak off for a wee
  • Keeping smelly indoor accidents to a minimum
  • An older dog who may have regressed with toilet training
  • Taking your puppy to a new house with a different layout
  • …or when you aren’t too sure about when your puppy needs the loo.

Here’s something you didn’t know before. There’s actually a wild range of bells for puppy training – one for every need. There are puppy toilet bells that hang from the door handle and look a bit like sleigh bells, ones that look more like hotel reception bells, and bells that actually look like bells – like those that hang on top of shops’ doors. For the hi-tech nerds amongst you, there’s even a wireless doggy doorbell! Of course, if you’re arty, you can always opt for making your own. But let’s be real – there’s just something about online shopping that tickles us in the right way. 

How to bell train your puppy

To succeed in the bell training puppy journey, we’re going to walk you through some simple steps.

To bell train a puppy, first we need to teach them that there is a predictable thing that happens when they go outside for a wee – which is the sound of the bell. Then, we’ll move on to teaching your puppy to ring the bell themselves. 

To start puppy bell training, you will need:

  • The puppy bells of your choice
  • Some yummy treats 
  • Time and patience

Are you ready to start training your puppy?

1. Set up the training bells

First, hang the training bells on the door you will use to take your puppy to the toilet. That way your puppy knows they’re on the way out to the loo.

2. Every time you take your puppy outdoors, ring the bell. 

Yes, EVERY time! Don’t skip this bit, it can take a while for your puppy to form connections and the noise of the bell ringing means they’re going outside. You’ll need to practice this bit a lot! 

3. Reward the toilet training too

Rewards make the world turn in a puppy’s world. Make sure you reward them every time they go to the toilet outside – it’s important they understand that there’s a chain of events that ends up with a reward.

brown puppy in a field
Photo by Amber Turner on Unsplash

4. Train your puppy to ring the bell

As well as teaching your puppy that when we go outside we ring the bell, you also want to teach them to ring the bell themselves. After all, that is literally the aim here. You can either do this with a nose or paw target. Wondering what that is? The Zigzag app will spill the beans. Hop on there to learn how to teach a nose target or Paw; it will provide excellent grounds for teaching them to ring the bell on their own.

5. Ask them to ring the bell

Once they have started building the connection of the bell rings when we go outside, you can ask them to ring the bell. A hand signal pointer is often useful here. If they do it, make sure to give them lots of praise and treat when they get outside. Then, of course, a treat for actually going for a wee or poo too, that clever puppy deserves it.

For more advice on toilet training, or any of the other important puppy stuff, don’t be afraid to try the free trial of the Zigzag puppy training app. We also have a team of puppy training experts to coach you through raising a perfect bell training puppy! 

Extra tips on bell training a puppy

Have we piqued your interest? Great – here are a few more tips on how to bell train your puppy? 

Ring it every time. Ringing that toilet bell every time you go outside is crucial to building predictability for your puppy. It will help them learn the pattern that bell ringing means they get to go outside, to the toilet and get a treat.

Practice makes perfect. It takes time for the associations to be built. It’s a bit much to expect your puppy to be bell trained in just a couple of days. Massive applause if they are (please share how you did it!), but in lots of cases it can take a while. 

Look out for early warning signs. If your puppy starts going over to the door without even ringing the bell, it’s already a great sign they’re trying to tell you they need a poo, so you can take them outside. 

Put your puppy on a schedule. Schedules are fab for puppies. Schedules make everything more dependable and reliable, which is something that puppies love. In this article about puppy training schedules, we go through it in a lot more detail. 

small white puppy sitting on the bed
Photo by Patrick Kool on Unsplash

Make sure everyone is on board. It’s no good if only one member of the family is doing this with your puppy. Everyone needs to do the same thing so that it becomes more predictable and reliable for your puppy to pick up on…also so that your puppies learns that everyone at home knows what they’re trying to say.

Always use treats. Treats make everything better, the stinkier the better please! Using treats and rewards in training keeps it fun for your puppy, and they’ll want to train more often. Using treats is part of positive reinforcement training – the angle to puppy training we base our entire philosophy on. Read more about our guiding principles here!  

Have a pee party! Here are some clear instructions. That first time your puppy goes and rings the bell on their own, I want you to throw a party! Lots of verbal praise, lots of ‘you’re such a good dog’ and plenty of treats. Let them know they’re the best dog in the world, I mean, they are anyway, right? 

Don’t worry if they do it a lot, to begin with. Once your puppy has got the hang of the game, you may find they start ringing the bell to go outside for a treat. But just like with regular toilet training, you’ll gradually fade out the puppy training treats. Don’t sweat it, get the good stuff first. 
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on bell training a puppy. For more information on toilet training see our Zigzag app; there are way too many good things on there. But while you’re still here, you might want to read up on Puppy obedience training. If you made it to this article already, we suspect you might need some more help in training.