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Train your dog to ring a bell to go outside

Updated: May 4, 2020

Training your puppy or adult dog to ring a bell on a string by tapping it with their nose is a great way to get your dog to communicate that they need to go outside. It's far better than barking, whimpering or scratching at the door. Its also very quick and easy to teach!


All you need is a long piece of string or ribbon and three cat collar bells. Or you could buy specialised dog toilet bells. You will also need lots small pea sized high value dog treats i.e. fresh chicken, cooked ham, beef or cheese.

Step one:

Interacting with the bells. Before you start attaching the bells to the door, teach your dog how to touch the bells with their nose.

  • Hold the bells out to the side

  • Wait for your dog to touch them with their nose (don't give a cue)

  • Mark them by saying "yes" as soon as their nose touches the bells

  • Throw a treat away from the bells

By throwing the treat away from the bells, this encourages your dog to walk back towards the bells again. Once your dog understands that they are getting rewarded for touching the bells, stop rewarding for the quiet rings and only mark and reward for the louder rings.


If your dog is not choosing to interact with the bells at all. Try spreading a dab of liver paste or peanut butter (make use it does not contain Xylitol) to encourage her. Ditch the paste after the third interaction and go back to marking and rewarding.

Step two:

Hang the bells on the door of the room you are training in. It is not necessary to hang them to your back door yet as we want to teach your dog to move towards the bells and not towards you.

  • Hang the bells on a door handle

  • Wait for your dog to touch them with their nose

  • Mark them by saying "yes" as soon as their nose touches the bells

  • Throw a treat away from the door

Step three:

Now your dog is ready to associate the bells with going outside.

  • Hang the bells on your back door

  • Toss a treat outside then close the door (make sure your dog has seen you throwing the treat outside.)

  • Wait for your dog to ring the bells

  • Mark the desired behaviour then open the door for your dog to get the treat that was thrown outside.

Your dog might struggle with this stage to begin with as she has been used to getting the treats from you. Just wait her out. You might need to move closer to the door or point to the bells.

After this behaviour has become a routine, you can stop throwing the treats outside. Ringing the bell will now be associated with going outside which will be rewarding in its self.

Q & A section:

Can I use the toilet bells for my puppy?

The bells are best for puppies that are already 95% toilet trained. First work on making that positive association to toileting outside. Once your puppy has understood that they need to toilet outside and can hold their bladder long enough to ring a bell then they will be ready to learn to use the bells. If you are struggling with toilet training please see my blog post for some toilet training tips.

Why should I "Mark" my dog?

By using a marker word such as "yes" or "good" or using a clicker will help to tell your dog exactly when they're doing the right thing. This clear form of communication helps to speed up your training and has proven to be the most effective way to teach any animal. Timing is very important! Make sure that you are saying your marker word at the exact same time that your dog's nose touches the bells.

Step by step training video

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