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Potty training: Should I use door bells?

When it comes to potty training, having our puppies and dogs let us know that they want to be allowed into the backyard or taken out for a walk for their potty break can be super convenient for you and I. This can be an easy way to prevent indoor accidents and not have to wonder when it's time to take your furry friend out, however, there may be a different behaviour (or multiple) at play that you'll want to consider, and that may matter more than potty accidents, in the long term.

Let's remember that dogs will always repeat behaviours that work for them. And so, in the practice of learning that they can prompt you the moment they need a potty break, a behaviour they may be getting used to each time, is that he/she needs to indicate to you anytime they want you to respond.

This isn't a big issue when it comes to potty training. Preventing potty training accidents by monitoring how much water our puppies drink, when they last went outside and how much their bladder can handle requires a lot of effort. However, this is something most households end up getting consistent with, with time.

That said, if you've been using a bell at the door for your puppy to let you know each time they needed to be let out, you may be predisposing your dog to a habit closely tied to other common, yet unwanted behaviours many dogs exhibit in and around their home.

Behaviours such as biting, barking, chewing, jumping, whining and many others often stem from a need that isn't being met, and your dog is trying their best to convey that to you through those actions. But the common denominator between these behaviours and your dog using a bell at the door is that he/she has learned that you need and should to be told when something needs to be done, as opposed to your dog instead just waiting for you to do it, without them having to prompt you.

This routine that gets practiced on a daily basis can become one of the reasons your dog begins to practice some of the unwanted behaviours above. Not to say that they are directly related, as there are many other factors in play. But the key element to note is that by using a doorbell as a tool to have our dogs tell us when something needs to happen, we are more likely to encourage types of unwanted behaviour, where your dogs choose to take action before you.

Does this mean you shouldn't use a bell at the door and avoid any types of setups where your dog initiates the action (like your dog telling you when they're in the mood to play fetch, or when they're ready for a walk)?

No, as the bell can act as a useful tool like any other, however, you want to make sure that you provide your puppy or dog with enough opportunities where you're letting them know that the bell is but an occasionally helpful tool, as opposed to a means to get things to happen with you.

As much as you make use of the bell, make sure that you practice taking your dog out for a bathroom break prior to them asking you to. Keep track of the number of times in between potty breaks and take your dog out a little 5-10 mins past that (before they even consider using the bell), as to also strengthen his or her bladder but above all to let them know that you know exactly when they need something, without them telling you!

Practice this and other situations where you're providing your dog with what they need before they even know it to further strengthen your bond and communication towards one another. Just like you would for any other person you share a very special relationship with, because who doesn't like feeling like they get to just kick back and trust that someone knows what, when, and how they need things?


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