How to Teach your Puppy to Signal you during Potty Training

Training your puppy to give you a signal when they need to go to the bathroom can be very useful as you slowly begin to allow more freedom in the home. In this article, I will describe 2 different signals that you can teach your dog. I will also address how to remedy false signaling should it start to occur.

Here are 2 of my preferred signals for House Training

Signal 1- Wait by the door- To train your dog to go and sit or stand by the door when they feel the urge, begin incorporating the following principles.

  • Decide which exit door you want the puppy to wait beside. Now take them outside through the chosen doorway for every potty break.
  • Anytime the puppy walks or sits by the door, ask them “Do you need to potty” or whatever word or phrase you consistently use. You do this so your puppy learns that when they go to the exit door, you will take them outside.
  • Supervise your puppy closely so you do not miss the puppy attempting to signal you.
  • Allow a few weeks for the puppy to begin understanding the concept.
  • Once your puppy begins to signal you by going to the door, take the puppy out for no longer than 2 minutes when your puppy signals you.
  • Once your puppy learns the concept of signaling, you will start looking for false signaling. False signaling will occur with some dogs when the dog learns that going to the door is not only useful for bathroom breaks, but also leads to other fun outdoor activities. I discuss false signaling in more detail below.

Signal 2- Ring the bell- Hang a puppy housetraining bell on the exit door.

  • Ring the bell yourself every time you take the puppy out through the exit door. In the early stages of house training, you should be carrying the puppy outside especially when you take them out of their crate. Even though you may be carrying your puppy you should still give the bell a ring before you open the door.
  • When you are allowing the puppy to walk out on a leash with you, you should give the bell a little shake right in front of the puppy’s nose and then open the door. You can even let the bell make contact with the puppy’s nose.
  • In the morning, you are guaranteed that the puppy will have to go to the bathroom. For this bathroom outing, you will dab a small amount of peanut butter or cheese directly on the bell before you take the puppy outside. Let the puppy walk up to the bell and lick it causing it to ring. Now, immediately take the puppy outside. When you come back inside, you will need to wipe off any food residue left on the bell. Rubbing a little food on the bell ensures that the puppy will nose the bell. You can stop rubbing food on the bell after a week or two. Placing food on the bell is not necessary for all puppies, but it can speed up the process.
  • Anytime the puppy makes contact with the bell even if by accident, you should immediately give the potty cue (Need to go potty?) and then take them out.
  • Allow several weeks for your dog to understand the ring the bell concept.

False Signaling
Once your puppy begins to signal you by going to the door or ringing the bell, you may start to witness false signaling. False signaling will occur with some dogs when the dog learns that signaling is not only useful for bathroom breaks, but also leads to other fun outdoor activities.

You may notice that your dog signals you to let them outside only to participate in play behavior. If your dog begins false signaling, you will need to make it clear to the dog that signaling is for bathroom breaks and bathroom breaks only.

When your dog signals you to go outside, you will want to take them out on leash for only 2 minutes. Then you will bring them back inside the home.  Limiting freedom and the amount of time outside will make it clear to your dog that going outside after signaling will not lead to playtime or a long walk.

Decide which signal you want your puppy to learn and stick to it for a few weeks. Be patient with your puppy and make sure you are following all the major components to successful house training.

You may also want to read:

Troubleshooting 7 Common Puppy House Training Problems

12 Tips to House Training your Puppy

4 Pee Problems that Delay Potty Training


Published on July 23, 2017

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