Using A Potty Training Bell For Puppy: Why Trainers Hate It

The use of bells in toilet training puppies has become a popular method, as it helps establish a clear communication system between the dog and the owner. The exact origin of this technique is not clear, but it has gained popularity over time due to its perceived effecacy in teaching dogs to signal their need to go outside for potty breaks.

However, a lot of professional dog trainers don’t really advise the use of them, ever wonder why? 

Puppy potty training has a lot of theories, a lot of ideas, from crate training, to bell training, so as a puppy parent, it’s hard to know the best way to turn your puppy into responsible adult dogs.

It’s not necessarily because some trainers are behind the times… but let’s discuss why we might want to and why we might not want to invest time in puppy bell training as your house training option.

Why Do People Train With Potty Bells

The theory is that we hang bells (often sleigh bells) from the door handle, and when puppy wants to go to the toilet they ring the bell to ask their guardians for a potty break! Which, means that their bathroom break is efficient and effective with communication. It relies on classical conditioning (you know, pavlov rang the bell, dog drools?).


People use potty bells for toilet training their puppies because it establishes a clear and consistent communication system between the dog and its owner. This method helps reduce the chances of accidents inside the home and can be used effectively for dogs of various ages. Potty bell training promotes a positive and rewarding experience for both the puppy and the owner, making the housebreaking process more efficient and enjoyable, it’s always a kick when you see your dog effectively communicating with a smart bell or a set of bells. 

Why trainers dislike potty training bells

Some professional dog trainers (like myself) dislike potty training bells due to a few potential drawbacks, none of them are behavioural or training problems – per see – but its still a missed opportunity… but let’s discuss!


The biggest one is that we are putting the onus on the dog to communicate. Not only is puppy or new dog trying to learn a whole new world, a whole new system or where to go to the bathroom, their name, clicker training, crate training or whatever else you are trying to teach, but now you’re trying to teach them to talk to a human… when humans are much smarter than dogs, and we set all these weird rules… if we make them do all the communicating around potty time, isn’t that just asking far too much? They’re just a puppy. And if you invest in the right routine, in the right observation? The process will be way quicker.

One concern is the possibility of misuse or overuse by dogs. In some cases, the dog may ring the bell for attention or to go outside for reasons other than needing to go potty. This could lead to false alarms and unnecessary trips outside, which might disrupt the training process and make it more difficult than it needs to be.

Another issue is that dogs can become dependent on the bell for communication. While this may work well in the home, it could create challenges in situations where the bell is not available, such as when visiting other people’s homes or during travel. In these instances, the dog may struggle to communicate its need to go outside, leading to accidents or confusion.

Additionally, the use of potty training bells can sometimes cause confusion or distraction for the dog during training. For example, if the dog is not trained consistently or the owner misinterprets the dog’s signals, the training process can become less effective. The dog might also associate the bell with playtime or treats, rather than solely with potty breaks, which could hinder the desired outcome of the training and create a set of signals that are just a false alarm because the jingle bells come to mean play time instead of denoting the need for your dog’s bodily functions.

I’ve also seen it when an original dog is afraid or uncomfortable with the bell ring…


What Mistakes Happen In Bell Training?

When using potty training bells, there are several common mistakes that pet owners may make, which can hinder the effectiveness of the training process:

  1. Not learning your pup’s communication: Dogs communicate in tonnes of ways, and it’s a good idea to learn how your dog communicates. The unsung hero here is learning your pup’s cues and tells.
  2. Inconsistent training: For potty bell training to be successful, consistency is key. Owners should consistently reinforce the desired behavior and respond promptly when the dog rings the bell. Inconsistent training can lead to confusion for the dog and slow down the learning process.
  3. Misinterpreting the dog’s signals: Some owners may not correctly interpret the dog’s signals, which can result in missed opportunities for reinforcement. It’s important to pay close attention to the dog’s behavior and respond appropriately when the bell is rung.
  4. Rewarding the wrong behaviors: If the dog is rewarded for ringing the bell for reasons other than needing to go potty, it may start to associate the bell with treats or attention. Owners should only reward the dog when the bell is used for its intended purpose.
  5. Lack of patience: Potty bell training takes time and patience. Some dogs may take longer to learn the process than others. Owners should be patient and understanding, giving their dog the necessary time and encouragement to learn the new skill.
  6. Not gradually increasing the distance: Once the dog has learned to ring the bell, owners should gradually increase the distance between the bell and the door to help the dog generalize the behavior. Failing to do so may result in the dog only ringing the bell when it is in close proximity to the door.
  7. Over-reliance on the bell: While the potty training bell can be a useful tool, owners should also teach their dog other ways to communicate its need to go outside. This will help ensure that the dog can effectively communicate in situations where the bell is not available.

By avoiding these common mistakes and maintaining a consistent, positive approach to potty bell training, owners can increase the likelihood of success and help their dog develop a reliable method of communication for potty breaks.

What Alternatives are there to Bell training?

There are several alternatives to potty training bells for teaching your dog to communicate their need to go outside, but all of them focus on you reading your dog’s signals, and lots of praise, and a two to three-step process!

  1. Crate training: This method involves using a crate to establish a consistent schedule for potty breaks. Dogs naturally avoid soiling their sleeping area, making crate training a popular choice for housebreaking puppies.
  2. Scheduled potty breaks: By establishing a regular schedule for taking your dog outside, you can help them learn when it’s time to go potty. This method requires consistency and may take longer for the dog to learn, but it can be effective without the need for bells.
  3. Teaching a specific signal (optional): Some dog owners train their pets to use a specific signal, such as sitting by the door or barking, to indicate their need to go outside. This method requires patience and consistency, but it can be a useful alternative to potty training bells.

And none of these require a set of bells and are equally or more effective ways of toilet training. 

How To Successfully Train Without Bells

It’s totally possible to do the whole process without the push buttons or training aids. The noise of the bell is just a signal – and you can learn that for yourself.

Be observant first and foremost, learn your pup’s signs and signals, as new puppy parent, I know you have a lot on your plate, but you will notice what they do, it’s signs like sniffing, slowing down, circling, and similar. (if you want to teach a cue, like barking at the door, or similar!).

Consistency is crucial in training, especially when not using bells, as it helps the dog develop a clear understanding of the desired behavior and expectations. Consistent training involves repeating the desired action over time while gradually increasing intensity or duration, which has been scientifically proven to be an effective way to make gains in any discipline.

By maintaining consistency in training, dog owners can ensure that their pets develop a strong foundation for their learning and are better equipped to retain the skills they have acquired. Inconsistent training, on the other hand, can lead to confusion and slow down the learning process, making it more challenging for dogs to grasp the desired behavior.

Positive reinforcement is required in potty training because it helps build confidence, independence, and promotes desired behavior in puppies. By rewarding good behavior with verbal praise (such as your good girl, yes or well done), affection, or other forms of reinforcement, pupvpies are more likely to repeat the desired actions and learn faster.

Using positive reinforcement during potty training can make the process more enjoyable and less stressful for both the puppy and the guardian. It encourages the puppy to associate potty training with positive experiences, making them more likely to continue using the bathroom in the right place in the future.

Lastly, Patience and understanding are essential when toilet training because it takes time for them to learn and adjust to their new surroundings – we made weird rules and we’re asking them to abide by them. Puppies need consistent guidance and positive reinforcement to develop good habits and understand what is expected of them.

Toilet training can be a challenging process, and accidents are bound to happen. Reacting negatively or punishing the puppy for accidents can create fear and confusion, hindering their progress. By being patient and understanding, you create a positive learning environment that encourages the puppy to learn and grow at their own pace.

There’s no shortcuts in training

I’m not saying that bell training works, or that it doesn’t, but, the training sessions for potty training are not complex the potty training method is not that complex, sometimes? The basics are a great way to accomplish things. 

You don’t need dog training bells or doggy doorbell, you don’t need a wireless dog doorbell, it’s literally a marketing gig as far as I’m concerned.

I really hate to be the one to tell you this, but nothing in puppy training (or life to be honest!) is easy. There’s no quick solution, you just need to put in the work. 

This may work for some but in this instance? I’m still passionate believer that you’ll make a stronger, better, more understanding relationship with your dog overall. Which in the long term is going to set you both up for success.

Honestly, invest in your puppy, it’s worth it. 

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