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Successfully housebreaking your dog with potty bells

Gus and Gert getting potty training.

Housebreaking, the act of training your dog to potty outside, is an important training process every pet owner goes through.

Exactly a year ago, based on tips I read online, I decided to order "potty bells", bells you place at the front door for your dog to ring when he/she wants to go outside. Billed as great for apartment dwellers, I found great success and certain limitations. As a background for the uninitiated, potty bells are sold at pet stores and amazon alike, and are essentially bells attached to a lanyard that you hook on the inside knob of your front door. There, your dog should ideally (after training) ring the bell when he/she wants to go outside to do potty business. We ordered ours based on reviews and price, which brought us to the best one in the market on Amazon (listed below).

Gus, the dachshund (5-months old)

The first few weeks were frustrating, but keep in mind the age of the puppy you are training. My first subject was Gus the dachshund, who at the time was a 5-month old puppy. Each time we went outside to do business I would shake the bells and repeat to him "Gus Gus, go potty outside". He would wag his tail, but not really reciprocate. It was a few weeks in when we were sitting down to dinner with houseguests that Gus first rang the bell. I excused myself, explaining I had to honor this first request of my dog's, and ran to the door to get him ready. He went outside, did his business, and I brought him back in to reward him with a treat. Luckily, with Gus it continued to be successful.

Gertie, the dachshund (4-months old)

Despite great success with Gus, things are much more slow going with Gertie. She came into our household at 4-months old, around the time Gus was celebrating his first birthday. Despite a similar rigorous attempt, we have not had a successful ring of the bell from Miss Gertie to date (we are about 5 months in of trying with her).

To find out why the difference, I have tried to identify variables that are different. My first thought was just that Gus was more mature and concerned about not having an accident in the house. This may still be true. However, Gertie is now 9 months old and hasn't shown the same trait as of yet. Next, I started to think that it is possible Gus learned quickly because of individual attention. This is supported by the fact that every morning walk that Gertie takes without her brother Gus, she skips the running, sniffing and eating acorns and gets right to business. There is a strong likelihood that I will need to give her more individual training to get her successful. Also, approaching 10-months old, I really want to close out this chapter of her life before it gets out of control.


  1. Start early! This goes for most dog training. Get the information to them as soon as possible so it can become routine.
  2. Be consistent! One of the cardinal rules of pet training is that all members of the family need to be on board, and participate 100% of the time!
  3. Consider individual time for training versuses group training. This is based on my experience trying to get my second dog to use potty bells!

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