Train your dog to ask to go outside

Train your dog to ask to go outsideI was at a friend’s house a few years ago who has a big St Bernard and a yellow lab. About ten minutes into our visit, the dog non-nonchalantly trotted to the back door, touched her nose to a bell hanging on the doorknob and waited.


She was asking to go outside! I thought it was such a brilliant idea; apparently dog owners have been using this old trick for years so I of course hurried to find out how to do it.

Make sure your dog is really house trained first

This training is intended for dogs who know they are supposed to potty outside, but just don’t have a solid method of telling you. It’s important to determine whether your dog has a health, house training or urine marking problem before starting.

With bells on

  1. Get some bells from a craft store and hang them on a sturdy string.
  2. Say ‘touch’ to your dog and when he touches his nose to the bells, say ‘yes!’ or use a clicker at the exact moment he touches them. Then treat.
  3. Repeat this 10 to 15 times and start moving the bells farther away. Practice this step for a few days before moving on to the next stage.
  4. Hang the bells on the doorknob and ask your dog to ‘touch’. As soon as he touches his nose to the bells, reward and treat. Practice this step for a few days.
  5. Now every time you take your dog outside, ask him to ‘touch’ before you go out. As soon as he touches the bells, say ‘yes!’ or click and open the door. He’s learning that by touching the bells, the door opens and he gets to go outside!
  6. When your dog approaches the bells for the first time on his own, make sure you’re ready to reward enthusiastically and open the door.

Play time versus potty time

Some smarty pants dogs figure out that they can also use the ‘touch’ tool in order to initiate playtime outside. In this case, every time your dog touches the bell, put a leash on him, take him straight to his potty spot and then go right back inside. Don’t play with him or give him any other playful attention so that he knows this time is reserved for pottying, not partying.



Do you have another method that works for you? Share with us! Send us an email or post it on our Facebook page. If you need a dog trainer in Austin, ask us for a referral or see if we can help.

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About Kristen West

Kristen started Gusto Dogs in Austin after running a pet sitting and walking business for two years in Sydney, Australia. After discovering that the dogs benefited much more from incorporating enrichment into their daily walks, Kristen decided to make it a part of every Gusto dog walk with the aim to provide a more fulfilling experience for Austin's dogs and their owners.