Potty training is one of the very first things that owners teach their puppies. To avoid messy clean ups and bad habits from developing, house training begins the first day the new puppy moves into their new home.
There are many schools of thought on potty training dogs. Each one has its merits and not all methods work for each dog. However, one fun way to house train German shepherds is bell training.
Bell training works well for German shepherds because they are so clever that they catch on quickly. They are also eager to please their owners and naturally want to eliminate away from their pen. Combine these traits and you’ll find they are the perfect dog for bell training.
What is bell training?
Bell training is simply teaching your puppy to ring a bell rather than silently stare, bark, scratch, or whine at the door when they need to eliminate outside. The puppy learns to ring a ‘potty bell’ to get the attention of their owner when they need to take care of business.
You can buy special potty bells at the pet store that hang on the door and are not so loud as to startle a young puppy or drive you insane. When starting bell training, it’s important to remember that you are training several behaviors so it’s a three-step learning process and takes a bit of patience.
How do I begin bell training?
The first step to bell training is to teach the puppy to touch the bell. Simply hold the bell up to the puppy and then they touch it with their nose say “yes” and/or give a click, if clicker training, and then give them a treat. If the pup is reluctant to touch the bell, put a smear of peanut butter or another treat on the bell to entice them to sniff it. When the puppy begins to move their nose toward the bell, introduce the “touch” or “bell” command. Practice this step until the puppy touches the bell on command. Make it more difficult by moving the bell a few steps from the puppy and asking them to come touch the bell.
Once the puppy has mastered touching the bell on command, hang the bell on the door and ask your puppy to touch it, using the command you’ve chosen. When they do, give big praise or clicks and treats. Practice until the puppy masters step 2.
In step 3, your puppy will begin to connect ringing the bell with going outside to go potty. While your puppy is leashed, lead them to the door and ask them to touch the bell before going outside to eliminate. When they ring the bell, walk the pup outside. Once they’ve taken care of business, give them praise and a treat then take them back indoors.
If your puppy isn’t leashed and you need to get outside, also have them ring the bell before going out. However, if you find your puppy is only going to play rather than eliminate, don’t praise them, gently bring the dog back indoors and then take them out again at potty time.
German shepherds are very smart and this will help you avoid inadvertently training your dog to ring the bell to go outside to play. To do this, use the bell only at potty time then take your puppy back inside. When you let your pup out to play, go back outside without ringing the potty bell and be sure to make a big deal every time they correctly use the potty bell.
Potty training tips
• When bell training, it’s still important to establish a routine. Young puppies need to go outside every couple of hours and after meals.
• Feed meals at the same time each day and provide plenty of fresh water.
• Regardless of whether you are crate or pen training, or have your puppy on a leash indoors, lead them to their potty bell at regular intervals and have them ring it before taking them out.
• Lead them to the area of your yard that you want them to use and clean it often.
• Praise and treat every time your puppy goes potty outside.
• Don’t punish accidents. Simply clean them up and resume a potty training schedule.
When teaching your pup to touch the bell, it is also a perfect time to teach them to touch your hand, called hand targeting. Once they master the touch command, you can teach them to touch almost anything with their nose. However, there is a lot of benefit in teaching hand targeting.
When your puppy learns to touch your hand on command, you can use the command to redirect their attention from jumping or puppy biting, to ask them to move off furniture by following your hand, it can help train them to heel, and be used as a mini recall to ask your puppy to come to you.
Hand targeting is fun and easy to learn and will also help your dog build confidence since its easy for them to master. When hand targeting, be sure to give lots of praise and treats and practice often.
You may also like: How To Train Your Dog To Stay In Your Yard