Last night we started a new project in our house. Or rather, a new training exercise…
Up until now, Kona’s method to let us know that she needed to go outside consisted of her sitting patiently at the back door and staring at us. It works well, provided that either myself or P are paying attention. Unfortunately, if we are in the family room we can’t see the door and sometimes when we are in the kitchen we are busy cooking or cleaning.
It hasn’t been a big problem, but twice in the past month Kona has had an accident resulting from us not responding quickly enough. And by accident, I mean she’s given up on waiting and decided to pee inside the house, in front of the back door.
Needless to say we aren’t pleased and we decided to train her to use a different signal. While she does bark on command (our girl knows her “speak” and “quiet” very well) we didn’t want her to think she should bark when she wants something. We’ve heard of dogs ringing bells to let owners know they need to go out and we decided to go this route.
My initial thought was “why didn’t we think of this a month ago?” as I wasn’t sure how many places stock bells this time of year. Luckily, I discovered that bells are a favourite bird toy (and inexpensive – bonus!) so I picked up this one from Petsmart. It’s not that loud, so I’m not sure whether we’ll keep this in the long run, but its good enough to get us started.
There are lots of websites with instructions on how to train your dog to ring a bell if they need to go out (look here and here for some examples). We’re sort of winging it. Kona already learned the “touch” command in her manners class last summer. P started by getting Kona to “touch” his hand a few times, then progressed to telling her “touch” and pointing to the bell. She got it on the first try.
Next step was to hang the bell on our back door. The chain it came on made this step uber-easy!
The next time Kona needed to go out, P pointed to the bell and said “touch”. She touched / rang the bell with her nose, and P immediately praised her as he opened the door and told her to “go pee”.
This morning was the first time I had a chance to try this out with Kona and it went really well.
There was no hesitation at all when I told her to “touch the bell”. She went straight for it.
We’ll have to wait and see how long it takes her to figure out the routine. We’re making a point of only using the bell when we are 100% certain she needs a bathroom break. The last thing we want is the bell ringing anytime she wants to go out and play. Fingers crossed all goes well!
(my apologies on the fuzzy photos – my own lazy fault for relying on my phone instead of our SLR)