My dog is six months old and is mostly housebroken but still has accidents if I don't catch her very subtle signs that she has to go out. I have bells hanging on my door, and would like her to learn to ask me by ringing the bells. How do I teach her to ask?
I never teach my dogs to ask, and wouldn't recommend that you do either. Teach her, instead, to depend on you to let her out before she has to ask.
While many people want their dogs to bark, ring bells or blow whistles when they need a potty break, this behavior more often than not becomes problematic. Young dogs quickly learn it's a great game to get you to let them out, and immediately let them back in again. This manipulation puts the dog in charge, which is double trouble if you're trying to act like a leader.
It's your job, as leader, to take total control of your dog's elimination schedule. She eliminates when you have time to let her out. In all fairness, you're always going to let her out before her need becomes critical. You know there are certain times she'll have to go potty:
- Whenever she wakes up from a nap.
- First thing in the morning.
- After she eats.
- Whenever she comes out of her crate.
- After a play session or some other excitement.
If she doesn't go potty during the times you provide for her, then she must hold it until the next time. How do you teach her to hold it? Crate her during those periods when you can't watch her, or during those periods your dog commonly has an accident.. If your dog habitually leaves puddles on the floor between 9 am and 10 am, for example (when you're distracted and catching up on email), crate her so she doesn't have the option of piddling. (She won't piddle in her crate.) If she's been piddling on your floor in the middle of the night, crate her when you go to bed. There isn't a healthy dog over the age of 12 weeks who can't hold her pee all night if she is forced to do so. You do not need to get up to let her outside. If she whines and tries to convince you otherwise, try ignoring her noises for a night or two. She will probably adjust very quickly to spending the night in her crate, and her habit of going potty in the middle of the night will be extinguished.
My dog Lizzie goes to bed early...around 8pm. I don't go to bed until around 11:30. Before I turn in, I wake up Lizzie and push her outside to go potty one more time. She doesn't like it; she would rather continue sleeping. But she now knows the routine and gets up without argument. She knows why she's going outside, and she knows as soon as I see her piddle, I'll let her back inside for the rest of the night. Then we can both sleep without worry.