Teaching your dog to ring a bell to go outside... innocent or slippery slope?

Be careful what you wish for and be careful anytime your dog is making demands on you. I often have clients that want to teach their dog to ring a bell when it needs to use the bathroom outside. This sounds like a fantastic and practical skill to teach. And... it can be with no issues whatsoever. It can work for some owners and their dog(s) very well. However, I personally see a few problems with this:

1. The dog will quickly learn "I ring the bell = I get to go outside." While it can start off practical and innocent, it can quickly get annoying & repetitive, especially for a dog that loves to play the "in and out game" all day long... having the humans come running every time they want to see what is going on outside for a brief moment and then come right back in and then 10 minutes later... they ring the bell again.

2. I have never been a fan of a dog putting me on their schedule and/or demanding something from me and that includes when they get to go outside (or come inside for that matter). It is the same thing with dogs that constantly paw at an owner's leg until they pet them or a dog that barks until it gets attention, etc. Regardless of the behavior, I personally do not like the dog putting demands on me. While innocent enough at times, these little demanding behaviors can add up to more serious issues down the line.

*Obviously common sense should always prevail :) If a young puppy is getting "squirmy" / giving an owner signs that it may need to potty, then absolutely yes- let the pup outside! If an adult dog, whom is not demanding in the "inside - outside" game and has learned it goes outside (and comes inside) on the owner's schedule, gives some type of sign once in a while that it may need to go outside, then absolutely yes- let the adult dog outside :) Common sense.

3. It simply isn't necessary to teach a dog to ring a bell to go outside. If you give your dog plenty of opportunities to be outside to use the bathroom on YOUR schedule, then the dog will quickly learn to adapt to your schedule. Same goes with letting the dog back inside. If you let the dog back inside on YOUR schedule (and correct the dog for any barking, jumping at, or pawing/scratching the door to come inside) your dog will QUICKLY learn that YOU determine when it comes back inside. The dog will QUICKLY learn to just sit PATIENTLY at the back door and mom/dad will let them in when the human is ready to do so.

One can teach their dog to ring a bell when the dog wants to go outside (or come inside) and it can be practical for some owners and dogs and it never develops into an all day "inside - outside" game for the dog and/or does not lead to demanding behaviors in the dog. That is awesome! For some dogs and owners... it could be a slippery slope leading to some unintentional and unwanted behaviors. It also isn't necessary. Putting the dogs on our human schedules is also very effective. We always tell clients "you do you." If something works well for you and your dog- go for it! Keep doin it! :) Again... You do you. Like anything we teach our dogs or do with our dogs: simply weigh the pros and cons. If the pros outweigh the cons than go for it! If not, then probably best to pass on it.

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