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Helping your house-trained dog stay house-trained while traveling

Photo by Poochie Bells

We recently faced up to the fact that Chloe is not yet perfectly house-trained. Too often, we’d get complacent and then find that she’d snuck off to the basement or another distant room to pee or poop. The problem is that we live in a large house, and while she’s good as gold in the rooms she sees all the time, she must regard lesser-used rooms as being, in effect, outside. Our solution? Poochie Bells, and a lesson with a trainer from Ahimsa Dog Training, the dog school we took her to when she was a puppy.

Poochie Bells are, essentially, several bells sewn on a long ribbon that hangs over a doorknob, or on a hook. The trainer showed us how to teach Chloe to use the bells to signal when she needs to use the bathroom. (The bells come with directions, but we felt like we needed extra help.)

The reason I’m telling you this is because dogs who are traveling may also treat an unfamiliar room (like a hotel room, or your friends’ guest room) as an acceptable place to use the bathroom — purely because it’s not “home.” Chloe had only one accident away from home in the PPB (pre-Poochie Bells) era, but only because I was obsessively vigilant. I’m pleased with the bells because they give Chloe a way to communicate her needs both at home and on the road — we now travel with a set of bells, which we hang on the door of our hotel room so Chloe knows that our house rules also apply in this new place.

So far, it’s working like a charm. I’ve added Poochie Bells to Chloe’s packing list, and if your house-trained dog has been having accidents away from home (or if you fear she might), consider adding them to your packing list!

Please note that other companies make door bells for dogs, and crafty readers may be thinking that it wouldn’t be too hard to make a set out of some bells and ribbon. We happened to buy a set of Poochie Bells, and they’ve worked for us.

Amazon link:
Poochie-Bells EcoFriendly Soft Bamboo (Terracotta)

12 comments

  • It is, Eric! And they just expanded a bit (woo-hoo!) so they’ll be able to offer more classes.

  • Hi, Karen! And I love your make-a-set-yourself tutorial — thanks so much for making it available.

  • Lanae

    I looked at the directions for training a dog to use the bells, but what about if you have two or more dogs that go out to potty together? Do you have them both ring the bells before they go out? I know you can ring the bells yourself until the dogs get the hang of it, but what if one dog learns it well and the other doesn’t seem to understand?

  • Hello, Lanae! Our trainer didn’t follow the Poochie Bells instructions, and maybe her technique would help in your situation. She began by sitting on the floor next to Chloe and holding the bells in her hand. She clicked-and-treated when Chloe pointed her nose towards the bells, then gradually required her to ring the bells with her nose or paw before getting the click and treat. Then she hung them on the doorknob and clicked-and-treated when Chloe rang the bells there.

    We were to keep doing that exercise before going out the door to the bathroom area for a several days (until it seemed like she was really getting the connection between ringing the bells and the door opening), then we were to stop treating her when she rang the bells — instead holding off treating her until after she’d peed outside. Lots of praise and treats, of course, for the peeing/pooping outside.

    The first step, though, might make the difference with two dogs (that is, spending time with the bells with each separately, first away from the door and then at the door). However, I’m not a trainer AT ALL, so your best bet would be to call a local positive-reinforcement trainer and either run your question by them or schedule an appointment so they can work with your dogs in your home. Good luck!!!

  • Lanae

    m-a:

    Thanks for the help! I really think I am going to try to train my dogs to use these bells so I hope it all goes well!

  • Amen, sister! Our trainer assures me that cats can be clicker-trained (on a dare, she clicker-trained a chicken once), but we’ve never worked up the courage to try with ours.

  • Cara

    I just bought my first puppy, Deuce, he’s a toy poodle and he’s 5 months. We’ve been taking a beginners puppy class a Petsmart and he’s really gotten good with sit and a few other commands. Potty training is another issue. Seeing as he is my first dog and I’ve never really been around dogs much I have no idea how to train them. I’ve read about poochie bells before but I wasn’t sure about how to use them so I was hesitant to purchase them.

    Thank you for recommendation and your explanation from your trainer as well. That gives me a little more confidence since I’ve been working with Deuce quite a bit lately for our puppy class. I’m traveling from Oregon to Philadelphia to Georgia for the holidays and your blog has really helped me prepare. I’ve already bought a Creature Leisure Den and I’m looking for a small Sturdibag and some DryFur’s for the plane. The most important thing for me right now though is getting Deuce potty trained because we don’t want to be bad house guests :-). Thank you again for all the meaningful advice!

  • You’re welcome, Cara! You sound like a wonderful, devoted owner — I remember vividly how weighty the responsibility for Chloe first felt, but it truly does get easier, even second-nature, over time. Have a great time traveling with Deuce, and let us know how it goes!

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