Learn whether you should use pee pads and how you can teach your dog to ring a bell to go out. Yes, really.
No, because Dogalini shouldn’t normally spend time outside unsupervised, even in a fenced yard. Kids tease, meter readers leave gates unlocked, squirrels tempt dogs to hitherto undreamed-of feats of climbing. No, because if the door just has a flap, Dogalini isn’t the only living thing that can get in. No, because if the door has an electronic sensor, it can fail and lock her out. No, because although housetraining isn’t supposed to be a muscle-clenching marathon, dogs do need to learn to hold it for a bit, what with car trips, vet stays, hotel rooms, potential moves to apartments, and on and on.
However! I know a woman who works 12-hour shifts. Her dogs are big, so they produce big stools and pees. A bit wince-making to come home to. She has a fenced yard. She lives in a remote location, where she can’t get a regular walker. Also, the remote location means a long commute, so her 12-hour shift stretches to nearly 14 hours away from home. That is a lot of leg-crossing for her dogs. And the remote location means no teasing kids; as for meter readers, she locks the gate and they have to return when she’s at home. I still worry about those tempting squirrels, but for this woman, the dog door is clearly the lesser evil.
How to Teach Your Dog to Ring a Bell to Go Out
Last, teaching your dog to let you know when he needs a potty break. You probably don’t need to do this, by the way – plenty of dogs will walk back and forth between you and the door, or stand looking at the door, or in general act restless. The catch is that you have to notice your dog’s pleas!
If you want to give your dog an unmissable way to signal you, teach him to ring a bell to go out. This should be easy as pie if your dog has learned targeting. Get your bell and tie a ribbon to it that you’ll use to hang it from. Pick a time when Zippy’s due for a toilet break but isn’t desperate, and head over to the door. Show him the bell and give your target cue; when he touches the bell, say “Yes!” and immediately leash him and bring him outside. If Zippy doesn’t know how to target, show him the bell and encourage him to nose it or paw it. The second he does, leash him and bring him outside.