cavachon bell training

Kasey's "Bell" - He rings this when he wants to go outside

There have been several people who have asked about housebreaking their cavachon, specifically using the bell ringing technique.

When we first started to train Kasey to “go” outside, I had not heard of the bell technique.  We got him when he was 8 weeks old.  Since he was so tiny, and pottied so frequently, I tried getting him to use puppy pads.   For us, that was just a joke!  Kasey  was confined to the kitchen area which had a vinyl floor.   The pad would move all over when I tried to get him to stay on it – which in itself was a problem.  When he was just roaming around, he would play with and chew the puppy pad!  I could not have the pad around and also get him to only use it for its intended purpose!

I also very quickly had the realization that I really did not need to devote any time to trying to get him to use the pads.  Our ultimate goal was to go outside to go potty, so why wouldn’t start with that as our potty destination from the very beginning?!   I don’t think Kasey peed on one of the puppy pads even once, and in less than a day we ruled out that training method.

We moved on to taking him outside – frequently!  The absolutely necessary times are immediately upon waking, as soon as you let them out of their crate (if you are crate training –which I highly recommend), within a few minutes of eating or drinking, and when they are ”sniffing” around – especially if “sniffing” around in a circular pattern!  When Kasey was real small, we would carry him right outside at any of these times.  As soon as he performed, he was rewarded with praise and a treat.  We had Cheerio’s in our pockets at all times as this was what our vet recommended using since puppies love them and they do not add too many calories to their diet.  It is amazing how excited a puppy can get over one Cheerio!  In the beginning we took him back inside right away so that he got the idea that going outside was to go potty.  Later on, we would reward him with praise and some play time after he did his business.  If there was no time for play, or it was raining, he would get the food treat and praise.

Kasey was about 4 months old when I first heard about the bell ringing technique.  I was already convinced that he was a smart dog, but he really had never barked yet at that point, and I felt I was the one that was trained to take him out and he was not really indicating when HE needed to go out.  We were now walking him to the door  – and we did always use the same door – but it was always when we thought he should go out or after he had an accident.  Speaking of that, it is important that you take your dog out immediately if they have an accident in the house.  Tell them they need to “potty outside” then immediately take them out.  If no one else is around to clean up the mess, it is really better to wait to do that, if possible,  until you have taken them out so that they understand the message.  If you do not catch them in the act, it is really too late to teach a lesson.   They just won’t understand the problem!  I guess dogs live in the moment!  That explains why they are still your friend and love you even if you got mad at them for peeing on your carpet!

So back to training Kasey to ring the bell when he needed to go out…..

As always, I did my preliminary research and preparation.  While research took some time, the preparation was minimal.  First, I had to get the bell.  I started out with trying to use several (15 or so) jingle bells that I already had and stringing them on a string.  I soon found out, it really takes quite a bit to make those things really jingle! As fate would have it,  I was at one of our local “dollar” stores and they had Christmas decorations out.  I spotted an ornament that was made from a bell that was about 3 inches in diameter and seemed to have what I will call “easy ring-ability!”  I purchased two and right after arriving home removed the decorative part of the ornaments and hung the bells on a string.   I then took that to the door, and adjusted the length of the string so that the bells fell right at Kasey’s nose.

The next part of preparation was getting the family familiar with the new program and completely on board.  I knew it was important that once this training began, we were ALL consistent.  This is important for success and cannot be stressed enough.

With all of that covered, here is how we proceeded:

We had a door going to the back yard and chose that as the “dedicated door.”  Every time we took Kasey out, we walked him to that door and would lift his paw to ring the bell first.  If it was an emergency and we had to carry him, we still stopped to quickly hit the bell.  At the same time, we told him what we were doing – “time to go out and go potty, ring the bell.”  I guess he must have understood what we were saying as soon he did not really hesitate as we stopped to ring the bell.  We kept encouraging him to ring the bell himself, and would sort of “drive” him to do that.  I did become apparent that he would be using his nose and not his paw, but when we rang the bell for him, we still used his paw as I just could not push his face into the bell!

It was probably about three weeks that we followed this pattern, then, we were sitting on the couch one evening and heard this little tiny jingle!  My husband and I looked at each other – both with the look on our face of “OMG – that was the bell!!!!”  We jumped up and took Kasey outside, who pee’d and acted like it was no big deal!!  I guess he knew how this was all supposed to happen.

I know you want to hear that he was bell trained and all went really smoothly from that point on, but that is not quite the case.  However, things did steadily improve.  We continued with taking him out when we thought he should be going out, ringing the bell along the way.  Sometimes he would ring the bell on his own, always followed by much joy and praise!

Be warned, as soon as it “clicks” and the dog knows that ringing the bell means going outside, be prepared for endless trips to the yard!  Unfortunately, when this happens, I think you need to go with it at first. Kasey rang that bell endlessly all day long!  But, I was trying to teach him that that was I wanted him to do when he needed to go out.  I had to oblige him.  For the first couple of days (I swear he had a devil look in his eyes and was laughing inside) I responded to the bell ringing, but if he did not potty right away, I brought him right back inside.  Even though, he would ring again right away, I kept doing that.  I still followed the old program of praise, treat, and play time for performing. After a couple of days, I started taking a little longer to respond to the bell, and he started slowing down on the ringing – I think he started to realize that ringing the bell did not automatically mean going outside to play, or even just going outside to hang out in the yard.  There was never a reward of play time if there was no potty time!

Things actually balanced out quickly and I have been very happy to this day to have gone with bell training.  We had a bit of a setback when Kasey was about 6 months old and we moved to a new house.  He was pretty well trained by then, very, very, few accidents.  Once we moved, I almost felt like I was starting over for a little while.  To be clear it was mid-December in Northeast Ohio, it was right before Christmas, and it was CHAOTIC!  We did however go through the same routine to establish a new door, and bell ringing was back in effect in no time!  It really is just a matter of patience, and mostly consistency in teaching the desired result.

Here are a couple of side notes/tips:

We had an extra bell that we carried in our doggy travel bag so if we were visiting somewhere Kasey would be able to let us know he needed to go out.  We would just hang it off the door we used when we came in to the house.  This never really came in to play, as we made sure we brought him out frequently if we were visiting somewhere, but it was always nice to know it was there (for everyone ;) )

Hanging the bell from the door handle works.  However, I soon found a couple of problems with that:

  • Everytime you open the door the bell rings = confusion
  • Whether the door is wood, metal, painted or stained, the bell will mar/scratch the door (I speak from experience)

We ended up just putting a nail in the wall by the door, I used a piece of a jute string with a little bow by the nail, and it looks kind of cute.  I have not had a problem with the bell marring the wall, but if it does, it is a much easier repair.

Fast forward to July, 2011.  Kasey is now 3 years old (barely – Happy Birthday Kasey.) He waits to go outside (sometimes ‘til after noon on the weekends) until we take him.  I can’t even remember the last time he had an accident inside the house.  Basically he needs to potty once in the AM, once late afternoon, and again before bed.  BUT, if we hear that bell ring (yes, of course, it is still there) we know that he really needs to go out soon!  And yes, he will still ring it on occasion!

In conclusion, bell training may not be for everyone, as it does take dedication in the beginning.   For us, it was awesome!  Plus, given that Cavachons are so smart to begin with, if that is the route you want to go, I have no doubts you will be successful in a very short period of time.

22 Responses to “Bell Training Your Cavachon Dog / Puppy”

  • Jan says:

    I’ve got a Cavachon called Eddie who is the most gentle and loving little boy. He’s now 16 months old but when he was a puppy I had terrible trouble house training him. I tried everything and he just didn’t get it. After doing some research I bought him some Poochy Bells and he got it straight away. Though he now rings them also when I’m cooking and he’s got the hump that I’m not giving him any!! I’m in the UK and found them online, if you’re having difficulty buy them, my daughter laughed when I got them then couldn’t believe it the first time he rang them!
    He also likes to pick everything up but I’ve found teaching him the ‘leave it’ command helps.
    Can’t recommend Cavachon’s enough, so gentle and very intelligent.

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  • martin says:

    my two cavachons use a hotel bell to go outside, they really are a fantastic breed & still rare in england

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  • Louise says:

    Would appreciate your perspective.i think a Cavachon sounds like a wonderful choice for me. After my Wheaten died last fall I moved into an apartment on the 3rd floor. It probably takes 60-90 seconds to race down stairs and get outside. What if I can’t get him or her out fast enough? How much warning will I get? Could it be frustrating for my guy?

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  • Kia says:

    I am getting a 10 week year old Cavacon in a couple of weeks. I’ve decided to call him Leo.

    My question is, on the first night do I crate him and what if he cries at night? DO I ignore the cries? Also, do I forct ihm into the crate?
    Also the first couple of days I will take off from work but after that I will only come home during lunch time to give him a meal/walk/poop. Do I crate him all the time when I am not home? As youi can tell I”m new to this so any advice on the intial stages would be appreciated, thanks.

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    Joyce Replied:

    I crated my puppy the first night. Dog’s are den animals and actually enjoy the crate he may cry for a little bit but if the lights are out and he is tired he will eventually fall asleep. I didnt force my puppy in the crate instead I said Marley Crate and gently showed her into the crate, everytime I put him in the crate I say that command Marley Crate..keeping it short and sweet is helpful. I would keep him in the crate when you are not home as long as he is little and can get into trouble while you are at work. I think leaving a dog in a crate for over 4 hours is too long but if you come home for lunch in between he should be fine. Eventually you can keep him out of the crate but that is probably not going to be until he is house broken and not in any danger of chewing anything. Puppy proof your home if you havent already done so.

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    Lauren Replied:

    Hi Joyce I’m getting a new puppy but I am at school soI was wondering if in the day when I am at school If could put the puppy in a playpen so he doesn’t feel unhappy ?

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  • DAWN says:

    Hi, we have a beautiful little cavachon named Tia, she is 8 months old, we got her at 9 weeks, she is such a clever little girl, but we are still having problems potty training her,the bell training sounds good, do you have any other suggestions, if that doesn’t work.
    thanx Dawn.

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  • Nicole says:

    This breed sounds perfect for our family! Does anyone know of a breeder in NJ, NY or PA?

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  • Mary R says:

    We used the poochie bells for our Abby, cavachon who is now 3. They worked great. If we were out of the room, when you might not see the dog sitting by the door, we heard the bells. We had the bells on both front(where you exit for walks) and back door,- back door led to the yard for pottytime. When we took the bells off the front door (too many bells) she would ring the back door bells and run to the front door for a walk.. Cavachons are very smart. The bells helped alot. We still have them. Often she just barely touches them or stands by the door. :) We are getting a new pup soon. I need to reread all the good tips, as it is a tough job, potty training!

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  • Jennifer says:

    We have a 4 month old and her name is Shelby. We also are having some of the same problems, coming in and going potty, chewing sticks, wood chips or anything she is not suppose to have in her mouth. Yes it has been a full time job, but she is the cutest little girl and we love her. Yes spoiled. I am looking into obedience classes for Shelby. Has anyone done that, I would like some input. Thanks

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    Lori Replied:

    I am Starting Kasey with obedience classes on Wednesday. Kasey quickly outgrew all of the “chewing” issues (with persistent and consistent training.) I am taking him more because he still will jump up to greet people until corrected a couple times and also pulls on the leash when we go for walks.
    I’ll let everyone know how it goes.

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  • Judi says:

    We are looking at getting a new puppy we prefer 8-10 weeks old. We live in central MN and would love to hear about any breeders in our area.

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  • Suzanne says:

    I have a 4 month old called Cosmo, so full of energy and lots of fun. I am crate training him and he dose pretty well. He dose bark when he needs to go outside and do his business, but he barks when he is hungry, thirsty, and when he wants to be held, you just have to figure out what he needs when he barks. I also keep him on a leash inside the house and we have no accidents as long as he is confined. He also likes rocks, leaves anything that blows around outside, hope he gets over that before to much longer. I feel he knows what I am saying to him, but he dose have a bit of a stubborn streak. Walking on a leash is not something he dose well we are still working on that one. All in all he is a cheerful little guy who is great fun and company.

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  • Sarah says:

    Hi all. We have two 9 month old cavachons who are still not potty trained. What r we doing wrong. They don’t go in the crate or when we lock them in the kitchen but if they go to a place in the house with carpet they will pee or poop. We got them at 12 weeks old and always brought them to the same door/area to go. They will even pee right after coming from being outside. We are at our wits end here! I’m not sure how we can keep dogs who aren’t potty trained. Help! And it’s no fun to constantly have to watch them and they still don’t get it….thanks for any hlp

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    Lori Replied:

    I hope by now your situation is better. I would start over from the beginning with your training – take them out every hour and definitely reward them immediately with a treat when they “go” outside. I used to carry Cheerios in my pocket all day just for this. As far as the inside accidents, you really need to catch them in the act, tell them “no – potty outside” then immediately take them outside. Even if they pee right after you bring them in, take them right back out. Hopefully they will at least pee a little so that you can reward them with a treat for going in the right place.
    On a little side note, when we were bell training Kasey, he went through a phase where he would ring the bell constantly. Of course we had to take him out when he did (that is part of the training) and he would squeeze out a little pee. He learned quite quickly what to do to earn a treat!
    It is exhausting but, I bet at their age, they will catch on very quickly! I think the reward of the treat -outside and after performing – will go a long way in the training process.
    We still give Kasey a treat to this day when he poops outside – it just became a habit and he expects it. I no longer carry any treats outside with me, but he knows when he has earned one and walks straight to where the treat jar is as soon as he is back inside. It’s so funny, if I forget to give it to him, he stands there staring at me and waiting!

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  • Zeehan Tasmania Australia says:

    I too have a Cavachon, named Anzac.
    He is a very loyal and smoochie member of my family.
    Would cuddle all day if you let him.
    He loves to go for rides in the car and behaves perfectly,
    His travel manners is admired by many of our friends.
    He adapts to new situations very quickly.
    He even tries to talk, we usually work out what his problem is.
    He is the best little buddy. a fantastic lap top dog.
    I recommend this breed highly

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    Lori Replied:

    Anzac sounds like the perfect little pet! Congrats – I think you found the best breed out there!!!

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  • Steve and dog Leo says:

    My 4 month old cavachon, Leo, is extremely playful and I want to thank everyone here whose offered advice – most of it has been very helpful. My big issue is with Leo’s walks around the neighborhood – I have him on a fairly short leash but he continues to pick up every object that will fit in his mouth- this includes small rocks and cigarette butts and everything smaller than a golf ball. I’ve tried walking him with a non-edible chew bone in his mouth but have to retrieve it every 20 feet or so as he drops it immediately even to pick up a leaf. He loves chewing on plants as well, especially ones that are flowering. I live in a crowded beach community and 90% of our walks are on concrete or asphalt. Any suggestions as to how I can correct this behavior- worried that he’ll swallow something poisonous. And do you think he’ll outgrow this habit as he gets older?

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    Lori Replied:

    Hi Steve- We have suffered through this too. Thankfully, Kasey pretty much outgrew picking up anything and everything (he used to like rocks, too.) Thankfully he never went after plants so I did not have that worry. His latest obsession is mulch. He can sneak a piece in his mouth and I’ll find him chewing on it after we get in the house!
    When Kasey was real little, I had to fish the “item” out of his mouth. As he got a little older, he got pretty good at dropping the stuff when I would stop and look right at him and tell him to “drop it!” He hates getting yelled at!
    I can get him to drop the mulch, too. The problem is he sometimes gets it when I don’t even know it.
    It is spring again and we are taking more walks again. He seems to be pretty good this year, I am keeping my fingers crossed.
    Hopefully someone will have some additional advice for us.
    Best wishes and good luck!

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  • Lisa says:

    Thank you for all of this great information! We are considering a cavachon puppy.

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  • Renee says:

    Wow! Great write-up and very clear on how it works. We are considering purchasing a Cavachon and this was very informative. I grew up in Mentor, Ohio and lived there for 18 years but now live in Maryland.

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    Anonymous Replied:

    Such a small world, I grew up in Wickliffe but went to school in Mentor!
    If you get a Cavachon, I have no doubt you will be very happy! Keep us posted.

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