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Healthy Dogs

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Teaching Your Dog to Ask to Go Out

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ASPCA logoIt’s not always easy to live with humans if you’re a dog. First, you have to learn that humans don’t like it when you urinate or defecate indoors. Then you have to figure out how to get outside when you need to go! Since you don’t have opposable thumbs for opening doors, you’re in a bit of a predicament.

Sometimes it’s difficult for pet parents to tell when their dogs need to go outside to eliminate. Some dogs show obvious signs, but others aren’t as adept at telling people when they need to go out. If your dog falls into the latter category, don’t worry. There’s a way to help her let you know when she needs a bathroom break.

Does Your Dog Ask Already?

It’s possible that your dog already asks you to let her out-in dog language. Maybe you just don’t understand what she’s telling you yet. Hints that your dog might drop when she needs to eliminate include:

  • Circling
  • Sniffing
  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • Moving to a distant part of the room, into a corner or behind furniture
  • Standing by the door
  • Scratching at the door
  • Approaching vertical objects, like walls or the legs of furniture, and sniffing and/or standing close to them, as if to left a leg (usually male dogs)
  • Approaching you and staring, whining or wagging

If you see any of the signs above, quickly take your dog outside so that she can eliminate. If she does, calmly but enthusiastically praise her and give her a tasty treat right as she finishes up. Taking note of the specific behaviors your dog does just before eliminating might give you all the information you need to know when to let her out.

If Not, What Can You Do?

If your dog doesn’t give you any clear signs before eliminating indoors, or if her signs seem too subtle, you can teach her to do something obvious to tell you when she needs to go. For example, you might need to train your dog to ask to go out if her current method is to stand silently by a door. If you’re in another room of the house and can’t see her, you won’t have any idea that she’s “asking!”

One of the simplest methods is to train her to ring a bell that’s hung on a door. That way, you can hear her request even if you’re in another room. Once you’ve taught your dog how to ring a bell by touching it with her nose, you’ll ask her to ring the bell right before you open the door to let her outside-every time. That way, she’ll associate the behavior of ringing the bell with your letting her out. In other words, she’ll learn that ringing the bell makes you open the door.

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