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Train to Use Bell

How to Train a Maltese to Signal Bathroom Needs

Using a Bell to Signal to be Taken Out

Overview

In some cases, a dog will bark or scratch at the door when he needs to go out. In other cases, he may circle or pace near the exit point. And sometimes, you won't notice a signal at all. 

Perhaps you'd like for there to be a way for your Maltese to let you know that he has to go to the bathroom if you are in another room or even at night. 

For this, you'll be happy to learn that there is a rather easy method involving potty training bells. 

Please note that this is an extension of the housebreaking page. To find success, you'll want to have a good understanding of all of the elements involved with potty training. So, if you are just starting off, you may want to first go over how to housebreak a Maltese, and then jump back over to here.

What are Housebreaking Bells?

This is a type of bell that hangs down low on a string or dangles from a flange that is installed near the doorway. When a dog needs to pee or poo, he will paw or nose at it, and it rings out. 

While some owners handcraft their own devices (mostly using Christmas jingle bells), these are often not loud enough for you to hear the signal unless you are right there. And that nullifies the whole point. 

Why Potty Training Bells are Fantastic

This is not a 'must' for all owners. If you are always right beside your Maltese and/or take your puppy or dog out so often that there's no need to wait for a signal, you may not have any reason to implement this sort of method

However, if you find that you tend to be in a different room than your Maltese ( for example, if he's in the living room and you're cooking dinner in the kitchen) or if your Maltese wakes up at night for bathroom needs, using a signaling device may be a good choice. 

If you use the right type of bell, this is a great method for several reasons:
  • It is easy to get started
  • It will be easy to train him to use it
  • And - perhaps most importantly - it will ring out loud enough for you to hear it
For those that wished that their dogs could speak, this is as close as you can get to your Maltese telling you that he needs to go outside. 

Can a Maltese of Any Age be Taught This?

The answer is a big yes! You can start off doing this with a young puppy and you can teach an older adult to start signaling in this way. 

In many cases, this works best if a dog is already house trained; this is just an additional step to that. 

How To Train a Maltese to Signal Bathroom Needs

Once you have things in place, training is rather straightforward. Many dogs catch on in as little as a few days.
 
We'll go over the type of bell that is right for your Maltese coming up. First, let's focus on how this will work. 

1. You will set up the bell.

You'll want to place this on or near the door that is used when you bring your Maltese outside. The goal will be for the bell to only chime when a Maltese is going to go potty. 

While many are marketed as 'doorknob' bells, if the door is used by others in the house simply just to enter and exit the house for other reasons, it is best to place this near the door, using a command strip hook or other hanging method. Alternatively, you may opt for the type that hangs from a flange on the wall. In these ways, it will not ring out from others coming in and out. 

Ahead, we will go over your choices and some tips for setting one up. 
2. Have proper training treats.

Like anything that you want to train your Maltese to do, training treats will play a big role. While praise is important as well, the quickest way for a puppy or dog to learn to take any action is via reward. 

You will want the treats to be special, which means that you'll choose something that is novel and not given as normal snacks. They should also be sized very small, so that these offer a super-tasty reward, but do not fill your dog's tummy. 

If you're already offering a great snack like Fruitables (one that we highly recommend), you can, for example, save the Fruitables Pumpkin & Blueberry Crunchy Dog Treats for this signal training and offer some of the other flavors for regular treats. 

You will want to keep some of the chosen training treats in a small zipped plastic bag and have these very handy near the exit point. 
3. Training can begin once the bell is in place and you have your training treats ready. 

It is very important to follow the rules every single time that you take your Maltese out for potty needs. If you skip this every other time or if other household members forget to do this, you may not find success. 

So, a big part of this working is that you will be consistent. 

You will find that teaching your Maltese to signal you can be done in under a week and is very simple due to this being classical conditioning:

1) Have your Maltese use the bell every time that you take your puppy or dog out for bathroom needs. 

As you are leaving, bring your puppy or dog over the the bell. Encourage him to paw or nose it (your preference) and then immediately give praise and reward, then quickly exit to reach the designated bathroom area. 

Once your dog pees or poos, offer praise and reward for a second time. 

2) Within just a few days, most dogs learn to use the signal on their own. When this starts happening, react as fast as possible. Say your chosen keyword that means you are going out (such as 'pitty-potty'), continue to offer praise and reward, then immediately head out to the bathroom area. 

Avoiding Common Hiccups

Some dogs will start to ring the bell just to go outside

However, this can be easily resolved:
  • Make it clear that the bell is for one reason only. 
When you take your Maltese out, head directly to the designated bathroom area, allow him 5 to 10 minutes. If your puppy or dog pees or poos, immediately give praise and reward. If he does not, head directly back inside. There should be no playing whatsoever. 
  • Be sure to take your Maltese out for fun and outdoor exercise several times a day. 
If a dog feels cooped up in the house, who could blame him for ringing a bell to break free? Be sure to take your Maltese for at least 2 walks per day and - if the weather is nice - for additional playtime. 
A dog may ring the bell when you are not home.
If there are times when your Maltese is home alone, which is the case in the majority of households, you will not want him to be signaling a bathroom need if no one is there to answer it. 

You can 1) remove the bell before you leave or 2) have your Maltese where he cannot reach the bell, such as set up in a canine playpen, which is highly recommended for dogs that have trouble with separation anxiety and/or are not able to hold their needs while an owner is away. 

Types of Bells for Signaling

There are two types of potty training bells; one hangs over a doorknob, sliding glass door handle, or wall hook via a loop. The other is connected to a flange that is screwed into a wall near the door (see images below). 

The flange type often comes with pre-drilled holes, so that it can be easily screwed into a wall by hand with minimal work. The bottom base that is connected can be placed right at floor level, which places the bell about 8 inches up. 

These are not the best options for large dogs since they often do not withstand strong pawing; however, this is not an issue with the Maltese breed. 

The hanging signal bell comes with a loop at the top and a ribbon or cord that hangs down on which the bells are connected. 

If you will be using this on a sliding door handle, you'll want the loop to be large enough to do so. You'll also want one that hangs down low enough for a Maltese to reach it. 

This type is very flexible; Many owners simply hang this type on a small plastic wall hook. 

And, this can also be brought with you if you bring your Maltese to another house. Many dogs make such a strong association with the bell and potty needs, that they will use this as a signal no matter where they are. 
Recommended signaling bells & great all-natural training treats are below. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. On mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all four types of bell options. 

Please note that while you may see images of larger dogs, the hanging bells shown here are adjustable (up to 32.5 inches) and can be lowered all the way to floor level for a Maltese to easily reach. 

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