Ringing Bell for Bathroom

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sourced from: https://www.reddit.com/r/Dogtraining/comments/9rqkpy/ringing_bell_for_bathroom/

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We have a German Shepherd/Red Heeler mix who is ridiculously smart, but relatively calm and low energy. She is currently 6 months and picks up new training tricks/commands fairly easily. One of which was a small bell we hung on our back door that she will hit with her nose when she wanted to go outside to do her business. This worked for the three months we've had her so far. But recently, she will hit the bell every 5-15 minutes just to go outside.

We do not live in an area where we can simply let her out the door to roam free, nor can she be tied outside. Despite giving her plenty of play time when she asks for it (brings us a toy), and taking her on long walks and wilderness hikes/camping, we do not have the time to take her outside every time she rings the bell.

What this has turned into is that we cannot figure out if shes going out because she simply just wants to or if she wants to go out because she has to do her business. Because of this, we have had a few (very few) accidents inside because when we thought she was just being a pain (taking her out 4-5 times with no results every 5-15 minutes) she ended up actually having to go.

She does not have any other potty issues and is able to hold it through the night. Her last time to go out for the potty is around 2200 hours (10 p.m.) and I'm typically up for work at 0530 hours. Also, there are a few times a week when she is left alone in the house for 7-8 hours at a time because we both work full time with schedules that sometimes overlap.

Anybody else use a similar technique for bathroom breaks or have any suggestions? All other dogs I've had in the past would do things like pick up my shoes with their mouth, sit by the door and whine, or scratch at the door. When she rings the bell, I haven't noticed any behavior that is consistent. Sometimes she rings it and sits there, other times she will ring it and wander off either to do something else or (maybe) find one of us. Starting tomorrow morning I plan on leaving a notepad by the back door to log when she rings the bell, her behavior after ringing it, time spent out in the yard trying to go, and what she ends up doing.

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