This is a story I tell frequently about my dog, Skye, and why I say “she’s too smart” and I mean it.
When we first got Skye, we made a commitment to train her as much as we could. Not only would we teach her foundational lessons – Loose-leash walking, “Leave It”, no begging / scavenging; but also tricks and niceties – Sit & lay down, shake, rest, and others.
We got to the point where she was picking things up pretty quickly, but she still sometimes had accidents indoors. We would try and get her to hold in her pee – some days were great, and other days she would pee inside 5 minutes after taking her out. Not perfect, but still a puppy.
My SO then came across an article online of teaching your dog to ring a set of bells to go out. We thought “why not. It would help us help Skye”. So over about a week, we taught her that if she wanted to go out, she had to ring the bells, and eventually she started doing it on her own. A few times a day, she would ring the bells and we would take her out, she would do her business, and we would come back inside. Perfect – now that we had a way of her telling us when she had to go, we could figure out aprox how long she could last before needing to go out.
For a while, we would take her out immediately when she rang the bell. But we wanted to get to the point where she could last a full 8 hours before needing to go. 8 hours is about how long we would be out of the apartment for, so thats the goal we aimed for.
For a while she did well with waiting for a bit before we took her out, but at times she would ring the bell multiple times. We figured it was out of urgency, so we would take her out. But then we started noticing that when we took her out after “urgently” needing to go, she wouldnt immediately need to pee, and would just sniff around for a bit. She had figured out that the more she rang the bell, the more likely we would take her out. We caught on, and went back to our original routine of when she rang the bell for the first time, we would wait for a bit then let her out – no matter how often she rang it afterwards.
After following that routine for a while, winter finally came. And with winter, came snow. We were still making progress with getting Skye to those 8 hours, so we were still letting her tell us when she needed to go.
Then one afternoon, my SO was letting Skye out and noticed something particular. When Skye rang the bell in the afternoon, they went out and Skye squatted as she normally does to do her business. But this time, Skye did it over a patch of fresh Snow. After doing her business, my SO noticed that there was nothing where she went. It was clean!
We cant tell exactly when it started, but Skye at some point figured out that we weren’t taking her out as often as she wanted to. When she rang the bell, we would only sometimes take her out. However, if she went “pee” after ringing the bell, she figured out we were more likely to take her out next time. She was fake peeing to trick us into thinking she needed to go, when she only wanted to go outside.
We promptly took the bells down after that.