Some dog owners wonder if their small dogs can ring the Pebble Smart Doggie Doorbell. While the doorbell requires only a very gentle push to activate, some small dogs can have very dainty touches. The story below comes from Darlene, a friend of ours, who trained a 13-year old Chihuahua to ring the Doggie Doorbell over a weekend. Notice that she broke the process down to tiny steps and only moved onto the next step when the Chihuahua had sufficiently mastered the current one. Sometimes withholding the reward a little bit can generate a little frustration which can help motivate your dog to push the paddle with a little more force. With some training and persistence, a small dog will be able to ring the Pebble Smart Doggie Doorbell.
Over the weekend, our friends, John and Betty, came to visit us. They are on the way returning to Arizona from their vacation trip in Canada with their Chihuahua, Maggie. They were quite amazed that our dog, Kozi, was ringing the Doggie Doorbell to go out. They wondered if they could use the Doggie Doorbell with Maggie. As she was getting older, Maggie started to have a few accidents inside their house. She even had a couple in our house. If she could ring the doorbell when she needed to go out, it would alert John and Betty right away and the chance of accidents would be minimized. But was she trainable? This 6-pound little Chihuahua was 13 years old and had not been trained beyond knowing to “sit.” She didn’t know to come when called. Sometimes she didn’t even respond to her name.
I wondered too if Maggie was trainable, but I decided to give it a try. Maggie was very food motivated, so she was very interested in the treats I had to offer her. I started with holding the yellow paddle of the Doggie Doorbell in my hand and offering it to her. However, being used to getting treats without having to offer any behavior, Maggie was only interested in me and my treats. So the first step had to be a tiny baby step. With the yellow paddle held in front of her, Maggie would occasionally glance at it. Every time when she did that, I would immediately give her a treat. Within just a few repetition, she started to touch the yellow paddle with her nose for a treat. After she knew this step pretty well, I put the yellow paddle back on the wall and stood by it. Maggie continued to focus on me waiting for her next treat. I held back the treats and looked at the yellow paddle. Like before, not getting the treat, Maggie would occasionally break her focus on me and glance at the yellow paddle. Repeating the same process as before, every time she shifted her attention to the yellow paddle, I gave her a treat. And also like before, Maggie learned quickly that she needed to touch the yellow paddle to get a treat. The speed of our progress surprised our friends and even me.
After a break, (we put away the yellow paddle for a while), we started again. While Maggie could touch the yellow paddle by now, her touch was very light, not enough to trigger the chime. This is a typical situation with small dogs. They have dainty touches. So I took the yellow paddle in my hand again and held it in front of her. But this time, I didn’t reward her when she touched it lightly. She touched it again and still no treat. After a third touch and no treat, in frustration, Maggie nudged the yellow paddle hard enough to move it, albeit just a little. I immediately gave her a treat. So here was another baby step, from touching lightly to touching with just enough pressure to move the yellow paddle in my hand. Holding the paddle in my hand, I could sense the slight change of force. By being rewarded for the stronger touches, Maggie learned quickly what she needed to do.
We repeated these short and fun sessions a few times a day. By the time when the weekend was over and our friends were ready to resume their journey, Maggie had mastered the trick of ringing the Doggie Doorbell for a treat. Who said that you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks? John and Betty were very impressed. They were going to order a Doggie Doorbell when they got home and continue to train Maggie to use the doorbell when she needed to go out.
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