Ask the Dogcharmer: Trooper

Ring the bell to go out.

Trooper, an 11-month-old goldendoodle, has a problem with nipping. Courtesy Michelle Scarpone.

Dear Dogcharmer,

Trooper, my 11-month-old goldendoodle, has a problem with nipping. When he wants to go out, he will nip at my hand and hit my leg with his paw. I know what he wants, but is there way to teach him a less aggressive way to let me know he wants to go out?



Dear Michelle,

Since one of my pat lines is, “It’s amazing how much of my life revolves around feces and urine,” the good news is that Trooper clearly relates his desire to you that he wants to go out. However, his method of communication is like me hitting my wife upside the head to get her attention. And if I did that to her, her response would likely discourage any future methods of similar conveyance. So, the first thing Trooper needs to learn is, “Don’t talk to me that way!” The second thing is, “Talk to me nicely.”

For No. 1, “Don’t!” I’d suggest you have Trooper drag a four-foot flat leash with the handle cut off (less likely to catch on things). Now, if Trooper even looks like he’s in nip or paw-hit mode, grab the leash, and in no uncertain terms make it clear with a jerk on the leash and your voice intonation (“Uh-uh”) that his behavior is unacceptable. Then wait a few minutes before you say, “Hey Trooper, you wanna go out?” Then lead him to the door, where you’ve hung a little bell at the height of his nose, and say again, “You wanna go out?” as you give the bell a shake. Then take him right out. Henceforth, whenever you take him out, ask him if he wants to go, and hit the bell as you ask him, followed by an immediate exit. Before I left New York, I had dogs all over the tri-state area hitting bells to indicate their desire for the great outdoors.

However, don’t forget that most dogs are smarter than their owners realize, and they’re very manipulative. Once he’s learned to “talk nicely,” I might suggest that you remove the bell so that he’s not “bell calling” you for attention at his whim every few minutes. I had an owner call me once to tell me that he and the family were in the den watching TV when they heard the bell ring. When the owner went into the kitchen to let the dog out of the sliding glass door to the yard, Pippin, the cairn terrier, was not in front of the door where he always waited when he wanted to go out. The astonished owner turned around, and there he was, sitting in front of the treat cabinet. Just making a bell call for a treat!


Good luck,

The Dogcharmer


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