You can train a dog to perform a specified task at the sound of a bell using a combination of classical and operant conditioning techniques. In classical conditioning, a primary stimulus is paired with a secondary stimulus. Operant conditioning then allows you to define the behavior that follows the defined stimulus.
- Pair a primary stimulus with the bell
First condition your dog to respond to the bell by pairing the sound of the bell with a primary motivator, usually a favorite treat. Begin by giving your dog a treat each time you ring the bell. Gradually increase the time interval between the tone of the bell and the treat. Once your dog responds to the sound of the bell, he has made the association between the bell and providing you attention.
- Shape the dog's behavior
Once your dog associates the bell with giving attention, begin to teach your dog the expected behavior. For example, you may associate the sound of the bell with a "come here" response. You begin by ringing the bell a few feet from your dog, then treating your dog when he approaches. Gradually increase the distance and vary the reinforcing response giving your dog treats, petting and positive praise.
- Continue to practice and define additional behaviors
It is important to remain consistent and engage your dog in regular practice to maintain the newly learned behavior. You may shape additional behaviors in the same way using different bell tones and ringing patterns.