My roommate has an approximately 2 year old, 17-pound mixed breed rescue dog. We have trained the dog to ring a bell to go outside; this part of the training only took a day (the dog was already trained to touch, which made this part easy).
But now, the dog rings the bell too much. If we don't stop him, he may ring the bell 20 to 30 times a day; that's too much taking him out. It is clear to me that he rings the bell for attention, or because simply going outside is its own reward. There are lots of smells and sounds out there and he might even spot another dog or neighbor passing by. Sometimes, he horses around out there, like digging, nipping at my pants/shoes or trying to play tug-of-war with the leash. Often we'll take him out, and he rings again right after coming back inside. We've been dealing with this problem for over a month and it isn't getting any better.
To me this would indicate that perhaps the dog is not getting enough exercise or stimulation, but I feel like he should be getting enough. He gets 30-60 minutes a day of vigorous exercise, either outside playtime with me or a walk through the neighborhood, sometimes both, plus he is also enrolled in a weekly training class and practices that 4 or so times a week.
On a few occasions, he's rung the bell for other needs, for instance, to ask for food.
Originally I tried simply ignoring the bell ring when I was sure the dog did not need to go (for instance if he just did), but my roommate said this would confuse the dog, so instead we take the bell away if he rings it too much and put it back out later. This tends to deteriorate into "keep an eye on the dog and take him out when he looks like he needs it." Which basically is defeating the point.
Does anyone have suggestions for how to teach the dog that ringing the bell is only for going to the doggy bathroom and not for keeping himself entertained?