OUTSIDE is one of the best first words to teach your learner to use.

Many dogs already express their need to relieve themselves by hanging out by the door, and often people will hang a bell from their dog's main door so their dog can alert others to their need (or desire) to go out.

We recommend using OUTSIDE as a first button to accomplish a number of goals:

  1. Pressing the button

  2. Using buttons to express a need

  3. Learning a relationship between the sound the button makes and the word the button produces


For dogs, OUTSIDE often begins by meaning, "I need to relieve myself."

Because they like going outside for other reasons, though, they will take the lead in generalizing "outside" fairly quickly from referring to bodily functions to something like "I'd like to go outside."

Among successful modelers, OUTSIDE, at least early on, means:

  • I need to go outside

  • Go potty; go outside

  • Go outside together and sit on the deck or walk around the backyard

  • I want to go into the back yard

  • Need to go to the bathroom

  • Go outside to the yard or walk

  • Leaving the apartment to go outside

Button sounds

  • "Outside"

  • "Go out"

Modeling techniques

Among our group of successful modelers, the following techniques were used:

  • A placed button next to the door out to the veranda/dog kennel

  • Said a sentence, e.g., do you need to go outside? Pushed button. Encouraged learner to push button.

  • Any time learner pushed the button, I would take her outside. Along with this, every time before going outside, I would push the button. The button was placed near the door when she was learning it.

  • I said, "Do you want to go outside?" (like I always do). Then I pressed the button and then said "outside" again. Then, I went to get her leash, put it on her, and took her outside to relax.

  • We pressed it before letting her outside.

  • Pressed every time we left the house.

  • I put his collar and leash on each time the button was pressed.

  • I modeled it every time we would go outside before grabbing her leash.

  • I tapped the button and took him outside.

  • I pressed the button, said "outside," and let my learner outside.

What seems to have worked well

Among our group of successful modelers, the following seemed to be helpful:

  • Pressing the button prior to opening the door worked well.

What seems to have gotten in the way

Among our group of successful modelers, they avoided doing the following:

  • We did not try to move the button to the board.

Examples of button use