Training Suggestions

Teaching Door Manners

There are a few behaviors that drive us owners crazy….and one of them is what our dogs do at the door when we’re getting ready to take them outside.

Here is a description of the steps to take when working with your dog around the door. Loose leash walking STARTS with the moment you pick up the leash. So let’s start there.

1. Pick up your leash and ask your dog to sit. Ask only once. The reward for sitting is having the leash put on. Good doggie! But what happens if your dog doesn’t sit, or sits and immediately jumps around, biting at your hands and the leash, etc? Simple: you put the leash down on a surface the dog can’t reach and walk away from your dog. After a short while, return and try again. We are making a clear picture with black and white for the dog: if you sit, you get your leash (and therefore to go out) but if you get all antsy, the leash goes away. Obviously you don’t want to do this when the dog has to go out at first. It needs to be practiced many, many times in the day so the dog can learn quickly what’s expected of him. (And if you have a fenced yard, you should practice this off-leash for access to the yard, too.)
Acacia knows the benefits of waiting patiently
at the door.
2. I suggest that you start this whole process near the door you intend to use, but if you haven’t, walk your dog to the door (pulling makes you stop). When you are near the door, ask your dog to sit. Ask only once. If the dog sits, you can treat him for it.

3. The next step is the ‘implied wait’. That means that once the dog is sitting, he doesn’t move until you tell him the next thing to do. So now reach toward (but do not touch) the door handle. If your dog is still sitting, click and treat him. Repeat this three more times. If your dog is able to get an 80% success rate (4/5), you are ready to continue to the next step. If the dog stands up or otherwise acts excited, simply wait quietly for him to offer that sit.

4. Increase the distance your hand goes for each set of repetitions. This time, reach out and touch the door handle. If your dog remains seated, click and treat. If not, simply wait for him to offer that sit, then reach out and touch the door handle. If at any time, your dog is so energetic and silly about the leash/door thing that he’s not ‘with you’, simply remove the leash, put it down, and walk away. You are looking for a 4/5 success rate at this step and for each of the following steps.

5. Ask your dog to sit, reach out and jiggle the door handle. The same criteria as above apply.

6. Now open the door very slightly. It won’t take much for your dog to get excited once the door is really opening!

7. Open the door about 3 inches. If your dog remains seated, close the door and click and treat. This will allow you to do the next repetition.

8. Open the door about 6 inches.

9. Open the door a foot.

10. Open the door two feet.

11. Open the door three feet (enough for you to fit through). If your dog remains seated while the door is open this wide, click and say, “let’s go!” and invite the dog through the door. He won’t need a treat after this click!

12. Your job isn’t over!! Once you and your dog have cleared the door, stop and call his name. Only call his name once. He should respond by turning and looking at you. At first, you can invite him through the door and allow him to sniff/pee as a valuable reward. But you should quickly begin to work on this next step. Your dog’s ability to pay attention to you from the moment you step outside sets the tone for your entire walk (or time spent together out in public).

You should work on this frequently, going through every outside door to your home. You should also do this with your car. This is a REALLY important skill to teach in order to prevent ‘door dashing’ and the resulting potential nightmare.

You may initially want to only work on a few steps during a training session. Keep your sessions short and fun. If you do steps 1-5 one time, the next time, start with step 3 or 4. You will pretty quickly be able to run through the whole program in one session and in a short period of time.

You should also reward your dog for sitting AND looking at you (sitting and looking away from you should not be acceptable…if he’s looking at you, he’s considering you a part of the game).

It takes a month to learn a new habit…it takes time and practice…AND consistency!

© 2006 Ali Brown

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