Many dog owners have the problem of dogs pushing their way through an open door or open gate while its being opened. Depending on where you live, this can be quite a problem especially if, once outdoors, your dog engages in problematic behaviors that can even put his life at stake. Once outdoors, most dogs will take off and they may cross a road with traffic or start chasing animals. Because they are so thrilled from the exhilirating sensation of freedom, these dogs often ignore their owner’s recall. What can be done in such a case? There are several solutions to reduce these dog door dashing behaviors.
Open Doors from a Dog’s Perspective
D it, no questions asked. Their impulsive behaviors though can put them into trouble. It’s important to understand that to a dog, a door or ogs are by nature opportunists, if they notice an opportunity they’ll takegate left slightly ajar is an invitation to step out. Beyond that door or gate, a world of adventures awaits them. Sniffing new places, getting to chase birds on an open field or licking a fast-food sandwich wrapper are highly reinforcing activities from a dog’s perspective. Expecting your dog to resist the temptation of venturing out without any training is like asking a toddler not to cross a road to chase a ball.
Set Your Dog for Success
The first step before you start any training is to absoultely ensure those doors and gates are closed. Dogs are creatures of habit and behaviors that produce rewarding consequences tend to repeat. This is the power of positive reinforcement. If your door or gate is often left open or if your dog dashes through as you open it, your dog will rehearse the escaping behavior over and over. To help your dog succeed, don’t put him in situations where he can make bad choices. And even after training your dog, play it safe and make a committment to keep those doors and gates closed.
Training Impulse Control
Refraining from dashing out a door at full speed requires a good level of impulse control. To be effective, you’ll need to train your dog to resist this urge and the goal is to make it worthy. The goal is to get your dog thinking that resisiting the urge brings great consequences that supersede door dashing. To accomplish this, you will have to use something that your dog finds highly reinforcing such as high-value treats. Start with a door your dog has little interest in such as an indoor door, and then, when your dog gets the purpose of this exercise move to doors from which your dog has a history of escaping.
Please note: this training is to prevent door dashing when you are with your dog and about to open the door and want to prevent him from dashing out at least until you give him permission to. It’s unrealistic to ask your dog to not dash out an open door or gate when he’s out alone and without supervision.
When you are working using indoor doors, there is no need to use the leash, but once you move to the doors or gates from which your dog has escaped before, your best bet is to keep a leash on him until you are certain the training has sunk in. Following is a step-by-step guide to training your dog not to dash out the door.
- Attach your dog’s leash to his collar.
- Ask your dog to sit and stay.
- Touch the door knob slightly and reward your dog for holding the sitting position.
- Open the door a little bit and reward your dog for holding the sitting position.
- Open the door totally and reward your dog for holding the sitting position.
- Take a step outside and reward your dog for holding the sitting position.
- Give your dog permission to join you outside.
As evident, the goal of this exercise is to have your dog hold the sitting position. If at any time during this exercise your dog breaks the sit, give a negative marker such as “oops!” and put him back to where he was and ask him to sit and stay again. Repeat as necessary. It may take some time and patience to let him know that the door won’t open or he won’t have the opportunity to join you outdoors until he’s patiently sitting and staying. Be patient.
If your dog is struggling with any part of this exercise, it means you need to work more on splitting the exercise in smaller, easier segments. For instance, if your dog keeps breaking the stay when you open the door halfway, practice more on opening it just slightly. Also, along with teaching your dog to not bolt out the door, it’s important to polish a good recall so in the case your dog would bolt out, you would have a second chance of getting him to come back to you.
The Bottom Line
Door dashing can be quite dangerous for your dog. Not only do dogs risk their lives once they escape from the door, but they may also cause accidents. It’s not unheard of for dogs to be so eager to charge out the door they end up knocking kids or unstable people down. As much as training is effective, consider that no training can be ever 100 percent effective as there can be unexpected scenarios that life throws out at you, but with loads of repetition you can get pretty close to reliable responses.