Break on through to the other side….break on through to the other side…..break on through……no, not the band with Jim Morrison. I’m talking about the doors to your house, your car, etc. and yes, your dogs do want to break on through to the other side.

Doors tend to have some form of excitement on the other side, whether it’s guests coming in the house or some great adventure out the car door or just going for a walk. These are all incredibly exciting things for a dog. Going out to see who peed on the lawn may not seem like a big deal to us but for a dog it is like Hanna Montana tickets for a kid. A guest coming to the door or you coming home is also a huge event and often leads to some form of craziness like jumping and barking or in some cases aggression.

Doors can range from triggering behavior that is simply annoying (and maybe damaging to your clothes) to dangerous and even life threatening situations when dogs have no impulse control. Some bolt out the door and don’t come back which leads to the “chase me” game or running into the street. Some may fly out of the car like a jack in the box, also a very dangerous street situation. Some may feel a need to bite what they see as an intruder.

So, what can we do about it?   

I am going to assume that you already have some basic obedience training and talk about the application of those skills. If aggression is one of your issues this is not a cure for that but it is part of your leadership program and lack of leadership is usually a big problem in aggression cases. So here we go:

  •      “Wait” – Practice your wait command consistently at all doors. That means every door, every time. This includes coming in and going out. You can practice with the leash on but really try not to use it. The idea is for this to work off leash so use your voice, body language and block with your body rather than the leash. “Wait” simply means don’t cross this threshold, it is not a stay and they do not have to sit or do anything else. Some people find this difficult and get more control with a stay but it is not necessary, a wait is more casual and good enough. Read my blog for more on "Wait"
  •      “Stay” – Practice sit and down-stays at the door. Start with the door closed and then start to open it. Again, use a leash or long line if you need to but try not to use it; it’s only there for safety. Work up to adding guests as a distraction.
  •      “Load Up” – Practice using control getting in and out of the car, consistently, every time. Practice sit-stays and down-stays in the car.
  •      Tether – You may want to tether your dog to something when you have guests coming over until you think you have reached the point of not needing a leash. Never leave a dog unattended on a tether because they can strangle themselves.

Applying these obedience exercises will go a long way toward safety and sanity as well as affirming your leadership position. Remember to make training fun and rewarding while remaining consistent and firm. Don’t forget the 3 F’s (Fun, Firm and Fair). You will know this is working when they begin waiting on their own without trying to barge the door. Be proud of and praise every improvement no matter how small. Be patient, these exercises may be difficult for some high energy dogs and almost impossible if you are not giving your dog enough exercise and socialization.  Don’t wait, start practicing now.

“The time to hesitate is through” – The Doors

Chad Culp–Certified Dog Trainer, Behavior Consultant, Certified Holistic Chef for Animals

© 2005-2013 Chad Culp, Thriving Canine. All rights reserved.

Suggested Blog:

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait