Doors…. the portals to enemies, walks and to be barked at.
For us, it just keeps the draft out, to the dogs it is so much more. To expect a dog not to freak out at them is wrong, but with training and common sense the mad reactions we don’t want can disappear. Making your life easier, and your dog less stressed.
Think about a dog’s life, what do they have in each day that bring them excitement and joy? Now think about where about 80% of these things happen, at the front door. You come home from work, through the door. You go for a walk with your dog, through the door. The post man invades the house with terrifying post, through the door. A friend comes to visit, through the door. Can you see where I’m going?
For us to expect dogs to sit quietly at the door, and not make a song and dance out of it, it’s expecting far too much for dog’s to have that in built impulse control.
It needs to be taught to them. It’s hard for them. To put it into perspective, you are waiting for a delivery, you run to the door every day to see if it has arrived, getting more excited each day, as you know today will be the day. When the day arrives you are a frenzy of excitement. Dancing about in excitement, ripping the packaging off. You are so enthralled in opening this exciting package that your shouting about it. For the dog every opening of the door is in expectation of not only a package, but a guest, a walk, anything. But this has been building not for days or weeks, but for months, even years. Not only that it has now become a race for them to get their before you to see what’s going on.
Teaching your dog impulse control, this doesn’t start at the door but with basic training of the leave it command, sit, stay and go to bed.
Teach your dog to listen to you first with food or a toy, and without distraction from the exciting door. Teach your dog to have respect, but also that their is good consequences for good actions, which involve listening to you.
Once your dog has mastered listening to you with the leave it, no and general obedience you can begin to teach them not to react to the door, and move away from it.
Open that door a hundred times a day, open it for no reason, open it to look out, open it and go out. Each time making your dog go to its bed, or sit away from the door. The choice of which you do is up to you, depending on the location of the bed. Do not expect them to lie down on their bed in a different room, out of site. They are going to want to see what is going on, you can’t ban them from that. Teach them to move away from the door, all interactions now happen at least 4ft from the door, when you come in, when other people come in and during training. The dog can see the door, but isn’t in the doorway directly. Giving you time to intercept if needed.
Use a neighbour or friend, or enlist your post man to help. Set up situations where people come by, come in, don’t enter. What ever, but the dog must learn to stay where you leave them with distractions. It’s hard, its very hard but training in set up scenarios is the best way to learn. It means your controlling the situation, meaning you can change it to make it easier on you and your dog.
You need to do it every time, and I mean EVERY TIME until your dog gets it. Get a sign on your door, telling people you are dog training and to be patient. Practice makes perfect.
Where making the door good, but in a controlled way. Every time that door bell rings, or their is a knock. Instead of fighting the dog for the door, be calm. I know its one of the most annoying things I say, but its the one thing people need to do. Calm, and your dog will begin to calm. If your not bothered about the door, then the dog is going to start following suit. It might not be in the first session, but it will happen over time. “Oh the door bell, whoop de do, better saunter over, oh look a package, thanks” no drama, instead of “SHIT THE DOOR, GRAB THE DOG!!” PANIC has set in, and nothing learns when panicked or stressed.
You can work with correction, stopping the barking or running at the door, with various training tools. But any correction must be coupled with reward as soon as they are quiet and calm. They must get reward for doing things right, you cannot just keep telling a dog off. It doesn’t work that way, they will just keep on barking over your correction as its still rewarding to do what they want.
Using your body language. It is your door, you own it and the dog is not to push and shove their way to the opening. Firm, stern body position goes a long way in dog speak, and they respond to it better than verbal communication in some situations. Stand tall, open the door with confidence and make the dog move back.
Management is a great accompaniment to training, if your go attacks the post get a box outside or guard. Protect those post people’s fingers. No longer will the devilish post enter the home with you not there, so the dog is getting less reactive to it.
Glass fronted doors, then for a time block the height of the dog so they can’t see out to react to people coming to the door before you can step in.
Shut dogs in rooms away from the problem door while your not there, they can’t react if they can’t get to the door. Your taking the problem out of the equation.
Bad habits die hard.
This is a habit, it is a routine, it is what happens when the door is open. To break it, it takes will power on your part. Your dog is at the mercy of your training, so only you can break the habit.
Dog’s personalities have a huge play in training, more obsessive personalities in come breeds such as Collies, Terriers and German Shepherds can be harder to deal with. But any dog can be obsessed with the door, and breed, sex or age. An individuals personality works towards the dogs trainability, and behaviour modification. So what works for one dog, won’t work for another. So training two dogs at the same time is hard, do things individually.
Boredom, this goes back to what your dog has to look forward to in a day. If the door opening is the only exciting thing their day, their going to react for their own entertainment.
Make sure their getting enough physical exercise, the correct food that has the right energy for the dog as well as mental stimulation in the form of training new commands, and brain games. Give them other things to do, then the need to react to things will lessen, as they haven’t got the bottled up energy.
This example is for doors being the reactive cause, but it is a start for any training of new behaviour, as well as helping to change existing behaviours. You need to understand your dog to do this alone, as well as subtle dog behaviour. If you need help, ask for it. No one is going to judge you for asking a dog trainer to help you, we make your life easier by helping your start off right.
These changes won’t happen over night, and these methods are only a guide to training. Their are many others, and each dog is different. Each owner is different, so don’t expect to do it from what everyone else does. Change and adapt to you.
This is just a ramble and some advice on the reaction to doors, it’s not exhaustive and it’s not a training guide. Get in touch for more information, or if you need help, or even to just discuss the training.