The Circus known as the FRONT DOOR. Teaching DOOR MANNERS to your DOG: : Happy Tails Speaks DOG
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The Circus known as the FRONT DOOR. Teaching DOOR MANNERS to your DOG:

by Michelle St Germain on 06/06/12

     One of the most common problems people complain about their dog is the fact that they go bolistic at the front door.  We have all seen this senario...Dog is resting comfortably in the house....door bell comes the INSANITY!!!  Barking, jumping at the door, running around in circles, bolting out the door, the mauling of guests, growling...the list goes on and on and on.  How on earth do you even begin to control the chaos that is known as your DOG?

  Well, first off it takes a lot of practice, prevention, consistency, patience and de-sesitization.  Did I mention practice!  How long does this process take....well, that all depends on how long has the dog been practicing this obsene behaviour?  3 years, 3 months, 6 years????  I find that the more consistent you are: the nimber of years the habit has been being practiced correspondes with the number of months it will take to correct it.  This is really just a ball park.  But what I don't want you leaving here thinking is that it is solved in an hour episode of the DOG Whisperer.  If your dog has been  charging the door for 3 years, set a goal of 3 months to have it may take longer it may not, each case and each dog is individual!  Something Cesar fails to mention.

So first, we need to think of some incompatiable behaviours that prevent this circus from happening.

  • SITTING:  can't charge the door from a this position.
  • DOWN:  ditto
  • Tethered to an area away from the door
  • Calming down in a Crate
  • Head halter and leash for better control at the door.  With the owner stepping on the leash to prevent the jumping and/or charging at a guest.
  • Gates & Barriers

Those are a list of behaviours your dog can practice before  the door is opened.  Remember that in order to change an unwanted behaviour you first have to be able to INTERRUPT it (which is often to hard to do for this particular issue) OR PREVENT the dog from practicing it further.  When he has calmed down, training an incompatiable behaviour can be taught.

That all sounds too easy....IT REALLY IS!!!  It just takes repetition after repetition after repetition....  You have to practice this daily not only when someone is at the door.  When we actually have people at the door, the dog is way to aroused to learn anything.  We also only have people come to the door on an occasional basis, thus making the behaviour training sessions few and far between.  So now what.....this is what you need to do

  • Teach your dog a FAST RELIABLE SIT.  Practice this daily for everything and anything the dog wants from you.  Practice this anywhere and everywhere NOT just in the house.  Do it randomly on walks, at the vets, in Petsmart, at the dog park.... Do it when the dog is Calm and when he is distracted in good times and in bad (wanted to see if you were still paying attention.)  There are so many things a dog cannot do when it is sitting.  Teach your dog to SIT before any door is opened for him.  Teach him to exit and enter calmly and with a cue "OK".
  • Practice your SIT STAYS as above... Practice several times daily around the door when no one is actually there.  This is the de sensitization process.  Open and Close the door while the dog learns to remain sitting and behind an invisable line that we teach the dog not to pass unless asked to.  I use a floor divider for my girl.
  • For the initial training process..I also disconnect the door bell or ask that people do not use it.  Dogs get much more crazy at the sound of a door bell then to knocking.  Get knocking more under control then practice with door bells.
  • Before you open the door to a guest, leash, tether or crate your dog.
  • If you are tethering the dog, be sure it is far from the door.  Ignore all the antics he will do.  Only apporach a calm sitting dog.
  • If you are leashing, step on the leash, so the dog cannot jump up on people.  (a head halter may help with control of a large dog)
  • If crating, the dog must be put into the crate before the door is opened.  Puppy is only allowed to come out if he has calmed down first and  most likely should already be wearing a leash.
  • Instruct your guest not to touch, talk to, or touch your dog.  All these things reinforce the dog's silliness.  If you have a very excitable dog, being calm around him will help him calm faster.  It is amazing the power of IGNORING!
  • For aggression and or growling issues at the door, please use caution.  Leashes, head halter and sometimes even a muzzle will be needed to ensure safty to people entering your home. Consult a professional to determine the primary reason of the aggression! 

I hope this helps you out.  I have practiced these things on a continual basis with our young Boxer and we have had great success.  We have near eliminated any bolting out the door..may happen if the 4 year old throws open the door but these times are few and far between.  I don't have much success with the training of human 4 year olds!  I have found teaching a dog to SIT and Wait at any door has helped with this issue tremendously.  I have also found that teaching a dog to follow you out of a door rather than lead/pull you out, helps with the general manners and safety at the door.  A verbal command should be given to let the dog know when it is acceptable for her to use the door for freedom.  I do it at EVERY door in my house and the crate. 

Let's get rid of the common human statement used at most front doors  "Just a minute, I have to catch the dog".

Let's also get rid of the common doggy thought..."Open doors mean Freedom all the time" 

Any thoughts and questions...I would be happy to address! 


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