Molly Sumner is the owner and founder of Kindred Companions LLC. She is a professional dog trainer and behavioral consultant with a deep passion for the human animal bond.
At one time or another every dog owner goes through the same terror as their dog slides in front of them in the doorway. That cold sweat as a pillar of panic rushes through you as you try and quickly retrieve your dog before disaster strikes.
But it doesn’t always have to be like this. You can teach your precious dog to stay right where they belong, instead of playing a one-by-one game in the yard in front of you.
The first step to eliminating this problem is to understand why your dog is pacing outside. It is not action, control or rebellion. The simple honest answer is that being outside is awesome!
Getting outside is the highlight of most dogs’ day. All the sniffles, squirrels, birds, friends, and of course pee, make for an extra-curricular kind of Disneyland for dogs.
Solving the problem calms the dog’s eager nature to rush outside. This may seem impossible but it is not. It’s very easy and requires a little patience. Prepare as you normally would to get your dog out safely, such as by putting on a collar and leash.
While holding on to the leash, open the front door, but don’t go out. Just wait in the doorway allowing your dog to go whichever way they like. You are not allowed to just pull your dog any further than the length of the leash.
Do this for 5 to 10 minutes. As your dog calms down, reward the dog with a treat. If they look at you, give time a 2! After 5-10 minutes, I go out for a walk. Repeat this for the next week or two, at any time you plan to take her out.
The next step is to teach your dog to value you and your entry area. Dog leash and, like the previous exercise, open the door. Step by step out of the entrance. Now wait for your dog to look at you with interest. Promptly praise your dog and throw a treat through the doorway. Repeat this two to three times and then head back to your walk. Repeat this with each walk.
For the third step, you’ll need a long leash, about 15 feet long, or two clips. There are no collapsible handlebars for this exercise. Go through the door like you used to. If your dog is waiting for you at any moment, turns back inside, or looks at you, reward them for praise and treats. Do not be stingy
Now if it is safe to do so, wait with the long leash attached to your dog. Let them pull up the stairs or the stoop or the porch or whatever and explore the part of the yard in front of them. If she looks at you at any point, say her name in a cheerful tone and encourage her to join you.
Do not use the “coming” command. When they arrive you need to have a party. Give them treat after treat (up to 6 or 7 habits) and pets, praise, toys etc. Treat your dog as if you haven’t seen him in weeks. Repeat this for a few days.
For the final step, brace your dog as you did for the previous step with 10-15 feet off the leash, and walk to the front gate, sidewalk, or other location within 5-10 feet of your front door. Now as usual, wait.
If your dog gives you any attention, say her name, bowl and press like you did when you were partying at last rehearsal and racing your dog to the porch. Repeat the tip from before. Do this exercise on every other step you take.
After 6-8 weeks of this the dog will begin to become magnetized to your front door. Practice this 2-3 times a week, picking and choosing which exercises need the most work. Make sure to practice with distractions such as birds, squirrels, people, other dogs, etc.
Be patient and keep the fun going. Don’t yell at your dog or give her a correction if she does anything wrong. This association should be bright, happy and positive. Most of all, always exercise with a leash for safety. Never test this without a leash of some kind.
And once you get this practice in, you can enjoy the comfort and ease of knowing your dog is safer and more trustworthy near the door, leaving you less stressed when you or a guest are out of the house.