HELP! How do I STOP my dog from darting out the door?
Door darting can be a very dangerous and spontaneous action from our dogs who seek excitement beyond their backyard and the inside of their home.
As a dog trainer, I encounter this behavior frequently during appointments. Let's take a look at options to keep your dog safe and prevent them from running out the door every time it opens.
First and foremost, exercising your dog is imperative to improving a dogs overall behavioral problem. Your dog's territory is their yard, and their den is the inside of your home. From a dog's perspective, exploring outside of these realms is very enticing and much needed for their mental well-being. Dogs are genetically programmed to explore, it is in their DNA! Taking your dog for a daily walk is a great way to let them explore new scents, meet new people, and dogs, as well as the adventure of exploring new surroundings.
Preparing Your Dog for Their Walk
When preparing your dog for their walk, teach them a boundary away from the door. Many dogs get very excited when they see us grab the leash for the walk. Here are some steps to help your dog keep calm and not to dart out the door as you are getting ready for the walk:
- Never announce to your dog that you are taking them for a walk (no excitement is necessary during preparation).
- Teach your dog a zone area away from the door.
- Put your dog in a "Sit" and "Stay," and then attach their leash.
- If your dog gets up, put your dog back in their zone area, reminding them to "Sit" and "Stay."
- Once your dog holds their position, grab their leash and calmly say "Lets Go."
- This will help teach your dog calmness and patience when putting the leash on them as well as teaching them boundaries away from the door.
- Once you grab the leash and say "Lets Go," if your dog charges at the door, immediately walk back to their zone area, put them in a "Sit" and try again. This will probably take several tries before your dog is able to calmly walk to the door
Now, let's take a look at desensitizing our dog to the door when guests are coming and going, and when knocking and doorbells are being used. This will help prevent your dog from running out the door, and charging at your guest:
- Decide where your zone area is going to be (away from the door).
- During training time, put a leash on your dog.
- Put your dog in their zone area.
- Tell your dog to "Wait" (give a hand signal too, dogs read body language first). The hand signal for "Wait" is taking your hand, palm open, facing your dog, bringing your hand in a downward, sideways motion (like chopping an onion with your hand). Now go to the door, touch the door, and go back to your dog and reward them for staying in their zone area.
- If your dog releases themselves, take the leash, redirect them back to their zone area, and repeat the above steps. If your dog sneaks to follow you, turn your body and walk "into" your dog to redirect them back again to their zone area.
- Continue practicing and getting your dog use to you going to the door, touching door, touching the handle, opening and closing the door, all the while holding their position in their zone area.
- Always reward your dog with a treat when they hold their position in their zone area.
Practice Makes Perfect
Now that you have properly desensitized your dog's reaction to the door, here is the final step:
Have a friend come over and ring the doorbell and knock! Practice putting your dog in their zone area, telling them to "Wait" as you approach the door to let your guest in. Remember, if your dog releases themselves, shut the door (not allowing your guest to come in) and redirect your dog back to their zone area. Having a friend help you out to practice with your dog is imperative to this behavioral modification. Your dog will learn that the guest will only come into the house once they hold their position in their zone area. When your dog completes this task, don't forget to give them a HANDFUL of treats, telling them good job and then let them go say "Hi" to the guest after the door has been shut.
Also practice putting your dog in their zone area, telling them to "Wait," even when you go through the door.
Remember to be patient, consistent, and keep calm when working with your dog. With your hard work, your dog will improve their behavior when it comes to the excitement of the door.
I hope these tips help prevent your dog from darting out the door.