I was at a second Home Dog Training session in Bogart with my client and his Boxer, Jackson about a week ago. We had taken care of most of his “A Priorities” and were working on consistency to assure that Jackson had completely understood his need to provide my client with his respectful focus and was always waiting to learn. Things were coming along very well and the session ended with a list of exercises to practice until I arrived for our next visit. As we approached and opened the door for my departure, all of a sudden Jackson came shooting across the room towards us at the front door. I had to block him at the door or he would have been out and down the street. My client then gave me one of those “Oh, there is one little problem that I forgot to mention…”
Dogs running to the door when we are greeting guests or running out the door when we open it are one of the most embarrassing and annoying “bad things” that they do. We have guests that have been jumped on and can be scared or mad at us. We have to chase our dog down the street trying to get him back. In any case, it is an event we don’t want to happen. Many people just don’t know what to do about this and unwillingly accept it as part of having a dog. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I am not going to go into all the canine behavioral issues, dominance theory, adrenalized distraction introduction, etc. that we could discuss as catalysts for Jackson running to the front door. I want to get to the heart of the matter and discuss what we can do to make sure that Jackson doesn’t run to the door to jump on people or try to get through the door.
The important matter that we are trying to maintain is the safety of ourselves, our guests, and Jackson. Like everything else in life, we need to establish a clear and consistent rule that Jackson must always obey when the door is being opened. The rule must be simple to understand and singular in action.
So, we need to ask ourselves, “What is the one thing that I want Jackson to do when I open the door?” You might say “Well, I don’t want him to jump on people”. OK, but what about running out the door? “I don’t want him to do that too!”
Oops. You just asked him to do two things. You can only have him do one thing. You have asked for too many wishes from the “Doggie Geanie”.
The answer is that you want him to stay away from the door. If he stays away from the door, he can’t jump or run out the door. You have given him one thing to do and your list of problems is resolved. With this said, you need to make it a little more specific. You must make your rule that he can’t cross a specific boundary when you are opening the door. He has his side and you have your side. If he crosses, that is wrong and he must go back.
This all sounds great, but how are we going to get Jackson to submit and adhere to this rule? We need to set up a training lesson that consistently enacts the steps of opening a door with guests. This exercise must also focus on Jackson’s actions and his ability to obey or break the rule of “crossing the line”.
My client was excited that this could be accomplished and asked if I could stay and teach him the exercise. I love doing the “front door exercise” so we began. Here is what we did:
- I asked that a family member put Jackson on a leash and take him to a far side of the room or an adjacent room where he could hear the doorbell and/or see the front door. I wanted the family member to play with Jackson and keep him focused away from my client and the front door.
- I asked my client to stand at the front door. Yes, I know that he won’t always be at the front door when people ring the doorbell, but this is “an exercise”. I have unlocked the front door so that my client wouldn’t have to “fumble with the lock” when trying to open the door.
- My client is facing the room and towards Jackson. His back is to the front door.
- I now leave the house for several minutes so that Jackson thinks I have left and everything is back to normal.
- After several minutes, I ring the front door as if I am a guest. The family member now releases the leash and allows Jackson to independently make the decision of doing nothing or rushing the front door.
- If Jackson makes the “wrong decision” of rushing the front door, I have instructed my client to correct him with a firm and low toned “NO”. He can also enforce that verbal correction with the enhancement of shaking a bottle with pennies of giving a squirt of water with a spray bottle. He is to do this as Jackson approaches the boundary line.
- His verbal and the corrective enhancements are not meant to scare Jackson. They are tools to gain his calm and respectful focus. As soon as he gets Jackson’s focus, Jackson should stop and watch. (Please note that there are many passive physical actions that can be used to de-adrenalize and allow a dog to provide you with respectful, calm focus. We encourage you to contact us for other options, if needed.)
- My client can now backup to the door directly behind him. He will continue to face Jackson to maintain his passively dominant posture. This, in no way is meant to frighten Jackson. It simply reaffirms his persistence in maintaining his rule of “don’t cross the line”.
- Now, he slowly opens the door while still facing Jackson. If Jackson starts to move towards the door and boundary, my client closes the door and corrects Jackson. At no time is he to come overly adrenalized or animated. This will only diminish his authority in Jackson’s eyes.
- Once the door is open, I am inside, and the door is closed; the rule of “stay on the other side of the boundary when I open the door” is successfully completed.
- My client can now praise Jackson to let him know he is a good boy and that my client is proud of his accomplishment.
I ask my client to repeat this exercise several times a day. I told him that Jackson will eventually give very little notice to the front door and wait my client to introduce whoever has newly arrived.
The last piece of advice I gave my client regarding Jackson and running to and through the door was to never turn his back on Jackson. I explained that when he is engaging Jackson and facing him, that is a natural, dominant act of authority. Jackson understands and respects this. If my client turns his back to Jackson to look out the window or to face the door when opening it, he will show his back to Jackson. This is a natural sign of submission and Jackson will understand this as a “never mind what I just did, do what you want” action. He will then go back to his old ways of jumping and running.
Managing the front door can be simple with a little practice and adherence to some simple safety rules. We have quickly solved the front door issue for thousands of clients and can easily help you with this issue or any dog training question.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help. We have a lot of good dog training articles at Best Dog Trainers Bogart Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Bogart Georgia.