The Root of the Behavior
At times, you may find your dog lying in front of a door or in a doorway, making it difficult for anyone to pass. Trainers and behavioral theorists believe that this is one way in which your dog is establishing himself as a leader. In claiming a key place, an entrance, and an exit, he is holding reign. He is the gatekeeper and everyone needs his permission to come or go. Dogs also walk through doorways based on the pecking order, so if your dog steps out of your way so that you can walk through before him, then he is showing you respect. If he is blocking you or pushing ahead of you, then he feels he is your alpha, and you have some work to do. Maintaining your lead role in the home is also important. If your dog is blocking you, do not go around him or step over him. Tell him to move and gently push him out of your way. If he frequently dives through the door before you, leash train him to heel and wait for you to pass first.
Encouraging the Behavior
For the dog with wanderlust, who is looking to mate or go play outside, it is important to train him to stay away from the door when people are coming and going. A dog itching to get outside can surprise you, push past you, and dart out into a possibly dangerous scenario of traffic, construction, or other unfriendly pets. You can begin by teaching your dog to stay in a certain area when people need to use the door. Tell him to ‘stay’ and reward him. Have someone enter the room through the door and remind your dog to ‘stay’ If he has remained in his spot, reward him with a lot of praise and a high reward treat. This can be repeated several times for ten minutes, and then again the next day until he has learned to not be at the door when it is opening. For the dog that has difficulty with staying in a spot, you can try barriers that keep him from getting near the door, or crate training him. Some owners find it most useful to teach their dog to ‘get back’ or ‘go to your bed’ when the doorbell rings or they hear someone approaching, to keep their dog from lunging at the door. A trainer can help you identify what is best for you and your dog and provide specific guidance as well.