The Root of the Behavior
Dogs can be indecisive animals as well. He may need to go out, feel he is done with his business and wants to come back in only to realize he is bored inside and wants back out. He may be out, and while the yard is fun, he may miss you and want back in. Dogs will sit by the door, whine, bark, and maybe even scratch the door when they want in or out. Your normal response is to let him as you do not want him to use your home as a toilet, nor do you want him to be outside if he is unhappy. The minute you respond to his behavior, he has learned what he needs to do to get what he wants. He has also learned what he needs to do to get your attention in general. If you are not spending quality time with your pet, exercising, training and petting him, he may simply be asking to go in and out because it feels to him as if you are playing a game with him; he has gotten you to pay attention.
If you are giving him plenty of attention, exercise, and stimulation you need to look into possible physical reasons why he may need to go in and out repeatedly over short periods of time. Keep an eye on what he is doing outside, if he is urinating more often, seems constipated, or has diarrhea. He may also be going out to vomit. Also, monitor his food and water bowl to ensure that he is eating and drinking a normal amount. He may have an intestinal health issue or a urinary tract infection. If your dog is elderly, seems to bark at random times, stands facing corners, gets anxious and paces, does not eat, sleep, greet you, or follow commands like he used to, he may be developing canine dementia. Puppies need to go out more regularly than adult dogs, calculating an hour for every month of age plus one, so a three-month-old puppy will need to go out every four hours. If he is asking for more, he too may have a medical issue that your vet can address. It is best to make an appointment for a thorough examination if you feel your dog’s need to go in and out is more of a physical problem than a behavioral.
Encouraging the Behavior
The best way to eliminate the behavior of asking to go in and out is to ignore it the first time it occurs. While this is not easy and may take several days, it is one of the only ways to extinguish an undesirable behavior. Any attention you give to his demands will be a form of reinforcement to him and will only encourage him to be more persistent. It is important to monitor when he is asking to go in and out as well. If it is around mealtime, he may genuinely need to go out and perhaps a shift in the normal schedule is needed to accommodate his natural functions. If it seems to occur a lot in the morning or evening, he may need a change in his levels of exercise and stimulation. If you can add in a different or longer walk, a new training technique, or a challenging toy like a food-filled Kong you may be able to take back control and eliminate his need to get your attention.