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You get home after a long day at work, you’ve picked up the kids and you’ve just done the weekly shopping. You open your front door, bags in hand, and by the time you’ve dropped your bags down on the floor, your dog has leaped through the doorway and onto the street. Everyone is on their way back from work so the street is packed full of cars and the risk of an accident is high. You charge out onto the road and collect your mischievous dog, but this wasn’t the first time and you fear it won’t be the last.
Thousands of dogs every year are killed on the roads. Dogs have a natural ability for escaping their confines and charging into danger and while it may have been funny the first couple of times, now you seriously worry about your dog's safety.
The good news is, training your dog not to run out the door can be achieved in as little as a couple of weeks with receptive puppies and within a month or so if he’s older and stuck in his ways. You will need to use rigorous obedience commands, plus take a number of steps to limit his ability to charge out the door. Obedience commands will increase your level of control over your canine friend, also making other training easier.
It won’t be easy, but with patience and consistency, you can expect impressive results. Mastering this training is vital, it may save his life and also prevent a serious traffic accident that could injure somebody else. Successful training could also save you from hefty vet bills if he’s seriously injured during his unsanctioned exploits.
Before you open the door, you will need to get together a few things. Firstly, get yourself some doggie treats or break your dog's favorite food into small chunks. You will need these to hammer home the training and reward him for good behavior.
You will also need a doorway to practice in that doesn’t lead onto a busy street and is free from distractions. You will also need a long leash for one of the methods below.
The only other thing you need is patience and 15 minutes each day for the next few weeks and then you’re ready to commence training!
The Environment Method
Consider fitting a baby gate across the doorway in question. They’re cheap, easy to install, and they will completely remove the temptation for him. If you have young children in the house, the gate will be an added safety measure for them too.
Fit tethers and leashes
Place leashes and tethers next to the problem doorways. Placing a leash next to each doorway in your eye line, is a quick and easy way to prevent him from running out. As soon as you head to the doorway simply leash him to a nearby tether and you won’t have to worry!
Place him in a crate for 2 minutes each time he runs out the door. If he runs through the door again, add an extra 30 seconds onto the time out period and keep upping the time until the message sinks in. He will quickly learn that crossing the threshold will result in a boring period of isolation.
When your dog does make progress, no matter how small, be sure to give him praise. Always use an encouraging voice and let your pup know you appreciate the effort.
Be patient with each measure, give them at least several days before you give up and move onto the next option. Most dogs take a few days to respond to training so don’t lose hope if he still tries and runs through the door after just 24 hours. You can also use any of the above steps in conjunction with each other. Simply be patient, different measures work for different dogs.
The Bed Method
Start at his bed
Collect some treats and take your dog to his bed. You are going to train him to quickly go to his bed whenever you want him to, such as before you open the door. It will also come in handy if he begs at the table, too!
Have your dog stand next to the bed and then take out a treat. As you do this, issue the command ‘bed’ in a firm voice. Ensure you have the treat out when you say this to hold his attention.
Lead him to the bed with the treat. As soon as all four legs are on the bed, give your dog the treat and shower him with praise. Repeat this several times, then when he starts getting the hang of it, start farther away from the bed before sending him there. Over several days, slowly increase the distance until you can send him to his bed from the farthest room in the house
Secure one end of a long leash to him and the other to a sturdy object in the house. Ensure there is enough slack that he can reach the front door but also get back to his bed. Then put your hand on the door handle and issue the ‘bed’ command. Once he heads back to his bed be sure to follow him, then reward and praise him.
Repeat this everyday for at least 2 weeks. If after two weeks your dog always responds to the ‘bed’ command, even when you are lingering near the door, slowly start to reduce the frequency of treats. You can also lose the leash, just remember to always send him to his bed before you open the problem door. It may take several weeks, but patience and keeping up with the daily training is key to success.
The Long Leash & Stay Method
Attach a long leash or rope to your dog's collar and then to a staircase or sturdy object near the doorway in question. Ensure there is enough slack on the rope/leash that he can still move around plenty and just about get through the doorway.
Put your hand on the closed door handle and firmly say ‘stay’. Don’t shout at your adventurous pooch as you don’t want to scare him, but be firm enough that he knows you mean business.
If he stays there for 2 seconds, give your dog a treat and praise him. It is important you quickly reward him just for standing there so he associates the food with staying still. Now keep practicing this for 15 minutes and slowly build up the time you leave him there before you give him the treat. He will soon catch on what you expect him to do.
Open the door
Now issue the ‘stay’ command and open the door. Don’t walk through the door, only open it. If your dog stays still for several seconds, reward and praise him. Again, practice this for 15 minutes for several days and build up the time you can leave him there.
Cut down on treats
As your pup gets the hang of training, slowly reduce the frequency of treats. Keep practicing until praise alone is enough to keep him waiting inside the door. When you are fully confident the training regime has broken the habit, you can lose the leash and rely on the command alone. Be patient with the training, it may take several weeks but he will get the hang of it.
By James Barra
Published: 11/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021