How to Train Your Dog to Not Run Out the Door

How to Train Your Dog to Not Run Out the Door
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-5 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

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.

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Defining Tasks

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. 

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Getting Started

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!

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The Environment Method

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1

Baby gates

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.

2

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!

3

Isolation

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.

4

Encouragement

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.

5

Patience

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

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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!

2

Position yourselves

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.

3

Lead him

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

4

Long leash

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.

5

Daily practice

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

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Setting up

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.

2

'Stay'

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.

3

Reward

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.

4

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.

5

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Kneesaa

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Shihpoo

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10 Months

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Question

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My dog keeps running out the door and I get her back but I just can’t train her not to run out of the door

June 15, 2022

Kneesaa's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Edward, First, start working on a reliable Come. Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall While working on Come also work on the door bolting itself. Attach a thirty or fifty foot leash to a padded back clip harness that she can't slip out of. Attach the other end of the leash to something sturdy like a stairway banister (the leash is a safety measure). With the leash slack and only there "just in case", act like you are going out the door. Start to open the door and whenever pup tries to go toward it quickly close it. Your goal isn't to hit her but she may get a slight bump if she is especially pushy. Practice opening and closing the door until you can open it and she will wait until it is open further. When she is waiting a bit, then get between her and the door and play goalie with the opening. Opening the door wide enough for you to get through, then whenever pup tries to get through firmly but calmly take several steps toward her to make him back up. Since your dog is very small, you can shuffle your feet for the steps instead of lift your foot to avoid stepping on her. By doing this you are communicating that you own that space and asking for her respect. Don't worry about bumping into him a bit if she won't move out of the way - your attitude needs to mean business without being angry at all. Once you can open the door and she will stay back and not try to rush through, then you can click and toss a treat. You will gradually practice opening the door more and more and blocking him from getting through and walking toward her to make her back up and wait. Take steps toward her until she is at least two feet from the door AND two feet away from you - those two distances often equal her giving you respect (and not simply waiting to get past you when you move), and waiting at the door (instead of trying to bolt). It will feel a lot like you are a soccer goalie, having to be quick and focused. When you can open the door completely and she will wait, take a step through the doorway. If she tries to follow, rush toward her, making her backup again quickly. This serves as a natural consequence and encourages her to stay back. If she waits patiently, then click or praise and toss a treat at her paws. Practice at that distance until she will stay back. As she improves, take more and more steps, moving outside, onto your porch and into your yard eventually. Be ready to quickly rush toward her as soon as you see her start to move, to keep her from getting outside (this is why you back the long leash on her, just in case she gets past you, but for training purposes the goal is to keep her from getting out so she isn't rewarded for bolting). When she will stay inside while you stand in the yard, then recruit others to be distractions outside. Expect to stay a bit closer to her when you first add a hard distraction - like another dog walking past, a walker, kids playing in the yard, balls being tossed. Imagine what types of things she may one day see outside and choose distractions that are at least that difficult to practice this around, starting with easier first and working up to the harder distractions as she improves. Expect to practice this as often as you can, along with Come for several weeks, not just a couple of sessions, until you get to where she is completely reliable with distractions like dogs and kids in your yard and the door completely open. A final activity you can practice is walking around places like your yard or a field and changing directions frequently without saying anything. Whenever she takes notice (at first because the leash finally tugs, but later just because you moved), then toss a treat at her for looking your way or coming over to you - without calling her; this encourages her to choose to pay attention to where you are and associate your presence with good things on her own, so she will want to be with you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 15, 2022

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Teddy

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Yorkshire Terrier

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19 Weeks

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Question

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Runs out the front door into the road Does not recall

April 3, 2022

Teddy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hayley, First, start working on a reliable Come. Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall While working on Come also work on the door bolting itself. Attach a thirty or fifty foot leash to a padded back clip harness that he can't slip out of. Attach the other end of the leash to something sturdy like a stairway banister (the leash is a safety measure). With the leash slack and only there "just in case", act like you are going out the door. Start to open the door and whenever pup tries to go toward it quickly close it. Your goal isn't to hit him but he may get a slight bump if he is especially pushy. Practice opening and closing the door until you can open it and he will wait until it is open further. When he is waiting a bit, then get between him and the door and play goalie with the opening. Opening the door wide enough for you to get through, then whenever pup tries to get through firmly but calmly take several steps toward him to make him back up. By doing this you are communicating that you own that space and asking for his respect. Since pup is small you can shuffle your feet when you move toward pup instead of lifting your feet if needed, to avoid potentially stepping on pup. Once you can open the door and he will stay back and not try to rush through, then you can click and toss a treat. You will gradually practice opening the door more and more and blocking him from getting through and walking toward him to make him back up and wait. Take steps toward him until he is at least two feet from the door AND two feet away from you - those two distances often equal him giving you respect (and not simply waiting to get past you when you move), and waiting at the door (instead of trying to bolt). It will feel a lot like you are a soccer goalie, having to be quick and focused. When you can open the door completely and he will wait, take a step through the doorway. If he tries to follow, rush toward him, making him backup again quickly. This serves as a natural consequence and encourages him to stay back. If he waits patiently, then click and toss a treat as his paws. Practice at that distance until he will stay back. As he improves, take more and more steps, moving outside, onto your porch and into your yard eventually. Be ready to quickly rush toward him as soon as you see him start to move, to keep him from getting outside (this is why you back the long leash on him, just in case he gets past you, but for training purposes the goal is to keep him from getting out so he isn't rewarded for bolting). When he will stay inside while you stand in the yard, then recruit others to be distractions outside. Expect to stay a bit closer to him when you first add a hard distraction - like another dog walking past, a walker, kids playing in the yard, balls being tossed. Imagine what types of things he may one day see outside and choose distractions that are at least that difficult to practice this around. Expect to practice this as often as you can, along with Come for several weeks, not just a couple of sessions, until you get to where he is completely reliable with distractions like dogs and kids in your yard and the door completely open. A final activity you can practice is walking around places like your yard or a field and changing directions frequently without saying anything. Whenever he takes notice (at first because the leash finally tugs, but later just because you moved), then toss a treat at him for looking your way or coming over to you - without calling him; this encourages him to choose to pay attention to where you are and associate your presence with good things on his own, so he will want to be with you. The combination of practicing door manners, Come, and willing following works best. For many dogs practicing door manners with the long leash the was I described is sufficient but some dogs also need e-collar training not to bolt through doors to gain reliably. The training is done the same way with a long leash, but every time the dog crosses the thresh hold or tries to bolt, while you are rushing toward them to get them back you also stimulate the collar to give a well timed correction. In that scenario you would also use clicker training and rewards for staying inside to teach him what NOT to do (rush outside) and what he SHOULD do instead (stay inside). Anytime you want him to go outside with you, give him a command at the doorway that means it is okay to exit, like "Okay", "Free" "Outside", "Heel", or "Let's Go". Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 4, 2022


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