How to Train Your Dog to Not Scratch the Door

Easy
1-3 Weeks
General

Introduction

After a long and hectic day at work, you finally get to settle down on the couch with a hot drink and an episode or two of Judge Judy, but as soon as you get comfy you hear that unmistakable sound. Yep, you’ve forgotten your dog has an unbearable habit of scratching at your once clean and new-looking doors. While you could forgive him the first few times as he only wants to come and join you, now your patience is wearing thin, much like your doors.

You know the raised eyebrows the in-laws are going to give you when they step into your home and see that you and your partner live in a house where the dog rules. If the damage itself wasn’t bad enough, the sound isn’t the least bit comforting and the collection of paint under your dog’s nails and the dangers of splinters run high too. Enough is enough, you want to paint the doors for the final time this year.

Defining Tasks

The good news is training him to leave your doors alone is relatively straightforward. You will need to use obedience commands to discourage and to incentivize him to focus his energy elsewhere. You may also need to use a number of deterrents to help highlight that doors aren’t for scratching. This training will require patience, but if your dog is a puppy he should be receptive and respond quickly. If he is older and the habit is more ingrained, he may need several weeks to fully kick the habit.

Mastering this training will be essential not just for the health of your doors, but also for the health of your dog’s paws and for your sanity. You don’t want a hefty vet bill because he has picked up another splinter, or guests thinking your doors have been through a world war.

Getting Started

Before you begin your training campaign you will need to collect a few items. You will need treats or his favorite food to incentivize and reward him.

You will also need a quiet room, free from distractions but with a well-fitted door! For one of the methods below you may want to invest in food puzzles to help direct his attention elsewhere. If the scratching is a result of separation anxiety, you may want to consider pheromone dispensers to help soothe and relax him while you’re away.

Once you have stocked up on the above, just bring a can-do attitude and patience and you’re ready to get training!

The Manage Excitement Method

Most Recommended
1 Vote
Manage Excitement method for Not Scratch the Door
Step
1
Keep your cool
Don’t be excessively affectionate when you leave. It may be challenging, but you could well be sending him the wrong message. The more affectionate you are when you leave, the more distressed and anguished he may be when you are out.
Step
2
Train him to be alone
Again this may seem difficult, but if he is happy on his own then he may not feel the need to vent when you leave. Doing this means ignoring him sometimes when he demands attention.
Step
3
Leave him distractions
If he has a food puzzle or toy to play with when you're out the house, he will have something to soak up the time and a game to focus his energy on. It may seem like a simple distraction but it could make those hours alone much more bearable for him.
Step
4
Stay cool
If he is overly excited when you come home it’s important you don’t react in the same way. You will be sending them a message that you can’t be without each other and you’ll be justifying his separation anxiety. Instead, wait several minutes for him to calm down and then give him a cuddle.
Step
5
Don’t take him out for a walk immediately
For the same reason as above, wait for him to calm down for a few minutes before you walk him. By doing all of the above steps you are educating him that anxious behavior achieves nothing.
Step
6
Follow through
After a number of weeks, he will slowly cut down his anxious behavior when you’re home and most importantly, when you leave!
Recommend training method?

The Distract and Deter Method

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Distract and Deter method for Not Scratch the Door
Step
1
Head out for a serious walk
Some dogs scratch at doors out of pure boredom when they are brimming with energy. By simply exercising him more, you may tire him out and soon he won’t have the energy to lay waste to your doors.
Step
2
Make more of your walks
If you can't walk him anymore, throw a tennis ball for him on walks; constant short sprinting will seriously increase the work out for him.
Step
3
Consider dog flaps
Some dogs only scratch because they simply want to be in the room with you, or perhaps because he wants access to a room while you are out. Dog flaps can be bought with ease online and from local pet stores. They’re relatively straightforward to fit and they will remove the scratching temptation entirely.
Step
4
Play music quietly or leave the radio on
Many dogs suffer with separation anxiety when you aren’t around and express that by scratching. Simply leaving the radio on or music quietly may help make him feel less alone and more comfortable.
Step
5
Invest in pheromone dispensers
This is a 21st-century response to an age-old problem. Pheromone dispensers regularly emit pheromones to help soothe and calm your dog when you are out. If he scratches because he suffers with separation anxiety then this may stop the problem in its tracks.
Step
6
Consider a remote citronella collar
When you press the button these collars will emit a citronella oil spray into your dog’s face. This deterrent may quickly discourage him from going near your doors with outstretched paws again.
Step
7
Be patient
It is important to be flexible and patient when trying the above deterrents and solutions. There isn’t always a quick fix to a bad habit, so be sure to give each of the steps above several days or a week before giving up hope and moving onto the next measure. It may simply take a little time, so be patient!
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The Firm Correction Method

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0 Votes
Firm Correction method for Not Scratch the Door
Step
1
Shut him in a room
Stand outside the door and keep an ear out for him about to scratch at the door.
Step
2
Catch him in the act
As soon as he starts scratching, open the door quickly. Be sure to look directly in his eyes and be ready to assert yourself as the pack leader.
Step
3
Correct
Firmly say ‘NO’ as soon as you open the door. You don’t want to terrify him so don’t shout at the top of your voice, but you do want to get your disapproval across so ensure he gets the message loud and clear.
Step
4
Wait several seconds
Let him calm down and look up at you with an apologetic face. You need to hold your stare and disapproving body stance until he has totally given up scratching and is only concerned with gaining back your affection.
Step
5
Offer an opportunity
Now have him ‘sit’ or go ‘down’ and reward him with a treat. This positive reinforcement afterward is important to highlight the difference between your reaction to positive vs. negative behavior.
Step
6
Practice
Be persistent and practice this training for 10 minutes each day for 2 weeks. He will slowly scratch doors in the house less and less. As the scratching decreases, reduce the frequency of treats until he no longer relies on the food incentive to perform the positive behavior after scratching.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Ben
Jack Russell Terrier
15 Years
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Question
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Ben
Jack Russell Terrier
15 Years

He follows me round constantly and when I leave a room and shut the door he scratches the door until I open it.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
671 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lynn, Work on teaching pup a distance Down stay using a long leash as a tether on something behind pup to help pup not follow, and a Place command. Work up to pup being able to stay on place for one hour, then work on pup being able to stay there while you enter and leave the room routinely. Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ The above can help with the over dependence, which may also help with the door. I also recommend gently disciplining the door scratching. Set up a camera to spy on pup from the other side of the door, like a second phone or tablet with skype on mute. When you see or hear pup scratch or beg to be let in, briefly open the door, tell pup "Ah Ah" very calmly and spray a small puff of air from a pet convincer at pup's side or chest. Do not spray in the face, and only use unscented air. Don't use citronella - it's too harsh for their senstive nose. After correcting very calmly (your voice shouldn't sound mad, just matter-of fact that what they did was incorrect), then close the door again. Repeat the correction each time pup scratches or demands in other ways to be let in. When you see pup sit calmly, leave the door, or lie down, open the door, calmly walk over to their place bed in that room, and sprinkle a couple of pieces of dog food onto the place bed to reward the calmness and patience. Don't reward pup right at the door though, you want the train pup to go rest on the place bed and not beg at the door - if the place bed is where rewards happen and you return to, that should help motivate pup to simply go lie down on it when you leave the room. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Koda
Pit bull
1 Year
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Koda
Pit bull
1 Year

My dog koda separation anxiety cant go anywhere without it crying and scratching doors will not stay outside and scratches doors even when we are home

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Treating separation anxiety takes a decent amount of time, patience, and consistency. Because so much goes into it, I am sending you quite a bit of information on the topic. Some of the tips may work, while others won't. Every dog responds differently. You may have to do a little trial and error, but you will find something useful within all of this information. The first step in treating separation anxiety is to break the cycle of anxiety. Every time a dog with separation anxiety becomes anxious when their owner leaves, the distress they feel is reinforced until they become absolutely frantic any time they are left alone. Owners should give the dog an acceptable item to chew, such as a long lasting food treat when they go out. The goal is to have the dog associate this special treat with the owner’s departure. Treats might include hollow bones stuffed with peanut butter or soft cheese, drilled out nylon bones, or hollow rubber chew toys such as Kong toys with similar enhancements (place these in the freezer before giving them to your dog to make them last longer). Give the bone to your dog about 15 minutes before preparing to depart. The chew toy should be used only as a reward to offset the anxiety triggered by your departure. Hiding a variety of these delectable food treats throughout the house may occupy the dog so that the owner’s departure is less stressful. In an effort to prevent destructive behavior, many owners confine their dog in a crate or behind a gate. For dogs that display “barrier frustration,” the use of a crate in this way is counterproductive. Many dogs will physically injure themselves while attempting to escape such confinement. Careful efforts to desensitize and counter condition the dog to crate confinement before leaving them alone may be helpful in some cases. However, some dogs rebel against any form of restraint, including restricting barriers and, for them, crate training may never be a positive experience. Crate training and utilizing the crate while people are home can be a positive way to make the crate a safe place. If you utilize it when people are around, your dog won’t necessarily associate the crate with departure and being left alone. Creating nap time in the crate throughout the day can also be helpful. Building Independence Independence training can help fight separation anxiety and loneliness. Independence training can help build confidence and instill obedience. “Doggie Daycare” or hiring a pet sitter may be a better alternative for dogs that are initially resistant to treatment. It can be expensive, but prices vary. Independence training is one of the more important aspects of the program. It involves teaching your dog to “stand on their own four feet” when you are present, with the express intention that their newfound confidence will spill over into times when you are away. You need to make your dog more independent by reducing the bond between both of you to a more healthy level of involvement. Decreasing the bond is the hardest thing for owners to accept. Most people acquire dogs because they want a strong relationship with them. However, you have to accept that the anxiety your dog experiences in your absence is destructive. Essential components of the independence training program are as follows: Your dog can be with you, but the amount of interaction time should be reduced, especially where attention-seeking behaviors are concerned. You should initiate all interactions with your dog, and they shouldn’t be permitted to demand attention. If you give your dog attention every time they whine, it helps to foster the dog’s dependence on you and increases its anxiety in your absence. You should ignore your dog completely when they engage in attention-seeking behavior, and avoid catering to them when they appear to feel anxious. This means no eye contact, no pushing away, and no soothing talk or body language, all of which will reward their attention-seeking mission. Attention is encouraged only when your dog is sitting or lying calmly. The goal is not to ignore your dog, but to stop reinforcing attention-seeking behaviors so that your dog develops a sense of independence. Minimize the extent to which your dog follows you by teaching them to remain relaxed in one spot, such as their bed. To accomplish this, it is helpful if you train them to perform a sit-stay or down-stay while gradually increasing the time that they hold the command and remain at a distance from you. Providing a treat or toy and encouraging individual play time can be helpful. Once your dog has learned basic obedience commands, you can train them to hold long down-stays while you move progressively farther away. First, your dog should be trained to perform a “down-stay” on a mat or dog bed using a specific command, such as “lie down.” Your dog may have to be gently escorted to the designated spot the first few times. Initially, they should be rewarded every 10 seconds for remaining there, then every 20 seconds, 30 seconds, and so on. Once they have figured out what is wanted, you should switch to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement [reward], as this will strengthen the learned response. Each time your dog breaks their “stay,” issue a verbal correction, indicating that there will be no reward, and then escort them back to their bed. First, your dog can be made to “down-stay” while you are in the room. Next, they can be asked to stay when you are outside of the room, but nearby. The distance and time you are away from your dog can be increased progressively until your dog can remain in a down-stay for 20 to 30 minutes in your absence. Your dog should be warmly praised for compliance. Of course, they need to accept the praise without breaking the stay. Your dog should become accustomed to being separated from you when you are home for varying lengths of time and at different times of day. You can set up child gates to deny your dog access into the room you’re occupying (i.e. reading, watching television, or cooking). Instruct your dog to lie down and stay on a dog bed outside the room. As previously mentioned, you can provide an extended-release food treat or toy to keep your dog calm and distracted. Once they are able to tolerate being separated from you by a child gate, you can graduate to shutting the door to the room so your dog cannot see you. Allowing a dog to sleep in bed with the family can increase dependence. If you decide to prevent your dog from sleeping in your bed, there are some steps to take to establish this routine. First, you need to train your dog to sleep in their own bed on the floor in your bedroom. They may have to be taken to their bed several times before they get the message that you really want them to sleep in their own bed. Alternatively, you can train your dog to enjoy sleeping in a crate to prevent unwanted excursions. Do not use a crate if it causes more anxiety and distress for your dog. Once they tolerate sleeping in their own bed in your bedroom, you can move their bed outside of the bedroom and use a child gate or barrier to keep them out. Always remember to reward your dog with praise or a food treat for remaining in their bed. Develop Departure Techniques Many owners erroneously feel that if separation is so stressful, then they should spend more time with their dog before leaving. Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the condition. Everyone in the family should ignore your dog for 15 to 20 minutes before leaving the house and for at least 10 to 20 minutes after returning home. Alternatively, your leaving can be made a highlight of your dog’s day by making it a “happy time” and the time at which they are fed. Departures should be quick and quiet. When departures (and returns) generate less anxiety (and excitement), your dog will begin to feel less tension in your absence. Remember to reward calm behavior. Teach your dog that your departure and return are just normal parts of the day and are not times to be stressed. You should attempt to randomize the cues indicating that you are preparing to leave. Changing the cues may take some trial and error. Some cues mean nothing to a dog, while others trigger anxiety. Make a list of the things you normally do before leaving for the day (and anxiety occurs) and the things done before a short time out (and no anxiety occurs).Then mix up the cues. For example, if your dog is fine when you go downstairs to do the laundry, you can try taking the laundry basket with you when you leave for work. If your dog becomes anxious when you pick up your keys or put on a coat, you should practice these things when you are not really leaving. You can, for example, stand up, put on a coat or pick up your car keys during television commercials, and then sit down again. You can also open and shut doors while you are home when you do not intend to leave. Entering and exiting through various doors when leaving and returning can also mix up cues for your dog. When you are actually leaving, you should try not to give any cues to this effect. Leave your coat in the car and put your keys in the ignition well before leaving. It is important to randomize all the cues indicating departure (clothing, physical and vocal signals, interactions with family members, other pets, and so on). The planned departure technique can be very effective for some dogs. This program is recommended only under special circumstances because it requires that you never leave your dog alone during the entire retraining period, which can be weeks or months. Timing is everything when implementing this program. If your dog shows signs of anxiety (pacing, panting, barking excessively) the instant you walk out of the door, you should stand outside the door and wait until your dog is quiet for three seconds. Then go back inside quickly and reward your dog for being calm. If you return WHEN your dog is anxious, this reinforces your dog’s tendency to display the behavior, because it has the desired effect of reuniting the “pack” members. The goal is for your dog to connect being calm and relaxed with your return. Gradually work up to slightly longer departures 5 to 10 minutes as long as your dog remains quiet, and continue in this fashion. Eventually, you should be able to leave for the day without your dog becoming anxious when you depart. When performed correctly, this program can be very helpful in resolving separation anxiety. Other Treatment Options Obedience Training Obedience training helps to instill confidence and independence in your dog. You should spend 5 to 10 minutes daily training your dog to obey one-word commands. It may be helpful to have training sessions occur in the room where your dog will be left when you are gone. All positive experiences (food, toys, sleep, training, and attention) should be associated with this area of the home. Exercise Your dog should receive 15 to 20 minutes of sustained aerobic exercise once, preferably twice, per day. It is often helpful to exercise your dog before you leave for the day. Exercise helps to dissipate anxiety and provides constructive interaction between you and your dog. It is best to allow your dog 15 to 20 minutes to calm down before you depart. Fetching a ball is good exercise, as is going for a brisk walk or run with your dog on a leash. Even if your dog has a large yard to run in all day, the aerobic exercise will be beneficial since most dogs will not tire themselves if left to their own devices. This is incredibly helpful in dogs that are working breeds that need a job to expend energy and work their brains. Supplements Recently, supplements have been released to the public that can help dogs with anxiety. Purina created a probiotic that has been shown to reduce anxiety and provide a calming effect on some dogs. Your veterinarian may recommend this product for treating anxiety, or other products that contain L-Theanine or L-tryptophan.

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Question
Daisy
Bichonpoo
6 Months
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Question
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Daisy
Bichonpoo
6 Months

My dog scratches the dishwasher and the trashcan (both semi-shiny metal containers), as well as the wall by my feet when I sit at my desk. There's no damage from the scratching, but it's a pretty annoying sound. I know she's doing it for my attention, but I don't know if there's another reason she wants my attention? How do I correct this behavior?

By the way- she also scratches at her empty water bowl, but we've decided to teach her that this means "Water" and give her water every time. She thinks she can do the same with her empty food bowl and sometimes knocks it over, but we aren't going to feed her outside of meal times.

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Question
Casper
Labrador Retriever
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Casper
Labrador Retriever
6 Months

Wall, corners and door scratching/ pawing especially when left alone.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
671 Dog owners recommended

Hello Indrajeet, First, I highly suggest crate training pup to build independence, keep pup safe while you are away, and prevent the scratching when you aren't there to enforce training. Surprise method for crate training: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Second, work on surprising pup for the scratching. Leave the door with the door closed - like in a bedroom or room that pup would scratch to get in or out of. Wait quietly on the other side of the door. When you hear pup scratch, quickly open the door just enough to do the following, but not enough to let pup through. When you open the door, calmly tell pup "Ah Ah" and spray a small puff of air from a pet convincer at pup's chest or side (Do not use citronella, only the unscented air canisters, and do NOT spray in the face). After correcting pup calmly, close the door again, and wait for pup to either scratch again or stay quiet. Repeat the correction calmly without freeing pup each time they scratch - if pup persists more then 10 times, you will need to use a remote training collar for this so that you don't have to open the door to do it, but try the pet convincer first since there is less room for error there. When pup stops scratching and doesn't scratch for at least three minutes, open the door to let pup through as a reward for waiting patiently. As pup improves at this, gradually make pup wait longer without scratching before you let them through. Practice this often! This needs to be practiced proactively enough for it to become habit to wait quietly instead of scratch. I also suggest teaching pup the Out and Leave It commands, and following some of the same general guidelines that you would for a chewing issue - like confinement when not supervising, providing mental stimulation like puzzle toys and stuffed kongs in calm locations like a Place bed or crate, and teaching commands like Leave It. Chewing article: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Zee
Black Labrador
5 Years
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Question
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Zee
Black Labrador
5 Years

pees on my funiture out of spite, beats on my door when outside

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
671 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ty, First, I suggest crate training pup and crating pup when you cannot supervise or are not home. Since pup is older, you can adjust the potty times from the crate training method below, to be trips to go potty every 3-4 hours during the day (pup should be able to hold it 5-7 in the crate if you are gone to work all day most of the time, less at first, longer as pup gets used to it). After pup goes potty outside, you can give 2 hours of freedom out of the crate - before crating until the next potty trip at 3-4 hours. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If he is marking to distribute scent and not as a potty training issue, the crate will only be half the battle though. During the 2 hours he is out of the crate between potty trips he will probably still try to pee to mark his scent - since the issue isn't needing to pee but wanting to "claim" things by peeing on them. To deal with that behavior, use the crate training method, but also keep him tethered to you while he is out of the crate between potty trips using a 6 or 8 foot leash. Have him wear a belly band - which is a sling/diaper for male dogs that catches urine, and when he tries to lift his leg to mark, clap your hands loudly three times. Use a cleaner than contains enzymes to remove the smell from any new or previous accidents - since lingering scent will only encourage more marking and only enzymes fully remove the smell. Look on the bottle for the word enzyme or enzymatic. Many (but not all) pet cleaners contain enzymes. The belly band will keep marking from being fun and successful for him and stop the spreading of the smell - which encourages more marking (and keep your things clean). Attaching him to yourself with the leash will keep him from sneaking off to pee uninterrupted, and clapping will make peeing unpleasant for him without it being too harsh. Reward him with treats when he potties outside so he understands that pottying outside in front of you is good, it's only inside where he shouldn't do it. If pup has shown any signs of aggression, I would work with a trainer in person to deal with that rather than tethering pup to yourself, unless pup is wearing a basket muzzle. If pup generally lacks respect for you but does not have issues with aggression, check out the article linked below, working on commands like Place, Down, Heel, and other structured obedience regularly to build respect gently. Again, only proceed under the supervision of a qualified trainer who specializes in aggression if pup has shown signs of that as well. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you As far as the door goes, spy on pup while they are outside. When you catch them sitting at the door nicely, open the door briefly and either let them in or toss a treat to reward calmness. When pup beats on the door, open it just a bit, tell pup Ah Ah calmly, then spray a small puff of air from an unscented air pet convincer at pup's side or front, and close the door again after. Repeat rewards for calmness and corrections and not letting pup inside yet, for banging. Only use unscented air - not citronella. Do NOT spray in the face. If the air is too intense for pup, spray from further away, and keep the correction brief with little additional attention being given. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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