How to Train Your Dog to Scratch at the Door

How to Train Your Dog to Scratch at the Door
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon3-6 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

A dog barking to let you know he needs to go outside can be quite disturbing. No one wants to hear a piercing bark or several startling yappy barks when your dog wants to go out. There are several ways you can teach your dog to let you know he needs to go outside or even come inside. A scratch at the door is one way to quietly and respectfully let you know he’s ready. 

You don’t want your dog actually scratching and damaging your door, but pawing at the door creating a gentle knocking sound or, for small breeds, scratching a few times at the door will create a soft sound communicating your dog’s needs to you. Your dog can let you know what he wants and when he needs it without scaring you or annoying apartment neighbors with loud barking. Give your dog the power of communicating to you by training him to scratch at the door when he needs to come inside or go outside. 

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Defining Tasks

Training a simple pawing at your door will require patience and repetition. Again, you do not want your dog to cause any damage, so you are training your dog to paw once at the door to get your attention. You will need to practice this when you are house training or when you know your dog needs to go outside. Training when he does not have to go potty will be easier with less anxiety of having an accident, but just be sure you are rewarding your dog by opening the door and playing with him outside.

Puppies are great at learning how to communicate. Older dogs can learn too, but they will need to rebuild old habits. This isn’t a difficult task. You may want to make sure your dog is house trained before adding this communication task to the mix.

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Getting Started

Have patience with this training. Try to keep these training sessions short to avoid any floor accidents or anxieties over making it outside. Because this training will occur in short moments before your dog needs to go outside or before playtime outside, you will have to train as often as you can. Turn each heading outdoors moment into a training session, so your dog does not have the opportunity to forget. Also, be sure to have treats handy for rewards. Keeping treats near the door for these quick on the spot moments will help to remind your dog how he’s supposed to communicate before heading outside. If your dog communicates in other ways while training, do not reprimand him, simply redirect and spend more time training. 

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The Acknowledge Door Method

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1

Potty time

Take your dog to the door when it’s time to head outside to go potty. You may not want to wait until he has to go badly. He will need some practice time at the door before heading out.

2

Tap and paw

Sitting or kneeling next to your dog by the door, ask if he’d like to go outside and then tap at the door.

3

Curiosity

Your dog may be curious about why you are tapping the door. If he’s slightly curious, he’ll sniff your hand. If he’s very curious or needs outside badly, he may paw at the door.

4

Treat

Give your dog a treat for acknowledging your tap, whether he paws the door or just sniffs your hand.

5

Outside

Once he’s acknowledged your behavior in some fashion, open the door and take him outside.

6

Repeat

Without taking too much time, repeat the steps above so he begins to learn the behavior with the act of going outside. You can practice at times when he does not need to go potty.

7

Reward

Be sure to reward your dog with a treat as he learns to paw at the door, letting you know he needs to go outside. Over time, his reward will be the door opening so he can head outside after he’s pawed at the door.

The Tap Tap Tap Method

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Effective

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1

Take dog to the door

Walk your dog to the door and tap on it with your knuckles.

2

Curious

Your dog may just look at you, but give him a treat.

3

Tap again

With your hand or knuckles, tap at the door again. Give your dog a treat.

4

Three times

Do this three times. After the third time, stop treating if your dog is only watching you. Instead, tap his paw before your tap the door.

5

Tap tap

Tap your dog’s paw then tap the door. Repeat this several times. Your dog will watch your hand move from his paw to the door. Do not offer him a treat unless his paw moves up. He will either touch your hand or touch the door Either way, if his paw moves, give him a treat.

6

Repeat

Repeat the steps above until your dog paws at the door.

7

Treat

As soon as his paw touches the door, give him a treat. Be sure to practice this several times before moving on.

8

Command

Give the command to your dog to go outside. Ask your dog as you are tapping the door, “Do you want to go outside?” When he taps the door, give him a treat and open the door.

9

Practice

Over time, your dog will begin to paw at the door when you ask him if he wants to go outside. With even more practice, he will go to the door on his own and paw at the door to let you know he wants to go outside.

The Gotta Go Method

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1

Potty time

When it’s time for your dog to go potty, stand at the door with your dog and stare at him.

2

Door

Your pup will wonder why the door is not opening and will begin to paw at your leg or at the door.

3

Paw the door

As soon as he paws the door, give him a treat and open the door. Be sure you are excited as well with verbal praise. If he paws your leg, you can squat or turn away and wait for him to paw the door. Give it time. If he knows the door should open, he will paw at it.

4

Practice

Use this method every time your dog needs to go outside.

5

Rewards

Be sure to reward your dog each time he paws at the door to let you know he needs to go outside.

By Stephanie Plummer

Published: 11/03/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Ollie

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Border Collie

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3 Months

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Question

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My puppy keeps barking at me. He barks at almost everything, the mop, the cleaner, a bucket - that's deal able as you can remove them from the room but he keeps barking at me when I sit down to have food or watch television. How do I get him to be quiet?

May 12, 2021

Ollie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the Quiet and Desensitize method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Check out this video channel for desensitizing pup to various things, like the mop and certain noises: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 13, 2021

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Roscoe

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Pit bull

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8 Weeks

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It’s very hard training him and he bites everything even people .

July 30, 2020

Roscoe's Owner

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Darlene Stott - Dog Trainer and Groomer

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104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Roscoe is a breed that is smart and clever but can be independently minded and headstrong. You will have to be consistent in your training. Practice at least 20 every day. Start with the Leave It Method, described well here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite. This command will be useful in many instances besides getting him to stop biting, like on walks (when he wants to eat garbage or rocks) or at the dog park. I suggest that you enroll Roscoe in dog training lessons for his obedience training. Doing so will keep him well socialized and used to being around people and other dogs. To start him in obedience at home before you get to lessons: https://wagwalking.com/training/obedience-train-a-great-dane. Buy Roscoe chew toys with texture (he may be teething). Interactive toys are ideal, too. Buy an interactive feeder toy to keep his mind engaged. Be sure to take him for lots of walks - at least 30 minutes each walk once he gets older. The obedience classes will really help! All the best!

Aug. 3, 2020


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