How to Train Your Dog to Scratch at the Door

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

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. 

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.

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. 

The Acknowledge Door Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
4
Treat
Give your dog a treat for acknowledging your tap, whether he paws the door or just sniffs your hand.
Step
5
Outside
Once he’s acknowledged your behavior in some fashion, open the door and take him outside.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Tap Tap Tap Method

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Step
1
Take dog to the door
Walk your dog to the door and tap on it with your knuckles.
Step
2
Curious
Your dog may just look at you, but give him a treat.
Step
3
Tap again
With your hand or knuckles, tap at the door again. Give your dog a treat.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
6
Repeat
Repeat the steps above until your dog paws at the door.
Step
7
Treat
As soon as his paw touches the door, give him a treat. Be sure to practice this several times before moving on.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Gotta Go Method

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Step
1
Potty time
When it’s time for your dog to go potty, stand at the door with your dog and stare at him.
Step
2
Door
Your pup will wonder why the door is not opening and will begin to paw at your leg or at the door.
Step
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.
Step
4
Practice
Use this method every time your dog needs to go outside.
Step
5
Rewards
Be sure to reward your dog each time he paws at the door to let you know he needs to go outside.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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