How to Train Your Small Dog to Stay at the Door

Medium
4-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

The doorbell rings. Your small dog barks excitedly and runs to the door ahead of you. She jumps and scratches at the door, so you scoop her up to keep her away while you open it. Standing at the door is a delivery person with a package, so you set your pup on the floor to sign for it. Next thing you know, your small dog has dashed between your legs and past the delivery person. She is off like a shot, thrilled to have the opportunity to explore the world around her. She scampers off, ignoring your frantic calls to come back.

Defining Tasks

As soon as your small dog runs out the door without you, she is in danger. Cars and other animals all pose real threats to your furry friend. Training your small dog to stay at the door is crucial to her safety. Owners of small dogs often believe they can keep their pups out of danger because small dogs are easy to lift out of harm's way. However, proper training is just as important for small dogs as large dogs, and they can be trained just as easily. With a few weeks of consistent positive reinforcement, you can teach your little dog to wait patiently at the door until given permission to leave.

Getting Started

It is best to start training this task at a door to an enclosed yard if you can. Gather some treats that are the right size for your dog to use as rewards for the behavior you want: staying at the door until invited outside. While you are teaching this skill, it is important not to let your dog get out of the house. Every time she does so, the excitement of the escape will reinforce her desire to repeat the action. If your dog is struggling with this skill, you may want to put her on a harness and leash during training sessions.

The Sit-Stay Method

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Step
1
Make sure your small dog knows her basic commands
To train this method, your pup will already need to have a good grasp of 'sit' and 'stay'. Using 'sit' and 'stay' for the door can help reinforce those basic commands as well.
Step
2
Put your dog into a 'sit'
Before you walk towards the door, tell your small dog to sit. You want to position her far back from the door to give yourself a good buffer zone in case she decides to bolt.
Step
3
Use a hand signal along with the stay command
Tell your small dog to stay and extend your arm in front of you like a traffic cop with your palm facing your dog. The 'stop' hand signal helps further indicate to your pup what you want her to do.
Step
4
Don't let her follow you
Walk towards the door. If your dog gets up, take her back to the original position and repeat the sit and stay commands with the hand-signal. Repeat this as many times as you have to so she stays put.
Step
5
Practice until you can safely open the door
Keep practicing until you can open the door without your dog breaking the stay. Remember to reward your pup periodically for doing a good thing. You can reward her for holding a stay by walking towards her and giving her a treat. Don't reward her for breaking the stay.
Step
6
Add in distractions
As your small dog gets the hang of staying while you open the door, try adding in distractions, such as a doorbell or someone walking by. Keep a close watch on your dog as you add in distractions. Holding a stay with just you around is much easier than doing so with a stranger at the door.
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The Wait Method

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Step
1
Practice with a leash and harness
Placing your pup on a leash and harness can help you better control her movements while training the 'wait' command. 'Wait' is less formal than stay and doesn't require your small dog to hold one position. Your goal is to train your dog not to cross the threshold of a door without permission.
Step
2
Touch the doorknob
Start off small. With your dog on her leash, stop a little ways before the door. Say "wait" and then touch the doorknob.
Step
3
Only reward the behavior you like
If your small dog stays put when you touch the doorknob, give her some praise and a yummy treat. If she moves forward when you touch the doorknob, remove your hand and pause. Then try again.
Step
4
Up the ante
When you can consistently touch the doorknob without your dog pushing forward, try opening the door slightly. Start off by only opening it a couple of inches. If she stays put, give her a reward. If she pushes forward, close the door and try again.
Step
5
Keep going until the door is fully open
When your dog can wait for a few seconds with the door fully open, you can give her a command to cross the threshold, such as "OK" or "go ahead." You may want to proof this command with distractions before trying it without your dog on her leash.
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The Butt Button Method

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Step
1
Make sure your dog knows her foundation commands
To train this method, your small dog already needs to know how to sit on command and to respond to her name. Giving your dog a treat whenever she sits or hears her name is a good way to reinforce these behaviors.
Step
2
Choose a door in your house to practice with
Identify a door your dog likes to pass through, whether to the backyard or just to follow you into the the bathroom. If your dog is crate-trained, the door to exit her crate can be a great place to start practicing the 'butt button' method. The idea of this method is to train your pup that her sitting down is the "magic button" for opening all doors.
Step
3
Wait for the butt button
Put your dog on a leash and stand near a door or find a comfortable seat near your pup's crate. This step requires patience, as you will need to wait until your little dog puts her butt on the floor. Her sitting down is the magic cue for you to open the door.
Step
4
Open the door as long as the button stays pushed
Without making a big fuss, slowly start opening the door. If you see your small dog's rear end leave the floor, close the door again and go back to waiting. Once the butt button is pushed again, return to opening the door.
Step
5
Let her cross the threshold
When your small dog can stay sitting until the door is fully opened, choose a release word, such as "let's go," that tells your pup she can cross the threshold. As you cross with her, say her name in a happy tone of voice so she looks up at you. Then give her a yummy reward.
Step
6
Practice and then practice some more
Practice this skill anytime your dog is using a door, such as before walks, before letting her into the backyard, or before opening the door to her crate. It is best to start with less enticing doors and slowly move towards more exciting ones. Make sure to give the best treats for the doors that your small dog has the most difficulty with to let her know these have the biggest payout for good behavior.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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