Dogs and Door Drama

In many homes, the door is a hub for a lot of activity-new smells, strangers, hugs, hellos, mail slots and homecomings. Here are a few tips to manage your dogs near the door, to discourage jumping or nipping or to warm up a dog that is a little reserved with new comers.

Step 1: Management
If your dog has a habit of running to the door and barking, the first thing to do is interrupt this fun routine. This power packed charge is full or excitement and arousal. Instead, use a tether- just a short stationary leash about 4-5 feet long- and attach it to a banister or an eye hook in a baseboard the next room over. Or block direct access to the front door with a baby gate, especially if the barking/charging routine is happening several times a day.
Note: this may require call ahead ‘tethering’ if someone if usually home with the dog.

Step 2: Reward what YOU Want
One of the easiest things to do before you open the door is… give your dog a job. Set up a clicker and a treat jar near the door and play find it (toss treats). This sends the dog away from the door and helps reward sniffing vs. jumping. Be sure to use high value treats- like jerky or liver!

Better yet, we’ve had clients that have success just by changing THEIR routine. So, before the door even opens it’s Frozen stuff Kong Time- and for some highly food-motivated dogs, this is ALL they need to ignore the happenings in and around the door.

Step 3: Don’t get Caught in the Obedience Trap!
Many times we make the mistake of asking the dog to do a “basic” command like sit, down or stay when people come to the house. Sounds simple enough. But MANY dogs are not yet trained to be responsive to the basics with that much stimulation. Work on preventing the behavior and rewarding the dog for being calm FIRST, then focus on Obedience.

Step 4: Luke warm and Unsure
If your dog is barking, growling or backing away from the person that just came into your home. Do NOT have anyone try to pet them. Instead, either remove your dog from the situation or put them on leash, increase your distance and reward tolerance (looking at the scary person – good! – treat.)

Play it safe and give your dogs alternative things to do at the door, rather than be rowdy. After all, good behavior can be just as habit forming, as unwanted behavior!

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot us an email at info@opbarks.com. Opportunity Barks offers private lessons, behavior consultations and workshops in Northern VA. For more info visit opbarks.com or call 888-opbarks.
by Leigh Siegfried, CPDT