Anyone who’s lived with a door darter knows this is a maddening issue. The owner tenses up as soon as they hear the doorbell, which the dog senses. Trying to hold an over eager dog, or block a dog’s escape while opening the door, requires an aptitude in contortion most people just don’t possess. Once the escape artist charges outside, the elation of freedom quickly turns into a game of “catch me if you can!”
Readers– breathe a bit easier. This is an issue that can be solved with training, boundary setting and consistency.
Alternative to Chasing
Once the dog makes it outside, all bets are off. They think they’re in control and will taunt their owner into a fun game of chase. Don’t give in! Instead, offer a different game. Calmly grab the dog’s favorite toy and wave it around. Once the dog’s attention is captured, run in the opposite direction, heading to the backyard or some other enclosure to safely secure the dog. Does the dog prefer car rides? Open the car door and offer a quick drive. Capitalize on whatever the dog prizes for maximum success.
Praise the Positive
When the reverse game works and the owner has regained control, praise the dog for coming back. Give them the toy lure to play with, the tempting treats, or that ride around the block that was promised. Accentuate the positive. Dogs short term memories don’t work like a person’s does. If a dog plays the game offered and quickly gets scolded for the earlier infraction of door darting, they’ll be more hesitant to come the next time. Instead of scolding, mentally commit to reinforcing the training methods.
Back to basics are often recommended for door darting and recalling a dog if they get out. The basics consist of sit, stay, down and come. These should be practiced everyday anyway, but are paramount for a dog that is growing willful enough to ignore the rules. Begin practicing the sit/stay somewhere near the door. By assigning a “sit spot” the dog will begin to associate an open door with patience instead of bolting.
Now that the “sit spot” has been chosen and the sit/stay command is growing stronger begin opening the door. If the dog breaks the sit/stay command before the door opens, shut it quickly and re-cue the dog. Once the door can be open completely with the dog sitting calmly, it is time to enlist help of friends, family and neighbors. Sometimes it’s harder for the dog to contain their excitement when someone is at the door. An owner may have to go back to the beginning of the “sit spot” training. This also may result in shutting the door in people’s faces. Some owners post a sign on the door asking for forgiveness and patience due to dog training. Most visitors understand the situation and bear no ill will.
With a bit of effort and a lot of patience, a dog can give up the door darting life and find contentment in sitting patiently, waiting for the visitors to come to them.
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