I’ve been told by many trainers over the years to use every opportunity to train your dog. Even if it is inconvenient or slightly embarrassing, it will pay off in the long run. It is a rule that we try to follow (sometimes not perfectly, we’re only human).
I have always envied people whose dogs sit nicely when there are people at the door. Jack isn’t a barker, nor a jumper, but having a dog right under your feet the second you come through a door can be annoying even if they are gentle. You need a second to get situated, and quite frankly I think the dog needs a second to adjust to a new human being in their space before they become overwhelmed and stressed. That is another rule I’ve been taught by trainers. Tackle the behaviour when your dog is at a one, don’t wait until they are at a ten!
So tonight, with the impending hoard of costumed children, on their way to our door I decided to gear Jack up for a door manners boot camp. My goal being that he would be seated quietly at least four feet way from the door while trick or treaters were there.
Step one: Get his attention quickly and calmly. As soon as I heard a knock, and before leaving my chair I would say his name. I think staying seated was important because my body language let him know that their wasn’t any reason to be alarmed or get stressed.
Step two: Direction time. I walked calmly to where I wanted him to be and called him too me, and asked him to sit facing the door. It was easier to have him facing the direction I was going because I knew he would be more likely to get up and move around if he couldn’t see me. For some dogs this is unnecessary, but for Jack it was important.
Step four: A leap of faith! I asked him to “Wait”, and then turned and walked towards the door, opened it, and hoped he would stay where he was! The first few times were touch and go. Sometimes he came to the door, sometimes he stayed.
Step five: The results! If he didn’t stay in his spot, once the door was closed I took him back to his spot, had him sit, and wait, while I then returned to the door to open it. Then I shut the door, clicked, treated, and praised. If he did manage to stay in his spot the whole time once I shut the door I clicked, treated, and partied!
All in all I am super impressed and proud of how well he did tonight! By the end of the night I could walk out on to the porch and he wouldn’t move from his spot. There were a few times that when he heard the knock and went to his spot to wait, without being instructed. Sometimes I am surprised by how clever he is!
The training process may not go exactly as above for all dogs. Some dogs are more reactive than others! But I think the most important part is patience. If you want to try this with your pooch you may even want to post a sign on your door saying “Please be patient with us, we are teaching fido door manners”. Whatever way you go about it, I think you will find having a dog who doesn’t go crazy over the door very rewarding! Happy training! And Happy Halloween!