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Dog Training Tips for Door-Dashing Dogs

June 21, 2010

My friend Colleen Mihelich, owner and founder of Peternity and awesome dog-mom to Romeo was asking me about the subject of “door dashing”. Seems like Romeo enjoys the sport of taking off out the front door, with emphasis on RUN!

As a certified professional dog trainer, I hear this from many dog training class students and private dog training clients, and I’d have to agree that this is one canine sport that is common to the species overall. This is yet another reason I created my Out of the Box Dog Training Game – so people like Colleen can train their dog behaviors they want while making it fun!

So, what is an inquisitive canine guardian to do? The following are a few suggestions based on our Inquisitive Canine Top-10 Dog Training Tips I have sent to Colleen to help her teach Romeo some important (and sometimes life saving) door etiquette skills.

The overall basic dog obedience behaviors: (This answers the first two “top-10 dog training tips” questions)

  1. Sit, stand or down with a stay at the front door while it’s open (this is the final goal behavior, not what you start with.
  2. Come when called – to back up #1 = “Come over to me please.”
  3. Leave-it! back-up to first two = “Stop what you’re doing and get over here.”

Steps to reach these goals successfully: (This answers 3-9 “top-10 dog training tips” questions)

  • Teach Romeo sit/down/stand (any will work) with a “stay”.  This goes along with a solid recall (coming when called) and a leave-it! If he already knows these behaviors, then add one distraction in at a time, not all at once.
    • Create simple baby-steps for Romeo and yourself to help ensure you set yourselves up for success!
  • Practice practice practice! Dog training is a physical and mental skill (of both human and dog) – as I always say to my dog training students (myself included): “Teach the behavior before you need the behavior!”
  • Manage: Use a leash for when you introduce opening the door – this way, just in case something entices Romeo to charge out the door, you’ve set yourselves up for safety and success. If you need to keep the door open and can’t take the time to train, manage Romeo’s environment with baby gates, doors, leashes.
  • Continue to use positive reinforcement! Reward what you want and do it often! Ignoring running out the door is one of those behaviors I always reward for – food, belly rubs, a game of fetch – This can be considered a “life saving” behavior, so I appreciate when any dog chooses to ignore running out – Poncho included.
    • Always use a happy voice when training, especially when you’re asking your dog to “come when called”.
  • Refrain from punishment: Can you use a time-out for door dashing? Hmm, I guess you could, but it still wouldn’t teach him what you want. Also, he might begin to develop better skills for running out.
  • Make sure Romeo has satisfied his innate doggy need to run and play. If he’s a bit tired, it might likely help from him running off (not always the case though, so don’t rely on a round of exercise to solve the problem).

Techniques for teaching your dog what you want:

  • Using the Lure-Reward technique is the easiest (for both human and dog) for getting the behaviors you want. You can check out the thorough explanation here in my downloadable dog training eBook Setting Yourself Up For Success!
  • Reward your dog for continuing to perform the behavior you want, before he jumps up! This will help build your “stay”.
  • Allow Romeo to figure it out: Butt on ground (or in down-stay) makes rewards happen, running off = no more play time.

Finally, I cannot emphasize how important it is to manage your front door. Tape a BIG NOTE up there to remind people to keep the door closed. You can reward people for keeping the door closed and Romeo safe. You can get a screen too if you don’t already have one.

No matter how much you train Romeo, even to 99.9% proof positive, there is still that 0.1% that he will want to take off. Nothing is 100% (except the fact that he’s a dog and enjoys running).


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