Our front doors are usually the last barrier to the outside world, a world where there are cars, people, birds, cats, smells to explore and other dogs, all of these things being very tempting for a dog who is inside looking out. Teaching your dog to control their impulse of wanting to bolt as soon as the door is open may save their life.
The best way to start to train front door safety is to use your back door or an internal door. You can either have your dog on or off lead because their safety is not compromised when using these doors. A prerequisite for door safety is a solid sit that can be held for several seconds with mild distractions around.
Start with some tasty food in your hand and ask your dog to sit, touch the door handle, then feed. Once your dog is stable with this you can then move on to turning the door handle and feeding, then to opening the door slightly, closing it then feeding. The goal is to have your dog watching you rather than the door. Once you can open the door your next step will be to leave the door open and continue feeding your dog for watching you rather than the door. Several minutes of repetition of the above should result in much more reliable doorway behaviour.
Once you and your dog are comfortable with the internal door you can then move to the front door. Please keep your dog on lead for this, you can either have the lead on the ground with you standing on it or tie your dog to something solid, this will help keep your hands free and will maintain your dogs’ safety. Repeat the steps as you practiced with the internal door. You can move to also being able to step outside with your dog remaining inside, then return and feed.
Training and behaviour are not always without mistakes and occasionally your dog may bolt out of the front door so here are some extra safety measures you can take to ensure any mistakes are not life threatening.
- Develop a reliable recall so you can call your dog back if he escapes.
- Place a sign at the front door warning visitors that your dog may bolt.
- Place a second ‘safety’ gate between the front door and the road.
- Install a baby gate in the door frame outside your front door.
- Practice impulse control every time you exit the door with your dog.
- Walk your dog every day, this way they will not be so desperate to escape.
Should the worst happen and your dog escapes what is the most effective way of keeping him safe and bringing him home? My next post will focus on this.