How do I get my dog to not run out the front door?

I get asked this question often and it's such an important one because we all love our dogs and want them safe! Bolting out of the front door is dangerous and frustrating.

Most dogs will bolt because they don't respect boundaries, have been given different commands on different days and the house rules haven't been consistent. I work on this with my personal dogs and when training client dogs by teaching them how to respect my space and how to communicate with them what is and isn't allowed. In order for them to understand that bolting through the door isn't an option we first have to have a language with which to communicate. This means setting up a foundation through play, marker training and clear effective communication with tons of rewards and correctly timed and measured corrections so the dog has a clear understanding of what is expected. Once this is done we graduated to the training aspect of life.

Bolting through a door can be cleaned up quickly by a few effective methods.

Have the dog on a long line and training collar so you can fully control the dog and give quick, effective corrections. At this point the dog should already know the marker words you'll be using. (If you have questions about this or aren't sure if your dog is ready, let's talk!) Often having a 2nd person can be helpful too to hold the line when you do corrections. Have whatever reward option with you that your dog finds most valuable. Treat or toy, doesn't matter, but it has to be highly valuable and easy to give.

Before starting pick a word you'll use for your marker word that will stop the dog from going through the door. People like to use "wait" or "stop" because those are words we naturally use.

When you have your line, reward and marker word ready it's time!

Set your dog up to practice by going to the door with the line in your hand or have your training partner hold the line 6' or so behind you. Start to open the door. (At this point if the dog is a known bolter they usually are already heading out, head down and not listening!) Immediately say no, give a hard correction on the leash and calmly shut the door.

The dog is usually startled by this and you should ask the dog to step back away from the door by claiming your space around it.

Tell them they're a "good dog!" for waiting, then repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

This is the interesting but repetitious part of training.

The dog should understand that at no point are they allowed to go through the door without your say-so. This means the dog has to be released by our positive reward marker word to go through the door, usually "yes" or okay!" Often I'll practice up to a dozen times per training session. To be effective though this has to be replicated EVERY TIME you go through the door so give yourself time over the next couple weeks to practice before you head out to adventures. Understand that how quickly your dog understands the expectation is directly linked to how effective your corrections are and the amount of foundation work you did previously. It's easier to front load the training and effort than have to deal with an annoying habit for the next 7 years.

Please reach out if you have any questions!!

Practice makes perfect but only if you practice perfectly.

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