Teach Your Dog to Wait at the Door

Get your dog to wait for your okay before going out an open door.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
4-minute read
Episode #14

I’ve gotten several e-mails from listeners whose dogs have narrowly escaped danger after bolting out an open door. Today we’ll talk about how to teach your dog to wait for permission instead (if wild barking at the door is more your problem, I have another episode with you in mind).

Why Dogs Bolt Through Doors

Many trainers will tell you to go through doors ahead of your dog so as to assert your rank. There is exactly zero science behind this advice. Doors lead to the outside, dogs love to go outside, and dogs don’t come with impulse control factory-installed. If they have a thought in their heads when they bolt out the door, it’s “Whee! Squirrels!” Orderly exits are safer for both of you, but Fido is not staging a palace coup every time he acts rude and doggy.

Getting Your Dog to Stop Bolting

To teach your dog to wait for permission before going out an open door, you’ll also need to teach her that bolting will no longer work. Never open a door that leads outside unless you have first made it impossible for her to exit by that door. Leash her, crate her, or put her in a closed room before you answer the doorbell or pick up the mail. If you’re leaving the house for a while but don’t want to confine your dog in your absence, then be ready to gently block her from dashing out as you go.

Strive for 100 percent prevention -- not only for safety reasons, but because it makes training easier. Behaviors that are rewarded occasionally and randomly will hang on much longer than behaviors that aren’t rewarded at all. If bolting completely stops working for your dog, it’ll be easier for her to give it up in favor of the new strategy you teach her.

From now on, your dog will cunningly manipulate you into giving her permission to go out the door. She’ll do it by sitting quietly until you say “Okay” or “Go” -- or whatever word you’ve chosen to mean “You may exit now.” Here’s how to teach her this new trick.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).