Waiting at Doors

It is a valuable effort for both safety and impulse control to teach your dog to wait at doors vs. charging outside every time the door is open.

Definition: The dog should wait in an area of your choice, but does not have to freeze in that position (as in the Stay). For example, if you tell your dog to wait at the front door while you exit, the dog can move about in the room, but cannot go through the door.

Phase One:
• Begin with the dog sitting or standing in front of a closed door. Stand between the door and the dog, holding onto the leash and the door handle. Before the door is opened, give the cue “Wait” and the hand signal for “Stay” (fingers pointed down, palm toward the dog’s face).
• Now open the door a crack. The dog will probably begin charge through the door in delight! As he does, bar the door with your body and/or GENTLY close the door in the dog’s face. Repeat the sequence until the dog does not try to barge through the door. You don’t have to say anything negative; your presence in his way is saying all that is necessary. No treat is required in this exercise — just going through the door is enough for most dogs!
• Once your dog is waiting at the door, you step through. If he tries to follow, your body is back blocking the entrance, or the door again closes (gently) in his face. Put him back, and tell him “Wait” again. There is no need to put him back in the exact spot.
• Go through the door. When the dog is on one side and you are on the other, count to five slowly to yourself. Then release the dog – he can go through the door!

Phase Two:
Some doors, such as car doors, front doors, and perhaps the back door, should be designated “permanent” wait doors. This means that the dog is taught not to go through them at any time unless someone is there to give him permission. To teach, make sure the dog understands Wait. Then, without giving the command, open the door and start to step through. When the dog goes with you, tell him “uh-uh,” and block the door. Repeat until the dog understands he has to wait to go through this particular door even though no command has been given. When it’s obvious he understands the concept, step through the door, wait a few seconds, then release him.
Note: This exercise uses something called “natural consequences,” a wonderful tool for some behaviors. When the door closes in his face, the dog learns that if he does something you tell him not to, the consequences can be memorable.

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