Teaching Your Dog to Respect Doors

Is This How Your Dogs Act When the Door is Opened? Thanks to hovercraftdog for the photo

I have had several people mention their dog’s propensity to shoot out an opened door.

I always really worry about dogs like this, because usually if they get free, they just keep on going and going, and going and going until they are so far away they don’t even realize how far they got!

By the time your dog notices you aren’t there he is usually past the safety zone and into some kind of danger zone.

Leaving doors open and having dogs run out is how dogs get hit by cars.

I teach all my dogs to respect doors.

I am proud of the fact that I can leave my car door wide open while my dogs sits inside and I pump gas.

This command and respect of open doors helps me to feel comfortable as I travel and keeps people that might be looking to do something bad to me at bay.

How Do You Teach a Dog to Respect Doors?

Thanks to 4leggedkids.com for the photo

Thanks to 4leggedkids.com for the photo

First I work with my door at home; later I can transfer the training to vehicles and other places where open doors or open areas and running may be an option.

Some people think they can always control the environment and sometimes you can, and you can be lucky but other times accidents happen and doors get open or dogs get off leash and you need to give them the skills to be able to know what to do and deal with it.

Things You Will Need

  • Collar
  • Leash or tether
  • Great Treats
  • Your Dog’s Favorite Toy
  • Clicker

Getting Started

The first know is that it is critical not to allow your dog to blow through the door and get out!

Your dog needs to understand that when the door opens he doesn’t have to go outside!

Some people prefer to differentiate the door they exit to leave from the door they allow their dogs to use to go outside.  This is best, as it draws a clearer picture for your dog; however some of us must use the same door and don’t have the ability to differentiate.

The important thing, if you are using the same door is to make sure you teach your dog to wait until released to spring out of the door.  Otherwise it is confusing and the behavior of charging through doors will continue.

Make Sense?

If it is confusing for YOU it is probably confusing for your dog, remember to be consistent and give your dog information.

I Start By Tethering

I know I hate tethering in real life!  For more on why tethering outside creates an aggressive dog, click here.     but as I mention in the article; I like to utilize a tether to teach dogs boundaries and behaviors and manners.

So (if I can’t utilize the help of another person) I tether my dog to a piece of furniture and make sure that the tether can get very close to the open door but never OUT of it.

Even if I use a person or family member to help me in the beginning I still use a tether at some point.  Otherwise the dog associates having his leash held by another person and as soon as you remove the person the dog will assume he can still blow through that front door.

Open the Door

Make Sure Your Dog Can't Accidentally Get Out and Reward Himself!

Make Sure Your Dog Can’t Accidentally Get Out and Reward Himself!

You realize you have made the tether short enough that he can get super close to the threshold but he can’t get out of the door.

I don’t say anything in the beginning; I let him struggle and struggle and struggle to sneak or run out.   *as a note don’t make it long enough that he can get enough speed to hurt himself when he hits the end of the tether and do not use choke chains or prong collars or gentle leaders that may also do damage to your dog; a short tether on a flat collar is all you need.

Once my dog stops struggling HARD to get outside and he gets frustrated chances are he is going to look up at you in frustration; this is when you will click and reward him and then shut the door.

Now open the door again and chances are he will struggle to get out but it is likely that this struggle will not last as long and he will again look up at you; click and jackpot when this happens and then shut the door.

Different dogs learn at different rates and if your dog has had the joy of running through the neighborhood and rewarding himself chances are he is going to struggle harder to get out than the dog that has never run out and run around on his own.

But at some point you are going to open that door and he is going to sit and look up at you,  knowing that giving you eye contact and stopping the struggle to get out is what is rewarding him.  Once he starts showing you this behavior consistently give him a command or the cue for the behavior; boundary or door or whatever you would like to use as long as you are consistent with your command/cue.

It may take many sessions for him to start to figure this out… don’t expect this all to happen in one or two training sessions.

I don’t like giving commands or cues before the behavior I wait until the dog is consistently doing the behavior and then tell him what he is doing this conditions him to the behavior consistently.

I want to be able to open the door, have my dogs sit and give me eye contact; then I may or may not release him out of the door.  In the beginning, I hardly ever release through the door.

Once he has started to figure this out it is time for the next step!

Use a Leash

What it Should Look Like

What it Should Look Like

Next is I put a leash on my dog; first off I don’t want my dog to associate that every time they have a leash put on them they will be rushing out of the door.

Sometimes I put a leash on and let you drag it through the house for no reason.  This keeps my leashing less exciting.

Take your dog to the door, have a firm grasp on the leash and make sure your dog can’t sneak or pull himself or you out!

Open the door, wait for him to stop struggling, sit and give you eye contact then click and reward.

You MAY give him the command “boundary or door” before you open the door if you want, but most often dogs need to learn that once a behavior changes a little the cue still means the same thing.  I personally would just open the door and wait so that I don’t have to worry about him ignoring or blowing a command but it is up to you if you think he will listen.

I do this for a while until he understands things are the same.

Next I take a step or two toward the door with the door open and if the dog begins to rush toward the door I pull it shut.

I hate to say SLAM it shut but I do try and close it quickly.  The idea is not to shut your dog in the door; we have hopefully taught him not to try and rush through it and I would never shut it on him even if he happens to get a body part out… but I do want him to think that if I move and he starts to move fast enough the door will automatically close.

I want him to respect the door, but not fear the door.   If he thinks it may close suddenly it gives him more respect.  We have already taught him not to run out a wide open door, now I am teaching him not to try and out run it even if I am moving toward it.

Then Move Outside

Once he figures all of this out and you can work your way to the door frame the idea is to move outside keeping the door open and the leash still on your dog.

Your dog should wait until released to come through but don’t release too often or he will begin to expect you to call him through and he will be back to his old habits.

Eventually once this is good you go back to square one with no leash or tether and work your way back through the whole method so your dog learns to respect an open door!

As always have fun!!!


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  1. Mary says:

    I am only writing to let people know to take this seriously. I wish I would have spent way more time training my boy to respect the door. On August 29th this year, I opened the door and my labradoodle saw a dog across the street and bolted. I screamed every command I knew he might listen to to no avail. I knew instantly what was going to happen and unfortunately it did. A car was going by at about 35 miles an hour and never saw Packer coming. He was hit hard and died within 10 minutes. It was the most horrific day in my life. And even now less than a month later I can’t come to grips with the huge mistake I made not having him trained better when opening a door. I have to live with this pain…that dog was my boy and I miss him terribly. Please train your dogs. I am beyond miserable with grief…learn from me, it is worth all the time and effort to teach your dogs.


    sam Reply:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss.


    Aurora Reply:

    I’m so very sorry for your painful loss Mary. Bless you.


    Debby Reply:

    God Bless You! I can tell you are a true dog-lover, and I’m sorry for your loss. I understand how painful it is to lose a dog. My little Cosmo, who was beautifully trained to come, got out of sight when he went with me to take out the garbage. It was a weekly task for us, but that night it was already dark. I lost sight of him, and called, “Come.” Unfortunately, he was across the road. He quickly came. As I watched in horror, he ran across the road to me. A car of “drunks” sped past and hit him. He died in my arms. I still blame myself for his death. He is sorely missed!


  2. Alofa says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I will take your story to heart and teach/train my dogs to respect all the doors in our home.


  3. Martha says:

    I have a question about how do i get my dog to stop getting up on the cat stand and steeling the cats food what should i do to stop
    this behavior?

    and i have discovered he is steeling from the table as well

    what should i do?
    when i catch him i have been putting him in the time out outside
    in the dog yard. but it dose not seam to be working yet.
    thanks for your help


    Minette Reply:

    it is a self rewarding behavior, so what you need to do is stop it from happening either by teaching him with a leash and collar and training or by putting it somewhere where he can’t get it or both.

    I opt for both at my house, I teach my dogs with leash and food on the table not to steal, then when I leave I make sure that everything is put away if they are left out so there is no temptation.


  4. Melissa says:

    What about rushing the door on the way back IN?
    My dog runs so hard he hits the wall. And we had to put up a sliding door to block him because he spins out and hits plants, tables, antiques, cats, etc. I have him not rushing out, and not rushing AT. But the moment he is IN, he’s a train.


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