How to Teach Dogs to Wait at the Door

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 18, 2023

teach dogs to wait at the door

For this LA dog training session we worked with Bella, Bane and Killer; going over how to teach dogs to wait at the door.

This session was a long time coming. We are scheduled to do this session a few months ago, but winter storms, Covid and the flu caused us to reschedule multiple times. As a result I was very anxious to meet these dogs and help their family.

We went over quite a few dog behavior fundamentals; marker words, hand targeting, the importance of rewarding desired behaviors, how to teach dog manners, exercise tips, mental stimulation exercises like Cookie in the Corner as well as dog consent and body language.

One of the main concerns was Bane, the largest dog’s habit of pushing past people to get through the door. I made sure to point out to the adults in the home that we need to avoid physically restraining or pushing the dogs out of the way since this is something the children cannot do. Additionally, since dogs have an opposition response, anytime you push against them, you are training them to push back. The best way to stop a dog from pushing to go out the door is to train a dog to wait for you at an open door.

How to Teach Dogs to Wait the Door

Since Bane had gotten overstimulated and was showing some guarding behaviors around his kennel (which was located next to the back door to the home) we decided to demonstrate this tip to stop dogs from running out an open door with Bella at the side door. Practicing in easier environments is a dog behavior trick that many dog trainers fail to do.  But intially, the priority is to help the dog learn the exercise. Making it more difficult or lifelike comes later.

It’s not unusual for dogs to push past people to get through a door. Doors represent the excitement of the unknown and they are also portals to adventure the way the dogs look at them. Plus its where they find you each time you leave the home.

As one of LA’s dog behavior expert, I have found that anytime you want to change your dog’s behavior, the best way to do so is the practice when the dog is calm while breaking the activity down into small steps. When you combine this with my tips about practicing in an easy environment, you really set a dog up for success.

If you have a dog that likes to run through the door, something we like to refer to as door dashing, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below.

By going at the dog’s pace and marking the behavior that we wanted, it didn’t take long to train the dog to wait at the door as it swung open. After we finished filming the above video, I walked the guardian through the exercise until she was achieving the same result. This is an easy way to stop dog door dashing.

However, its important to note that this is what we refer to as a warmed up situation. When the guardians are practicing this exercise to teach a dog to wait at an open door, if they notice that any of the dogs start to get up out of the sit, that means they need to make the step smaller. Instead of reaching all the way for the door handle, only reach halfway. If they are opening the door when the dog starts to get up, they should open the door less, or go back to giggling the handle. We want to achieve success first, practice it until its easy and only then move to the next step.

This is a great way to teach a dog to wait at the door, provided the human goes at the dog’s pace. It takes some time and practice on the regular. I suggested that the guardians practice this wait at the open door exercise with each dog at the same door three times a day for one minute for each practice session. Each practice session should only take a minute or two. Consistency and daily repetition is super important when doing dog behavior modificaiton.

By practicing with each dog individually and at a different door, we can make it easy for the dogs to learn the behavior we want them to display at the door; waiting for the cue to exit.

Once the dogs are able to sit as the door is opened completely and consistently each time, then they should bring the best two dogs together and then repeat this exercise, but starting at the begining again with a small reach and working up to opening the door completely.

A few additional notes, just because you teach a dog to wait at the door doesn’t mean that they will do it in every scenario. If there’s something exciting going on like a visitor on the other side of the door or the dog can see a squirrel, it’s going to make it difficult for the dog to restrain itself. You can certainly train a dog to wait at an open door in those situations, but it will take a lot of time and effort. The first step is to teach the dog to wait as we open the door without any excitement. Only once that has been achieved should the guardian start practicing more advanced scenarios like opening the door with houseguests on the other side.

To help the guardians remember all of the other dog behavior tips we shared in this in-home LA dog training session, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr