How to Train an Australian Shepherd Good Door Manners

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: July 6, 2017

Winston is a six-year-old Australian Shepherd who lives in Omaha. His guardians set up a dog behavior training session with us to teach Winston to stop guarding the door, stop barking, stop his separation anxiety and over excitement when meeting new people.

When I arrived for the session, Winston immediately started barking, however he stopped more quickly than his guardians expected. This is likely due to a dog behavior scent redirection trick I learned from our founder David.

Winston’s guardians informed me that he typically continues to bark after the person enters the home. This is probably because he has learned that it intimidates guests at the door. For some dogs, they will continue to bark even after the person enters the home due to excitement or if the dog feels its message wasn’t heard or responded to. You can see how Winston greeted me at the door in the video below.

I sat down with the owners to discuss Winston’s typical behavior and identify what they wanted to work on in this session. I determined that because Winston didn’t have many rules in place, he thought he should assume the leadership position; taking on the responsibility of guarding the door.

While chatting with his guardians about his dog behavior problems, Winston laid across their feet. I explained to the guardians that could indicate that he felt insecure. Insecure dogs can be dangerous because if they respond out of fear, they may be more likely to bite.

I discussed Petting with a Purpose to the guardians, which means asking for then petting your dog for desired behaviors. Every time you pet your dog, you are reinforcing whatever behavior they are doing at that time. If they were to pet Winston when he was insecure, they were telling him that they wanted him to act that way. They should only pet him when he is confident and doing a behavior that they want. To help Winston with confidence I taught them how to practice a simple focus exercise.

Later in the session, we addressed the main behavior issue that the guardians wanted to work on; door manners. To train the dog to adopt a new behavior, we worked on having the owners claim the space around the door before opening it. You can see how we accomplished this by watching the video below.

As you can see in the video, Winston stayed behind the invisible boundary that we set for him for the majority of the exercise. Initially he continued to challenge for the leadership position by barking in disagreement.  But as he practiced this exercise, he barked less and tested the boundaries less often. It will be important for his guardians to practice this exercise every day to help Winston gain good door manners and learn to stop barking at the door.

The guardians were also concerned about his separation anxiety by digging at the door frame. To address this dog behavior problem, we discussed a strategy for helping Winston develop more self control. It will be important for the guardians to not open the door when Winston is digging, because then he thinks the digging at the door frame caused the door to open. Once he stops digging and the owners walk through the door, they should not pet Winston if he is excited. A better approach is to ignore him until he calms down.

Winston would also benefit from practicing a Sit-Stay command. This will help him develop even more self-control as the guardians work up to increasing the duration and distance of the stay.

A few dog training tips. First practice the Sit-Stay in a quiet and relaxed environment at home and slowly increase the amount of distractions (such as going outside) only after first developing the dog’s ability to stay for duration, then distance.

Remember, each time that you introduce more distractions it will be harder for your dog to focus. If you want to know how to train your dog to stay using this approach, you can watch a video David did with this link.

By the end of the session Winston had stopped guarding the door, was laying in a secure and confident position and was looking to his guardians for leadership. By adding rules and structure, Winston’s guardians can help him adopt a follower’s mindset which will allow him to continue this good behavior.

We wrapped up this session with Winston’s Road Map to Success video, which you can watch below.

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This post was written by: Sam Kanouse

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