Has opening your front door become a nerve-wracking experience? Does your dog suddenly appear the second your hand touches the door knob just waiting to dash out that door? How frightening it must be.
One of the ways you can prevent door dashing is by teaching your dog impulse control, meaning wait or stay. You also need to take an honest look at how many times a day your dog is getting walked, and what other forms of physical exercise and mental stimulation you are providing him.
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Why your dog tries to run away when you open the door
Whether he’s actually succeeded in taking off or keeps giving it the old college try, there are reasons why your dog tries to dash. If you can understand why your dog is so hell bent on getting out of the house, you can do something to reduce that desire. Training on how to behave around an open door will also be required, and we’ll talk about that shortly.
You may read some breeds are predisposed to door dashing – those that follow their nose and can’t resist, to working dogs that need something to keep them busy all day. The truth is, any dog can make a run for it.
Managing to make it through the door and off on an adventure is a self rewarding activity. He got out, the reward was freedom and you can be sure he’s going to want that rewarding experience again.
Why your dog tries to make a run for it
- Your dog is bored out of his mind from a lack of physical exercise and mental stimulation
- Strong prey drive means he can’t help chasing that squirrel
- Unfixed males have a strong urge to roam
- Spooked by a loud noise like thunder or fireworks
Why it’s so important to stop your dog door dashing
- He could get seriously hurt, no one finds him and he’s left suffering
- He could get killed by a car
- May have a scuffle with an animal depending on where you live
- He could get lost, and even with ID it’s an agonizing wait until your dog is found if he ever is
- If he ends up in a shelter with no ID, he could be put down
- He may get stolen
- He could injure someone, like knocking over a small child for example
Doom and gloom? No, reality.
I do volunteer home checks for various rescue groups to help them determine the suitability of potential adopters. One day I was visiting a lovely family who suddenly told me a previous dog used to run out the door all the time. What shocked me most was how blasé they were about it, like they didn’t grasp or care the dog could disappear or get killed. Needless to say, they knew in that moment they were not getting a dog from this organization.
How do you get your dog to stop running out the door?
Manage your environment
Training takes time, and even though you’re going to start right after you finish reading this article, you must take precautions immediately to make it impossible for your dog to escape.
♦ Have a chat with everyone who shares your home, and explain to them how you’re going to manage your environment, and involve them in the training as well.
♦ If you have an entryway with another door leading into the house, the new rule is that door needs to be closed at all times.
♦ Is it possible to put a baby gate somewhere near the front door? They come in various sizes so you may find one wide enough.
♦ For spaces too wide for a baby gate, a puppy play pen will do the trick. They can be configured in a variety of shapes, including just straight across.
♦ How about installing a screen door? This ensures even if one door is open and your dog is there, the other one is closed.
♦ If, for whatever reason you are not able or willing to implement any of the above suggestions, you’ll need to figure out some way to keep track of where your dog is when you open the door.
TIP: Your dog needs to know “sit” and “stay” and if he doesn’t, now is the time to teach him.
NOTE: It’s a lot easier to show you this training than write about it, so you’ll find 3 videos below.
Remember, for any training to be effective you need to be consistent and practice it a lot!!
Option one – create an invisible boundary
You’ll need treats for this training, a clicker and a piece of string or tape to create a line on the floor. If you don’t want to use a clicker, saying the word “yes” in an enthusiastic voice before giving a treat can usually do just fine.
Option two – It’s Me or the Dog video training
Option three – Zac George video training
This is my favorite method because it’s broken up into so many small steps. Doing that for any training makes it easier for your dog to learn, and more likely to give you the results you want.
What to do if your dog runs out the door
Accidents happen, especially if you’re living in a multi person household, so what happens if your dog manages to run out the door?
Yelling “come” once he’s out has very little chance of success, he’s too excited to be running free to pay attention. Having said that it is still a very important command for your dog to know, so please read this post for step by step instructions – “How to Teach a Dog to Come When Called: A Simple Guide.”
♦ Every instinct we have is to chase after a running dog, but not only will you never catch him because he’s much faster than you, he will keep running…possibly into traffic. A better way is to get him to chase after you, of course he has to be looking at you in order to do it.
♦ If you were able to grab a bag of treats, use them to lure him if he’s fairly close to you. Toss a few in his direction or lay a trail on the ground, and you may be able to lasso him with the leash by threading the clip end through the handle and leaving an opening wide enough for his head.
♦ If he’s getting too far away and not looking back, follow him and enlist others to help. If he looks back and sees you, run the other way and in a really loud and excited voice say something like “you want a treat” or whatever he usually responds to.
♦ He may not hear or recognize your voice, especially if he starts feeling anxious, whistling might help get his attention.
♦ Can someone follow him in a car? They may be able to stop, open the door and lure him in with food or an excited tone.
♦ When you finally get him home, make sure you greet him enthusiastically even though you want to scream your head off. Punishing your dog is counter productive and can actually cause him to take off again.
What are the chances of finding your lost dog?
Many lost dogs are safely returned, but sadly many are never found. Here’s how to increase the chances of finding yours:
ID: Your dog must be microchipped and have an ID tag, both with current contact information.
Have an emergency plan: Just like you have an emergency evacuation or “bug out” plan, have an emergency “dog recovery” plan. That list should include telephone numbers of vets, shelters, police and people willing to help. Keep it in an easily accessible place so everyone knows where it is.
Social media: The quickest way to spread the word is to post on your social media platforms, and ask all your friends and followers to keep sharing. Many lost animals are found this way.
Most cities and towns have local FB pages, including those specifically for lost pets so post there as well. It doesn’t hurt to join them before you need them to save time.
Make flyers: Don’t underestimate the “flyer on the telephone pole” method. Use a recent picture, make as many flyers as you can and recruit friends and family to help circulate them.
Hand them out to passersby, ask shop owners to hang one in the window, add to community bulletin boards, libraries, dog parks, gas stations, local businesses, and anywhere else you can think of.
Dogs can cover long distances in a short period of time so don’t just stick to your immediate area.
Knock on doors: Ask people to check backyards and garages, and leave a flyer for those that don’t know you.
Call shelters, vets, police…: Call animal shelters, animal control facilities, humane units of your local police department and veterinary offices. Don’t expect them to call you even if they say they will. Keep the list handy and check back often.
Check familiar places: Your dog may have gone to a park he loves or the home of a dog he’s friends with, so be sure to check.
Buy a GPS tracker: Fit a tracker to your dog’s collar and keep tabs on his location. Imagine being able to track him 3,000 miles away! Just yesterday I bumped into a neighbor who bought one for his dog. He adopted a Border Collie a few months ago, and although she’s doing really well with her off leash training, he’s fitted a tracker onto her collar for an extra degree of safety.
For information about my virtual training and dog care consultancy service, and to book an appointment, please visit my services page.