One of the most common training frustrations you’ve told us about is the contrast in your dog’s behavior between indoors and outdoors. Your dog can do all of their tricks at home, but the second you step out the door, all bets are off! So much of successfully changing your dog’s behavior requires breaking up training into small enough chunks. But how to choose how small to make these training “baby steps” is not intuitive for most of us. So this week, we have some fun and easy front door training games for you to try with your dog if they tend to either bolt out the front door, or balk at going out. These games split the difference between training indoors and outdoors.
Front door training games done in training sessions (where you’re going in and out the front door repeatedly) are great for dogs who bolt out the door, because they learn that the door opening doesn’t automatically mean you’re heading out for a walk. There might be other fun games to play! These exercises are also good first steps for many fearful dogs, for whom walks are too much right now.
In this video of front door training, we’re using food or toys to prompt behaviors we like better than either bolting or balking. You could build on this if you wanted to, and work up to your dog responding to a cue like “Find it” or “Watch” when you exit the front door. But there’s nothing wrong with just using treats and toys like we do in this video!
Modifications to try if the front door training is too difficult
- Back up several steps from the front door, and have your dog follow treat or toy tosses there in the house;
- Work at the front door, but only have the door cracked open a few inches;
- Work at the front door with it closed. Touch the doorknob, then reward your dog for whatever behavior you need from them. That could be anything other than approaching the door, for a dog who bolts; and anything other than fleeing, for a dog who balks.