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We’ve all seen dogs bolting for the open front door, the gateway to their beloved outdoors. This door-dashing habit can injure you or the family member who’s just arrived on your doorstep, or cause your dog to get lost on the streets. Whether your dog is running out the door from your house or your car, here are some training tips to stop this behavior, so your house isn’t thrown into chaos every time you reach for the doorknob.
A Brief Introduction to Brandon McMillan
Brandon McMillan is a renowned animal trainer who has spent most of his life working with domesticated and wild animals. The Emmy Award-winning host of the critically acclaimed CBS series Lucky Dogs comes from a family of wild animal trainers—Brandon began helping raise tigers by the age of four. The animals he’s trained have appeared in countless television commercials and motion pictures, including the comedy blockbuster, The Hangover (2009). In 2016, the successful dog trainer released his first book, Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in 7 Days. After spending a year training a service dog for an injured combat veteran, Brandon realized his calling was in training dogs to change people’s lives. To further his goals, Brandon co-founded the Argus Service Dog Foundation, an organization that trains service dogs to assist veterans with disabilities.
3 Reasons Why Dogs Door Dash
Door dashing refers to a dog’s tendency to dash out of an open door to get outside. Door dashing is a common and potentially dangerous dog behavior. Door dashing is a behavior problem that dogs—from terriers to shepherds—do for several reasons:
- The thrill of new experiences. If your dog spends most of their day inside, the great outdoors can seem like a treasure trove of fun and excitement—new smells, new sights, and new dogs to play with. If you think your dog is dashing toward the open door because of all the fun things out the door, try to give your dog more entertaining things to do indoors, like games, learning tricks, and playing with toys. When you take your dog out on walks, let them sniff around and play, so they feel like they’ve had their fill.
- Pent-up energy. Some door dashers run out in an attempt to use up a lot of extra energy. If that’s the case, try giving your dog more exercise—take them on walks, runs, hikes, or bike rides to help them use up their energy and feel ready to relax once they get home.
- Puppy phases. In the wild, young dogs leave the den and explore the world, learning to hunt, socialize, and fend for themselves. These natural dog behaviors are still ingrained in domestic dogs, which means that there will be a phase during every puppy’s growth, usually between four and eight months old, when they will find door dashing irresistible. If you find your new puppy in this phase, just be patient—keep your puppy on a long leash indoors and wait for the phase to pass.
How to Stop Your Dog from Door Dashing in 6 Steps
Think Like a Pro
Expert animal trainer Brandon McMillan teaches you his simple, effective training system to build trust and control with your dog.View Class
Here’s successful dog trainer Brandon McMillan’s step-by-step method for teaching your dog to stop dashing for the door:
- Loosen the leash. To use Brandon’s method, you’ll need to use your long-line leash. Keep some slack in the leash: you don’t want to prevent your dog from darting, but you do want to maintain control if they do.
- Open the door. To begin training, start by opening the door just a crack. If your dog darts, restrain them and quickly shut the door. If they don’t dart, wait for 10 to 15 seconds with them in a controlled position, then give them a treat (or use your clicker, if you’re doing clicker training).
- Repeat. Repeat the process, opening the door wider and wider each time. Make sure to reset your dog after each opening and closing, making sure to have the door closed before giving them a treat. You’ll eventually be able to drop the leash and continue the process.
- Try it from outside. After your dog masters the technique with you inside the house, take a step outside. Your dog should remain at the threshold, with the door open.
- Back away. Slowly walk farther and farther from the doorway. If your dog runs, correct them from your position and wait for them to reset. Each time, slowly return to inside the house, close the door, and then give them a treat.
- Walk with them. Next, work on walking them through the doorway with you, making sure they heel as you do. Employ a verbal command such as “ok” to signal that it’s alright for them to exit, then treat them.
Brandon McMillan’s 4 Tips for Training Stubborn Dogs to Stop Door Dashing
If you’ve got a particularly stubborn dog or if your door isn’t well-suited for Brandon’s preferred training method, here are some additional training tips and tactics for dog owners to take their pet from escape artist to good dog:
- Choose the right setting. For your dog’s training sessions, you should choose a comfortable, distraction-free spot where you are in control—avoid teaching commands at the dog park, for example. Make sure to practice in your garage, driveway, or an empty parking lot—you don’t want your dog getting away from you in the street. You can also use the same training principles for the car door. Brandon’s tip: All training should be done on leash rather than off-leash, so that you have control over your dog and can help keep your dog’s attention on you.
- Anchor your dog. Tether your dog’s leash to something solid or heavy near the doorway that can act as an automatic stop if they dart—that way, you can keep them focused without having to run out and grab them every time your dog bolts.
- Block the doorway. Use a large piece of cardboard to block the doorway if your dog starts to dash. This should discourage them from continuing, because it will look like a closed door.
- Distract your dog. Lay crinkled tin foil sheets on the floor in front of your doorway. Your dog will likely halt when their feet touch this unfamiliar surface.
Want to Learn More About Training the Goodest Boy or Girl?
Your dream of having a dog who understands words like “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and—crucially—”no” is just a MasterClass Annual Membership away. The only things you’ll need to train up a well-behaved pup are your laptop, a big bag of treats, and our exclusive instructional videos from superstar animal trainer Brandon McMillan.