Front door etiquette for your puppy is an important set of skills to teach early on in the game plan! And no I am not talking that malarkey about your dog having to go out the front door behind you!
The doors and large windows in our homes can elicit excitement in a pup. There is the opportunity for viewing or smelling or greeting that can cause a puppy to become over aroused or stressed and ultimately become a problem.
As with any of the preventative exercises that we do, we embark (pun intended) on them with a knowingness that this is predictable doggie behavior that just might get them into some serious hot water (putting it nicely) if we don’t pay attention and do our due diligence.
You can teach your puppy that the front door is not such a big deal. Even if their favorite person arrives bringing treats and toys. Santa, is that you! (I know your weren’t expecting him to use the front door) No matter what is happening at the door you want to be able to get your pup to settle with relative ease and play it cool.
Hey all you puppy people, games are the way to go! Your training sessions should feel like a game. Aim to make them fun, short and lighthearted. With some practice under your belt you can start to put these skills into play in ‘real life’ situations. Just like all the magic that happens with your pup’s education, training is all about layers. Teach your puppy basic skills and build upon them as he learns and matures.
Here are some foundation behaviors for you that teach a puppy the ins and outs (pun intended) of door etiquette.
If your dog is sitting he isn’t jumping or running or crashing into anyone or anything. It’s that simple.
Teach your puppy to come away from the front door and back in through an open door. I suggest that you practice these moves together. I will coach my students to do 5 reps of recall away from the closed front door and then five reps of recall back in through the open front door. We have the leash on and we are using super high value reinforcement. The added move of working a recall back in through an open door conditions a beautiful ‘check in’ as you go out a door together.
Location Guarding Exercises
Front doors become ‘hot spots’ because of all of the fun, scary or exciting things that happen around them. Creating an imaginary boundary line and working your puppy back and forth across it can be most helpful in preventing heightened emotions regarding the doors in your home. The zone close to the door is boring and the zone entered after crossing the boundary line is fun, this is where the treats and toys live. With repetition the pup learns it is fun to be away from the door.
Teach your puppy to go to his mat or bed. This way you have a base to send your dog to when someone arrives. Dogs particularly enjoy elevated spots so its fun to create a soft elevated home base and teach the pup to go there when someone knocks. This variation will evolve from basic mat work you teach your puppy.
In addition to all of these fun, yet potent exercises it is important to remember to incorporate lots of structure in the early days and months of having a new puppy or dog at home. This structure is the management that goes along with the training. The two work hand in hand to help prevent unwanted behaviors AKA bad habits. Your puppy does not need to meet and greet everyone who knocks at the door. The pup should be crated for plenty of the entrances and exits that happen at your place. This simple bit of structure helps with conditioning a calm pup and also helps in the prevention of stress surrounding your exits and arrivals.
If you are raising a puppy or have a new dog be sure and include training around the front door in your game plan.
With some effort on your part you will have a dog that would never think of door dashing and is polite and calms easily when your guests come a calling. As always, have fun!