Kids…Dogs…and Open Doors
My greatest fear with an older child running in and out of my house, is that a dog will get the brilliant idea that my child is offering freedom in an open doorway. I can’t even begin to count how many times in a day I yell, “shut the door!”, or “make sure it’s latched!”, and I then have to walk behind and do it myself anyways. Well, as I do with most things, I took matters into my own hands and broke down a system for the dogs that helped them understand the importance of respecting the doorway no matter who opens it. It’s easier said than done to be honest, because a lot of it comes down to the presence each person brings to the table. If your a push over, you may literally find yourself…well, pushed over. So the greatest peice of advice I can offer, is to make sure your always in control of the situation. No one wants to be knocked out of a doorway everyday beause their dog is out of control excited to get outside and chase the birds out of the yard! Below you can find some basic steps we have introduced to our home to help make our open door issue a bit easier to handle, and as always consult a trainer if you feel like you need some hands on assistance, and further direction.
Physical and mental stimulation is always a must with every dog. It doesn’t matter the size or the breed, they all need mental stimulation to keep them out of trouble, and depending on the size, age, and physical capabilities of your dog, they should be getting a certain amount of daily physical exercise too! Trying new things with your dog will help them develop a sense of security in the world, and they build a certain level of confidence that is necessary when your teaching them to be level headed about a childs pass to freedom. By taking them out into the world, your allowing them to actually experience what’s happening outside, so it’s not such a crazed NEED to bolt and explore anymore. Without that dire need to explore what they aren’t allowed to see outside of their normal area, they are less likely to door dart. Anotherwords, don’t hide them from the world, or they will want to go explore it every chance they get on their own.
Wait and Release Words
I am pretty sure I have mentioned the “wait” command a few times in my past posts, but thats simply because it’s an amazingly versitile command. In this particular instance, “wait” is used with a doorway, either to a home, out of a home, into and out of a yard, or in and out of a car. Kids are ALWAYS just leaving doors open like they don’t care about my precious A/C escaping (and my lifes savings dwindling), but the idea of containing the dog is even further from their minds. So helping your dog have a release word in order to get in and out of a doorway will help you out significanltly. In our home, we use “Release” when we are freeing the dogs from a stationary command. The most important part about implimenting a release word, is that you want to make sure you NEVER let them go in and out without it. Think of it this way, the doorway is YOURS. Be it a car, a home, a gate, or a business, it belongs to you. Once you get through, let them know it’s okay to follow (by using your release word), it’s giving you an advantage to see what’s on the other side before your dog comes through, but it’s also giving your dog the idea that they can’t just come and go as they please…
Place (Beds and Mats)
I’m not sure about your kids, but my little guy tends to answer the door by opening it as wide as he possibly can, and just…stands there. Like no big deal, I’m just living my little boy life, why are you yelling? Nevermind my now walking 1 year old who bolts out of every open portal, and the three big dogs that aren’t keen on the UPS man…without some control, this kid would be asking for a disaster. Our two older dogs were already aware of the place command when my kids came along, but the youngest, Vino, has always been a bigger challenge than either of my other pooches were, so sometimes it’s a long process! Just be patient and diligent, it will come along with consistancy and practice. The command is built when the doorbell rings, or someone knocks, and we use that as an audible cue for your dog to find his “place”. We use beds that are variously spaced around the house so no matter where we are, there is a mat they are aware of that we can send them to. So when the doorbell rings, I can say (okay…yell) “go to bed”, or “go to your place”, and know my dogs can make it there, and wait for permission to leave. I call these commands stationary, so once they are there, they need their release word to be free again. This gives me the chance to answer the door, and do what I need to without having to wrangle my giants! They are super friendly (except for ONE of the UPS guys we have had here…it made me question opening the door for him too!) we have never had an issue with people coming to our front door, or into our home for that matter. HOWEVER, each person brings a different variable to your daily life, and it dissrupts the norm for your dogs, so it’s a good idea to have control, not only for people visiting, but also so you can prop open a door and get what you need to in and our of your home. I find it really helpful when I bring home groceries, or I’m unloading my kids and my car, to put the dogs in their beds until I know all the doors are closed.
Have the kids be a part of it!
Like any other form of training, it’s important that everyone in the house needs to be on the same page with whatever you are asking your dog to comply with. So with that being said, think about who leaves the doors open on average…clearly the kids! If the kids are a huge part of the available escape routes, it’s important that they have some control too. Telling the dogs to “stay”, “wait”, or “release”, should mean something coming from them, unless you plan on stalking every…single…doorway…until your kids are old enough to shut them…and who knows when THAT will be. My son really loves spending time “training the dogs”, even if it’s something basic, I find it really important that my dogs know he means it when he asks them of something.
I also want to add that there are two parts to training this perticular home issue, and the second part is management. Sitting down with the kids and explaining to them how easy it is for a dog to run out of an open door is a good start. I found that helping Aiden understand what can happen if our dogs do happen to find a way out really opened his eyes. He’s really young so I spared some really serious probabilities, but I did want him to understand that there is a chance they wouldn’t come home, and by doing so, he’s much more diligent about the doors closing behind him. But there is always the chance that someone is in a hurry to go, and a door is left cracked, so you may as well have a system in place!