You open the door and—zoom!—there goes your dog. You yell for him to stop and come back, but he ignores your desperate pleas and is a block away before you know it. What do you do? After you eventually entice him with treats and drag him back on a leash (or pick him up from the pound), you vow to never let it happen again. To ensure that it doesn’t, train your dog not to run out the door by combining exercise and behavior modification techniques.
Exercise the Mad Dash Out of His System
Dogs sprint down the street to run excess energy out of their systems, and the sights and smells that abound in the neighborhood further distract them from your commands that they come home. Ideally, your dog should obey you regardless of his surroundings or temptations, but you must provide generous amounts of exercise and leadership to achieve that level of obedience from your dog.
Begin by spending at least 30 minutes exercising your dog each day. If he isn’t tired after 30 minutes or if you have a highly energetic breed, extend it to 60 minutes. The type of exercise is your choice, but strenuous workouts and breed-specific activities are preferable for fulfilling the dog’s physical and psychological needs.
Training dogs not to run out the door and down the street is easier when they are calm and relaxed after a workout, as it makes them more receptive to your directions. Following each workout, spend 15 to 20 minutes practicing “sit” and “stay” in the room with the door.
1. Instruct your dog to “sit” at the opposite end of the room, away from the door, and praise him for doing so with a treat or verbal “good boy.”
2. Hold up your pointer finger and tell him to “stay.” Slowly walk backwards toward the door while facing him and repeat, “stay.” Any time that he stands to walk toward you, walk forward toward him and instruct him to sit. Then, repeat the “stay” command and your backwards walk to the door.
3. When you reach the door with him still seated, praise him and walk over to him to give him a treat. Because each practice session is only 15 to 20 minutes, it may take a few sessions to accomplish this step.
4. Instruct your dog to sit and stay as you normally would, and then open the door. If he stands up, hold up your finger, tell him to “sit,” and then reward him for doing so. Repeat this during each training session.
5. Ask a friend to come knock on the door during your next training session. Standing in front of your seated dog, point your finger up, tell him to “stay,” and then yell for your friend to come inside. Reward him for remaining seated.
Training your dog not to run out the door requires patience and consistent effort, but exercise and positive reinforcement for obedience teaches him that greater rewards come from sitting and staying.