Does Your Dog Have Bad Door Manners?

My mother-in-law has a beautiful golden doodle. Everyone comments on her breeding and gorgeous teddy bear fur. That is until they ring the doorbell.

She starts ferociously barking like Cujo.  But if you try and open the door, one of two things happen: 1) She bolts out into the street; or 2) She jumps all over you, scratching you in the process. If my mother-in-law tries to hold onto her collar, she inevitably hurts herself. She opens the door a crack as we try and slip our 200-pound bodies through.

My mother-in-law is not alone in this problem. There is something disturbing to a dog about doorbells.  By nature, dogs are protective and see anyone coming to the door as an intruder. They must protect their pet parent. Or, they just get excited because their human naturally jumps up and cheerily says: “I’ll get it”. Fixing the problem bad door manners will take management and training.

First, you need to establish yourself as the pack leader. If you let your dog jump on you, he is the pack leader. If you don’t let him jump on you, he knows you are the big dog. It is natural for most dogs to want to be the pack leader and if you don’t play that role, he will. Mommy dogs don’t let their litters get away with bad behavior. They teach them.

As humans, we see dogs jumping on us as a sign of affection, a way of saying “I love you”. Truthfully, the dogs know that this behavior will cause you to pick them up and they will get attention. They will not learn how to calm and self soothe themselves.

As hard as it may be, when you walk in the house you should not treat your return home as an act of excitement. Don’t touch your dog, talk to him or establish eye contact. Wait until he is calmly seated before greeting him.

To begin training your dog to have good door manners, start with nobody at your front door. The “sit” command is the most important lesson you will need to teach your dog to have good door manners and can be life-saving.  As you are starting to teach him a new behavior, make sure you have his attention and stop the exercise when he loses focus. Teaching your dog to “sit” requires both patience and repetition. If he does the exercise successfully, give him a belly rub and a lot of praise. If he doesn’t listen, do not punish him. Negative reinforcement will only result in negative behaviors on your dog’s part.

You can start by having your dog on leash with a closed door. Issue the “sit command”. If he does the exercise successfully, give him a belly rub and a lot of praise. If he doesn’t listen, do not punish him. Negative reinforcement will only result in negative behaviors on your dog’s part. Once he learns to sit with the door closed, then you can begin opening the door. If he gets up, stop reaching for the door, return to your original position, and wait for him to sit again. Do this until you can open the door all the way without him moving. Do not open the door until your dog sits.

Remember that all dogs learn at different rates. If he doesn’t get it at first, he will. For the sake of your guests and the safety of your dog, sit and stay will go a long way to better door manners.

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