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Training Blog

April 24, 2022

Ask MM Reply - Bolting Dogs!

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Written by: Bob Guere

Taylor Slavidar writes: 

How to stop a dog from pulling, and bolting out the door every chance she gets?

This is a great question because it addresses the basic problem most dogs have with doors, or going in and out of an entrance of any kind. The pulling on the walk can actually sometimes be eliminated just by how you leave the house or enter back in.

It all starts with how you let them in the house. Most people have a back door or slider that leads to a patio or back yard. This gives you a great opportunity to do an exercise that I recently made up called the “Door Exercise”. It has proven 100% effective and is extremely EASY.

You start with your dog outside the back door with the door locked. When you put your hand on the latch to unlock it, the dog usually gets fixated on the lock or the bottom part of the door jam. Pay close attention to where your dog is looking, as soon as they look away or at you, unlock the door. This is how the exercise will proceed: you start to open the door, they get fixated again, you wait for them to look up at you or away and you open the door again. If they move towards the door at any point, or put their nose or paw in the crack of the open door, shut it. NOT ON THEM, but gently push it shut until they back out, then shut it completely. Then you just repeat. Every time they move towards the door it will shut. Every time they look away, back up or sit down, the door will open and continue to open as long as they are not moving forward or fixated on the door.

If they are backed up and you open it slightly and they decide to come towards it again, you don’t have to shut it completely, just start to shut it and if they stop coming forward, stop shutting the door, hold your position and wait till they look away or back up again and proceed opening.  I like to use the outdoor mats as a good final boundary, meaning by the time the door is completely open, and the dog should be off the mat.  Once you have the door completely open and your dog is off the mat, you are going to do two things that trigger most dogs to try to bolt through….The first is lean on the door jam, while holding the door with your other. If they come forward to sniff, shut the door. Start over, this time it should take just a minute or so to get back to an open door, dog off the mat. Repeat the lean in until they don’t try to come in. Next trigger is to step back about 4 feet and give them total access to the door. If they start to try and come in, shut the door. Start over, and then repeat both triggers again until they are not trying to come in.

By this time, your dog should be completely relaxed, either laying down or sitting quietly. You are now ready to invite them inside. Call them, but use the command “Slowly” and put your hands up like two stop signs. If they come in slowly and sit, you are done!! If they bolt past you, go calmly and get them, and put them back outside. You don’t have to shut the door unless they try to rush past again, in that case shut it and start over. They actually catch on very quickly. The key is to stay quiet and disengaged during this process, don’t try to push them out, or tell them to stay, or give any verbal commands until you are ready to invite them in. The reason is this: your dog wants attention at that moment. If you talk to them you are feeding that and it will accelerate the excited behavior. By simply shutting and opening the door, you are teaching them a basic idea- if I want the door to open, back up and relax. Any other behavior will cause the door to shut. It is that simple. If they bolt in, they will end up back out. The only way they can come in is by walking slowly and paying attention to you. Again, super simple. The simpler the idea, the quicker they catch on! Dogs are really pretty basic. Do this every time you let your dog in or out of the back door. You can also do this will kennel doors, car doors, front doors, etc.  They will soon see doors very differently and the trigger will be eliminated.  Liz Kover did a great post on how to stop pulling on the leash, you can read that here:

Hope this works for you guys, let me know, I love feedback! ~ Lisa




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