Dogs can be fearful. I’ve been there. My dog is terrified of the gate at our house and will sit quietly next to it, but once she sees that the top flap has a visible opening (which is how my neighbors have their dogs let out), she gets excited and barks loudly whenever someone opens the gate.
I’ve seen this happen before when we open the door for our kids. On one occasion, my wife opened the gate for her kids, and my dog sat next to it for half an hour.
So how do you train your dog not to be afraid of a door?
The first thing you need to do is train your dog not to be afraid of any door. This is one of the most important pieces of training any pet owner should ever do. The reason I say that is because:
- If you do nothing else in life, you absolutely must train your dog not to be afraid of doors;
- If you don’t train her not to be afraid of doors, she will eventually learn that she can escape through other doors behind your back;
- If she learns that she can escape through other doors behind your back while you are doing something else (as long as those other doors are NOT locked!), then eventually she will become so frightened by those doors that even when they aren’t locked or obscured by another barrier, they cannot be opened by her without being scared away from every other door in sight!
Training a Dog to Use the Dog Door
We have all been conditioned to believe that dogs are naturally afraid of anything that doesn’t move. There is a lot of research backing up this belief, but it’s a bit hard to do the kind of research required for something like a dog door.
Yet there are some dogs who are terrified of things that move. In fact, there are quite a few dogs who are terrified of doors in general.
It seems to be more than just their heads — if you can get them to turn and look at you (or your hand, if you’re holding one) they will actually stand on their hind legs and try to go through the door (which may not be so much a dog door as it is an opening for your hand).
If you want to train just one type of dog, we recommend making sure that they have the proper amount of fear displayed by others before trying to train them with the dog door (which we cover in more detail on our site). If they need more fear displayed before you try training them with the door, then you probably don’t want to teach them with it either.
Some people worry about training fearful dogs because they feel bad about inflicting pain on them (as if they know what pain feels like), while others feel bad because they don’t want their dog to suffer as a result of training him properly.
But fear has nothing to do with pain; usually, pain itself is enough for people to feel uncomfortable around their own behavior (this is why people often feel bad when someone else hits another person or calls someone names).
So, the correct question should be whether or not you care about your dog’s suffering, not about whether or not he will suffer when he uses the door correctly or incorrectly. This is one reason why you might want a trainer for your particular breed — because each dog is different and each trainer knows how best to help his/her client achieve his/her goals in this situation.
The Benefits of Using the Dog Door
In the world of dog training, there is a seemingly endless supply of “how-to” books. The most common advice (especially if you have a dog) is to “just keep doing what you’re doing!” Or even better, “just do it more!” However, the one thing all these books fail to mention is how much it takes to make those tactics work.
In this case, that would be: the dog needs to be comfortable with the new situation before we can start using them in their natural environment. Otherwise, they will only be forced into the new situation and will not learn through experience. If you want your dog to use a dog door, here are some things you need to do:
- Add enough time and space for him/her to gain comfort with the new environment – at least an hour per day for several weeks
- Take away unnecessary stimuli so that he/she has more time for familiarizing himself/herself with the new environment. I would say 10 minutes per hour would be enough on an average day but if it takes more than 10 minutes then keep increasing until he/she feels good about having been away from his/her old home for some time
- Let him/her go in and out freely and quietly – don’t rush them or try to force him/her out of the door before they are comfortable
- Do not discuss anything directly related to his/her new home – if you let him/her know that he can go outside tomorrow and he will come back in when he wants then that is one less thing I need to worry about because I don’t have to worry about him coming back into my house when I am not around anymore. This helps me keep up morale and keeps me focused on helping my dogs learn how best to use their new environment (if you want your dog trained properly then this is a must!)
- Don’t make his/her life there miserable by teasing or nagging him/her (this might seem like a no-brainer but many trainers get into trouble by trying too hard!)
How to Train the Dog to Use the Dog Door
This is a classic post on the dog training field. The author of this very post has taken a dog as a student and, knowing that dogs are not as rational as people think, has decided to actually train a fearful dog to use a dog door (rather than just letting it out on command).
So, what does this mean for you? How much time do you have? Can you afford it? What is your budget? If you are unsure about how much time you have, how much money you have, and how many dogs do you have?
If you’re short on time but can afford it, the best thing to do is to take care of the training first. You want to get the most out of this training session; however, it is important to realize that if you wait until after the training session ends and try to perform some “after” behavior that may be quite difficult (more on this in section 7).
What to Do if the Dog Is Afraid of the Dog Door
This is an excerpt from our “Dog Training” series, and we would recommend it to anyone who has a dog.
We’ve all been there: your dog is acting a bit fearful, and you’re looking at the door, trying to figure out what you can do to break the cycle. This post will show you how to train your dog to not be afraid of the dog door.
There’s a story that goes: A man travels to the beach and walks along the shore. He finds a turtle with his neck cut off, and it is not dead. He goes to talk to the turtle, but it swims away. The man looks around and sees a dog sitting on the shore, watching him.
Then he sees another dog next to the first; then another; then another and then another. After a while, the man realizes that there are hundreds of dogs sitting on the shore (and counting).