Front Door Safety
Keeping our dogs safe at the front door is important. I remember one time when I was living in Arizona, I was watching a friend’s dog and this dog escaped through the front door and took me on a mile long chase through the snow. Every time I got close, he would just run a bit farther away. It was terrifying. No one wants their dog to run off when the door is opened and no one wants to be constantly blocking the door like a goalie. So with Iona I have worked on front door etiquette. It has payed off because I can leave the house with my arms full and not have to worry about her sneaking out. If she does run outside of the house to greet someone, I know that she is going to come right back inside. These are some of the strategies that I have used. If you have concerns about your dog’s safety when practicing these, just put them on a long line so that they can’t go far. Also you could practice all these strategies for back door before moving to the front door. Finally, I have shown a progression here that Iona has already worked through, if you haven’t done any of this work with your dog, you will just need to take each step slowly. I rush through the steps quickly in the videos.
1. Place. I am guessing that most people do this already. When someone is coming into the house, Iona has a specific place where she goes to (the stairs). The nice thing about this place is that there is a baby gait at the foot of the stairs. I will often just close it so that people can come in, get settled and close the door before I let Iona in to greet everyone. Sometimes guests just hang out in the doorway without closing the front door and she will not wait forever.
2. Whenever I leave the house to go to work, I leave Iona a Whimzee (dental chew). Before she gets it, she goes to her bed and waits. I then throw it on the ground and right before I leave the house I tell her “ok” and then she can eat it. This is nice because it keeps her from being underfoot as I am getting my stuff together to leave for the day.
3. She has also practiced waiting while I leave with the front door open. Obviously, just work your dog at their level. You might just need to work on opening the door over and over and over for a while till you progress to the next level. You can see her start to peek her nose outside at 0:57. I just close the front door gently and start over. No big deal. She will get it the next time. The next step here would be for me to just leave for longer periods of time, but that would be a pretty boring video.
4. Next we want to teach our dog that going BACK in the house is fun. This is important for if they do escape. If you have a pre-set routine for going in/out of the house, then you already have a strategy in place if they do get out!
5. Finally, make a game out of it! We have played so many silly games revolving around the front door. We have played chase games, scent work games, tug games, retrieve games. But there are these underlying rules: I let her know when she is ok to go out to play the game, I ask her to run back in the house, then the game starts over again. Here is an example of a quick game of fetch. You can see me refining her concept of where exactly she needs to wait throughout the game.
I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have any other ideas!