Door Darting Management

5 things to do when your dog loves to dash out the door!

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[Updated January 24, 2018]

“Oh, [expletive deleted], there he goes again!” Sounds like the frustrated human companion of a canine door-darter – a dog who slips out the tiniest crack of an open door every chance he gets. Frustrating for the human, dangerous for the dog, who likely romps around the neighborhood just out of his owner’s reach. Here are five things to do if your dog dashes out the door:

1. Catch Him!

Easier said than done, you may say. An accomplished door darter is often an accomplished keep-away player as well. Don’t chase; you’ll just be playing his game. Play a different game instead – something else fun. Does he love squeaky toys? Grab one, take it outside and squeak it. When he looks, run away, still squeaking. If he chases after you, let him grab one end of the toy. Play a little tug, trade him for a treat, then squeak it and play tug some more. Let him follow you, playing tug-the-squeaky, into your fenced yard, and close the gate behind you. Play more squeaky with him.

Door Darting Training

If he loves car rides, run to your car and say, “Wanna go for a ride?!” Open the car door and invite him in. When he jumps in, take him for a ride! Playing tug? Chasing tennis balls or flying discs? Fetching sticks? Walkies? Whatever he loves, provide it.

2. Reward, Don’t Punish

You’ve managed to get hold of your cavorting canine. No matter how upset you are, don’t yell at him! Don’t even reprimand him calmly. He’ll associate the punishment with returning to you, not with darting out the door. Don’t even take him back inside immediately – that’s punishment, too. I promise, if you punish him when you finally get your hands on him, it’ll be even harder to catch him the next time. Instead, happily and genuinely reinforce him with whatever he loves best – tug, fetch, a car ride, or high value treats.

Door Darting Training

3. Create “Airlocks” for Your Doors

Even if you can’t fence in your yard, you can put up a woven wire barrier around the door(s) he darts out of – a small area with a self-closing gate, so if he darts out the door he’s still contained. Use baby gates or exercise pens to set up a barrier inside, to block his access to the door. Insist everyone makes sure he’s behind the barrier before going out the door, or greeting a visitor.

4. Teach Him to Wait at Doors

Implement a “Say please” program, where “sit” makes all good things happen, including doors. Teach him to “sit-and-wait” at doors until he’s given the release cue. The more consistent everyone is at sit-and-wait, the more reliable your dog will be at waiting, and the less likely he’ll dart out that door.

5. Increase His Exercise

If you keep your canine pal busy and tired, he’ll be less inclined to look for opportunities to dash through doors. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, is WDJ’s Training Editor. Pat is also author of several books on positive training.

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WDJ's Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn "Pat Miller Certified Trainer" certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.

1 COMMENT

  1. Where can I get the white deck gate in the picture above. I can’t find it or a price. I need 2 of the desperately but everywhere I look double door like this cost hundreds of dollars and I have 2 small dogs. I you can help lead me in the right direction, I would appreciate it.

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