2017-07-14 / Pets

Door dashing, a deadly habit

By Phyllis Beasley, CP DT-KA Owner/Lead Trainer, Praise Dog! Training, LLC www.praiseyourdogtraining.com


Teaching a reliable Sit at every door is one way to minimize the likelihood your dog will door dash. Teaching a reliable Sit at every door is one way to minimize the likelihood your dog will door dash. How many of you dog owners have dashing dogs that are engaging in an aggravating and potentially fatal habit. You can imagine the potential problems of a dog that runs out the door—running into the street and being hit by a car, running away and getting lost, chasing a child on a bicycle, or attacking a dog or cat that is passing by.

Teaching your dog to wait patiently at the door is a three- pronged process, combined with good judgement and management on your part.

Before you begin to correct this bad habit, your dog should know a reliable Sit cue. A cue is reliable if your dog will respond without distractions and in new environments. If your dog already knows how to sit when cued, practice this all over the house to make sure he will respond.

If you have to repeat the verbal Sit cue ten times or have a treat in your hand for your dog to respond, then I suggest you re- train the cue by enrolling in a reward-based obedience class. For additional ideas on the value of teaching a reliable Sit cue, check out my article on Sits in the February 2015 issue of The Columbia Star. If your dog does have a reliable Sit, start asking him to sit every time you let him go out a door, even if he is going out into a fenced backyard. We want him to develop the automatic habit of sitting before being allowed out a door, every single time.


Dayle Grimsley’s Boykin Spaniel, Cash, sees a squirrel and is considering door dashing. Dayle Grimsley’s Boykin Spaniel, Cash, sees a squirrel and is considering door dashing. To teach this habit, have your dog on lead (so you can control him) and ask him to Sit near the door, but far enough away so you can open the door without it bumping him. Begin to open the door. If he gets up, shut the door immediately. Ask him to Sit again. Open the door. If he gets up, shut the door again.


To prevent a known door dasher from making an escape, keep him leashed if you answer the door. Here, Tom Owens’ Border Collie takes advantage of being unleashed and escapes. To prevent a known door dasher from making an escape, keep him leashed if you answer the door. Here, Tom Owens’ Border Collie takes advantage of being unleashed and escapes. Every time he gets up before you give him permission to go through, shut the door. I also recommend developing the habit of having your dog sit after exiting the door.

Another critical skill for your dog is Coming When Called. If your dog gets out accidentally, you want to know he will respond to you when you call him to come. A reliable Coming When Called must be taught. Dogs do not come pre- programmed to know to come when called.

Again, I recommend you enroll in a reward-based training class to learn how to teach your dog to come when you call him. Generally, you should NEVER call your dog to come to you and then punish it or do something your dog does not find rewarding, like taking a bath. Your dog should learn that coming when you called is a wonderful thing. Teaching a reliable Coming When Called requires lots of practice on lead with super good rewards.


Door dashing is a learned habit. If a dog successfully runs out the door and is rewarded by chasing a squirrel or greeting another dog, he will repeat the behavior. Door dashing is a learned habit. If a dog successfully runs out the door and is rewarded by chasing a squirrel or greeting another dog, he will repeat the behavior. If your dog gets out and does not respond to your call to come, do not chase your dog. Dogs think that is a wonderful game and will keep running. If your dog is still within sight, try sitting or lying on the ground while you call him. Many times your dog will return to investigate what is wrong with you.

You can also bribe your dog to come by yelling “Cookie” or “Treat” while waving a treat in the air. For dogs who love to ride in the car, you can follow them in the car and open the door, inviting them to ride. If your dog is obsessive about chasing balls, get his attention and throw a ball towards the house.

Another skill that is useful in implementing skills and in getting your dog to return to you is to teach him to pay attention to you. This skill should be heavily rewarded and practiced often. In addition to having your dog sit at the door before going out, wait for him to look you in the eye.

For his eye contact to be automatic, don’t ask him to look at you by saying his name, just wait for him to do it. When you are out walking him, reward him with a treat every time he chooses to look you in the eye.

Reward eye contact inside the house, too. If you consistently acknowledge, praise, and reward him for looking at you, you will see he offers attention more frequently. This will help you get his attention if he is loose outside.

Lastly, management to prevent your dog from dashing out the door is critical. If you know your dog is a door dasher, do your best to prevent any opportunities he may have to do that.

If you know someone is coming to the door, have him on a leash or crate him to prevent the opportunity. If you have windows near the door or nearby, block his view with blinds or other visual barrier, so he won’t be tempted to run out after another dog or cat or squirrel.

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