Right now, somewhere in America, a dog is planning his escape. No, not from incarceration or abuse. In fact this dog already has everything he could ever want or need. The dog in question, let’s call him “Zip,” is a recreational door dasher. Zip is patient and determined. He’s crafty and quick. He’s usually plotting several light-years ahead of his adoring family.
You may know Zip. He/she seizes any opportunity to dart out the front door. Like a master illusionist, Zip awaits the second your attention is diverted, and then makes a run for it. He might even trip you or knock over Aunt Nellie in the process.
Into the Wild: High on Adrenaline
Once out the door Zip is super-charged, instantly rewarded with an intoxicating blend of sensory delights. More often than not, his frantic owners respond – right on cue – by chasing after him. When helpful neighbors or passersby join in the pursuit, Zip enters a parallel universe, Canine Utopia, where he’s drunk with freedom, the center of attention and best of all, King Pup of his favorite game: You-Can’t-Catch-Me. And you can’t. Catch him, that is.
After Zip has taken everyone on a high-speed tour of the neighborhood, his desperate owner resorts to the only treat guaranteed to lure him back into domestication. She gets the car.
Score another one for Zip. The only thing he loves more than “you can’t catch me” is a ride in the car! As he hops in, one can almost hear him say, “Home, James. I need a drink and a nap.”
Door dashing is a dangerous habit and since it’s so darn “rewarding” for the dog, it can be a difficult one to break. Zip doesn’t know his exciting game is hazardous beyond his comprehension. Fast cars, aggressive dogs, toxins, the risk of getting lost… Eventually the luck meter runs out and Zip collides with one of these perils.
But don’t despair. There is hope for the Zips and Zip-wannabes in your life.
Reset and Revamp
Spend the next several days modifying Zip’s response to the front door. Walk up to the door and pretend you’re about to open it. Of course, Zip will be right there, revving his engine… ready for lift-off. Instead of opening it, surprise Zip by tossing a handful of delicious treats or a favorite toy into the room AWAY FROM THE DOOR. Then go do something else. Repeat this at least ten times per day and soon Zip will start looking over his shoulder or turning away from the door each time someone approaches it.
Ask everyone in your family and circle of friends to raise their right hands and solemnly swear to never open the front door unless Zip is securely contained – either in his crate, behind a closed bedroom door, or tethered to an unmovable object.
Meet me back here later next week and we’ll get started on how to teach one of my favorite dog tasks: How to WAIT at the door.
Carla Jackson is a professional pet dog trainer and owner of Jackson Ranch for Dogs, a kennel-free boarding and training facility. She specializes in private training, behavior consultations, puppy socialization and day training. You can find Jackson Ranch on Facebook, visit the website, or call (530)365-3800.
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