Dog's Eye View: What's behind door No. 2?

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— I have a friend who has three wonderful, large-breed dogs. She’s a petite, very fit woman who manages these dogs very well. There’s one area though, that’s been a little tricky. There are four doors in her house through which she might take the dogs. Interestingly, each door offers a different set of behaviors from the dogs.

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Sandra Kruczek

Dog's Eye View

This weekly column about dog training publishes on Fridays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Let’s use door No. 2 as an example. This door leads from the garage onto the deck, then out to the driveway. The main trouble is that the dogs will push and shove one another, and sometimes my friend, trying to get through this door at the same time. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding door No. 2 because it’s the gateway to everything these dogs love. There are rides in the car, trips to the mountains and rousing games of fetch. Who wouldn’t be excited?

Returning home through door No. 2 is a different story. The dogs have been exercised, are tired and more quietly can go inside.

The other doors in the house lead to different sets of circumstances. There’s one that only affords access to the deck. There’s some excitement here, but nothing like door No. 2. My friend can more easily manage the energy at the “deck door” (No. 1).

Here’s what she’s been working on to gain control of the “Three Musketeers” charging door No. 2. First of all, she is practicing keeping her voice and body language calm. And most important of all, she practices when she’s not going anywhere. Nothing can sabotage a training scenario more quickly than putting yourself on a timeframe that causes you to be anxious and checking your watch.

Each dog has been learning to respond quickly by looking at her when she calls their name. Each name means only, “Look at me.” She requests a dog to come forward while directing the other two to stay where they are. This is very effective in teaching impulse control. The dogs are learning to respond as individuals rather than react as a pack. The ones that stay back are given a food treat. Getting to go out of the door is its own reward.

My friend is practicing mixing up the order of which dog gets to go through door No. 2 first, second and last. And when they all are outside, they might just be asked to come right back inside instead of going all the way out to the car. This strategy really slows down the pushing and shoving.

With a plan in place and practice, I am picturing three dogs learning to wait their turn to go out the door. They know what to do at door No. 2.

Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with more than 25 years of experience.

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