If you're wondering how to stop a dog from opening doors, you are likely blessed with a dog with supernatural powers. Not all dogs are capable of that-it takes a certain talent!
Regardless of how smarty pants your dog is, for sure, you may be fed up with this problem and wondering what you can do to stop it.
Stopping a dog from opening doors requires a multi-faceted approach. Firstly, you'll need to find a way to prevent your dog from engaging in the undesirable behavior, and secondly, you may want to consider getting to the root of the problem.
How Do Dogs Open Doors?
Dogs can get quite creative when it comes to opening doors. Most dogs are able to open a door that has been left slightly ajar by nudging the small opening with their nose or paws. No biggie.
Some other dogs are instead capable of opening a closed door by using the door knob. This may require different levels of skill depending on the type of door knob.
With door levers, they'll simply use their paw to lower the handle and then with their other paw, (or with their nose), they'll push it open.
With regular door knobs, they'll have to fiddle with the knob enough that eventually they rotate it the correct way and enough to be able to disengage the door and open it.
And then you have some incredible stories of dogs being capable of even opening sophisticated locks such as deadbolt locks. Wow!
Why Do Dogs Open Doors?
This is a good question, and an important one too. Knowing what motivates your dog to open doors is important so that you can tackle the underlying emotions so to get to the bottom of the problem.
Following are several potential causes for dogs becoming fixated on opening doors.
A Matter of Separation Anxiety
It's a known fact that dogs are devoted companions who crave attention. When they are left alone, even for brief periods, some dogs develop what may appear as a semi-panic attack.
Dogs with separation anxiety struggle being separated from their one and only favorite person, whereas, dogs with isolation distress struggle when separated from any human.
Regardless, affected dogs suffer a great deal. It's therefore important to be patient because these dogs are in a panic-like state which inhibits their ability to learn.
When left alone, dogs with separation anxiety may whine, bark, howl, drool, pace and attempt to escape by targeting windows and doors. The focus is on windows and doors is because such dogs perceive them as barriers which prevent them from following their owners
When panic-stricken, affected dogs may therefore scratch and bite at doors, and when they are persistent enough, they can manage to open closed doors.
However, not all dogs who open doors because they want to reunite with their owners suffer from separation anxiety. Some of them are simply Velcro dogs who get frustrated when they can't spend time in the yard with their owners.
Idle Paws are a Devil's Work Shop
When dogs are bored, they will do what it takes to keep themselves entertained. This may entail digging holes in the garden, barking at anything that moves and for some dogs, their favorite hobby is opening doors.
Doors are often perceived by dogs as the threshold line between boredom and fun. Because they perceive doors as an inconvenient barrier, many bored dogs will scratch and bite doors in hopes of them magically opening.
Some smart dogs though may take things to a higher level by learning the mechanism behind what keeps doors from opening.
Whether your dog purposely watches every move you do to open the door and then rehearses it, or he happens to open the door by chance by persistently scratching doesn't matter, boredom remains the driving force.
In Search For a Mate
If your dog is intact, meaning that he wasn't spayed or neutered, there are chances he is wanting to go outside badly when "love is in the air."
If you have an intact male dog, most likely he is wanting out because he detected a female dog in heat and if you have an intact female dog she is wanting out because she wants to be detected.
Regardless of whether you own a male or female dog, that drive to mate will cause dogs to behave in uncharacteristic ways and this may include trying to open doors so to escape the yard.
Detection of Critters
Another reason why dogs may want to open doors is when they detect some critter outdoors. Perhaps you have a family of rodents living under your deck or there is a stray cat visiting the yard.
Regardless of what furry critter is present, your dog will want to hunt it down badly, especially is he's a dog with strong hunting instincts.
The door once again is a barrier, and in desperation, your dog may attempt to open it using his teeth and nails.
A Fearful Reaction
Some dogs will open doors due to fear. These dogs, once again, may be wanting to go outside because they are terrorized of something.
Some dogs may react this way when they hear the smoke alarm, some other when they hear owners using a power drill.
Regardless of what scary stimulus your dog is trying to escape, his desperation may lead to him successfully opening up a door to let himself free into a safer place.
A Way to Garner Attention
And then you have some dogs who will do anything for an ounce of attention. Any type of attention will do for these dogs, even attention of the negative type, such as giving them the "evil eye" or scolding them.
Many times, it starts with dogs who repeatedly go to the door to ask to be let out. Soon, these dogs learn that, when they approach the door, you will look at them which is a form of attention.
Once you get tired though or repeatedly open the door, you may decide to ignore your dog. The problem with this is that, when you ignore a behavior that has grabbed your attention before, your dog will be feel the need to "escalate" leading to what is known as an "extinction burst."
The extinction burst may consist of whining and barking to grab your attention or even scratching and pawing at the door. You may ignore all of this, but once he manages to open the door, bingo! he gets all the attention he desired.
Soon, your attention-seeking dog will learn to open doors on purpose just to garner your attention.
Now That You Know...
As seen, dogs have loads of good reasons for opening doors! They can be bored, anxious, in hunting mode, in search for a mate or just craving attention.
Here are some ways to prevent him from opening doors and what to do to tackle the underlying emotions.
How to Stop a Dog From Opening Doors?
First of all, you need to find a way to prevent your dog from opening doors. This is important, because, the more your dog will rehearse the door-opening behavior, the more he'll want to do it. Here are a few options:
Keep Doors Always Closed
Keeping doors closed can be tough, but this training can help your dog avoid a lot of trouble. Doorways are intriguing to dogs, and a dog who is excited about an open door is more likely to repeat the behavior. Therefore, it is imperative to keep doors always closed.
If you leave a door sometimes open and sometimes closed, you will cause your dog to keep trying to open it because it's worthy trying and the behavior becomes more and more established. For science junkies, it's the power of intermittent reinforcement!
Use a Round Door Knob
Most dogs will likely have difficulty opening a door with a round knob (unless they have opposable thumbs!).
Well, some dogs seem to be able to even break free these so keep this in mind if your dog is very persistent, determined and clever!
Use a Lever Door Lock
Installing a lever door lock and locking it all the time will make your dog's lever-lowering attempts fail. After the initial extinction burst, your dog should therefore learn that lowering the lever no longer works and will eventually give up.
Lever door locks therefore come extra handy in homes with dogs and also helps prevent children from accessing potentially unsafe areas such as laundries and garages.
Install a Pet Gate
Using a pet gate or baby gate to stop your dog from opening doors is an effective way to keep your dog safe. Install it by the entryway of the door your dog always opens so that he no longer can reach that door.
There are many different styles of pet gates on the market nowadays.
Make sure the gate is made of sturdy metal construction and has locking mechanisms to prevent your dog from attempting to open it. Also, ensure it is tall enough to discourage jumping over it.
Tackling the Dog's Underlying Emotions
As mentioned, preventing your dog from opening doors is the very first step, but it's also important tackling the underlying emotions!
If you don't tackle the underlying emotions, there may be chances that, your dog will no longer be able to open doors, but he may try something else and it may be much worse than opening doors!
Here are some general tips on how to tackle the dog's underlying emotions.
For Dogs With Separation Anxiety
These dogs need help! Some severe cases may need medications to get them into a calmer "learning state" so they can learn how to better cope with being left alone. There are many books and online course, although the best approach is hiring a dog trainer who specializes in canine separation anxiety. Look for one certified by Malena De Martini.
For Bored Dogs
Provide more mental stimulation, play, exercise and training. In particular, your dog may enjoy the challenge of food puzzles and brain games to keep himself busy and entertained. Clicker training can also help tackle your dog's need for novelty and trouble shooting.
For Dogs in Search of a Mate
Spaying and neutering may help tackle this issue, but only if it's entirely hormonally-based. If your dog is trying to escape for other reasons besides searching for a mate, performing this irreversible surgery may be pointless.
For Dogs Hunting Down Critters
Hire a humane pest control company to check whether there may be critters in your deck, walls or attic. Many critters are nocturnal and are often detected by dogs in the fall when they're searching for a sheltered, warm place to live in the winter.
For Fearful Dogs
Identify what is triggering your dog's fear and with the help of a professional work on changing your dog's emotional response using desensitization and counterconditioning techniques.
For Attention Seeking Dogs
Ensure your dog receives enough exercise and mental stimulation by walking him prior to a long work day and then playing with him and exercising him once you come home.
You want to preempt his need for attention by providing it *before* your dog has the chances to perform undesirable behaviors.
Reward your dog with praise and attention for engaging in activities that do not involve the door.