If Your Dog Runs Out the Door – Fix it Now

The dog runs out the door followed by mom, dad and the kids, all in hot pursuit. Not realizing the dangers on the busy street, their dog delights in this new game of keep-away!

For the family, a scenario like this one can be frightening and the outcome might not be good, right?

Teaching your dog to stay when he wants to bolt through that open door should be a very high priority for you with your dog’s training.

Even if you haven’t trained your dog to stay – instead of go, he can still learn this skill if you start today. If your dog needs help learning to stay and not run out the door, then keep reading.

First Step In Fixing Your Dog’s Running Out The Door

A pre-requisite to begin working on stay at the door is to first obedience train your dog to do a simple sit-stay command.

Don’t worry about distraction work at this point. Your dog just needs to be able to understand the concept of holding – and not moving from a sit stay for 20-30 seconds.

Once your dog has learned to sit and stay, it’s time to go to work at the front door. Do not immediately start teaching this command at the front door, or you will  set your dog up to fail.

What You’ll Need to Help Your Dog Learn

The very first thing you want to do is to put your dog on a long line (30 ft cotton long line)  and attach it to your dog’s flat buckle collar. That’s right, a long line on your dog in the house. Do not use the leash you walk him on.

Very Important:  He should be tethered using the long line,  in close proximity to the front door so he relates this exercise to the front door.

Make sure you tie the long line off to something like a stair case railing or shut the entry hall closet door on the handle of the long line. By doing this your dog is safe before you begin training your dog.

The Running Out the Door Process

Next, with your dog still tethered close to the door, teach your dog to sit and stay when you put your hand on the closed door knob.

Now this is accomplished by “preceding” the sit-stay command with putting your hand on the closed door knob then say, “Sit – Stay!” Hold for 5-10 seconds and release your dog from the sit stay by saying good (do not take him off the tether).

NOTE: You are now beginning to desensitize your dog to holding a sit-stay at the front door in the entry hall. You have not opened the door at this point.

You would want to repeat this training until your dog automatically sits and stays when your hand grabs the door knob.

Build up your sit-stay time to 20-30 seconds.

Step Two  – The “Door Peek”

Your dog is still tethered. Next, teach your dog to sit and stay when you put your hand on the door knob and open the door.

Continue just as you did in step one except you open the door only 2-5 inches. Hold the sit-stay for 5-10 seconds, close the door and release your dog by saying good dog (still tethered).

Increase both the opening of the door and the length of the sit-stay. If at any point your dog breaks his sit-stay, go back a step. Meaning: don’t open the door as wide and do shorter sit-stays until he gets it.

Build your sit-stays to 20-30 seconds with the door wide open.

 Step Three One Step Outside

Teach your dog to sit and stay when you put your hand on the door knob, open the door and you step outside.

Make sure you stay close just across the threshold. You want to gradually build time and distance here until your dog can hold a 20-30 second sit-stay with you 5-10 paces down the sidewalk.

Also practice walking out the door and stepping to the side – out of sight – for very short periods building up to the 30 second out of sight sit stay.

If your dog breaks his sit-stay, simply take him back and start again. This would mean that you need to go back a few steps and decrease time out of sight to set him up to succeed before doing longer out of sight stays.

His Leash is the Key to Going Outside

The only other thing to teach your dog is that his walking leash is the key to going outside. He does not go outside if he is not on leash – period.

Simply put his walking leash on first, then disconnect the long line and walk him out the front door. With repetition, he’ll learn to automatically sit-stay when the door opens and not go out unless his walking leash is on.

Train with as many age appropriate family members as necessary.

Take the opportunity to work your dog on sit-stay while the kids go out to play. Remember, practice makes perfect.

Your training on this exercise will go much better if you have already developed a good working relationship with your dog by setting rules, boundaries and expectations in your home.

We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from. I want you to tell me your thoughts and opinions on this. Comment below, I’m here to help.

Remember:  “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, is Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 10,000 clients. Jim takes the science of dog training and shows you how to make it work with your family and dog. He gives you the ability to get the same great behavior from your dog.

13 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    I gave several simple steps in the article – please take the time to read it and do each step. It will help you

  2. Wanda
    Wanda says:

    Our 2 Yorkies take off running if the door or garage opens enough for them to get out. They run down the street & won’t listen or stop. We are afraid they will get run over or lost. We have to go in car & look for them. What can we do to stop this behavior

  3. Jaye Ramsey Sutter
    Jaye Ramsey Sutter says:

    I have a rescued Boston terrier who is neurotic. He bolts out the door and runs down the streets. He is going to get killed. When I give chase he runs faster and will not stop. We chase him in the car and when he gets tired he can be coaxed in the car with us telling him he can go for a ride. I am older with bad knees. I can’t keep up so the car has helped. I am just so frustrated. Sam is great inside and in his fenced yard. But he just goes through any opened from door or gate. He has not responded to any training. We crate him because workers or repair people are just oblivious to the problem. Thank you for your suggestions and column.

  4. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Shari: Do you mean other family members are home and allow her to bolt out the door or????????

  5. Shari
    Shari says:

    Kind of an emergency. She bolts and runs into traffic in a busy street is there anything I can do to stop it immediately? I go to work and am gone 10 hours a day so crating isn’t an option. She may have to stay outside all day til wegetthis down. I am considering rehoming her which breaks my heart it this is life or death!

  6. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    If you have him tethered don’t make the tether so long he can get into the doorway until you’re further along in the training. If he can get
    into the doorway right off the bat, even tethered, you’ve not done it in the sequence I taught. Slow down a little, take it step by step and
    don’t go to the next step till you master each step

  7. Jenny Smith
    Jenny Smith says:

    I love this method of training. Part of my trouble is that I do not have any person to help me. I tied him to a table leg on a long lunge line, opened the door and when he started thru the door said NO Stay and if he continued, sprayed him with water. Being a Schnauzer and very averse to water it stopped him. I did it twice a day for about 5 days., I would wait ’til he had settled and sat and then walk through and say “come: it worked. I wish I had been able to do your way!

  8. Rhonda Clark
    Rhonda Clark says:

    Hi Jim,

    Thank You for you valuable information. I am at a loss as to how to approach doing this when I have 9 dogs! Each one understands sit/stay, but when in a group, it only takes one to break the sit stay and go against my wishes, and it becomes like a heard of cattle going for the door! I’ve yet to figure out how to resolve this issue. My situation is not handy to make different arrangements right now as far as shutting them in other rooms. I rent, and this little farm house has major drawbacks to being able to do things much different than what I presently do. The worst dog believe it or not, is my 19 year old German Shepherd female. She has gotten to where she thinks she can do anything she wants at her age! She pushes and barges the worst of all the dogs! You would think she wouldn’t have the energy! LOL!

    Thank You again for your information you share, it is appreciated much! Rhonda:)

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