Close the door behind her - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-16-2009, 11:22 PM Thread Starter
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Close the door behind her

How can I teach my dog to shut the door behind her when she comes in from outside? She learned how to push the door open (when just barely closed, although we didn't teach her), but when she pushes, it swings the door wide open... and now that winter is here, gotta keep those heating bills down. What I would like is for her to push the door closed after she comes back indoors. I can't expect her to close it from the outside (as it would require pulling, which would be a feat without a handle for her to pull on).

I know she can do it, I just have no idea how to teach her the steps to do it. Trainers welcomed

Diana - owned by Siena Rose (Oct 29, 2006)

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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-17-2009, 04:49 AM
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Re: Close the door behind her

Hmmm ... well, I would probably start by teaching her to put her nose to a target. The easiest way would be to do it while the target is in your hand, then move the target to the door.

I'd take a butter tub lid (one of those plastic lids off a tub of butter or something similar) and use it as a target. I'd gather up my dog, put her leash on, and get a handful of treats (putting them in a shirt pocket or on a table or shelf, out of my dog's reach). The leash is simply to keep the dog from wandering off, so you can drop it and put your foot on it if you want. I'd probably sit down as you'll want the target at easy nose level for your dog, at least at first.

Then I would hold out the target slightly to one side and watch for my dog to look at it. A simple glance is all that's needed initially. As SOON as my dog's eyes flicked toward the target, I would say "YESS!!" and follow that with a treat. All that's needed is that glance, not an extended look! You have to start small and work up.

Then I'd repeat, holding the target out to the other side (change the position of the target at least slightly every time you do this). Again, I'd wait for my dog to glance at it. (Hint: it helps if you turn your head and look at the target as many dogs will look toward whatever you're viewing). Again, as soon as the dog's eyes flick toward the target, I say "YESS!". It's really important to say "YESS!" very quickly when the behavior happens as it's that YES that marks the correct behavior. The treat that follows afterwards simply reinforces the YES.

Continue this for several more treats. If your timing is good and you're saying "YESS!" at the right times, you should see your dog starting to clue in on the concept, and she should be eagerly turning her eyes to the target. Stop on a positive note and while she's still eager to participate.

Next session, do the same but if she's obviously glancing at the target quickly (and really seems to understand the concept), then pause instead of saying "YESS!" until she either glances a second time, holds the initial glance for longer, or moves toward the target. You want her to escalate her behavior in some way, and then you build on that. Eventually, as you continue to pause and expect more, she WILL make a move toward that target. And as you continue through the various training sessions (give this appropriate time and don't expect too much in a single session) she will actually touch the target with her nose.

Once she's touching the target with her nose, continue this and reinforce it highly. Once she's consistently bumping the target, withhold the "YESS" again and expect a second bump of the target. That second bump will probably be harder than the first bump (again, escalating the behavior) and that's ideal as she's going to have to bump hard to close the door.

About now is when I'd add in a verbal command to the behavior. I might say "close" or "door" as the command, since the behavior later will be to close the door (and you could actually say "close the door" with an emphasis on the word that is used as the command). Continue to practice this until she is bumping the target 2-3 times on the command.

Then bring the target to the door. Start by holding it against the door and asking her to bump it. Expect that she might get confused - when you change the criteria, it's a different behavior to the dog and she may have to re-learn some of the earlier steps in order to have it make sense to her. Usually a few rewards for glancing/moving toward/touching is sufficient to show the dog that you expect the same behavior even though the positioning and area are different.

Once she's bumping the target while you hold it to the door, open the door and hold the target while she bumps it and makes the door move. This is a huge step and again you may have to move back a bit in training to help her through it.

When she's willingly moving the door, tape the target to the door and ask her to bump it. You may have to start with your hand near the target, because she will probably associate your hand as part of the cue for a while. But gradually move farther away (a few inches at a time) and encourage her to bump the target.

Once she's pushing that door closed, you can start to phase out the target by making it smaller and smaller until it's gone and the behavior has transferred to the door instead of the target. You can just cut the butter lid to smaller sizes until your dog no longer needs it there at all.

You can actually teach her to close it from the outside - at least close it most of the way - by attaching a towel to the handle and teaching her to pull on the towel. I've used that technique to teach my dogs to open a fridge and bring a beer and it works pretty well.

Hope this helped!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska

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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-17-2009, 03:25 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Close the door behind her

Thanks, Melanie. Exactly what I am looking for (and love the detailed steps). I can't wait to start it and now I know how. Thanks again!!

Diana - owned by Siena Rose (Oct 29, 2006)

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