Door Bolting - Prevention and Long Term Solutions
Originally published in the National Shiba Club of America Magazine - The E-News - Summer 2015
One of the greatest fears of Shiba owners is their dog getting loose and taking off. Because Shibas love the outdoors sometimes it seems like they will stop at nothing to sneak out the door and be 1/2 a mile into the neighborhood in no time. Before I started training dogs, I had my fair share of white hairs earned chasing a Shiba down the sidewalk. But those fears can be a thing of the past with careful management/prevention methods and some consistent and fun training.
The simplest and fastest way to keep your Shiba safe for door bolting is limiting access to the door. If your house has a foyer or hallway that leads to the front door, you can install a gate or two to block access to the front door. If your house has a more open floor plan, you can install an ex-pen around the door to limit access. The reason I suggest these barriers is because when they are implemented, it doesn't matter if you're entering or exiting, your dog will have no access to the door and therefore no ability to sneak out.
When gates are not an option, a tether can be another choice. Tethers are chew proof tie lines that you can install in your house. If your dog is not a chewer a leash will work just fine. I only recommend these for short term instances when you are having multiple guests entering and exiting. This allows the dog to be kept at a safe distance while the door is opened and closed multiple times. This is NOT meant for when all human occupants are leaving and the dog is left unattended. Never leave a dog tethered unattended.
While prevention is a quick and simple solution for an immediate problem, training is your best long term solution. Management and prevention will eventually fail so to protect your dog it is a good idea to take the time to train in these three behaviors.
Come! - Teaching your dog to come when called is a life saving skill. Don't just teach your dog in easy places like dog school or in your home. With a long leash attached to your dog, stand on your stoop or porch and let your dog wander. Periodically call your dog and as he is coming, run in the house and shower your dog with tasty treats. Repeat this often and your dog will blaze in the house when they hear "COME!"
Boundary Training - Teaching your dog that the doorway is something to not cross without your permission can significantly stop the risk of door bolting. With your dog on leash, approach the open door. Stop so that your dog cannot pass through the opening. When your dog relaxes and refocuses on you, shower them with treats and love! Repeat this 4-5 times. Then approach the opening and give the dog enough leash slack that they could choose to go through. If they don't go through shower them with love and treats. If they do walk through, calmly call them back with their name and try again. DO NOT say "COME". If they fail 3 times in a row, go back to the first part of the exercise. As they learn to stop at the open door, start practicing with distractions outside such as friends, wildlife, and bicycles. (There is no command for this training. You should be silent except for any praise or to say the dog's name. There are also no corrections.)
Party on the porch! (or stoop) - Worse case scenario, your dog still gets out. That's why it's best to have a backup plan. That's why I teach my dogs - PARTY ON THE PORCH!! For this exercise, walk your dog (on leash!) around your front yard. When your dog is gazing off in another direction, say their name and race them to the porch or stoop. Give them 5-10 tiny treats one at a time and then stop. Then wait. If the dog stays on the porch/stoop repeat the reward. If they hop off, follow them around for a minute or so and then repeat the first step. Pretty soon your dog will become magnetized to your porch/stoop. Now if your dog does slip out or gets out of a fence or kennel, you have a very good chance of finding them waiting for you at your front door. . (There is no command for this training. You should be silent except for any praise or to say the dog's name. There are also no corrections.)