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Dog Training/Backdoor Manners

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Question
Hi Barb,

I have a two year old female Standard Poodle. She is very active and playful, but also pretty well mannered and easy to train.

However, I can't seem to break her habit of scratching at the back door to ask to come in. I have tried to get her to bark to come in. I have a glass back door, so when I see her come up, I jump up before she has a chance to scratch and ask her to speak before I open the door. Once she speaks, I open the door and praise her.

Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to be connecting the dots and forming a habit. I think she thinks I am just asking her to speak at the back door, she is getting that I want her to bark every time. She still typically scratches at the door. My trim is completely gauged and scratched,  but I don't want to go about replacing it until I have trained that behavior out of her. No sense replacing it when she will just scratch it up again!

Any help?

Thanks!
Cate

Answer
Great question, Cate! Are you absolutely certain you want a dog that barks to come inside?  What if you need the dog to stay outside while something is going on inside the house? (Exterminator, visitors that don't tolerate dogs, cleaning or construction crew, etc.) If you're sure, then reward the behavior you like by opening the door and have a consequence for scratching - walk away from the door. In the meantime, stop give the cue to "speak". She's got to do that on her own without prompting. Be prepared for an extinction burst - the scratching may get worse before it goes away entirely.

I've successfully trained a few dogs to station themselves on a rug or mat near the back door as a signal to be let inside. With this method, you have to be watchful of when the dog approaches the door, but it will give her something to do instead of scratching. Here's a good article on teaching a dog to go to a mat: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/3308

Please let me know if you have any questions or follow-up comments.  Good luck!

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Barb Gadola, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP

Expertise

I can answer questions related to problem dog behaviors, teaching polite manners, puppy raising, and any type of training-related issues. My website page, www.DistinctiveDogTraining.com/resources offers a wealth of information on training and behavior issues as well.

Experience

I've been training dogs since 1989 and own and operate Distinctive Dog Training LLC in Keller TX. I specialize in providing practical and positive solutions for families through personalized training in their home.

Organizations
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Victoria Stilwell Positively! Licensed Trainer
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
Truly Dog Friendly Coalition

Education/Credentials
BS in Education
Graduate work in Behavioral Psychology
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Training Program
Certified Professional Dog Trainer

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