For some dogs impulse control at the front door is literally mission impossible.
Rio is one of those dogs! Her impulse control in other circumstances such as waiting to be released to go after a toy is superb.
The reason behind the lack of impulse control at the front door could be for a myriad of reasons, but I am guessing that it boils down to interest in going to say hi. This genuine interest in interacting with a guest can also be intertwined with our dog’s predisposition to alerting when someone has entered their perceived territory.
Either way, what we must ask ourselves is: What would I rather my dog do instead of dashing out the front door full speed? In my case, I want Rio to learn to be released AND then to proceed to meet the guest by walking towards them versus running towards them. Yep, I have my work cut out for me on this one! I should have had this protocol in place on day one after acquiring Rio… now she has a few years of practice that I need to undo.
So I designed the following training plan for her. I want her to begin by lying down close to the front door, but not so close that she is encroaching on my personal space as I get to the door. After being released with “go say hi” I want her to lie down on our front porch one more time before proceeding calmly towards the guest.
The training plan above requires Rio multiple behaviors, executed one after the other and as such, they all must be very reliable before I can even attempt to use them in the presence of a real guest. I begin by asking her to lie down as I reach for the front door. I treat her with really high-value stuff, as I want to make an impression on this girl. She does this beautifully for a few trials so I progress to releasing her from the front porch to lie again next to me as I proceed to reward her again. We now have this combination down pat with no distractions present. Distractions for Rio will include Deuce, and of course, a real visitor outside.
After practicing this routine a few times and her being successful, I began to make it more realistic by walking around my living room and sometimes the adjacent kitchen area and saying: Go say hi! Again, a more realistic situation.
Once by the front door, I wait for her to lie down without me asking her first to do so. She does it immediately- good girl Rio! And we end the session here.
The following morning I incorporate Deuce into this part of the exercise. Rio has also the bad habit of rushing out the door without even considering if she is stepping on Deuce at all! A bad case of Bull in a China shop.
For this exercise on impulse control, I ask both dogs to either sit or lay down. The verbal cue given after their names so that each dog is clear about what they are supposed to do. Once in place, I reward them when they get into position at once. I then ask Rio to stay in place as I release Deuce out the front door in chase of a treat.
Rio, of course, gets rewarded handsomely for staying put. This is much harder than we sometimes give it credit. I repeat a few more times. Sometimes Rio gets released first while Deuce remains in place, other times Deuce goes first.
I will continue to add the second part of my training plan, which is: Rio walking slowly once she is released from the down on the front porch. This is easy – when there is no one to greet. I manage the situation by throwing treats on the ground for her to locate. She is busy with this task, which keeps her from dashing forward at full speed.
As we progress with Rio being successful, I will add more distractions such as her favorite ball at the end of the front porch. If she walks down the front porch instead of rushing down while she can see the ball at the end of the porch I will let her play with the ball.
Once we have mastered walking slowly towards the ball and she has been rewarded many, many times it will be time to set up mini-training sessions with guests. My goal is to teach Rio that exercising some much-needed self-control at the front door will result in tasty treats and even saying hello to whoever is here to visit.