Teaching Dogs to Wait at Doors and Gates

I don’t like my dogs to rush through doors and gates. I don’t want them to scatter or injure livestock as they pass through a gate. I worry that I could get hurt if they were to crash into my knees. And it’s possible they could hurt themselves in their excitement.  So, I use Dawn Jecs’ method to teach dogs to be mannerly at doors and gates. If you start this when your pup is young it will be easier than retraining an older dog already used to rushing the gates.

Clara and Dexter eager to head through the gate.

Prepare to open the gate or door as usual, except this time open it only a few inches, hold on tightly, and quickly close it again. If your dogs are used to racing past you they may try to squeeze through, so hold on tight. Your goal is not to have the dog hit the door/gate. It’s simply to quickly close off his passage.

I’ve opened the gate about 8″ and will immediately close it. Notice how Dexter is making eye contact with me.

Repeat the process several times. Open the door/ gate a few inches, hold on tight, and quickly draw it back so the dog can’t pass though.  The dog will be surprised the first time this occurs.

After three to four times, the dog will typically back off his attempt to rush through. He may look up at you as if to ask, “What are you doing?” He may even back up or sit down. At that point — when the dog is making no attempt to go through the gate, and he is looking up at you — you may then tell him, “Ok”, giving permission for him to pass, while opening the gate/door fully.

It is very important that the dog make eye contact with you to ask permission. If the dog doesn’t look up at you, especially if he’s focused on something on the other side of the gate, simply waiting it out may result in the dog looking up at you. If you’re in a hurry, positioning yourself between the gate and the dog might break his focus. I have also been known to make a small click or tutt-tutt sound to get the dog’s attention on me during the training phase.

In time, the dogs learn to make eye contact, realizing this is what’s required before they can proceed. I was taught to name a behavior right as it happens, so now you can name this behavior. I use “Wait”.

Plan on approaching each and every gate/door this way. Otherwise it may be confusing to the dog. This should include stall doors, car doors, and crate doors. Practice lengthening the seconds he must wait. Practice holding the gate open wide enough that he could physically pass through, while telling him to “wait”.  Practice walking through the door/gate yourself while having the dog wait. All these things make the behavior more reliable.  I hope this helps you and your pup.