Teaching your dog to close doors is not only an amusing trick, it can be really useful around the house. Whether your arms are full of groceries, your dog works as a service dog or you just don't feel like getting up to do it, training your dog to help with basic, everyday tasks can be a huge help. Closing the door is a task that's easy and straightforward to teach, so grab your dog and get ready to have some fun!
Step #1 - Teach your dog to target, or touch, your hand. Grab a treat and put it in your closed fist. When your dog noses your hand for the treat, open your fist and let your dog eat the yummy. Rinse, lather and repeat until your pooch happily noses your hand without hesitation.
Step #2 - Place a single, brightly colored Post-It note on your closed fist. Show your dog your fist the same way you did when teaching her to touch it, and reward your dog when she nose-bumps your fist and the Post-It note. Hold several short training sessions a day until your dog happily nose-bumps the note while it's on your fist.
Step #3 - Stick the Post-It note to the door, close to the edge, at nose-height to your dog. Stand directly next to the door and show your dog the note. Tap it a couple of times if your dog doesn't see it. Encourage her to nose-bump the paper. When your dog touches the note, praise her enthusiastically and give her a treat.
Step #4 - Practice having your dog touch the Post-It note while it's taped to the door. Reward your dog enthusiastically for every success. If your dog isn't quite getting it, take a couple steps back and work on the foundational behaviors for a bit longer.
Step #5 - Introduce the cue you're going to use to ask your dog to close the door. Good choices include "door," "close" or "push." Stand next to the door and just wait. As your dog goes to touch the note, happily state your chosen cue. Reward your dog. Repeat this process 10 times in a row, two or three times a day, for three to five days. It's very important that your dog link the command you're using with the actual behavior of touching the door with her nose before moving on to the next step.
Step #6 - Open the door 2 to 3 inches. Bring your dog over and give her your cue. She should immediately touch the Post-It note with her nose. If the door moves at all, even a little bit, praise her very enthusiastically and give her a treat. Open the door again, and practice until your dog noses the door with enough force to close it 2 or 3 inches. Always be upbeat, positive and enthusiastic. Try to end every session on a good note.
Step #7 - Begin to gradually open the door wider and wider and practice having your dog nose the door closed on command. Take it slow and only reward your dog when the door clicks closed. That's her cue that she's done performing the behavior. Remember to have fun. If your dog stops closing the door, go back to the last point she'd do so reliably, and spend a couple days working at that level before increasing the difficulty again.
Step #8 - Take a step back from the door so you're standing a few inches away. Ask your four-legged worker to close the door for you. When she does so, give her several treats and have a party! Praise her enthusiastically, and then try again.
Step #9 - Increase the distance you're standing from the door one step at a time. Always reward your hard-working pup for success and keep in mind that if your dog stops performing the behavior, you've gone too far, too fast. Work a little closer to the door so that your dog can succeed, and then continue adding distance when your dog is comfortable with the behavior.
Step #10 - Begin practicing the command while you're doing the types of stuff you normally do around the house, such as carrying groceries, sitting in the office or hanging out as a family watching a movie. Always reward your pup for a job well done and enjoy showing off her new skill!
By Kea Grace
About the Author
Since 2001, Kea Grace has published in "Dog Fancy," "Clean Run," "Front and Finish" and an international Czechoslovakian agility enthusiast magazine. Grace is the head trainer for Gimme Grace Dog Training and holds her CPDT-KA and CTDI certifications. She is a member of the APDT and is a recognized CLASS instructor. She's seeking German certification from the Goethe Institut.