Most likely, Rover's behavior of suddenly putting on his brakes before entering the door isn't triggered by some form of social etiquette dictating that humans must always go first. Rather, if you see him rehearsing this peculiar behavior, most likely he's responding to some positive or negative association, perhaps something he's experienced before you got him. It's your job to identify the reason and solve the issue.
At times, Rover's peculiar behaviors may be triggered by fear. It could be that one day his tail got caught in the door or he collided against the screen door as it closed. Some dogs may be scared of the noise produced by a door slamming. In any case, his reluctance to enter inside stems from a desire to avoid something perceived as unpleasant or frightening. The hesitant behavior of avoiding the door, therefore, may be simply a learned response to feel safe and protect himself. Make sure his entrance is safe and easy.
At times, dogs love the outdoors so much they see going inside almost as a form of punishment. If Rover is the outdoorsy type, all bets are off that he may put his breaks on just because he sees going inside as the end of all the fun. Whether the outdoors brings intriguing sights, a whiff of a French poodle in heat from across the street or relief from pent-up energy, Rover may find the outdoors much more enticing than the indoors. Make sure you have treats for him when he comes inside and the same kind of fun he experienced outside.
If you recently rescued a dog and he is hesitant upon entering the door, it could be that his previous owners have trained him to step inside on command. Known as the Premack Principle, this form of training consists of providing life rewards to dogs who first exhibit calm, polite behaviors. Your dog may have been trained to obey to a specific obedience command such as "sit down" before being released to come inside.
If you're chasing Rover in an attempt to get him to come inside, it could be he's refusing to come inside because he has discovered an awesome game. The rules are that every time you enter the home and he gets close to the door and stops, the moment you move in his direction to get him to follow you inside, he runs away. In this case, you'll notice a playful body language often accompanied by play bows, high-pitched barks and fake attempts to come inside so you try to catch him and he can swerve away at the last second. Try keeping him on a leash so you don't have to chase him to get him inside.
Changing the Response
Once you have determined the underlying cause for Rover's reluctance to step inside, you can work on the issue. For instance, if he loves the outdoors so much, make sure he gets loads of exercise outdoors so he's tired when he comes inside and make sure you make great things happen when he's indoors. If he's fearful, you'll have to desensitize him to the object of his fears and increase his confidence level. Playful dogs shouldn't be chased, but if you flip the roles and entice him to chase you instead next time, you might get him to no longer stop and follow you all the way inside.
By Adrienne Farricelli
ASPCA: Fear of Noises
Montreal Dog Blog: My Dog Refuses to Come Inside When I Want Him to!
The Whole Dog Journal: Reward Based Dog Training - Without Using Treats!
All Dogs Academy: Avoid Teaching Your Dog "Keep Away"
About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.