How to Get Your Dog to Open Doorsby Simon Foden
Teach the required action first, then apply it to the door.
A dog who can open doors has the potential to be very useful. He can fetch your slippers and let himself outside, for a start. Also, being able to open doors means Lucky has a degree of independence, so it’s essential to lock any doors to rooms that are out of bounds. It’s hard to unteach a trick. Teaching Lucky to open doors, while it does have practical benefits, should be all about mental stimulation and obedience.
Crouch down in front of Lucky with a treat concealed in your hand.
Let Lucky sniff your hand so he knows what’s hidden in there.
Tap the top of your hand and say “push.” Lucky might be confused for a while, but eventually, he’ll paw at your hand in a bid to free that delicious treat. As soon as he touches your hand with the paw, release the treat and lavish Lucky with praise and fuss. The trick here is to reinforce the action of touching.
Repeat the process four or five times a day. With sufficient repetition, Lucky will learn the required action and you’ll be able to give the command without using the treat as a lure.
Put Lucky’s favorite toy or a delicious treat on one side of the door. Make sure Lucky is on the other side.
Crouch down in front of the door. Make sure the door isn’t locked and that you’re on the right side of it to push it open. You’re training Lucky to do a basic push trick, not to unlock and pull open a door.
Tap on the door at paw height and say “push.” Lucky may tap your hand to start with. If he does, ignore him and continue tapping the door. Eventually he’ll get it right, even if just by luck. It doesn’t matter, what’s important is that you reward him when he gets it right. This reinforces the behavior. Timing is essential, however; try to say “push” just before Lucky lifts his paw and release the treat immediately after.
Repeat the process at the door until Lucky knows to push the door with his paw. Once the door is open, Lucky gets his treat. This is the second reward.
Practice the routine four or five times every day, gradually increasing the distance between the door and yourself each time. Soon enough, you won’t need to tap the door, as Lucky will understand that the “push” command means to put his paw against the door.
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