Whether your dog is a service dog or just a loving, loyal, family pet, teaching your pooch to push doors with her paws can really come in handy. If your arms are full, you're not physically able or you just don't feel like opening or closing the door, let your four-legged friend step up and do the job for you. Work on shaking hands before introducing door closing if your dog doesn’t know this foundational behavior.
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Pick a door, such as a cabinet door, that's lightweight and that won't slam when it closes. Stand next to the lightweight door you've chosen and call your dog to you. Place a treat in your closed hand and place your hand very close to the closed door. Ask your dog to "shake" with you. When your dog's paw makes contact with your hand, give her the treat and praise her. Repeat a couple of times until your dog is comfortable picking her foot up so close to the door.
Repeat the step, but just before your dog's paw contacts your hand, move your hand so your dog's foot brushes against the door. Praise her enthusiastically and treat her immediately. Practice until your dog readily swipes at the door with her paw.
Open the door with your dog standing close and tap the door, encouraging your dog to swipe at it. Once your dog swipes at the door, praise and reward her. After your dog has swiped at the door three or four times, continue to tap the door and encourage her to put a little force behind her swipe. Once she does, praise her enthusiastically and give her several treats to cement the idea.
Practice opening the door more and more, rewarding your dog once she pushes it closed with her paw. After she is comfortable closing the lightweight door, introduce the command you'll use to tell her you'd like her to help you close the door. Good choices are "close," "door," "push" or "help." Tap the door and just as your dog picks up her paw to shove it closed, give your command. Reward her once the door is closed.
Begin practicing with other doors, taking things slowly and spending as much time as necessary at each step for your dog to understand what you're asking. When working with a heavier door, such as the front door to your house, give your dog time to build up the necessary strength to perform the task.
Introduce distance once your dog comfortably closes all types of doors. Take a single step back from a door she enjoys closing and give your command. Reward her enthusiastically when she complies. Taking one step away from the door at a time, practice until your dog will reliably close the door from any area you commonly hang out, such as the kitchen, your office or the couch.
Take as much time as your pooch needs to thoroughly understand each step. Moving too quickly can frustrate your pup and impede learning.
Reward with high-value treats such as diced chicken, string cheese, hard boiled eggs or popcorn to teach new and complex behaviors.
End on a positive note with something your dog enjoys doing and does well.
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