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When approaching narrow spaces, some dogs will suddenly stop and refuse to walk forward while others will run through doorways quickly with their tails tucked and ears pinned back. Either way, both types of dogs are afraid to walk through doorways and it’s essential to positively change their behavior to increase their quality of life.
What Causes This Fear?
As humans, we assume hundreds of reasons why dogs behave a certain way, which is unfair to dogs. Let’s remove our anthropomorphic tendencies and try to understand the cause behind a dog’s fear of walking through thresholds.
Fearfulness is the main cause of your dog’s behavior. We can assume hallway echoes, loud noises, loudly slamming doors and many other reasons are the cause, but fearfulness is the real cause. When dogs are fearful, they may overreact to many things. When fearful dogs are exposed to scary doorways or entrance ways several times, they may develop anxiety. If a dog is punished when he’s scared of a scary situation, his anxiety deepens.
How to Teach Dogs to Love Walking Through Doorways
Regardless of why your dog became afraid of walking through doorways, it’s imperative to teach him to love walking through them. Grab super yummy treats, such as cheese cubes, deli lunch meat or hot dogs, and chop into pea-sized bites. Treats are a dog’s paycheck, so use the yummiest treats possible.
Start teaching your dog this behavior inside your home, using hall and doorways. Even though your dog may not be fearful of walking through indoor entrances, it’s a safe place to start changing your dog’s behavior.
Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose, and lure him through the doorway. If your dog is too scared, click and treat your dog when he walks close to a doorway. Slowly shape this behavior until your dog will walk through the entrance.
Once your dog is comfortable walking through indoor entrances, leash your dog and practice outside. Walk out the back door and click as your dog walks through. Even if he slinks through the doorway, he’s being brave and choosing to walk through the doorway.
Pairing good things (yummy food) with scary things (entrances) will positively change your dog’s behavior. Think about it this way: If it rains $100 bills while you’re walking through a haunted house, you will learn that haunted houses are not scary. 🙂
What Doesn’t Work
Never force a dog through a doorway; your dog is scared. Back away from the door, regroup by grabbing treats and lure your dog inside. Ideally, you should practice this behavior before he has to walk through scary doorways, such as the vet clinic.
Take 1-2 minutes each day, and make doorways and entrances fun to walk through!