How to stop a dog from scratching at the door

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Tor and Riley

Photo: Lindsay Stordahl

This is a tough problem. Your dog scratches at the door, and you want to go to him to tell him to stop. But then he learns that scratching at the door gets him what he wants – your attention. So what should a dog owner do? This post will help you come up with your own ideas on how to stop your dog from scratching at the door.

1. Prevent the habit in the first place.

If you prevent a problem from starting, the dog will never even think of doing it. My own dog Ace never had the opportunity to scratch at the door because I almost always took him outside on a slip leash. The scratching and barking habit never developed. These days, I can leave him outside alone and it never occurs to him to scratch or bark.

2. Ignore the unwanted behavior.

If your dog does bark or scratch at the door while you’re inside, I recommend you get up and walk out of the room. Get to where your dog can’t see you. Teach him that barking or scratching actually makes you disappear. Once he’s quiet and not scratching, return and let him in.

You can also teach your dog not to scratch by setting up scenarios where he is likely to scratch. For example, put him in a bedroom and shut the door. If he scratches, ignore him until he has stopped scratching for 30 seconds. Then open the door. Repeat this a few times each day at various doors. You are teaching your dog that scratching does not get him what he wants. He gets a reward only if he is quiet and keeps his paws off the door.

3. Create healthy separation more often.

Perhaps your dog doesn’t like to be away from you. Try teaching your dog a solid stay command and then leaving him on his dog bed or in different places throughout the house or yard while you walk away. Your goal should be to reach an advanced level where you can tell your dog to stay while you walk from the yard and into the house. Then, return to your dog and reward him with treats! This type of training will help build your dog’s self-control and lessen his dependence on being near you at all times.

4. Firmly yell “No!”

There is a lot of talk about positive reinforcement, and that’s generally a good thing. With some dogs, though, a firm voice correction can go a long way. While you don’t want to give a dog attention for a behavior you do not like, showing your disapproval will be enough to stop some dogs. It will not work for others. If your dog is scratching or barking at the door, you would want to yell “NO!” right as he does the behavior. Then, wait a few seconds until he is quiet. Reward the dog for a different behavior such as “sit” or “down” and then let the dog inside. You can also use unpleasant sounds as the correction such as shaking a can of coins.

5. Use a heavy-duty dog door.

If you don’t mind allowing your dog the freedom to go in and out as he pleases, chew-proof dog doors are an option. These doors are easy to install and are weatherproof even for the most brutal Midwest winters. If you use a dog door, your dog will have the freedom to go in and out as he pleases, erasing the scratching problem.

How have the rest of you stopped your dog’s from scratching at the door?

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About Lindsay Stordahl

Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for dogIDs.com. She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ThatMutt.com.
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Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at . You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @ThatMutt.

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