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Worried Your Dog Will Take Off? How to Teach Your Pup to Wait

Whether you’re leaving the house or getting out of your car, threshold manners will help keep your dog safe.

Training Tip Tuesday

By DCSPCA Canine Lead Trainer Jodi

One of my biggest fears is that one of my dogs will jump out of the car in a busy parking lot before I can grab their leash. Be it your car door or the door to your front yard, doors are a safety hazard for dogs who haven’t been taught threshold manners. Teaching your dog to wait for permission to pass through a door is easy and could be lifesaving. This is another form of teaching your dog emotional self-control. They also learn that you are their leader and the one who will provide access to the things they love, but in your own timing.

How to Train Your Dog to Wait

Step 1: Stand outside a door (your front door or car door, for example) with the dog on their leash, say “Wait.” Open the door briefly and only a small amount (just one or two inches, not wide enough for the dog to stick his nose in). If the dog immediately tries to move forward through the door, close it quickly. You’ll probably have to do this step a few times before the dog does not move forward when the door opens.

Step 2: When the door opens and the dog does not move forward for even a very brief time (less than a second), use your release word (like “OK”), open the door wider and let the dog through the door. When the dog is waiting for one second without moving forward through the open door at least four out of five times, proceed to Step 3.

“Wait” uses a functional reward. Instead of marking the behavior and then providing a treat to reinforce the behavior, the dog’s reward for waiting at the door is that he gets to go through it.

Step 3: Repeat Step 2, but open the door slightly wider. Repeat the exercise until you can open the door all the way and your dog won’t move until you give the release cue.

You can also use a crate to train a dog to wait. With the dog inside the crate, use the same technique described above: Open the crate door a small amount very briefly. If the dog immediately starts to move toward the door, close it quickly.


Proofing means practicing a behavior in different situations, with various distractions. Start proofing once your dog has completed the training plan above (at a door or in a crate).

Duration: In small steps, increase the amount of time your dog will wait at the open door without moving through, until he can wait for 10 seconds.

Distraction: Start small. For example, hold up a toy, raise your arms or knock softly on a wall while practicing “Wait.” Then slowly increase the intensity of each distraction.

Location: Practice in different locations, at different types of doors.

Handler: Have other people practice “Wait” with your dog.

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