How Do I Teach My Dog to Enter the Dog Park Calmly?

Once your dog will sit or down, grab a treat bag and go to a closed door that your dog is less likely to have an interest in dashing through, such as a bedroom or bathroom door. Then ask your dog to sit or down and begin moving one hand toward the closed door. If he stays in the sit or down as you move your hand to touch the door handle, mark the behavior with a “good” or a click and reward immediately.

Keep in mind that if he rises up out of his sit or down as you reach for the door, you will need to make the training easier and only move your hand part way toward the door handle to find a point where your dog can be rewarded.

After a couple of successful repeats, make the behavior of staying in position more difficult by starting to turn the door handle. If your dog remains successful after a couple of tries, make it more difficult again by opening the door a crack. Should your dog break his sit or down, simply shut the door and reset him in position, and go back to an earlier step in the training if needed.

The goal is to have the door wide open before giving your dog the release word, such as “OK,” to step through. For my own dogs, the sit or down is actually a stay position that is always released with an “OK,” thus the behavior of waiting in a sit or a down doesn’t need another word to go with it — the signal of being asked to sit and the sight of a door is enough. For other dogs, you may need to add in a “wait” word to go with the new behavior, which should be added as soon as he gets into position and you start to move toward the door.

After this behavior has been practiced at an unexciting door, move to a door your dog is more likely to dash through, such as the front door. The wait at the door should then be added to waiting at the car door. Practice first with the dog waiting in a sit or a down as the car door is opened and he is released inside. Also practice clipping on your dog’s leash as he is in the waiting position, so that he is relaxed. Then practice with your dog waiting in a sit or a down on the car seat or in his kennel before he is released to come outside the car.

Practice the car exercises in the garage or driveway, and then move to more distracting situations as long as the dog stays successful. It’s easiest to teach the behavior with treats, but eventually the reward of doing the behavior becomes getting to go through the door.

Waiting at the door sets the stage for the dog being calm and listening to his pet parent, even as he waits at the door before being loaded up, and walks out of the house to the car. The waiting at the door is especially beneficial when getting to the dog park because it protects the pet from dashing out the door while his leash is clipped on and also prepares the dog to listen to his human before he sets one paw out of the car.

Teach Your Dog to Turn and Sit

The second behavior to practice with your dog in a low-distraction environment is turning around at the sound of his name and going into a sit or a down. This is a fairly simple behavior that has numerous benefits.

The easiest way to practice this is on leash in your yard. As soon as your dog turns his attention away from you, such as walking in front of you to sniff, call his name and take a step or two back to coax him to follow. As soon as he turns toward you, mark with a “good” or a click and treat immediately. Once your dog turns back toward you, ask him to sit or down and mark with a “good” or click and treat.


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