Expert Tips for Dealing with Door Dashers

You can hear Roxy snoring from the next room.

You take this chance to make a stealthy escape. Just as you shut the door behind you, she makes a mad dash for it… Fortunately you make it out in time.

If this scenario sounds uncomfortably close to home, you know what it means to live with a pet who is always trying to escape. It’s a behavior that not only causes pet owners anxiety but puts the pet at risk of running out of the house right into a dangerous situation, like a moving car.

But there is hope, according to Laura Garber, Pennsylvania SPCA’s manager of behavior and enrichment, who is certified as a professional dog trainer, an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator and cat behavior counselor. She offers some advice in dealing with door dashers:

The Honest Kitchen: What are the effects of this behavior for pet owners?

Laura Garber: It is very upsetting to owners because it makes it very challenging for them to keep their pets safe. It can also be costly because pets can get injured as a result, either hurting themselves during the escape itself or at risk of injury by people, other animals, and traffic once outside.

THK: What kind of escape artists are there?

Laura Garber: There are door dashers, but also dogs can escape yards by jumping or climbing over the fence, dogs with separation or arousal issues may jump through a window.

THK: What about cats?

Laura Garber: Cats are primarily door dashers. The best ways to alleviate the issue is by keeping the cat away from the door, shut out of the room with external exit points. If this is not possible, a laser toy can be placed at the point of entrance so that the person can distract the cat away from the door as they enter, getting them to playfully chase the laser light. Alternatively, if there are other toys that the cat prefers, like jingle balls or furry mice, they can be tossed into the room as people enter and exit.

THK: What is the best way to deal with this behavior in dogs?

Laura Garber: For dogs, it’s important to diagnose the causes of the escape behavior. Simple escaping can be solved through training. Body block the dog from approaching the door or tether him away from the door and then train him to offer a sit, rewarding with tasty treats. Use a barrier like a baby gate in front of the door in the interim as the training is perfected. Through consistent training, this is very achievable.

THK: What about anxiety-based behavior?

Laura Garber: If the escape behavior is due to anxiety such as separation anxiety, it is important to treat the root of the issue. With an issue as extreme as jumping out a window due to the anxiety, anti-anxiety medications may be indicated, and a pet owner should consult with their vet for guidance. While treating the dog for separation anxiety, find other alternatives for him, such as staying at a friend’s house or going to doggie day care. Separation anxiety can be quite challenging to treat.

THK: What about territorial behavior?

Laura Garber: If a dog gets aroused or territorial when people or dogs pass the house or the yard and has the potential to jump out a window or over the fence, he should be contained in a room away from windows so that he is not constantly in such an aroused state. If this is not possible, inhibit his access to the windows by arranging the furniture in a different way or by putting shades or even adhesive paper on the window. Further, he should also not be allowed in the yard without supervision. When this arousal also occurs when people enter the house, training should be done to teach the dog alternate behaviors, such as sitting politely. Alternatively, crate him while people are entering the home and allow him to meet the visitors once he and they have settled. With consistent training, this is also very achievable.

Pets who want to run off any chance they get can be frustrating for owners and potentially put themselves in danger. But with the right training, you may be able to effectively manage the behavior. Find a trainer specializing in door dashing and other such behaviors for more guidance.

Meet the Author: Jessica Peralta

Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.

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