Doors are an exciting place for dogs.  You just never know what’s on the other side!  Or they can be scary.  Either way, teaching your dog to ‘Wait at the Door’ is a great way to ensure that they, and whoever is on the other side, stay safe.  In addition to being irritating to us, it can also be dangerous. Sometimes what is on the other side is a busy street. Teach your dog to pause or stop at the doorway until you give the all clear.


First, leash your dog using the “Leashing Up” protocol.  Second, introduce “Mat Targeting” by the door.  You’ll want to stand in reach of the door handle and position the mat where you can fully open the door.  Picture yourself walking out the door or allowing a guest to enter.  What movements do you make with your body naturally in those scenarios and what would impede a smooth flow?

Next you’ll teach your dog that staying on the mat while you open the door is a fruitful activity for them.  The key is to reward your dog while they are on their mat.  Frequently enough that they learn that leaving their mat results in a much lower payout.

Here are some specific actions to look for when giving rewards:

  • At first, reward anything your dog does on or around the mat.
  • While they are stepping on the mat with any foot.
  • Sitting, lying down, or sniffing the mat.
  • When they stay on the mat while you reach for the door knob, turn the knob or break the door seal.
  • When they follow your cue to sit or down.
  • When they wait while you step around the door.

Keep the door closed or only cracked until your dog is able to ignore the distraction and turn their attention firmly to you.  If you give them access to the other side while they’re excited you’ll set them up for failure and yourself up for frustration.  Go slow!


In order for your dog to learn to wait at the door they must understand that ‘waiting’ will be far more lucrative to them than ‘rushing.’  You must also proactively curb any opportunities for them to receive ‘bootleg’ reinforcement by means of pushy behavior.  

What can you do to prevent your dog from accessing boot leg reinforcers on the other side of the door?


Set up your camera to record you while you record the 3 videos.  Leash your dog and ask them to move to their mat by the door.  Start a timer for each video for 30 seconds.  Begin in and return to a neutral position between each reward.

Video 1: Reward your dog, 1 piece of food at a time, while they wait on the mat.   

Video 2: Reward your dog, 1 piece at a time, for waiting on the mat as you reach for the knob and attempt to open the door.

Video 3: Reward your dog, 1 piece at a time, for waiting on the mat as you reach for the knob and attempt to open the door.

Now go back and watch your video and answer the following 3 questions:

How many treats did you deliver in each video?  

How far were you able to progress in the door opening sequence?

What would you do differently if you attempted these videos again?


Thank you for completing this activity.  Your commitment to your training goals in commendable!  By making a little time each day to work with your dog and grow your own dog training skills you will nurture a strong bond with your dog.  

If you have any additional questions or feedback please submit them below.  Then press ‘Finish’ to submit your answers!

Emily​ Coleman, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA​