A dog scratching at the door can be viewed as a behaviour problem if it regularly causes damage, or you don’t like the noise of claws scraping across paintwork. They can do it for a number of reasons including asking to be let out for a wee, trying to grab your attention, or because they are suffering from separation anxiety. Whatever the reason, it can make an unsightly mess and if you don’t like the continual costs of having it repainted, here are some ways to stop it.
To start, you need to find out why your dog is scratching the door. If they want to be let out or want some attention they will obviously be scratching the door while you are in the house, whereas with separation anxiety the damage is likely to happen while you’re out. In extreme cases of anxiety they can start the scratching the moment you close a door between you and them because they are so desperate to get to you.
Is It Mindless Destruction?
Some owners believe their dogs cause the damage out of boredom, or worse, on purpose, almost like getting their own back for being left alone, and fail to see it as a symptom of separation anxiety in dogs. And while the destruction is on purpose, an anxious dog will be panicking about where you have disappeared to and are literally trying to scratch their way right through the door so they can come and find you.
Separation anxiety can be a difficult problem to solve, but with a dog separation anxiety training programme and some patience and persistence from you, the anxiety should disappear and the door scratching should stop.
Dog Scratching to be Let Out
If your dog only scratches the door when they want to be let out there are two approaches you can take to stopping it. You will still need a signal that they need to be let out, otherwise that will create a different kind of mess, but presumably don’t want the damage.
The first approach is to let them out regularly yourself, before they get to the stage when they start scratching and that way you avoid accidents and the damage to the door.
The second approach is to teach them another way to show you they want to go out. Use plenty of treats and praise to do this and select an easy signal for them to learn.
Scratching the Door for Attention
Once a dog has learnt to scratch the door to be let out, they can also use it to get your attention. Have you ever gone to let your dog out, but then found they weren’t really interested, maybe they just looked at you, or wandered outside aimlessly and then back in?
This kind of attention seeking behaviour is at best a time waster for you if you are constantly getting up to let the dog out when they don’t need it and at worst a way of your dog establishing themselves as ‘top dog’ as they feel like they can get your attention whenever they want it.
To ensure your dog gets to go out when they need to, but doesn’t use it for attention, here’s what to do.
When they scratch to be let out, go to the door and open it without paying any attention to the dog. That means not looking at your dog, speaking to them or touching them. If they just sit there because they didn’t really want to go out and just wanted your attention, simply close the door and walk away, again without paying any attention to your dog.
It’s a simple technique, but very effective, because dogs will only carry on doing what works for them and if it doesn’t get the attention they want they won’t carry on doing it for much longer.
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