Does your dog scratch at your door, worrying you with the reasons they’re scratching or the damage they’re doing? Door scratching doesn’t have to be something that just goes along with having a dog – you can figure out their reasons for it, as well as ways to train them out of the behavior.
To stop your dog from scratching at the door follow these simple steps. 1. Don’t reward the behavior with your attention. 2. Remain calm when you get home and don’t reinforce their excitement. 3. Train your dog by saying a firm “no” without getting angry then reward them when they comply. 4. Start this training when you first get your dog. 5. Don’t give them attention right before you leave. Just leave calmly. 6. Lastly, add a doggie door if they just need access to use the bathroom while you’re away.
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Table of Contents
- How to Stop a Dog From Scratching Door in 6 Steps
- Stopping Scratching to Come Inside
- Stopping Scratching When You Leave
- Stop Your Dog From Scratching the Door All Night
- Stop Your Dog From Jumping on the Door
- Stop Screen Door Scratching
- Why Does My Dog Scratch the Door?
- What Methods Use Positive Reinforcement to Stop Door Scratching?
- What Methods Use Negative Reinforcement to Stop Door Scratching?
- How to Find a Good Dog Trainer
- Dog Training Support Groups
How to Stop a Dog From Scratching Door in 6 Steps
Dog owner Sharon Booth has a quick guide to help stop your dog from scratching the door in this video.
1. Don’t reward undesirable behavior with attention. When your dog scratches at the door, leave the room.
2. Pay attention to your emotions and reactions. If, for example, your dog scratches at the door when you get home from work, remain calm instead of reacting negatively or with excitement.
3. Say “no” without yelling or getting mad. Be patient while training your dog to not scratch, being assertive but not angry.
4. If the problem is your dog needing to go out while you aren’t home, consider installing a doggy door if it’s safe to do so where you live. This will allow them to come and go freely without needing a person to let them in and out. [Check out our full review of different doggie doors here]
5. Nip door scratching in the bud early on. Don’t give your dog a pass for scratching when you first bring them home – begin training them immediately to not scratch.
6. Don’t treat leaving your pet home alone like a special occasion or tragedy. When you need to leave, don’t excite them or give playtime immediately before, as doing this can actually make them feel more lonely when you go.
Stopping Scratching to Come Inside
If your dog scratches to come inside when they can see you, try moving to a location in the house where they can’t see you. This helps to teach them that scratching doesn’t lead to what they want – being with you.
When your dog is quiet and calm, let them in and give them a treat or a small amount of playtime before returning them outside, if you need to. This is a simple way to train them out of scratching, though it might not work for every dog.
Stopping Scratching When You Leave
Your dog scratching at the door when you leave often means they are upset by being apart from you. While this is sweet in theory, it can cause problems when it means damage to the door every time you have to go somewhere without them.
Consider teaching them the “stay” command and having them obey it while you’re still at home, in different areas while you walk away, then return and provide a treat. Eventually, you should be able to leave them for an extended amount of time, including the occasions on which they would otherwise scratch at the door.
Keep up the treats for good, non-scratching behavior when you return. This can aid in not only helping your dog’s anxiety about you leaving them but can also help to increase their self-control.
When you leave for an extended time, such as going to work or on lengthy errands, try providing comfort objects for your dog. This could be a favorite blanket or toy, or an article of clothing that smells like you.
Also, if you think you’re dog is suffering from separation anxiety then use the methods in our separation anxiety article to help them relax again.
Stop Your Dog From Scratching the Door All Night
Many dogs find it uncomfortable to be locked away from their people at night. It can be an anxiety issue or simply wanting to protect you during a time when their instincts tell them that you’re vulnerable.
Try making your dog more comfortable, whether this means providing them with comfort objects as mentioned above, or tiring them out a little extra with some additional playtime a bit before bed. Never punish them with fear or pain for scratching at night, as not only is this unkind, it can make any issues causing their scratching behavior worse.
Stop Your Dog From Jumping on the Door
Many of the solutions for door scratching can work similarly to keep your dog from jumping on doors. Jumping often comes from a step up in excitement.
Try removing the source of over-excitement, whether it’s that your dog can see people inside the house and wants to be with them, or sees something outside that they want to get to. Consider using positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior – treats, toys, and praise as rewards.
Stop Screen Door Scratching
Screen door scratching can be some of the most difficult, as screens are so easily damaged and pets can not only see but smell what they want to get to on the other side of the door. It’s hard to stop them when something is that tempting.
You can try using a scratch deterring spray on your screen door. These sprays are made with natural and harmless scents that will repel your dog when it scratches, releasing a smell that they usually find too distasteful to hang around.
You can also try replacing the easily damaged screen in your door with a screen that is pet-proof or install a screen door guard. These guards are made from heavier steel in grill form, which covers the door without blocking air or the view.
If you don’t want to change the screen or add more metal to your door, consider installing Plexiglass over the screen as high as your pet can reach to scratch. Measure how high your dog can reach and affix the Plexiglass to the frame, where it will be sturdy enough to not be pulled off or ripped out.
Why Does My Dog Scratch the Door?
In general, there is only one desire that drives scratching at a door: your dog wants on the other side of the door for some reason. Of course, there could be any number of things your dog wants.
Your dog might wish to be on the other side of the door with you, or they might be uncomfortable in the space they’re in. There could be something they want, such as an animal or object that they can see and can’t get to.
Try shooing away any animals your dog might want to get to or remove objects they may be scratching in hopes of getting. If possible, keep invading animals out of your yard entirely, and you might solve your scratching problem as easily as that.
What Methods Use Positive Reinforcement to Stop Door Scratching?
Your first method to encourage your dog to stop scratching should be positive reinforcement. This includes providing treats when they don’t scratch for a certain amount of time or perhaps going out to play with them when they stop scratching.
Keep in mind that dogs always have some reason to scratch at the door. They aren’t doing it simply to annoy you or make you angry, and responding with anger first could cause further behavioral issues.
What Methods Use Negative Reinforcement to Stop Door Scratching?
While positive reinforcement should always be the first choice, sometimes serious behavior problems require something further. With most dogs, this will mean firm vocal correction: telling them, “no!”
Showing disapproval in their actions will be enough for some dogs, while it won’t affect others in the least. If your pet scratches at the door, first tell them “no!” while they are scratching, then wait until they stop.
You can wait until they perform a different behavior on command, such as sitting or lying down, to provide a treat or let them indoors. It’s important to never, ever hit your dog or inflict other corporal punishment, however, as this is abuse and ruins any trust your dog might have in you.
Learn exactly what we mean by negative reinforcement training and how to use it humanely with your dog in our article here. This is what the pros use when training protection dogs, show dogs, and other highly skilled dogs that need quick responses or to prevent the dog from hurting themselves (i.e. running into the street).
How to Find a Good Dog Trainer
Always look for a trainer that truly loves the dogs that they train. Thoroughly research the trainers available locally, and don’t settle for one you can’t put complete trust in.
Fact – Most states don’t require dog trainers to get licensed. We cover that in depth in our article for dog trainers and if they need licensing here. This doesn’t mean their bad. It does mean you need to do your due diligence via online reviews (Google Maps is great) as well as the tips below. My friends and I have found that asking other friends for their recommendation doesn’t hold up as well as meeting several trainers and watching them in action.
Watch trainers in action with the dogs they’re training. Doing this over the course of several training classes is ideal because it’ll give you a good idea of their temperament with the dogs and their training methods.
If your pet has serious problems with their behavior, it’s important to find a trainer who has experience with challenging dogs. You should find a trainer with experience and education in situations like yours and your dog’s, and don’t trust someone who believes they don’t need it.
Dog Training Support Groups
Groups put together for people who have or are currently training their dogs can provide you with tips and ideas when it comes to your own training efforts. They can provide friendship for you and your dog, as well.
Search for dog training support groups in your area or look for online groups. Online groups can provide you with moral support no matter where you are, though you may miss the meet-ups that nearby groups might arrange.