Q: My dog is so rude! His most annoying habit is shoving through the door ahead of me. Sometimes he nearly bowls me over in his haste to get in or out. He’s only 9 months old, and I’m worried about what will happen when he is full-grown. We have taken an obedience class, where he did well, but he forgets everything when he wants to go somewhere. How do I remind him that he has to listen to me?
A: You have already completed an obedience class with your dog, so he understands some basic commands. Institute the Nothing in Life is Free, or NILIF, protocol to give him a reality check. NILIF means that your dog will have to work for everything he wants, including going through the door. How strictly you implement the program depends on his manners. If he’s “rude,” begin by using NILIF in all aspects of his life. Later, you can relax the policy as he becomes more polite.
To change his behavior at the door, start by putting him on leash and walk him to the door. If he pulls on the leash, stop walking and ignore him until he comes back to you and the leash is loose, or turn around and walk away from the door. When you reach the door, ask him to sit and stay, then open the door slowly. You can use treats to reward him for remaining in a sit. If he breaks his stay, close the door until he sits again (if he doesn’t sit on his own after a minute or so, give the command again). Every time he breaks the stay or tries to barge forward out the door, close the door again.
Soon you will be able to open the door while he remains sitting, then release him when you’re ready. If he bolts out the door before you can close it, just use the leash to bring him back inside and replace him in the sit. He’ll learn that shoving past you is unrewarding, and the only way he’ll get what he wants is to sit politely and wait.
You can use NILIF for other rude behaviors, such as jumping on furniture and begging, by asking your dog to sit or lie down before getting treats or meals. Pretty soon your previously pushy puppy win your attention with brains, not brawn.