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6 Simple Ways to Keep Dogs From Scratching Doors

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By Nicole Cosgrove

scratched door

There are many possible reasons that your dog could be scratching at your door, but they all stem from the same basic cause: attention. Of course, the moment you give them what they want—your attention—they learn that more of the same behavior is likely to give them more of what they want. Not only is this habit annoying, but it can do a great deal of damage to your doors too, especially with larger dogs.

In this article, we’ll explore six simple steps to stop your dog from scratching doors and the possible reasons behind the behavior. You may need to employ a combination of these techniques to get the result you desire, or your pooch may quickly learn from only one. Here’s how to get your dog to stop scratching doors:

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Why Is My Dog Scratching at The Door?

The first step in stopping your pooches from scratching the door is finding out why they are doing it in the first place. Once you know why you can proceed to how to stop it effectively. Most of the time, the main reason for door scratching is separation anxiety. Your dog sees you leaving and believes that you’ll never return. They may also need to go outside to do their business and are trying to let you know, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they can easily learn another way to get your attention. Dogs that get overly excited when going out for a play or walk will also often scratch at the door.

The reason for dogs scratching doors basically comes down to one thing: They are trying to get your attention in some way, and you’ll need to redirect this behavior into something healthier.

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The 6 Simple Steps to Get Dogs to Stop Scratching Doors:

1. Prevention is Better Than the Cure

cairn terrier
Image Credit: hazelw90, Pixabay

While this is easier said than done, stopping your dog from developing the bad habit of door scratching in the first place is the first step. Even if your dog is already in the habit, taking them out for frequent toilet breaks, walks, and play sessions will prevent them from wanting to go outside, as you’ll have already given them the opportunity.

Every dog is different, though, so only you will know how often this should be. Dogs with high energy should be taken out for exercise and play sessions far more frequently. Good training begins in puppyhood and in the home, and taking them outside is an ideal opportunity to start basic command training. Before you take your dog outside, make them sit first, preferably with a leash on. Only once they are calmly sitting in front of the door should you open it, and even then, they shouldn’t be allowed to simply run off. This may take time to get right but will save you a ton of headaches in the future.

If you have a dog that lives outdoors most of the time, the reverse applies. The more you play with them and exercise them, the less likely they will scratch at the door to get your attention.

2. Ignore the Behavior

Beagle at the door
Image Credit: Ramiro villa, Pixabay

While preventing the behavior in the first place is the best point to begin, this habit may already be ingrained in your dog. The next step is the technique often employed in reward-based training, which is to ignore any bad behavior when it occurs and reward only good behavior. Even reprimanding your dog is a form of attention—the exact thing your dog is likely looking for—so ignoring the bad behavior is often, but not always, the best course of action.

It can be difficult, but when your dog is scratching at the door, try and ignore the behavior until they settle down. Only once they stop the scratching and are calm and collected should you go to them. You can then address their needs (usually, they want to go out or come in) and give them praise or a treat for calming down. Of course, there is often a good reason that your pooch needs to go outside, but they shouldn’t scratch the door down to get your attention.

Ignoring the behavior is particularly difficult in large breed dogs, both for you and your door. You may consider purchasing a door scratch shield to protect your door until the habit has stopped.

3. Managing Excitement

Managing your dog’s excitement levels when you leave and enter through the door for walks, play sessions, or when you otherwise go out is essential to stop your dog from scratching. It may be challenging, but you should hold off on too much affection during these times and wait with your dog until they are calm and collected before opening the door. Small distractions like chew toys or balls will divert their attention and keep them occupied while you are away.

The same goes for when you come home to your dog or bring them back from a walk. Your dog may be overly excited to see you and jump up and down and bark or whine but try and maintain a calm energy. This is not to say that you should ignore them, but keeping calm will help your dog disassociate the door with excitement and make them less likely to scratch. A calm petting and softly spoken greeting are perfect, and again, once they have matched your energy and are calm, you can give them a proper greeting.

4. Practice Healthy Separation

dog in bed
Image Credit: skeeze, Pixabay

Some dogs are perfectly fine being alone at home without their owners, but others may find it highly distressing. Even if you have a clingy lapdog, it is important for their mental health (and yours!) to manage being separated at times.

You can begin by making them sit and stay in certain places around your home and then reward them when they obey. This may take patience and dedication but will likely help with separation anxiety because your dog will quickly learn that you always come back. Once you have mastered this practice, you can start leaving them inside and walk through the door. Once they learn that staying will earn them praise and treats, they are likely to obey and hopefully, stop scratching the door.

5. Firm Correction

dog behind the door
Image Credit: chandacastillo, Pixabay

If reward-based methods and ignoring the behavior are not working, you’ll need to start employing firm correction commands to correct the habit. This does not involve hitting or shouting, but firm, confident commands.

You’ll need to either catch your dog in the act or leave them shut in a room to provoke the scratching. As soon as your dog starts, you need to look directly into their eyes with an air of leadership. Point your finger and firmly but gently say, “No.” Again, the aim is not to scare your dog into submission by shouting, but just to make sure they are well aware of your disapproval. Keep staring at your dog until they stop the scratching and are calm and sitting. Make them sit and stay and reward them with praise or a treat once they do. This may take several repetitions to get right, but you should limit the practice to a maximum of 10 minutes a day.

6. Install Preventative Measures

If you are away from home a lot and you’d like your dog to come and go inside the house as they please, installing a dog door may be a great option. Some of these doors are weather-sealed and lockable, and some can even only be opened with your dog’s unique ID tag to prevent unwanted strays from entering your home. Your dog will then have the freedom to come and go, stopping the problem of scratching altogether.

A final option may be to install a pet gate to stop your dog from even getting to the door. These are easy to set up and move around the house and are a great option while you are still in the process of training your pooch.

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Final Thoughts

As with any undesirable behavior that your pooch is exhibiting, the solution almost always lies in patient and dedicated training. Training your dog from an early age will help stop bad habits from beginning in the first place, or it’ll help quickly rectify problems like door scratching when they start. Patiently employing one or more of these techniques should help rectify the habit of door scratching or prevent it from happening in the first place.

Featured Image Credit: A-photographyy, Shutterstock

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