Close the Door – Introducing the trick name

The final step, to make your dog look very clever is to teach your dog the trick name such as “Close the door”, rather than a simple push

This time it is going to be a little bit different than previously as you dog already understands “Push” but we want to introduce a more fun sentence.

What you need to do now is to fade the “Push” and replace it with “Close the door”

  1. Place your dog in position to go to close the door
  2. Give the new command “Close the door” immediately before saying “Push”. You should try to say this as if it was a continuous sentence.
  3. After several repetitions your dog will start anticipating that you are going to say push after you said “Close the door”.
  4. Start to fade the “Push” and just say “Close the door”.

The first video illustrates why you it is important to introducing the new command by saying “Close the Door, Push” rather than “Push, Close the Door”.

When in introducing the new command (“Close the door” in this example), If you use the “Push” command before the “Close the Door” command it is likely that your dog will become uncertain what to do. This is because it does not yet understand what the new command means. Your dog hears the Push command but then hears another strange command and it will then question what it has been asked to do. You can see this clearly in the next video.

In the following video, Leo has a much better understanding of what is expected as he hears Push after Close the Door. As Leo starts to understand the association of Close the Door and Push, Emily can start fading out the Push command.

When your dog has mastered this trick, do not forget to start generalising the trick to all sorts of doors, just like Leo in the example at the end of the second video. I cannot wait to see your video on the Facebook group!

Close the Door – Without a target

Having worked on increasing your dog’s accuracy for closing the door, the next challenge is to remove the target object altogether. Without using a target, you will really be able to appreciate if your dog understands the trick.

For your dog’s first attempts at closing the door once you have removed the target, keep things simple. Let your dog approach the door from a relatively simple angle and only open the door by a small amount. Some dogs will be confused by the lack of target so maximising their chance of success is important to maintain their confidence.

As you will be able to clearly see in the next video, Leo is initially confused by the lack of the target and needs Emily to direct and reassure him that he is still required to push the door.

With the target removed your dog may start taking shortcuts and stop closing the door fully. If this happens, remember to stick to your criteria, wait until your dog is fully closing the door before giving the Yes or the Click

Remember that you also need to continue generalising the behaviour. Although you are working with the door only slightly open, change your position relative to the crate so that your dog approaches the door from different angles. As you move around make sure to keep an easy approach to the crate for your dog.

Close the Door – Be accurate

You are reaching a stage where you really want accuracy for the behaviour and the only criteria you want to mark and reward is for your dog to close the door.

If your dog is not fully closing the door:

  1. Make the exercise easier by reducing how open the door is.
  2. Delay your Yes or Click to when your dog has fully closed the door rather than when your dog has made contact with the target

The steps you should now be using are:

  • Ask your dog to Push
  • Your dog goes to the open door and pushes on the target and the door starts to close
  • When the door is fully closed use your Yes marker to let your dog know this is the desired behaviour.

Finally, you are going to progressively make the push harder for your dog by moving further away from the crate and making the angle of approach to the door more complicated.

Close the Door – Fading the target

You are now going to generalise the behaviour and fade the target so your dog can close any doors without the aid of a target.

The method is to keep repeating the trick whilst progressively reducing the size of the target until eventually a target object is no longer required. When starting to use a smaller target object, introduce your dog to the object first by using the Push in your hand trick.

When your dog is consistently pushing on the new smaller target in your hand then fix the target on to your door. Do not be tempted to do this if your dog is not showing sufficient interest in the target in your hand.

Close the Door

As your dog should now be happily pushing on a target mounted on a vertical surface, you are going teach your dog to close a door. It is best to start with a small door, so a kitchen cupboard door or the door to a dog crate is ideal.

Closing a door can a more intimidating than pushing on a target mounted on a fixed wall as the target will be move so you dog will need to show determination in keeping pushing the target. Some dogs may not like the sound associated with the door closing

The key steps to success are:

  1. Fix the lid that you have being using as a push target to the door using a piece of tape or some blu-tack.
  2. Some dogs will initially be wary of the noise that the door makes when it closes. As such when starting to work this trick use something to dampen the noise; a towel is ideal. Place the towel so that it is between the door and the main body of the crate so that the door closes against the towel.
  3. Start with having the door closed against the towel and then ask your dog to push the target.
  4. Open the door, but only by a small amount, 1-2 centimetres is sufficient. When your dog pushes the door, the door will now move slightly to the closed position against the Towel
  5. Each time your dog is successful, incrementally open the door wider by small amounts. The amount you can widen the opening each time will be dependent upon your dog and its confidence. Do not try to progress too quickly.
  6. As you open the door wider you will initially need to reposition your dog and yourself so that your dog can easily locate the push target. Use body cues to help lure your dog towards the door.
  7. Once your dog is consistently pushing the door closed, it is time to remove the towel and start working on getting your dog accustomed to the noise of the door closing. Remove the towel and then start again with the door only slightly open. Gradually increase the opening each time your dog is successful.
  8. As your dog’s confidence grows over time you will find that you need to use less body cues to help position your dog and that your dog will re-orientate itself to push the door closed

Emily and Leo demonstrate these steps in the following video. Note that Leo is confident working this trick, so it was possible to have the door open wide relatively quickly. Do not be surprised if it takes a lot longer with your own dog.