Stop Your Dog From Running Outside

December 22, 2019

Is Your Dog Running Outside?

As a huge dog lover, I see them daily in client homes, giving me insight into just how dogs run so many people's lives.

I've dealt with just about every breed imaginable, from the tiniest cup dogs to towering Great Danes, and they can all damage your floors if running in and out of your home is typical behavior.

dog on staircase
Iz Door Open?!

One of the most common things I see folks struggle with is stopping their dogs from running outside as soon as the front door opens.

Almost immediately after sensing their chance, they quickly accelerate towards the door or even zip around inside like they're possessed, tearing up the floors in the process.

So I just thought to share my personal experiences that might help you stop your dog from running outside (of course, I'm not a dog trainer but if you're looking for a fool-proof A-B-C program, then check out Adrienne Farricelli's training.)

I'm just sharing what's worked with me for both large and small dog breeds.

Chances are if your dog runs outside at its first opportunity, that's not the only behavioral problem they give you or will give you in the future.

While some may think it's funny or cute when a dog takes off with its bulging eyes locked onto the front door as Chariots of Fire plays in the background, it's a sign your dog is missing leadership.

Your dog looks to you for leadership and direction, and if you don't provide it, they'll step in and fill the void.

A dog running outside has its blinkers on and doesn't realize it could easily cross paths with vehicles like cars, scooters, bikes, etc. So it's in everyone's best interests your dog learns when they can go outside and when they can't.

Why Do They Do It?

Dogs are pack animals, and a member of the pack doesn't simply run away. So why do they do it?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but it's your fault.

Knowingly or unknowingly, It's ALWAYS YOUR FAULT 🙂

Remember, dogs live by instinct, live in the moment, and don't rationalize events. They act or react based on the input or environmental stimulus. A dog that runs out the front door at its first opportunity is a dog with no discipline or limitations.

More on that in a minute.

Your dog runs outside because they associate an open door with going out = fun, running, freedom...pleasure.

Combine that with the lack of leadership telling them it's not okay to do so, and in their minds, they aren't doing anything wrong. The open door should mean, "this isn't permission to go outside; it just means the door is open."

So it would be best if you enforced that - it takes practice, but each time your dog starts heading towards the door, you give them a verbal correction combined with a calm but firm physical energy (presence).

This could be any word that's short and sharp like "shh!", "hey," a combination, or simply clicking your fingers (I do both).

This tells them you disagree with their behavior. Repetition is key. Each time you notice your dog's body language change from being calm to excited once they notice the door is open, you need to let them know immediately that type of excitement isn't acceptable.

Here's how:

Sometimes what sets them off is the doorbell, and you would do the same thing here as well.

Have someone ring the bell and watch them.

As soon as you detect a change in their demeanor, you correct them right there and then. No use waiting until they've escalated into a red zone and you try to reason with them "aw cmon, Molly, hush, the man is trying to speak!".

Not so effective. 🙂

What Causes Your Dog To Run Outside?

The first thing that's usually common with dogs that spontaneously run outside is they don't get enough exercise. They have so much pent-up energy; they can't wait to release and run like the wind.

Have you noticed dogs that are well exercised and walked properly behave much better?

I mean, if you drain both their physical and mental energy, they don't have the drive to act up. It helps keep them balanced and burns off excess energy they would use to act up otherwise.

Depending on the breed, you must exercise your dog daily. If you don't, then don't complain when they have excess energy they need to drain, and they randomly start sprinting inside the house, tearing up your carpet or hardwood flooring in the process.

But exercise, while very important, should be separate from the walk. If you wish to take your dog to the dog park where they can run riot and drain their energy with other dogs, that's great!

However, when you walk your dog, you're draining more mental energy than physical, and they need both. I understand this may not always be possible for all people, but I'm just telling you what a large proportion of trainers will tell you.

dog in car
Outstanding obedience and manners

Master the walk.

It would help if you walked your dog/s daily and, depending on the breed, up to 45 minutes per walk for larger dogs. Have them walk beside or slightly behind you, not walking you by dragging you around the neighborhood.

I see it all the time, and I've worked with high energy dogs (like this gorgeous girl here) many times, and here's what I did: morning walk for 40-50 minutes, exercise with a ball in the middle of the day, or dog park visit then another 45-minute walk in the evening.

Best behaved German Shepherd you'll ever see.

Here's a good tip to practice that will particularly help stop your dog from running out the front door:

It's okay to make your dog wait.

You're not cruel, mean, or abusive by making your dog do what it would do if it were in a pack of other dogs. So before you walk them, have them calm and make them wait.

If they're too excited, don't put the collar on or leave the house until they begin to learn to associate being calm = going outside, rather than the opposite.

When you're ready to leave, relax and step out first. Just watch them. Remember, an open door means an open door, nothing more. It's not an invitation to bolt.

So once they can make that association, life will be much easier for both of you! 

This lets them understand you are leading the way, don't let them bolt out dragging you along—the same thing when you return. Have them sit or wait until you open the door and step inside, and you invite them in. 

Excitement has its place but not when you want your dog to behave in certain situations.

My sister has an adorable Italian Greyhound and complained to me he would constantly pull on the leash like a sled dog and turned psychotic when he saw other dogs. So when I observed her preparing to take him for a walk, it was pretty clear why he was like that.

She would excite him because she loves it when his little head and ears pop up when he hears the word "walk." So here's her idea of preparing her dog for a walk:


And the dog goes bananas.

These Dogs Get Away With Everything

So she activated the launch sequence in the dog and expected it to walk alongside her obediently and calmly.

Repetition is essential, as is enforcement.

There is no use if only you send the message that running out the front door is not okay while the rest of the family laughs and posts videos of the dog doing it on Facebook.

You have to be on the same team for this to be permanent; otherwise, the dog will know who it can act up with and who it can't.

When your dog listens and doesn't run out, you can reward them with affection or a treat to let them know they did well.

Finally, the best part about this is dogs aim to please, so once they learn what's okay and what isn't, they automatically adopt the behavior, much like house training.

So stay patient, be consistent, and you won't have to worry again about your dog running outside when that front door opens!

If you want more details on how to train your dog well in all other areas, check out Adrienne Farricelli's training.

I hope this has been helpful!

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