For those with physical disabilities, training your Service Dog to open or close doors can be incredibly helpful. Whether you’re not steady on your feet or even if it just takes a while for you to move across the room, training your Service Dog to help with basic everyday tasks can be a huge help. Opening or closing doors is a task that’s easy and straightforward to teach, so grab your partner and get ready to have some fun!
The same behavior chain used to teach your Service Dog to open or close a door can also be used to teach your partner to open doors using a handicap button, push elevator buttons, and work cabinets or drawers.
Teach a Service Dog to Open or Close a Door: Prerequisites
Your Service Dog needs to know how to target a Post-It note or other defined target on cue and at a distance. Here are some detailed instructions on teaching a Service Dog to target.
Teach a Service Dog to Open or Close a Door: Things You’ll Need
- Post-It Note/Target
Teach a Service Dog to Open or Close a Door: Step by Step
1.) Stick the Post-It note or other target to the door, close to the edge, at nose-height to your dog. Stand directly next to the door and show your Service Dog the note. Tap it a couple of times if your dog doesn’t see it. Encourage her to nose-bump the paper. When your dog touches the note, praise her enthusiastically, click and give her a treat.
2.) Practice having your Service Dog touch the Post-It note while it’s stuck to the door. Reward your partner enthusiastically for every success. If your dog isn’t quite getting it, return to foundational targeting and practice those behaviors for a bit longer.
3.) Introduce the cue you’re going to use to ask your Service Dog to close the door. Good choices include “door,” “close” or “push.” Stand next to the door and just wait. As your dog goes to touch the note, happily state your chosen cue. Click and treat your dog. Repeat this process 10 times in a row, two or three times a day, for three to five days. It’s very important that your Assistance Dog learns to link the command you’re using with the actual behavior of touching the door with her nose before moving on to the next step.
4.) Open the door 2 to 3 inches. Bring your Service Dog over and give her your cue. She should immediately touch the Post-It note with her nose. If the door moves at all, even a little bit, praise her very enthusiastically, click and give her a jackpot (several treats in a row). Open the door again, and practice until your dog noses the door with enough force to close it 2 or 3 inches. Always be upbeat, positive and enthusiastic.
5.) Begin to gradually open the door wider and wider and practice having your Service Dog nose the door closed on command. Take it slow and only reward your partner when the door clicks closed. That’s her cue that she’s done performing the behavior. Remember to have fun. If your partner stops closing the door, go back to the last point she’d do so reliably, and spend a couple days working at that level before increasing the difficulty again.
6.) Take a step back from the door so you’re standing a few inches away. Ask your four-legged worker to close the door for you. When she does so, give her several treats and have a party! Praise her enthusiastically, and then try again.
7.) Increase the distance you’re standing from the door a single step at a time. Always reward your hard-working partner for success and keep in mind that if your Service Dog stops performing the behavior, you’ve increased the distance or the difficulty too quickly. Work a little closer to the door so that your dog can succeed, and then continue adding distance when your dog is comfortable with the behavior.
8.) Begin practicing the command while you’re doing the types of stuff you normally do around the house, such as carrying groceries, sitting in the office or hanging out as a family watching a movie. Always reward your Service Dog for a job well done.
Teach a Service Dog to Open or Close a Door: Tips
Use high-value treats for training, like diced cooked chicken, hot dogs or cheese. Keep sessions short and spend as much time on each step as necessary for your Service Dog to reliably grasp each concept.
Teach a Service Dog to Open or Close a Door: Warning
If your door is glass, teach your Service Dog to target with her nose. Paw targeting can break glass doors and cause an injury.