Your dog must already understand that the Spontaneous Sit with Eye Contact is the way he can earn resources in order for this exercise to work.


  • It is unsafe for dogs to dash out doors. Instead, we want them to choose to wait, until they are given permission to go through the door. This is not about you being the leader and going through the door first, as there is no scientific evidence to prove that has any meaning for dogs. Instead, it is about your dog learning to have the self-control to remain sitting voluntarily until verbally freed to pass through the door. It’s all about safety.

Here is my dog Nova working the DOOR exercise. Doors are very challenging for her and it took a few weeks for her to get good at this.

Mark = say YEA or CLICK
Reinforce = give a treat
MR = mark and reinforce
SS = spontaneous sit(s)
EC = eye contact

  • With your dog on lead approach the door. You should be between the dog and the door. Position your dog so that you can open the door while the dog remains in a sit (or down). Wait for the SS and MR.
    • Touch knob, MR
    • Jiggle knob, MR
    • Turn knob, MR
    • Crack open door, MR
    • Open door farther, MR
    • Open door all the way, MR
    • Move one of your feet (only 1 not both) and take one step towards the door, mark, return your foot and then treat.
    • Move both feet one step towards the door, mark, return to the front of your dog and then treat. Gradually move closer to the threshold, one foot at a time, and always returning to the dog to treat. Do not stretch to treat or you will pull the dog out of the sit.
    • Step onto threshold, mark, return to the front of your dog, then treat.
    • Open door all the way and talk to an imaginary person, MR. You may only be able to say one word at first – “Hi”.
    • Step out the door and talk to the invisible person.
    • Have a helper go outside. Knock softly once, MR. Gradually increase the loudness and number of knocks.
    • Let your dog see the helper outside the door.
    • Open the door and allow the guest to enter but stay by the door.
    • OR
    • Step out the door, MR and invite dog out door.
  •  If the dog gets up at any point, simply close the door and wait for the SS again.
  • As the dog becomes more experienced with this, you can taper off the treats. This can happen fairly quickly as going out the door is the true reinforcement in this case (assuming your dog likes walks and going out!).