If your dog scratches the door, it could be because of various reasons. I’m sure you’d like that behavior to stop, so thankfully, there are multiple methods you can use. It is possible to correct your dog’s behavior, but it might take some time.
In today’s guide, we’ll take a look at why your pup engages in your behavior and how to stop your dog from scratching the door.
Why Does Your Dog Scratch The Door?
The first thing you need to do to prevent your dog from scratching or pawing the door is to understand what he is trying to say. Once you know why he is scratching the door, you’ll be able to work on it.
One of the main reasons your dog scratches the door could be because of separation anxiety. If your pet is not used to being alone or far from you, he might feel that you won’t come back home. Or he may worry that the door will never open again. That fear could trigger his anxiety.
Separation anxiety can produce many different reactions, but mainly, it will put your dog in a distressed mindset. Once your dog is distressed, he might bark, cry, jump up, or try to destroy everything around, including the door.
Another reason your dog might scratch your door is because of boredom. A bored dog will want to play, and if he can’t play, he’ll get quite destructive. This bad behavior is the reason many people don’t trust their dogs enough to leave them home alone.
When your dog gets bored, he may take out his frustration on the couches, beds, and doors. This behavior not only puts your house and belongings in danger but also your dog’s health. Your dog can eat fragments of furniture and choke, or they can damage his throat and cause bleeding.
If this is the source of your dog’s destructive behavior, you may like to invest in a chew proof dog bed or a strong chew toy.
If your puppy continues to have this bad habit I recommend finding a well reviewed dog trainer in your area to reach out to. Dog training is particularily useful if your pooch is left home alot and you do not have time to monitor him all day.
Another reason your dog might scratch or paw the door is for attention, which happens when you are on the other side of the door. This type of door scratching can come with some crying or barking because your dog tries to tell you that he wants to be with you and play.
Other factors can make your dog scratch the door. If he hears another dog barking or he catches a new smell, he may want to investigate. He’ll want the door open. As he cannot open it himself, he’ll begin scratching the door. Your dog will scratch the door to make someone else open it for him. This is often happens when your dog needs to go outside the screen door.
If your dog is house trained, he could be scratching the door to let you know that he wants out because it’s time to pee or poo. When a dog scratches because he needs to go, he’ll usually bark or make a crying-like sound to get your attention.
If it’s been hours since the last time he went out for potty, you should take him as soon as possible. To avoid this behavior, just set a routine and take him out whenever you think he might need to go.
If your pet is telling you it’s time to go then you are ahead of the curve in house training. Often the most difficult step in training a rescue dog is getting them to communicate around potty time. Do not ingore your canine friend if you think this is the reason for the scratching. Some positive reinforcement may be called for as well!
How To Stop Door Scratching?
Now that you know the possible reasons your dog scratches the door, it is time to correct his behavior. It will take time, and you’ll need to be patient, but it will eventually happen.
Here’s what you can do.
Ignore Your Dog
You can stop the scratching by ignoring your dog, but that will only work if your dog is scratching the door because he wants attention. If you ignore the behavior, your dog will eventually settle because he’ll understand that scratching won’t get him the attention he wants.
This method takes time, and it might not work. But it is one way to start, and it doesn’t require much effort. All you need is patience.
Work On Your Dog’s Anxiety
Separation anxiety is common in dogs, especially puppies. In their minds, they do not understand that when you go out, you’ll come back. So they become distressed, thinking that you are gone forever.
Here’s what you can do:
- Ignore your dog for a couple of minutes before you leave the house. Do the same when you come into the house. Do not pat or give him attention. Just ignore him until he settles.
- When going out for hours, leave your dog with a t-shirt that has your smell. Research shows that vanilla, coconut, ginger, and valerian scents can also reduce anxiety.
- Always say the same thing when you go out. Your dog will interpret that, and he’ll know that every time you say that word, you’ll come back home.
If this does not work to calm your dog’s anxiety, you can try leaving him in doggy daycare while you are out.
This video has some more tips for fixing separation anxiety in dogs.
There are two things you can do to train your dog to stop scratching the door. The first one is to teach the word “no.” Every time you say that word, your dog will know that he must stop doing whatever he is doing. The other option you have is training your dog to sit before opening any door for him.
Using the Word “No”
You need to know that this method won’t work if you use a soft positive voice. You must use a stern and dominant voice so that your dog will identify that tone as something negative.
Note that this method will not work with all dogs, but if it does work with yours, here’s what you have to do:
- When your dog scratches the door, say “No” immediately.
- He will stop if he perceives that he’s done something wrong.
- When he stops, reward his action by giving him a treat or some playtime.
- Repeat the process for as long as necessary.
The “No” method can also work for barking, destructive chewing, and other harmful behaviors dogs can have.
One more thing you can do is teach your dog to sit before opening the door for him. Now, to train your dog to sit when he wants a door to open, you first need to teach him to sit. Once your dog knows how to sit on command, you can start the training.
Here’s what you can do:
- The first step is getting your dog into a room. You’ll need the help of a friend or a family member for this.
- Once your dog is in the room with you, ask your friend to call for the dog. If your dog is not interested, you can make your friend call your dog a few times before the training and give him a treat every time. That way, your dog will want to get to your friend.
- When your dog gets excited and wants to go to your friend, he’ll start scratching the door. At that moment, command him to sit.
- It might take some time, but he will eventually sit. Once he is seated, open the door for him.
- Repeat the process a few times.
Once your dog has understood how it works, and he sits in front of the door every time your friend calls, continue to the following steps:
- In the first part of the training, you opened the door almost immediately. Now, it’s time to take a couple of minutes. Set your dog up for success. If you notice that your dog will start scratching, open the door before he has the opportunity to do it.
- Increase the time it takes for you to open the door.
- Once you believe your dog knows what he has to do, put him in the room alone. In the beginning, he will want to bark and scratch, but he will realize he needs to sit if he wants the door to open.
- Finally, be patient. It may take weeks or even months for it to work.
Preventing The Damage
Teaching your dog to stop scratching the door will take time. Some breeds and dogs can learn new tricks and commands in days or weeks, but it can take longer for others. If your dog is not a fast learner, then the best thing you can do while you train him is to prevent any possible damage to him or the door.
You can follow these tips:
- Avoid leaving your dog alone or unsupervised.
- Install a dog door so that he can come in and out whenever he needs to. You can find a pet door that can be installed in an existing sliding door quite easily.
- Keep your dog’s nails short.
- Use a baby gate instead of doors inside the house.
You’ve tried everything, but your dog seems to be fixated on scratching the door no matter what. In that case, the best thing a pet owner can do is accept it and just prevent the damage as much as possible.
You can use the tips I gave above or keep your dog inside a playpen when he is alone in the house. That way, he won’t be able to scratch the door, and you can go out without worrying that your dog will trash the place.
Your dog scratching the door is typical behavior, but it doesn’t make it right. The scratching can destroy your door and put your dog’s health at risk. Therefore, you may be asking yourself how to stop your dog from scratching the door.
The best thing you can do is prevent it and correct him so that the scratching can stop. Overall, you should identify why your dog is scratching the door, and based on it, train him to stop. Teach him that the doors will only open when he is calm and sitting.
All content has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Megan Teiber, DVM.