Dog Door Lessons from Kona

A week ago, I received the doggy door I ordered, installed it, and taught Cabana to go through it. Easy peasy! Cabana quickly caught on to the command "through", and for a piece of kibble, she will happily push her way through the magnetized flap door. While standing inside the door, I call out, "Do your business!" and Cabana will do it and then come back to stand by the door. For another piece of kibble and the command "through", she will come back inside.

However, Cabana will NOT use the door on her own initiative!! A couple days after we got the door, Cabana had a diarrhea accident in the middle of night. Whenever this happens, Cabana is very considerate to have her accident on the door mat rug, so I can easily pick the rug up, take it outside to hose off, and throw it in the washing machine--so much easier than cleaning diarrhea off the wall-to-wall carpet! But it's not quite as convenient as if she'd just use the doggy door that stands at the ready less than 3 feet away. Sigh.

So, I asked to borrow Kona, a dog park pal who is very good about using a doggy door at her own house. I hoped Kona would set an example for Cabana to follow. With the dogs nearby, I occupied myself at the kitchen table, working on some things there so I could keep an eye on the dogs and the doggy door. Every time Kona would go out and come back in, without any suggestions from me, I would mark her behavior with a joyful "Nice!" and a piece of kibble. Throughout the course of 2 hours, Kona did this at least a dozen times and earned her kibble. Cabana kept looking at us, wondering why Kona deserved the kibble--but she never figured it out and never followed Kona's example!! Back to the drawing board.

Cabana is so tentative, I just don't know if she'll ever use the door on her own volition. She's happy to use it when invited to, but what good is the doggy door if we have to be around for her to use it?

Just before sitting down to write this post, I sprinkled a few pieces of Natural Balance food roll treats all around the outside of the doggy door. Cabana watched me put them there, but she didn't run outside to eat them. Arghh, she can be so maddeningly polite! I don't want to give her a command because the whole point is to not have to give her a command. I'm waiting to see if she'll eventually venture outside to eat them....

JackDaddy  – (November 15, 2010 at 11:17 AM)  

I remember the first time Jack used the door. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders - especially when he wants to go out at 3AM! :)

Ally and Eclipse  – (November 15, 2010 at 11:26 AM)  

Good girl, Cabana, but being polite right now isn't what you should do!

I would try holding up the flap for her a bit, I know that she'll push through it on her own but maybe holding up the flap and letting her eat the yummy food and then having her come inside on her own will help her see she can come and go as she likes. Maybe she's thinking of it as her crate door or something similar, it's still a threshold so it'll take bit for her to learn that this one threshold is okay to cross without express permission! Good luck, keep us updated!

Mimi and CC Cabana  – (November 15, 2010 at 12:58 PM)  

Update: I left the house for about an hour. Now, looking out the sliding glass door, I notice that the treats are gone!!! So unless some other critter came into our yard and ate them (somewhat unlikely, unless our cat likes dog treats), I guess Cabana went out on her own! Hooray!

I'll have to leave more treats and see if she'll do it again.

Mimi and CC Cabana  – (November 15, 2010 at 2:02 PM)  

JackDaddy, maybe you can send Jack over to give Cabana another lesson! I only WISH she'd wake me up at 3am...well, maybe I don't. Careful what I wish for.

Ally, thanks for the suggestion. But holding the flap is still relying my intervention. If I hold the flap up, Cabana would feel I was telling her to go out and she would. I guess putting treats outside is my intervention, too--but it's at least slightly less direct. She can (and hopefully did) retrieve them without my being present.

This is like trying to boil a bathtub full of water with a match flame....

Ro  – (November 15, 2010 at 3:53 PM)  

What if you go and chill outside without asking her to follow. Then if she finally comes out, you verbal praise. Then go inside and leave her there and wait and see if she comes in? Maybe if she learns to follow you without a command it'll help. Maybe if you go chill outise around a time she usually does her business, like after meals? Then when she comes out and goes you get excited. Not sure on this one, very challenging hehe. She's so polite!

Mimi and CC Cabana  – (November 15, 2010 at 4:23 PM)  

Ro, that's a very good suggestion. I've done that somewhat, but I also haven't had enough patience to wait her out. I definitely need to wait for longer periods, instead of giving up and giving her a command.

I think she's starting to do a bit better, though. Today, I left her outside while I went to pick my kids up at school. When we got back home, she was laying inside. She's getting a teeny bit of gumption!

Mango  – (November 15, 2010 at 4:55 PM)  

That Kona is beautiful! I would follow her out the doggie door for sure. No problem. Poor Cabana. What is she thinking?


Kari in WeHo  – (November 15, 2010 at 5:20 PM)  

we want a doggy door but I am sure Baily won't use it on her own. I don't think Mesa or Big Carl will have an issue


Becky  – (November 15, 2010 at 8:01 PM)  

It took Cricket a little while and like Cabana we used to tell her - Cricket do you nee an engraved invitation to use the door? Now, she uses it regularly.

Carrie and Waffle  – (November 15, 2010 at 8:34 PM)  

Waffle has that threshold thing too. Sometimes depending on her mood if the door is open she will just help herself, other times she waits for us to give her and ok. Maybe it just takes time.

Martha G  – (November 15, 2010 at 8:43 PM)  

I think of all those months we spent teaching our puppies to go on command and hardly ever letting them off leash. I guess Cabana learned that really well! I don't know how to unlearn it. Ardella still goes out on leash. I haven't thought about a dog door because I'm still raising guide dog puppies, but if I did get a dog door, I bet Ardella wouldn't use it.

The Thundering Herd  – (November 16, 2010 at 2:36 AM)  

Laughing - we remember the challenges with each dog to use the dog door, but we think you are on the right track with Kona. WE simply would appear on one side or the other of the dog door and the other dogs would race through. New dog would be stuck on the wrong side and have to think through what to do. After a few repetitions (ok, in a couple of cases, a lot of repetitions), no worries.

Sierra Rose  – (November 16, 2010 at 9:04 PM)  

Glad the doggie door arrived! We know Cabana will get used to it. Takes some time sometimes.... Wish we could have one for Sierra :)

Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
Sierra Rose

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