Service Dog Training Open Doors Task
This is how I train a dog to open an object like a door, cupboard, refrigerator, etc. I have the dog in the room – to see that I am attaching the OPEN COMMAND Training Rope (product 401718) or the OPEN TASK TRAINING CARABINER (product 708247) to the object. I have treats concealed in my left hand, I touch the knot end of the rope or soft end of the carabiner and then I tell the dog OPEN. Do not over talk to the dog, it will only cause confusion. Stay calm and firm and consistently touch or pat the knot end saying OPEN. At first the dog has no idea what you want. As soon as the dog puts its mouth on the knot I mark the behavior and immediately slip my left hand under the dog’s nose and give him/her the reward. I have had a dog that learned to open doors with only five taps on the knot. He was trained with praise not food but I will tell you that is not usual and most dogs do not learn that quickly. A dog that is used to learning will learn new tasks faster than a dog that is just starting training.
Once the dog successfully learns that putting the knot in its mouth gives him/her a reward they will associate that the word OPEN means getting a reward. Now if you have a dog that does not want to put the rope knot in its mouth you can open the dogs mouth, place the knot in the dogs mouth, give the command “OPEN” and then quickly replace the knot with the treat or reward you have chosen. I train in what I call building blocks, if the dog already knows the “Brings” command this “Open” command training will be easier and faster to learn. (If you want to know how to train for the “Brings” command see the article in the product 707640 Retrieve Training Mesh Bag). The next step in the Open Command training is to get the dog to pull the rope back to you, causing the door to open. Once you have taught the dog that when you say OPEN it goes over and grabs the rope knot end then you will ask the dog to bring it to you. You can also call the dog over to you. The dog must keep the rope in its mouth. Do not reward unless the dog keeps the rope knot in its mouth. A little tip is to be prepared to see where the door will swing. If the dog grabs and opens the door, and it swings too fast hitting the dog, it will make the dog leery of pulling the door open. Eventually the dog will learn how much pressure to pull on the rope. Until then I generally just put my foot or elbow in front of the door about 12 inches away from where the door will swing back to block just in case the dog flings the door open too fast. You can increase the distance between you and the door as the training continues. Once the dog independently goes to the rope on the OPEN command and pulls the door open you can drop the “brings” command and use just the OPEN command for this task. You can then move unto another object to open such as a drawer, by placing the OPEN COMMAND Training Rope or Open Task Training Carabiner on it.
After the dog clearly understands what I want I may place and leave the ropes on different objects or doors in the room. Eventually pointing to which door I want open. This is a process and the secret is consistency and patience. Don’t try to learn too much too fast and don’t frustrate or confuse the dog. I try to always end each training session on a positive note because next time the dog will be more willing to learn and want to please me.