How to Stop Your Dog From Bolting Out the Door

Updated on July 17, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

How to Prevent Your Dog From Running Out of the Door
How to Prevent Your Dog From Running Out of the Door | Source

Why did Rover bolt out the door? Most likely to get to what is outside! As much as this sounds like a riddle, many dog owners dread the thought of Rover escaping out the door. The reaction to such outings may vary depending on where Rover lives. If you live by a road full of traffic, most likely, you will fear for your dog's life every time he goes for an exhilarating trip outside. If you live in a rural area, you may be a bit more relaxed, but you will still find it a pain to call your dog and worry about him getting into trouble.

So how do you prevent Rover from bolting out the door every chance he gets? There are several solutions to this problem. An understanding as to why Rover finds the great outdoors so irresistible may also help pinpoint the problem in the first place, but it should be every dog owner's priority to teach their dog how to not bolt out the door for safety's sake. And of course, all dogs should be taught how to come when called.

Ask your dog to sit before opening the door.
Ask your dog to sit before opening the door.

5 Reasons Why Your Dog Bolts Out the Door

From your dog's standpoint, the door unveils an amazing world that is worth its weight in gold for exploration purposes. In a certain way, a door that leads to the great outdoors may be the canine equivalent to a gate leading to Walt Disney World from a child's perspective. There are so many intriguing stimuli that are hard to resist. Let's take a look at some circumstances that make the outdoors so salient from a dog's perspective. Your dog may love the great outdoors because the outdoors leads to:

1. A world of intriguing smells.

This is particularly true if you own a breed of dogs that uses his nose a lot. Scent hounds have a big reputation for being escape artists for the simple fact that their nose commands them to follow scent and go on an amazing tracking journey. By the time they have found the source of the interesting smell, they may not realize how far they got from home. This is a type of dog you want to keep on leash or on a long line at all times and prevent from escaping out the door. Virtually, any dog, however, will feel tempted to go on a sniffing adventure and rightfully so. Equipped with more than 220 million olfactory receptors, a dog's nose "knows" how to track smells and follow a path towards a cat, a left-over sandwich wrapper or some pee-mail left from a neighbor dog.

2. Relief from pent-up energy.

If your dog is kept at home all day, with little opportunities to exercise and not much mental stimulation, he will do what it takes to exercise and entertain himself by bolting out the door. The great outdoors for these dogs is a great place to romp around, roll in the grass, chase a squirrel and just act as dogs. Dogs are social beings that crave attention and were not meant to be kept alone at home within four walls all day. They do not watch TV, play games on Facebook or do cross word puzzles. They just want to do simple and totally normal "doggy things' such as digging, chewing, smelling grass, running, chasing squirrels and enjoying activities with their family.

3. Access to other dogs.

If you own an intact male, he will likely bolt out the door to engage in "manly behaviors' such as urine marking, protecting the property from other canine competitors or gain access to that French poodle in heat less than half-mile away. If you own an intact female, she may bolt out to urinate and advertise that she is in standing heat so all male dogs are aware of that. If your dog is spayed or neutered, don't relax; your dog may still be very interested in socializing with other doggy fellows and escaping for a thrilling adventure.

4. Relief from the exhilarating flight period.

Puppies go through a critical developmental period of time where they find the act of escaping very entertaining. This is when they test their wings and "fly". Obviously not in the real sense of the word! The flight period takes place between the ages of 4 to 8 months. This is the stage where the puppy starts becoming more independent, testing and confident. In the wild, this period coincides to when the puppy leaves the den and starts exploring and learning how to hunt. In a domestic setting, dogs will find the outside world very intriguing and will be reluctant to come when called.

5. A world of rewards.

Most of all, your dog will love the outdoors if he is rewarded with great happenings when he leaves home. A game of catch with another dog, some tasty cow manure from your neighbor's farm or some attention from a friendly neighbor are all bonuses that add up and will increase the desire for getting more and more outdoors, every chance she gets. And as opportunistic beings, dogs will look for chances over and over!

How to Stop Your Dog From Bolting Out the Door

There are fortunately many strategies to stop a dog from bolting out the door. Responsible dog ownership institutes that you take all measures to prevent your dog from escaping and keep him safe. Yes, easier said than done! These tips and strategies should help keep Rover from bolting out.

The Magical "M"

The magical "M'' word is management. Management means keeping your dog safe, as you train your dog better behaviors. It is a temporary fix to a behavioral problem but I often recommend to absolutely not wean management options unless you are 100% sure your dog is safe, which is sort a shot in the dark when it comes to dealing with animals which can be unpredictable at times. This explains why dog parks, doggy day-care and kennels often have two doors. Should a dog escape the first door, there is another door to escape too which is unlikely to happen if you are paying attention.

In this case, management entails installing a baby gate before the door, closing the dog in another room when the front door is open, keeping your dog on a leash when the door is open and all other strategies that contain and prevent your dog from heading outdoors. As much as this sounds like an obvious solution, it is often overlooked: after all, you would never allow a toddler to get out of a door risking to fall over the steps, would you?

Desensitize to Door Opening

If your dog's ears perk up and body gets all alert at the sound of the door, it means he has started associating the door with the adrenaline rush of getting outside. Because dogs live by associations, a good exercise would entail reducing the arousal status of your dog by desensitizing him to the act of opening the door. This means making the door opening action less salient and significant to your dog. To accomplish this do the following:

  1. Pretend you are getting ready to head out. Put your shoes on, grab your purse and head towards the door. Rover will likely get all excited. Then make an abrupt about-turn and just sit on the couch. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  2. Get up again, go towards the door and put your hand on the handle. Then go back and watch some TV. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  3. Finally, get up, touch the handle, and open the door just a tiny bit and then sit down. Repeat, repeat, repeat this until your dog starts caring less and less about the opening the door a tiny bit factor.

The goal of this exercise is to take the edge off a bit of the action of opening the door. Rover should go from "Yippee, the door! I can't wait to get out! " to "Ok, you have done that so many times today, nothing is happening and it is getting boooring". In other words, you should see a change in your dog's emotional response to the door: from pricking up the ears, wagging tail, jumping, running in circles, and acting all crazy to a calmer state of mind reflecting just a mere interest. You know you are doing the exercise well when Rover is sleeping and you can open the door slightly and he seems to no longer care and barely lifts his head. Boorriiiing!

Open Sesame

This is a great exercise I always recommend to my clients. I personally call it in classes the doggy version of "open sesame©". Basically, your dog learns that the door opens only when he is quiet and does an automatic sit. To train this, you will need to follow the steps listed below.

Note: It may help to start training this using a door that does not lead outdoors such as a bathroom or bedroom door. Once, your dog understands the exercise, you can then move on to the door that leads to the back yard and then finally to the one that leads to the real outdoors.

  1. Put your dog on a leash
  2. Head towards the door
  3. Ask your dog for a sit
  4. Praise your dog for sitting
  5. Open the door and head out
  6. Come back inside
  7. Touch the doorknob
  8. Ask your dog for a sit
  9. Praise your dog for sitting
  10. Open the door and head out
  11. Repeat, repeat, repeat
  12. Do this exercise all the time before heading out.

This exercise is based on the Premack Principle also known as 'Grandma's Law'. Basically, it is the canine equivalent of a grandma saying "eat your broccoli first and then you can have ice cream". In this case, you are basically saying "sit, and the door will magically open". Dogs catch on this fast, since they are really eager to get out.

Generalize the Stay

The stay command comes in handy here because it allows you to open the door without your dog bolting out. Many dogs know how to stay when asked for it, but may have a problem when distance and distractions are added. Dogs are not great at generalizing behaviors and an open door poses a big challenge requiring good impulse control. This is why you must do your best to train your dog that stay is stay no matter what, no matter where. This is accomplished gradually and in baby steps. Remember Bob Bailey's golden rule of training: "be a splitter and not a lumper"! This exercise is therefore for dogs that have a basic knowledge of stay and should be done after you have desensitized your dog to the door opening and has preferably been taught an automatic "open sesame" sit.

  1. Walk with your leashed dog next to you and ask your dog to stay in front of the door and take a step and place yourself in front of him with your hand extended in the 'stay'.
  2. Go back next to the dog and praise and reward with high-value treats for staying.
  3. Repeat several times until your dog grasps the concept.
  4. Next, open the door and repeat the same exercise. If your dog is about to bolt ahead, use your body blocks to keep your dog from bolting out and get him back to the stay position.
  5. Repeat, ask for the stay, open the door and place yourself in front of the door.Your goal is to be able to keep the door open without him bolting out. Once you are out, call your dog to come out with you and go for your walk.

For visual learners, (see Youtube video) I created a video on how to train this for a client a while back, and I will gladly share it here. Please make safety top priority! You will get a laugh or two when my cat decides to lick the camera! This video belongs to my Yellow Creek Dog Training Center LLC files, so please do not copy, but you are free to share.

These training tips will help your dog learn that good manners lead to the great outdoors. Best of all, when you train your dog and use rewards, you become more and more interesting and your dog bonds with you more which ultimately may also lead to making the outdoors less interesting. A win-win situation for all!

Important: If your dog tends to bolt out the door, make safety your top priority. Do not do these exercises without a leash and do your best to protect your dog from the many outdoor dangers! Happy training!

Does your dog bolt outside given the opportunity?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Adrienne Janet Farricelli


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      3 years ago

      Well, that's good she allowed you to put the leash on! Good girl, happy you praised her for that.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      My brother's dog.

      Got so excited i was taking her for a walk she went ahead without me. She had no leash. She waited at the top of the stairs for us to leave the house and then waited for me to catch up every step of the way. She only came back when my brother yelled at me. Lol. On one of our walks ..i tripped and fell and lost her. But she was waiting for me sitting up ready to put the leash back on. Good girl I said. This all was after only 1 week petsitting her. Spoodles are the best.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      6 years ago

      thanks for stopping by, kingkos. Yes, countless dogs would escape less if they only had the time to train a few new cues.

    • kingkos profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice tips again! many owner will less their trouble around their neighbor if they watch this.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      You're silly~! You must have typed this as I was getting ready for class. See you next week and keep up the progress you two are doing great!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you Adrienne, I am following your tips on Missy as you outlined, and I am happy you gave me this link so I can follow through. She is already making great progress not bolting out the door. You know how Missy is and how forgetful I am, so I am happy I can come here to remember what to do! I am sharing this with a friend that has a similar issue. I am happy to have found your training center and your guidance. Missy and I thank you! see you next week!

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Thanks a bunch agilitymatch! I hope it really does help save lives! Kind regards and thanks for stopping by!

    • agilitymach profile image

      Kristin Kaldahl 

      7 years ago

      A great advice hub that can save dogs' lives. Good work and good methodology!! Voted up and awesome!!

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by and bookmarking the article kittyjj! Kind regards!

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 

      7 years ago from San Jose, California

      Great techniques on training dogs. Your video is helpful too. We don't have a dog now, but I think we will sometime in the future because my son has been asking for one as his pet. I am going to bookmark it because your hub will come in handy by then. Thank you for sharing!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Consistency! Yes indeed.


    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      I do believe you and sounds like you really did a great job with your dog! My dogs also learned to walk off leash and are rabbit/cat-squirrel proof. Takes a lot of impulse control, but consistency pays off. Thank you for stopping by!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I also do that exercise with my car door, my friends doors, and even use the curb as a boundary.

      When I'm walking in town and I let my dog loose, she is allowed to run ahead. Then she sniffs as much as she can and waits at the curb until I say she can go or until she walks beside me as I cross the curb. Doesn't matter if there is food or squirrels or dogs ahead of me.

      No one believes me until they see it first hand, though. Saying stuff like this without actually seeing it often undermines my credibility.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)