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My wife and I recently moved into a condo with a roommate. Since we want privacy for our bedroom, but don't want to have to worry about animals making noises at our door at night, we installed a cat flap in our bedroom door for our dog and two cats. The two cats (both about 4-5 years old) took to it immediately, but our dog (who is seven years old) is having some issues.

At first, the dog wouldn't go through the door at all. However, after a month or so, she would go through it to get into our bedroom at times when she wanted to get away from guests (or the cats). After that, she'd use the cat flap just as the cats did.

In the past month however, the dog will only use the door to leave our bedroom. Indeed, she'll rush out through the door if she wants to get a drink or investigate a noise, then sit outside and bark until someone opens the main door for her to come back in. Even holding the cat flap open and tempting her through with treats doesn't beckon her through.

Is there any technique for alleviating my dog's issue?

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2 Answers 2

Just luring him with treats might not work. However, you could try to train the dog using the full "power" of positive reinforcement training (aka clicker training). Obtaining behaviours like the one you want can be done with "free shaping" or "luring".

If your not familiar with clicker training, here are a few steps you could try to follow:

  • if you have a clicker use one, otherwise just use the word "yes"
  • take some treats
  • pair the clicker/yes with the treats: without asking anything, just say "yes" then treat, repeat a few times. If the dogs knows a "sit" or another behaviour, ask for it, then yes as he's doing it, then treat

The point here is that the "yes" will be a marker, meaning "what you're doing right now is good, a treat will follow".

  • Now move to the flap. Stay close to it and wait
  • At first the dog will probably wonder what's going on, do nothing
  • First, click and treat as he's looking at the flap
  • Then reward (click or "yes" and treat) every steps toward the flap. Follow even the tiniest steps until he's touching the flap, etc.

To do so you can lure it to the flap, but the point is to make him understand that the game is about the flap, not about following a treat.

  • Then make sure that he understands that something interesting is on the other side : a toy, whatever
  • Continue rewarding actions towards the flap, smelling, touching, going through with one leg, etc. It doesn't matter if he's coming back to you to get the treat, what matters is the moment you click/say "yes".

This might take more than one session, but eventually this is creating the best conditions for him to want to go to the other side by himself. If during the first session the progresses are really slow, then you can "play this game" again later, but on the "good" side of the door, where he's more likely to use the flap. That way he will understand the rules of the game and realises I can win a big reward when he wins.

If he does go in the room by himself make sure he gets a "jackpot" treat.

You can also have a look at this video. The dog there doesn't want to walk on some kind of floor. At first he's really not doing it, but the technique helps him associate the floor and positive feelings.

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Check the flap. It is possible your dog had a bad experience with the flap and was unable to access the room from the expected direction, gave up, and was rewarded by you opening the door when she barked.

Check the dog door. Is the door too high for her? Could she have hurt herself (scraped or bruised her underside, banged the top of her head, maybe caught her tail) when passing through the door? Does she have to explicitly step up and over and through to get past? If it is uncomfortable to use, she may only want to use it for excited purposes.

One possible way to curb her barking is to provide a small rug or mat in front of your door, so that when she feels trapped outside your room, she can at least lay down on something (this assumes you do not have a carpeted floor).

You really should consider leaving her outside your room, barking. You must somehow get everyone in your household to agree to tolerate her barking for a couple nights, with the understanding that you're trying to retrain her so she'll stop doing it altogether. She will eventually figure out you're not coming to allow her back in, and she'll either make her way in through the dog door or give up. You can't respond to her barking - she has to realize her barking is not rewarded by being allowed to enter the human way.

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