How To Stop Your Dog From Scratching the Door

A cream-colored Doodle Dog peeking out from behind double sliding doors.

If your doors look like they are being used for a scratching post, you may be desperate to find ways to stop your dog from scratching the door.

This is an extremely common behavior that dogs do for a couple of different reasons. Regardless of why it is happening, one thing is for sure – it needs to stop!

How do you stop a dog from scratching the door? Crate training and slowly increasing the time spent alone will help if anxiety is to blame for the scratching. For dogs who scratch to be let outside, train them to ring a bell instead. Refocus the dog’s attention if outside noises trigger door scratching.

To stop your home from being destroyed, you first need to understand why your dog is scratching.

Let’s look at the three primary reasons why dogs may scratch at the door and what to do about it.

Reason #1 – Your Dog Is Experiencing Separation Anxiety

If your dog is scratching at the door when you leave the house, it may be that they are suffering from separation anxiety. This is a very serious and common problem for many dogs.

Some dogs may only experience a bit of discomfort and anxiety.

Some may scratch the door a bit and whine, and others may utterly panic and make every effort possible to escape when they’re left alone. 

Dealing with separation anxiety can be time consuming. (You can learn more about separation anxiety and discover additional methods of overcoming it in this article.)

A professional animal behaviorist can help you and your dog work through the issue.

If you are not in a position to pay for professional training, there are some things that you can do yourself to try to alleviate the problem. 

Keep in mind before you start that helping dogs with separation anxiety can be extremely challenging and time consuming.

You will need to be very dedicated to the task for some time to see results. That said, here are some tips for curing your dog’s separation anxiety.

Crate training your dog from the beginning often prevents separation anxiety from ever becoming an issue. Learn how to do it the right way here.

Keep Goodbyes Minimal

Don’t make a big deal about coming and going. It’s very natural for people to explain to dogs that they are leaving and make a fuss when they come back.

However, this kind of behavior makes it more likely that dogs will consider your comings and goings big events that might cause anxiety.

Start Small

Keep alone time short and sweet at first. Start training your dog by giving him a highly desirable food dispensing toy and leaving the house for brief periods.

You may be able to leave for only a few seconds at a time at the beginning, especially if your dog is experiencing serious anxiety. 

Don’t make a fuss about leaving or even do things that dogs typically associate with leaving, like picking up your keys or putting on your coat. 

Increase Time Alone

As your dog gets more comfortable with being alone for brief periods, gradually increase the time that he spends by himself.

It’s important to monitor along the way and check in frequently (the camera featured below is excellent for this).

Some dogs have relapses even if they’ve been okay being alone for a while.

Solutions to Help Deal With Separation Anxiety

Classic Kong

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When dogs are left alone, it helps to give them something to do while you are away to ease anxiety and keep them occupied.

Chewing is a natural and instinctively fulfilling way to soothe your dog’s anxiety and prevent boredom. 

The Kong has been the standard for sturdy dog toys for many years for good reason. These toys are versatile, durable, and appeal to most dogs. 

You can stuff the toy with all kinds of different ingredients and even freeze it for added challenge and to relieve sore gums.

Popular stuffing ingredients include peanut butter, kibble, tiny bones, cottage cheese, chopped fruits and vegetables, and Kong’s own flavored Easy Treat stuffings.

Pros:

  • Super durable rubber can stand up to serious chewing without damaging your dog’s teeth or being ruined.
  • Allows dogs to entertain themselves.
  • Can be stuffed with all kinds of different treats. 
  • Designed with three grip points of different sizes.
  • Doubles as a fetch toy.
  • Freezable and dishwasher safe.

Cons:

  • Dogs that don’t like to chew and lick may struggle to get the filling out.
  • Extremely dedicated chewers with very powerful jaws can eventually destroy it. (Try Kong Extreme for aggressive chewers.)

Furbo Dog Camera

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For some dogs suffering from separation anxiety, the best solution is to be able to interact with them even when you’re not there.

This high-tech two-way audio camera enables your dog to hear you so that you can comfort or even give commands remotely.

This device also enables you to toss treats remotely, so you can reward your dog for good behavior or distract them from negative behavior right from your phone. 

You can even set a schedule as to when you would like treats to be given!

This amazing device alerts you whenever your dog starts barking and even features night vision. A 160° wide-angle view lets you see an entire space quite easily. 

Pros:

  • Allows you to interact with your dog remotely.
  • Barking sensors alert you to problems.
  • Features a treat tossing mechanism so that you can distract and reward your dog remotely.
  • Easy setup and sleek design that fits anywhere easily.
  • Wide-angle view.
  • Person alert so you’ll know if someone comes into the space.
  • Takes cute selfies when your dog is looking at the camera. 
  • Cloud recording based on events, so you’ll know what happened when you’re not watching.

Cons:

  • View cannot be rotated to look around the room.
  • Good Wi-Fi is needed.
  • Additional payment necessary for some advanced features.

Reason #2 – Your Dog Wants To Go Out

If your dog is scratching at the door while you’re home, there is a very good chance that he is trying to communicate with you.

When puppies learn how to go potty outside, they find their own ways to communicate to their owners that they need to go out. 

Scratching at the door is often one way dogs let you know that nature is calling.

If they are particularly excited or can’t get your attention, they may scratch the door a lot and cause major damage.

Here are some ways to help your dog stop scratching the door to go out, whether they want to play or need to take care of important business.

Maintain a Schedule

Anticipate your dog’s needs rather than waiting for him to ask to go out every time.

Maintaining a reasonable schedule helps you to know whether your dog really needs to go potty or if he is pestering you for a walk.

Install Jingle Bells

Bells are a great way for your dog to alert you that he wants to go out without scratching at the door.

Simply hang a sturdy strand of jingle bells from the doorknob and train your dog to ring the bells instead of pawing at the door.

For most dogs, the transition from pawing at the door to pawing at the bells is very easy. 

Dog Doorbells

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These bells hang directly from the doorknob, making it very simple for your dog to transition from scratching on the door to scratching at the bells.

The clear ringing sound is easy for you to hear but inoffensive to both people and dogs. 

You can choose the length that is best for your dog and doorknob. The tough strap will hold up to a lot of pawing without showing damage. 

Because these bells attach to the doorknob, they will also ring when the door opens, which can be confusing for your dog. 

However, for most dogs, this doesn’t cause any training difficulties.

Pros:

  • Hangs directly from the doorknob, making the transition from door scratching to bell scratching very easy.
  • Clear ringing sound is distinct without startling your dog.
  • Choose from several lengths for the exact right size for your dog and door.
  • Sturdy belt material can hold up to a lot of scratching without showing wear and tear.

Cons:

  • Bell will also ring when the door opens, which can be confusing for dogs during training.
  • Color options stand out against most doors.

Reason #3 – Your Dog is Responding to Something Outside

Your dog may be pawing at the door because he is responding to something going on outside.

Pawing at the door may be accompanied with barking, listening, and running between windows and doors. 

Dogs may respond to other dogs going by, people outside, wild animals, and many other things.

Your dog is probably pawing to let you know that he would like to go out and investigate, though he may be trying to eliminate the barrier preventing him from chasing away the perceived threat. 

If your dog is very reactive to seeing other people and dogs on walks or when people visit your house, it may be likely that the door scratching is an extension of this behavior.

Dogs that are experiencing strong reactivity or aggression in any form often need very serious training. 

Training to correct aggression can be dangerous, so it is best to work with a trainer and behaviorist if at all possible.

If you are unable to employ professional help, here are some steps to take to reduce reactivity to whatever is on the other side of the door:

Acknowledge What Your Dog Is Reacting To

Let your dog know that you are aware that he sees or hears something. Look in the direction that is causing the reaction, then look at your dog, and say, “It’s okay.”

As soon as he is quiet, pat his head and tell him that he’s a good boy (or girl if that is the case).

Do not reward scratching or nuisance barking with attention as that will only reinforce the behavior.

If he is acting out of a desire to protect you, letting him know that you understand the threat may do a lot to reduce his response.

Distract Your Dog

Once you have acknowledged that you are aware that there’s something on the other side of the door and he has quieted down, distract your dog with a highly desirable toy or yummy treat.

Remember not to give the toy or treat until he has calmed down, or he’ll believe that scratching is a good thing that leads to rewards.

Walk your dog away from the door, perhaps even into another room, before giving the treat. 

You want the reward to be desirable enough to immediately distract your dog, so choose the highest value treat that you can.

Repeat

You will need to repeat this cycle many times to begin to change your dog’s behavior.

Eventually, simply acknowledging the source of excitement may be enough to cause them to settle back down, without you having to get them a treat or toy. 

However, it often takes a long time to reduce the reaction.

Keeping your dog well exercised will speed your progress because a tired dog is generally a well-behaved dog.

One great way to wear out your furry friend without wearing yourself out in the process is to use a flirt pole during exercise sessions. 

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A toy that requires minimal effort on your part – all you do is hold the pole and jiggle the lure just out of the dog’s reach – but can completely exhaust your dog within just a few minutes is definitely a winner.

By the time playtime is over, scratching the door will probably be the last thing on his mind.

Last update on 2020-12-01 at 19:30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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