Q: We just adopted a dog. He’s really good about everything - very well trained and he’s 6 months old. We live in an apartment and we take him out for walks and lots of play time. But every time we start to go home he just stops outside of our building. He wont move. The only way to get him inside is to pick him up. Once we get him around the corner and by our door he is fine. At first he would walk in just fine – but when we started trying to get him to sit before he comes in our front door he started to do it. Is it because we make him sit before coming in, that makes him not want to come in? I am pregnant and cant carry him in every time.
A: Hi Jenna! Thanks for writing in with such a good question! While at first glance, seeing a puppy behave this way, some might find it cute, but as you’ve found it, there is nothing funny about it at all. Puppies are very adept at learning how to train us, when it comes to getting what they want. And it seems very clear to me that your puppy has taught you that he doesn’t like going home, and ending his marvelous walks when you say it’s time to go home. He’s learned that by putting on the brakes, and that if he refuses that he gets to stay out longer, and it buys him time, even though the end result is inevitable. While this behavior can be very frustrating, it isn’t that hard to manage, and shouldn’t take too long to change. I can also assure you that he isn’t doing this because you are teaching him to sit before coming in. Teaching him to sit and wait before going into the house, waiting while you take out your key or whatnot is actually teaching him manners and impulse control, which can never be a bad thing!
In a case like this, I would work on teaching the puppy that coming to you is the best thing in the world for him. Remember, dogs will always do what pays off best for them. All we have to do is to convince the dog that coming inside IS the best thing for him. And to do so, we need to motivate him more, and figure out what his Gold Medal, or currency is.
It appears that your puppy has learned that once you get to that spot, right in front of your building, right before the corner, that this signals the end of his marvelous walk, and it’s time to go back upstairs. While we may want to go back into the house, your puppy obviously doesn’t agree with you…and who could blame him? The outdoors are much more fun, with lots to sniff, lots to see, lots to hear, many people and doggy friends to meet, and lots of fun romp time! I wouldn’t want to stop that either!
What we need to teach puppy are two things actually. One, that this particular spot does not always signal the end of the walk, and two, that going back into the house isn’t as boring as he might think it is. To do so, I would practice walking PAST the spot where he starts to refuse to move. Use your voice, enthusiastically, to coax and urge him on. If need be, bring along one of his favorite toys, and invite him to play with it. You can also bring along some tasty treats, and use that to entice him to move along with you as well. The more fun you make it, the more the dog will want to engage with you.
Start your walk off normally. But when coming back home, try using a different route. When approaching the area, entice him to keep moving, and when he does, do NOT go back into the house. Instead keep walking, moving past the point that causes him to stop moving. Another thing I would ask is he getting a long enough walk, or is it challenging him enough physically? Being a puppy, he does have a lot of excitement, but he also will get tired out as well. If you can give him longer walks, with more physical activity, he might not feel the need to refuse to go back home when the time comes.
Next, I would try to teach him associations that going back home is also a wonderful thing. One way to do this would be to feed him after his walks. A lot of owners make the mistake of feeding their dogs before taking them out, but it’s very good for a dog to experience physical stimulation before actually eating their meal. This will also give him something that he loves to look forward to.
You can also play some of his favorite games once you return home with him. Spend at least 10-15 minutes playing with him once you get him home, so again, it becomes something that he looks forward to.
I know that if you take the time, that you can teach your puppy that going back into the house isn’t such a bad thing after all!
Good luck and Happy Training!