Nancy Kerns: Hi! I am Nancy Kerns, Editor of The Whole Dog Journal. Today, I am going to tell you how to teach your dog to wait at the door. This is a basic good manners behavior that every dog should know.
Anytime when your dog is really motivated to go outside or get back inside the house, is a good opportunity to train him to wait at the door. When working with a door that opens into an area that isn't fenced, put a leash on the dog so he won't bolt outside when he finally earns the chance to go out.
Start by approaching the door, letting the dog know that he is about to go out. But, before you open the door, pause dramatically. You want his expectation that he gets to go out coupled with your abrupt hesitation to be significant, without you using any cues for sit.
You want to help teach the dog that if he offers a sit in any situation where it's unclear what he should be doing, he will get a reward. The first time you do this, it might be a long wait. Once he sees the connection between how close you are to opening the door and his position though, it moves really fast.
If he gets discouraged and starts to give up or move away from the door, simply rattle the latch or actually start to open the door to get him interested in solving the puzzle again. This is similar to that childhood game of red light, green light. When he sits, start to open the door and continue unless he gets up.
If he gets up, close the door and withdraw your hand. When he sits, immediately reach to open the door again. Once the dog seems to understand the rules, add a cue 'wait'. Say the word once, right after he sits, pairing it with his act of waiting.
When he waits reliably, start using the cue first before you reach the door. Knowing to sit and wait at any door is a valuable skill for every dog to possess.