Having your dog accustomed to being behind a gate (or door, ex-pen, etc.) can be helpful in many situations. It allows the dog a quiet place away from potentially stressful activity and gives you time to remove them when you cannot be fully supervising them. Preparing your dog to feel comfortable when being left alone will prove to be a useful skill throughout their lives. The steps to accustom them to a gate are:
1. Put the gate up somewhere in your house and always have it there to start, so that bringing out the gate does not become a trigger to them that they are going behind it.
2. Occasionally toss treats onto the other side of the gate for your dog to find on their own.
3. Feed the dog’s meals on the other side of the gate.
4. After a few days, begin introducing a cue. Say your cue (ex: ‘Behind gate’), toss treat. Praise as dog eats treat and then cue him out with another cue of your choice (do not reward the dog for coming out from gate).
5. Repeat step 5 numerous times until your dog enjoys going behind the gate for the treat, without actually closing the gate.
6. Start to cue the dog and encourage them to go in on their own. Once they are in, reward with a treat. Ensure you cue them to come out.
7. If they are hesitant to go in on their own, wait it out. Do not repeat the cue! Stay upbeat and positive and do not force them behind.
8. If the dog still will not go on their own, end the session – stay calm and do not appear frustrated. It was just too much for your dog. Try again at a later time. If the dog does go in, jackpot reward them!
9. After dog will go into gate on cue, begin to shut it when they go in. Treat repeatedly while they are in the closed gate to start. Only do small increments of time to start and then increase.
10. Start to get up and walk around, around room, towards the gate.
11. Take one step over the gate, then two, etc.
12. Start to walk around on other side of gate, while remaining in sight. Ensure you are returning to dog and rewarding.
13. Begin increasing duration by keeping yourself busy while dog is behind the gate. Go back and reward as needed when dog is being quiet. Ignore any crying or whining. Never let the dog out of the gate if they are crying. They need to learn they only come out when they are quiet.
14. Next start going out of sight for short periods. Build this up the same as the above steps. Do not continually make the time longer – vary this. Keep your sessions short!
15. As your dog begins to use the gate more, ensure you are not only using it when you leave the dog home alone. They may begin to pair the gate with isolation and create a negative association.
16. Always teach your dog that the gate is a positive, safe place for them!