I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to teach all dogs, but especially BIG dogs, to have good manners around doors, gates and fences! If at all possible, start with your puppy as soon as you get her or him. Not only will this prevent escapist habits, but it allows you to get in and out safely, and without your dog dashing out into danger.
Gates and doors are super-exciting places to dogs. People and stuff come in! There are cool things outside! But dogs that jump up or dash out as you are trying to get through a door, and knock you down or cause you to spill what you are carrying—that’s annoying and potentially dangerous. They can get quite aroused as people approach, and if calm gate behavior is not trained early, this can escalate to barrier aggression, jumped fences, and dog fights. It is imperative to teach your Kangal Dog respect for fences, gates, and doors from an early age.
In this article, I am going to just use the word “gates,” but this protocol applies to all gates and doors, including car doors—and also fences in general. The training protocol is really easy, and is learned pretty quickly if you are absolutely consistent! Make sure you use treats that are healthy and that your dog really loves (kibble might work, but better treats get better and faster results.)
A large or giant metal crate (not a plastic airline crate), and/or a sturdy baby gate with a swing-open door (not the cheap wooden pressure-mounted ones that have no door). Ideally you will have both. All dogs and puppies should be crate trained—you will need to crate your dog at times, and you absolutely want them to be comfortable with it. Use your crate from time to time even, with an adult dog, even if he “doesn’t need it,” to maintain that comfort and compliance. You definitely do NOT want to end up with a dog that goes crazy or destroys crates and can’t be confined when necessary.
It’s good to close off parts of the house with baby gates if your dog will spend time indoors. There will be areas where you prefer he not go, for whatever reason, so might as well instill good habits early. Mine are not allowed down the hallway or into the bedrooms/bathroom—mainly to cut down on hair sweeping, but also… just because. Get the metal 4-ft kind that can be secured in the doorway with wood screws, not with adjustable pressure. This dog will weigh over 100 lbs! You can repair the screw holes later.
You want to teach your dog not to jump on ANY gate or fence or door, to push against it, or even put a foot on it. Or, more accurately, since you can’t really teach a “nonbehavior” like “not jumping,” you are teaching the dog to be polite at barriers, and to wait for your signal to go through.
At the same time, you are teaching your dog a release cue, which means “You can go forward” or “You can have it”. I use “OK” said in a sing-song voice. If you are consistent, then eventually polite gate/door manners will become your dog’s default behavior—a learned habit that you can maintain easily for life.
You can use a crate door, or a gate, but it’s a little easier to start with a gate (and less bending over for you.)
Step 1: Teach a Sit and a Release.
Using kibble (if he loves it) or a yummy treat (like bits of cheese or meat), teach the dog to sit on a mat or rug as a ‘place’. Then teach the dog to Sit until you say “OK” (your release cue) and take a step away, encouraging him to come with you and get a treat. Get this down solid with at least 2-3 seconds of duration before you proceed. Keep your hands still and on your belly, not waving the treat around, which will mess up your training.
Step 2: Teach Sit behind a gate.
Dog is behind the gate, you on the other side. Use your
mat to help him generalize the Sit. Ask your dog to Sit, and when he does, reach over and give him a treat WHILE he is sitting. Good dog! Do this a few times, ideally keeping him sitting there. Then, instead of rewarding him in position, toss the treat BEHIND him, so that he can get it and then come back to you—say SIT before he has a chance to jump on the gate. Reward. Repeat, over and over, tossing treats and getthing him to come back to a quiet sit.
Step 3: Add distance.
Try the same thing but you stand back 1 foot from the gate, then 2 feet, then 3--get at least 5 successes in a row at each distance before you progress. Say Sit, and when he does, say Goooood Dog as you approach to feed him. IMPORTANT: IF he stands up or puts a paw on the gate, BACK AWAY a foot or two, then ask for a Sit, and try again.
It it quite amusing and cool to see how the dog figures out that by moving out of the Sit, or touching the gate, he causes you to go away and take your treats with you! He will get it! Be patient and consistent!
Dog must stay sitting as you approach to feed him. Dogs must sit quietly before you will approach and open the gate, and no jumping. If they move, quietly close the gate. NO need to say NO or anything else, just close and move away. (f you find it hard to give up the habit of saying NO, try to use “Uh oh!” in a matter of fact voice instead. This is not about reprimand—he doesn’t know the behavior yet. He just needs feedback, and frankly, the closing of the door or your moving away is far more meaningful than your words.
Step 4: Teach Wait at open gate for release
Dog has to stay sitting until you say OK before they move through an open gate, otherwise you just shut the gate. It is important for you to keep your criteria very clear, and not ‘forgive’ what looks like minor infractions. If there is the slightest infraction, even touching the gate with a paw, or jumping up, or pushing into it, you retreat a few feet and stand still.
It’s very easy to do, and effective, as long as you and everyone in the family sticks to this strictly. It might need to be repeated regularly—but they get it when they realize that by jumping on the fence they make you leave instead of come.
It is super important to do this indoors and outdoors, and especially if there’s more than one dog behind the fence—they can get pushy and even aggressive with each other around gates (not just Kangals either).
Step 5: Generalize to other gates and doors!
You will have to go back a few steps for each one, because dogs don’t generalize that well, although they get better as they learn more behaviors. Go back to ‘kindergarten’ with each new context, and go through the steps above—it will go faster and easier each time.
Keep distractions to a minimum as you train—and then you can start adding distractions in, like a food bowl on the other side of the gate, or your dog’s favorite child or toy, etc.
I wish I could teach all my puppies solid gate manners before they leave, but it’s impossible with so many of them! Still, they will have a start at positive training, sit, and staying put while waiting for the treat. :) It’s up to you to continue. Have fun!