Usually, I like that my Border Collie follows me around everywhere. Sometimes, it isn’t as charming. My bathroom door doesn’t close tightly. When I am using the facilities, Zip would barge in, flinging the door wide open. The door is too far away for me to reach to close myself. Stuck in a compromising position!
Now, a normal person might think that fixing the door would solve that little problem. But I am not a normal person, I am a dog trainer. So I immediately thought that the best thing to do would be to teach my dog to close the door.
Zip had been shaped to touch targets with his nose, so touching the door with his nose shouldn’t be difficult. Get some treats and a clicker, open the door slightly. I look at Zip, Zip looks at me. Something more is needed. I tap the door with my finger, Zip looks, C&T and we are started.
After a few C&T’s for looking, I start tossing the treat so Zip moves away from the door. Now, I can click him as he is moving towards the door on the way back, instead of just standing there looking at it. Sheep may move when Border Colllies stare at them, but doors are not so easily intimidated. A few clicks and he offers touching it with his nose (it only took a few because it is similar to learning to touch a target).
The timing of the click is important when shaping, you want the dog to hear the click while their nose is touching the door. Once Zip was consistently eating the treat and immediately heading back to the door to touch it again, I started to C&T for nose touches that were a little bit harder. From there, I gradually selected nose touches that moved the door. Once Zip got the idea, it wasn’t long before he was pushing the door closed.
This has turned out to be a pretty useful behavior. Not only can I use the bathroom with some privacy, but I also have a helpful dog. Forgot to close the fridge door, Zip, “push”. Since he is following me around all the time, he may as well be helpful.
I haven’t made a video of my own dog closing the door, but here is a video by 9 year old Grace Tagtow teaching her dog to shut the door.