what happens to your dogs when the front door is left open for 3 hours?

My kids and I slept in this morning. It felt so yummy, so luxurious, so needed. When my eyes did open to greet the day, I felt so completely rested and sated.

Getting up, stretching, clear eyes, a big smile, please let me remember how dam good this feels!

I went to put the kettle on for coffee, grab the paper, and then my heart stopped. Bright light caught my attention, so I turned to look down the stairs, and saw that the front door was wide open. I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing while my brain was trying to process this information.

My husband leaves for work in the wee hours of the morning. The house he is building is pretty far out, so this means the door had been open for over three hours.

I ran through the house checking on kids and dogs. Both of my teenagers were still sweetly snoring away, $eeker next to my daughters bed, Ocean on the guest bed, and Story laying in the entryway just checking out our neighbors shoveling the snow. He didn’t seem too amused by my panic, and I’m pretty sure would have preferred if I went back to bed. He was having a good morning!


We received about six inches of snow last night so it was easy to see who went where, out of the front door. There were my husbands foot prints from the house to his car several times, and only Ocean’s tiny paw prints to and from the edge of our front deck. Maybe six feet from the front door. From the deep slumber I found Ocean in this morning, she had been sleeping for quite some time.




Story’s favorite spot in the house is by the front door. The floor is cool and hard, which he prefers, so he must have been in pig heaven with the cold winter air coming in on him. 


$eeker has a morning routine, and until it is complete, it is hard to get him to do anything else. Literally. Walking out the front door before the budgis have had their bath, the fish fed, the compost taken out, would just tweak his whole day. So super grateful  for his very weird habits.

All of my dogs got big huge chunks of their favorite salami this morning. They had some very cool choices presented to them this morning, playing with our neighbors while they shoveled, going for a walk about, visiting with neighbors dogs, and who knows what else. But they all chose their home. And I don’t take that for granted, at all.

From the time our dogs arrive in our home we start working on what we call, Gate Zen (see video below). We do this with our garden gates, our front door, garage door, back gates, car doors, etc, with the hope of conditioning our home and our property as the best place to be.

I never put words to this behavior, for the very reason of what happened this morning. If I am not there, and they have choices, I want them to CHOOSE HOME.

I am so grateful right now, so crazy grateful. I understand that even with my rules for my husband and children, ‘if you go through it, you shut it, and lock it’, mistakes can happen. And I work hard to prepare my dogs for our short comings, our mistakes, our bobbles.

When my husband first met me, he thought the life skill training I did with my dogs was excessive. Today was the massive pay off, and a reminder, that it is not.

So now that my heart rate is back to normal, I have hot black coffee in hand, I shall call my husband 😉

Always make your home the best and most loving place to be, help your dogs choose you.

Love & Peace ~ Nancy


24 Comments Add yours

  1. Lisa Marie Cook says:

    I LOVE it too when Durango chooses home. We reward the choice with lots of love scratches and messages and treats. I get blown away that he does choose us over chasing after a bunny (and sometimes that happens) – but then again, we are as goofy and fun as him. 🙂

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Why would be run away, he has his own couch and swimming pool, and deck that looks over the ocean… who would walk away from that!

  2. Bree Caldwell says:

    I’ll never forget the day you taught this to me for my dogs. One day last summer, I accidentally left a gate to the yard open. Two border collies running laps across the road, 4 dogs barking and running kitty corner to us, a neighbor next door gardening. My beautiful girls chose the yard and stood at the gate watching but never leaving. 15 minutes later, when I realized what had happened they got big rewards for those choices!

    This and recall have become my must have skills above all else 🙂 Thanks for all you do Nancy!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Bree, this is awesome, i am so glad that you worked on this and have seen a pay off so soon! Kudos to you!

  3. Kim says:

    Awesome, awesome, awesome 🙂

    Holly and Kya (one of my 2 indoor cats) would have failed this test of having the front door open with no one around. Danee and Kettle (the other indoor cat) would not have.

    Holly…forever challenging my skills. They say you get the dog you need, not necessarily the one you want 😉

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Kim, do cats even count? hahaha… As far as I know, if they want to go out they do, if they want to stay in they do. Please tell me if this is not so 😉

      1. Kim says:

        Sure cats count! Its only a little different than how i train the dogs…I had to retrain Kya that outside was no longer an option when I moved to MT. Although I never had to train Kettle for that…she lived a hard life on the streets of Msla her first 6 months of life, and that was enough to forget ever wanting to step out the door again.

  4. Mags Corner says:

    That is great training that paid off big time for you and the dogs. I have never seen dogs trained in that way and I am glad you posted the video.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Yes, we use this for all of our clients with ‘door excitment’ it is a great way to say HOME is better!

  5. dayphoto says:

    Wonderful! Our dogs are never leashed or kept in a chain link fence. I work with them until they understand to stay home. Even when we are gone they stay in the farm yard. Well done…something I truly believe in!

    ♬♬♬ Happy Saint Patrick’s Day ♬♬♬

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thanks Linda. Yes most of our farm/ranch clients have their dogs out and about, I wish they would proof their yard space like you said you did, it would prevent a bunch of wondering for sure!. It seems to get a bit trickier in town, in neighborhoods, as the distractions are pretty high, and frequent.

      1. dayphoto says:

        We have trouble with others that move to the country and let their dogs out to roam. Doing just that can and will get them shot! Dogs are creatures that love to give chase…to chase farm animals results in extreme measures. We always try to capture the offending dog and take them home. Then to explain to those whose dog is going down the wrong path so to speak. So people listen others don’t. Please understand Terry and I have never shot a dog nor will we…we will capture the dog and take it home. It’s easy to know who out in the country. BUT every rancher and sheep herder I know doesn’t not stop to save the dog first only to save the cow or the sheep.

        ♬♬♬ Happy Saint Patrick’s Day ♬♬♬

      2. Nancy Tanner says:

        Linda it is the same here. Some people move to the country and feel it is OK to let their dogs roam, I will never get over that, ever. All the best to you my friend… Some day we will meet! Nancy

  6. Molly says:

    Oh my goodness! So amazing. I hope we can get there…

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Molly, you will, Willa is still a baby!

  7. Amy says:

    Great video, thanks. This is something I would like work on… but I have a question, well actually two. First – I live alone with two dogs, and while I can sometimes invite friends over to help most of the time it is just me doing the training. Is there another step if you have no other bodies as distractions in/out? And second – if I have food, my dogs are with me, so if I walk out of the gate they are right at my heels. Comes from working on “with me” in our walks – only high value treats trump a squirrel. So… kind of counter productive in this instance… any suggestions for keeping them in the yard when they are so attentive and at heel? So much to learn….!!! And thank you – I have only recently found your blog, but am very grateful for your words.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Amy,
      Since we have children and their friends over often, this distraction and proofing was good for our home and what happens here. If you don’t have kids or kids coming and going I would practice what would be the most common scenarios that you would most likely encounter. If your dog likes being with you because of the food smell, that is a great opportunity to work on staying in the house and the yard, not matter where the food smell goes. So you start with minimal distance (just over the door step, or garden gate) and then toss the treat behind your dog and away from the entrance.(not from your hand). Then move onto just a bit of duration, and then add a bit of distraction. Don’t go to fast with progression, but fast enough where you are making strides forward. For a dog that follows, allow them to turn around an dfind the reward behind them. Hope this helps, Nancy

      1. Amy says:

        Ah, yes of course! That does help – simple answer, but I didn’t quite see it. Thank you so much!

  8. Kay Liestman says:

    Great blog and great idea for training our fearful/reactive cattle dog. She’s always close by, but we obviously need to do “gate zen.”

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Kay, I hope it helps. Sometimes knowing home and yard are safe is a great feeling for our more fearful dogs. Best of Luck, Nancy

  9. When I had 2 dogs several years ago – someone broke into my house while I was at work. The burglars left the front door open all day (I heard later from my neighbor that he noticed my dogs in the front yard around 10 am. Why that didn’t strike him as odd is beyond me as I NEVER let my dogs run loose in the neighborhood). When I arrived home in the afternoon, the front door wide open, the house eerily still, my heart stopped. I finally discovered my dog Shadow had been in the back yard (I have a dog door) and was just laying low until I returned. The only thing I can think of for her returning is that she knew where she was safe and even though she knew the neighborhood fairly well from our walks – her place was at home with me. My other dog on the other hand…thankfully some good Samaritan had located him and posted him on a website and he ended up being about a mile away, but safe. I picked him just a couple hours after I got home – so all in all a happy ending.

    I love this method of training and will have to try it with my current dog, Blueberry. She’s pretty good about not bolting when I have the door open as I am bringing in groceries, etc – but I do wonder what would happen if the door was left open when I wasn’t around.

    Your dogs are so amazing! I love how they respond to your happy clapping with their tail wags! 🙂

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Oh my, I would have panicked. All day and having a stranger rob you. In one weird way, the robber must have been nice if your dogs didn’t feel too much concern, which is also creepy. Crap… How many dead bolts do you have now? I think that would have tipped the scales for me.
      Here is to safety and Blueberry loving her home 😉

  10. lisakunk says:

    Your household sounds so much like mine except we are in pretty much snow-free NC but we’ve had a few of the open door scare-you-to-death moments. Our three dogs even look like your dogs’ cousins. Glad they love home. Yours and ours. It’s our cats who have a death wish and would go out and explore too far and be captured by unknown neighbors or plucked up by a hungry hawk. Last time this sneaky cat rambled out he came back and reclined on the porch, ready to come back inside. Yay. Look forward to reading your animal adventures.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Lisa, yes cats are scampy! 😉

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