By Kathy Santo | Updated: April 11 2019
“Our dog has ruined countless screen doors. She scratches them and barks until we let her in the house. How can I stop this?“
You’ll stop this (as with most dog issues) by thinking like a dog. All she knows is what she knows, and in her world, barking and scratching at the screen result in you opening the door.
I know what you’re thinking – it’s something along the lines of “But when I open the door I fuss at her and she knows she’s done something wrong!” Well, maybe, maybe not. In this case, I think that the reward of you opening the door for her to come in is so reinforcing, she’s willing to withstand a bit of fussing to achieve her (not your!) desired result.
Before I give you a suggestion on how to fix this problem, I’m going to assume that your dog is emotionally healthy, and receives enough attention, exercise, and toys to keep her entertained, and that there’s nothing in the yard that’s frightening her (I know someone whose dog was terrified of being in the yard, and the owners later realized that hummingbirds were attacking her!). If you’ve got those bases covered, here’s one (of many) tricks I use for screen door “scratchers”: purchase a dog exercise pen and place it around the outside of your screen door. This way, your dog can’t access the screen at all. You can also go to your local office supply store and purchase a clear, plastic office chair mat (it’s smooth on one side, bumpy on the other).
Using Velcro, fasten it to the screen door, bumpy side out, at the right height for your dog. Take into consideration the size of your dog and the type of screen scratching he does – if your dog stands on its hind legs to scratch, you’ll need to place it higher. Then, the next time your dog attempts to carve up the screen, she’ll notice the new ‘screen’ is uncomfortable to touch, and give up her hobby. Best of all, she won’t associate you with the correction, just your new, bumpy door, thereby saving your screen and your relationship all at the same time!
Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.
In Ramsey, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.