Why Is My Dog Scratching the Door?

A dog scratching at the door can be a signal they need to be let out, a ploy to get your attention or a more serious indication of separation anxiety in dogs. Either way, if you don’t like the mess it causes to your paintwork, here’s how you can stop it.

First step is to work out what lies behind the scratching as the different drivers will need to be approached in different ways. Quite simply, the first two will happen while you’re around your dog, and the third is most likely to happen while you’re out. However, in some cases of extreme anxiety in dogs, it can start as soon as you leave the room and close the door between you and the dog.

Is Door Scratching Just Mindless Destruction?

Many owners think of scratching as mindless destructive dog behaviour, rather than a symptom of dog anxiety, and while it can be very destructive, that is not the intention that lies behind the dog scratching at the door. Instead, a dog suffering from separation anxiety will be in a panic to get to you and will use any means they can – which includes trying to scratch their way out through the door.

To treat separation anxiety in dogs effectively you’ll need a two-pronged approach.  The first is to use training that is aimed at establishing you as pack leader; this is because an anxious dog will relax when it’s clear that you head the pack and they can trust you to look after them. You can find out more about how to treat anxiety in this free video created by a professional dog trainer.

The second is to focus on the dog behaviour problem itself and use techniques that will show your dog that this behaviour is not acceptable to you which we’ll tell you how to do below.

Rule Out Dog Separation Anxiety

If anxiety is not the problem, then a dog scratching to be let out is much easier to deal with.  If you don’t like the damage to your paintwork simply let them out yourself regularly, before they get to the stage where they need to be scratching the door.

A note of warning here.  If your dog is scratching the door to be let out and then when you open the door doesn’t go out, but instead stand there looking at you, they may be doing it as attention seeking.

This may seem like a fairly innocent ploy to you, but the trouble is that if the dog succeeds in getting your attention every time, this can lead to all sorts of problems in other areas, as the dog can feel that if he can get attention whenever he wants, that makes him ‘top dog’ and thus responsible for the pack.   This can set you off on a downward spiral resulting in anxiety in dogs, as we discussed earlier.

How to Stop Dog Scratching Door for Attention

So the question is what can you do to ensure your dog gets to go out when they want to do their business, but are not able to use it to grab our attention?

The answer is fairly straightforward. If your dog is scratching to be let out, then simply go to the door and open it without paying any attention to the dog – that means not looking directly at them, speaking to them or sneaking in a quick stroke or a pat!  So many owners will take this opportunity to talk to the dog. “Do you want to go out?” being the most popular conversation opener.

If you open the door and the dog goes out, then all is fine. If you open the door and the dog stays put, then close the door and go back to what you were doing, again without paying any attention to your dog. Simple, but very effective. The great thing about dogs is that if their attention seeking behaviour doesn’t get them any attention they will soon give up.

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