If your dog is opening doors at will, you have a problem that can range from nuisance to life-threatening. Fortunately you can prevent your dog from opening doors quickly and economically.
Lever style and bar handles provide the perfect “paw catching” area for dogs. It will not take a dog long to learn that zealously putting his paw or mouth on the handle will make the door open. Replace lever style handles with round knobs. It is virtually impossible for a dog to open a door with round knobs because this feat requires a simultaneous turn and pull and an opposable thumb.
If replacing the knobs is not a palatable option, you can install childproof locking mechanisms that are made specifically for lever handles. If your dog has already learned to open doors, it will take him awhile to unlearn the behavior. This means that he is likely to keep paw-swiping the handle until he finally learns that it no longer works to open the door.
Many commercial buildings, including shelters, dog stores and veterinary offices, are purposely designed with architecturally pleasing handles. Ask any researcher how many dogs they lose in a study because they can’t keep Houdini dogs in the observation room! We can’t keep our Houdini in the exam room at the vet’s office either. “I’ll be leaving now”, he says as he lets himself right out the door. Nothing but vigilance will keep your dog from escaping in these environments. Secure the dog on leash and restrict his movements as much as possible. If your dog can open doors, be sure to advise the staff at your veterinary office so that they are prepared if they take him out of the exam room for tests or other procedures.
Cabinet and Refrigerator Doors
Dogs that can open cabinet doors typically learn this by accident while in pursuit of the garbage pail or packaged food that may be kept in the cabinets. Whether you have handles on your cabinets or if they are flush mounts, a variety of childproof locking mechanisms are available to prevent dogs and kids from opening doors. If your garbage pail is kept in a custom cabinet or kept under the sink, consider moving it to a room in which the dog has no access. If the dog can smell the trash, he will likely continue to scratch at the barrier even if he can no longer open the door.
If the sorriest day of your life is the day you taught your dog to open the refrigerator and fetch your can of soda, don’t despair. This too is fixable. Refrigerator door locks come in a wide variety of colors and styles and accomodate stainless and colored appliances.
The Best Solution
Once a dog learns how to open a door, he will attempt to apply his skill on every door he encounters. This can create frustration for the dog and damage to the property. The best solution is to prevent the dog from learning this craft in the first place. Whenever possible, dog proof your doors by changing out lever handles or installing security locks before bringing a new dog into your home. If your dog has already learned to open doors, apply the locking mechanism that works best for your family. It may take a while for the dog to unlearn the behavior but if his door opening tricks no longer work, he will eventually stop trying.