The last post included training tips for setting your dogs up for success over the holidays when we often do not stick to our normal routines. For this post, I am including a tip for a specific issue many people have at the holidays. How many stories have you heard about dog’s getting into the holiday meal when food is left on kitchen counters or the dining room table?

If you will be hosting a holiday meal, you will most likely be focused on cooking, visiting with family, and other things. Your dog might not get as much attention, which means he might not get enough exercise either. Add that to the tasty smells wafting from the kitchen, and you have the recipe for potential problems with your dog!

If food is being prepared or left out on kitchen counters, teach your dog to stay out of the kitchen during this time. While you can manage the situation by putting your dog in his crate, closing him in another room or leaving him outside, teaching an “out” cue can come in handy if you want your dog to be part of the festivities without causing trouble.

For my dogs, “out” means to get out of whichever room they are in. If they are in the kitchen, bathroom, or any other room, and I want them out of the way, I simply say “out” and they leave the room. If I am standing at the back door with the door open and say “out” it also means to get out of the room they are in by exiting the house.

You can use shaping, luring or herding (body blocking) to get your desired behavior started. I use herding or body blocking. Here's how it works:

  • With my dog in the room, I place myself on the opposite side of my dog from the exit to the room;
  • As I walked toward my dog, he begins moving out of my way;
  • If he tries to move around me, I simply move myself to always keep him between me and the exit;
  • As soon as I have successfully herded or blocked him out of the room, I reward by tossing a treat just outside the room.

Once the dog is out of the room, you step back inside the room and away from the doorway/entrance. If your dog tries to re-enter the room, you simply block him from doing so with your body. Reward again when he backs up. If you back away from the doorway, and he remains outside the room, toss another reward.

Once he gets the hang of staying out of the room, you can say “out” just before you herd or block him again. With some practice, he will begin to understand “out” without your needing to block him. This will take some practice, but can be very useful when you need your dog to remain out of a certain room at certain times.