Boundary Game

The goal of this game is to help your dog understand impulse control.


In class we used tables and chair to mimic a doorway but at home I want you to use a doorway. Start teaching this game using a doorway that leads to somewhere your dog is not hugely enthusiastic about or the other side of the doorway means no attachment or meaning such as: door to the bathroom or laundry. Only when this game has been established, introduce it to a doorway that leads somewhere the dog likes or the dog has history with such as: front door, garage door or side gate. 


Default sit/drop is the key that advances your hand to open the door. In the steps I say to reward 5 x in a row, in video I only reward Luna one treat per yes. She knows how to do this game and no longer needs a high rate of reinforce. She had also been filming with me a lot and I was rationing out the treats so I don't make her too fat. 

How to teach Boundary Game.

  • Step 1: Walk to doorway and wait for dog to automatically sit - The door you are using must be shut. Walk up to the door with your dog and stop. Wait for your dog to automatically sit or drop. Bridge and reward them 5 x in a row. Reset and repeat 5x. 

  • Step 2: Touch door handleWith your dog in a sit or drop at the door at the door, advance forward with your hand and touch the door handle. If your dog doesn't move, bridge and reward 5 x in a row from the hand that is not touching the door handle. Continue to touch the door handle while you feed the treats. Reset and repeat 5 x. If at any stage your dog get's up or moves towards the door, immediately take you hand off the door. Be patient and wait for your dog to settle and sit/drop again before touching it again and continuing with the steps. 

  • Step 3: Open door in small increments - If your dog stays there, start to open the door. Break the process of opening the door into multiple little steps (don't just fully open the door, it needs to be a little bit opened at a time to set your dog up for most success). To achieve success with your dog you might only be able to open the dog 1 inch at a time and that is okay. If your dog doesn't move for the opening you are working on, bridge and reward 5 x treats. The end goal is to open the door the whole way without your dog moving from the sit/drop and running through it. If at any stage they move, just shut the door and try again. If they break position again in the second try, go back and do more repetition on the previous successful opening. We are looking for a conscious decision from your dog to not advance on the movement of the door - it is not an invitation. That is definition of 'impulse control'. 

  • Step 4: Open door in one motion - Walk up to the door, wait for a default sit/drop and open the door in one motion. Bridge when the door is fully open and your dog doesn't move. Treat 5 x. Reset and repeat 5x. 

  • Step 5: Walk through doorway in small increments - Open door and break the process of stepping through the doorway and steps on the other side of door way down into multiple little steps (don't just walk through the door, it needs to be one step at a time to set your dog up for most success). To achieve success with your dog you might only be able to lean forward or half step through first and that is okay. Let your dog determine the rate you advance. If your dog doesn't move for the number of steps you are working on, bridge, return to your dog and reward 5 x in a row. The end goal is to step through the door way and on the other side without your dog moving from sit/drop and following you. the whole way without your dog moving from the sit/drop and running through it.

  • Step 6: Walk up, open door and walk through in one motion - Walk up to the door, wait for a default sit/drop, open the door and walk through and away on the other side of doorway in one motion. Bridge if you dog doesn't move. Return to them and treat 5 x. Reset and repeat 5x.

  • Step 7: Introduce a release command to cross door way - When you are confident that your dog will stay and not come forward, repeat step 7 but this time when you are on the other side of the door way, release your dog to come through with an "Okay, in/out/through" and encourage them- 'okay' is the release and the the 'word' following is what they need to do. Make sure that you are consistent with what you use. E.g. For my dog to go from inside to outside, I use "okay, out" and to go from outside to inside, I use "okay, in". Bridge when they come through and reward. Play around with how far you are away from the door way when you release them and the time they have to hold before releasing them. When it looks like they really understand their release command proof it by saying phrases like "okay, igloo", "okay, octopus", "okay, bananas", etc. It doesn't matter what mumble jumble you say, it is about teaching your dog to listen to the correct cue. If at any stage your dog breaks, quickly shut the door and reset. If you dog holds and doesn't advance forwards off the wrong cue, bridge and reward them. 

  • Step 8: With your dog opposite side of door to you, open and invite them through - Repeat the process of the above steps but this time with your dog on the opposite side to the door to you. Approach, wait for them to sit, open the door fully in one motion and only if they have held the sit, release them to go through the doorway. Bridge the moment they cross over the threshold and reward. 

  • Step 9: Challenge the hold at door way - Set up enticements on the other side of the door way such as; favourite toy, bowl of food, an enrichment, their lead, a bone, another dog or person, etc. Have the door shut. Repeat your process of walking up to the door and opening it. Bridge the moment your dog looks at the enticement but doesn't move and treat 5x. After rewarding them, swap up between releasing them to go to the enticement vs not and you walking to the enticement releasing them to come through to it vs walking to enticement and returning to them. 

  • Step 10: Proof doors - Practice on all different doors leading to all different places. If you are working on the front door or a gate that leads to the street, have your dog on a long lead for safety so they can't run off but do not control them with it for the purpose of the game.