From Argus waiting for Odysseus to return in Homer’s Odyssey to Seymour waiting in vain for Fry to return in the classic Futurama tearjerker “Jurassic Bark,” dogs’ loyalty is and always has been a huge part of why they’re Man’s Best Friend. No matter what other things may be going on in your life, your dog is always happy to see you – so much so that they sometimes wait for you with eager impatience in the most awkward places.
Case in point, your door. Whether they are blocking the entrance to your bathroom or lying in front of your front door, dogs sometimes decide they just want to stretch out or curl up before a door and that’s that – but why? What can you do about it?
Let’s journey into the reasons behind both of those questions and delve into the potential reasons why your dog is waiting by the door.
1. They Miss You
The first answer we have to this question is also the most obvious – they love and miss you. Argus is so devoted to his master that when Odysseus finally does return, he dies of joy, while Seymour sits in front of a pizza parlor to the strains of Connie Francis’ “I Will Wait for You.” The latter is an English reworking of the legendary Michel Legrand piece “Je Ne Pourrai Jamais Vivre Sans Toi” from Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies De Cherbourg, about lovers lamenting their separation – and the fact such songs remind us of dogs separated from us speaks to how much they love and miss us while awaiting our return.
The fact your dog waits by the door for your return is a sign of just how attached they are to you.
2. Separation Anxiety
However, there is a difference between your dog simply loving and missing you and them being so disturbed by your absence that it results in medical distress. In this case, your dog’s placement in front of a door can be a sign of separation anxiety, with them associating the area by your door with security, your scent, or both, in addition to a plethora of potential symptoms, including:
- Urinating or defecating in front of the door
- Barking or howling outside of your door
- Acts of destruction (clawing at the door until it’s damaged, digging and chewing things they shouldn’t, biting the door itself, and so on)
- Trying to escape through the door, including by pawing at it, chewing it, or otherwise trying to force it open
- Other abnormal obsessive behavior near the door that does not occur when you are present
Of course, as much as you love your dog, you can’t stay with them 24/7, so what causes separation anxiety of this kind, and what can you do about it?
While there is no single answer as to why your dog may be suffering separation anxiety, sudden changes in their routine or living space – especially if it results in you being gone – may contribute to this.
Thankfully, there are several ways you can address separation anxiety of this kind, including:
- Crate training, which involves training your dog to associate a crate with safety and make that their “safe space” while you are gone, eliminating the fear that they are unsafe without you
- Giving your dog plenty of exercise
- Giving your dog plenty of warning that you are about to leave, and leaving gradually rather than suddenly so they can mentally adjust to the idea
- In severe cases, medication prescribed by a veterinarian can help
Above all, you should never scold your dog for any of their aforementioned actions in front of your door. They don’t mean to misbehave, they’re just severely anxious without you and are trying to express it the only way they know how.
3. They Feel Protective
We don’t call them “guard dogs” for nothing. Dogs can be quite territorial, and that can manifest in literally guarding the entrance to their perceived “territory” in your door. This is more likely to be the case if they also sleep or stay by the door while you are at home. If it only does this while you are away, this is less likely.
4. They Want Out
Sometimes Occam’s Razor holds true – your dog is waiting by the door? Maybe it wants to go out! That’s one of the first guesses we’d make for a person waiting by a door, after all, and that same logic can hold true with dogs.
This is especially true if you typically take your dog for a walk and you exit by that door. Your dog knows that door is now the magical boundary between them and the wonderful world of walks, and so staying by the door is their way of “giving you a hint.” This is especially likely in breeds that need a lot of exercise. What’s more, if you have changed your daily pattern recently and aren’t taking them for walks anymore, they’ll wonder what’s going on and return to the site to try and “give you a hint” that it’s time for a walk again.
5. They Want Attention
If your dog’s a little drama hound, it may be sleeping in front of a door knowing you’ll have to get past them to get in there and thus force you to give them more attention. On the one hand, you have to give these diva dogs credit for creative thinking here. On the other hand, if they’re resorting to these measures to get attention, they clearly don’t feel like they’re getting it already.
Related to a lack of attention is sheer boredom. If your dog thinks the most entertaining thing it has to do is paw, gnaw, or pee on a door all day, it probably doesn’t have enough toys or isn’t getting enough exercise and attention.
6. They Need the Bathroom
If your dog is well-trained, and you have taught it that going to the bathroom indoors is a no-no, it may be waiting by the door in an effort to be obedient and be let out so it can relieve itself outside. The most obvious sign that this is the case would be your dog regularly leaving “a mess” by the door. This is another case where scolding your dog is a bad idea. They know that they’re supposed to go outside, but they can’t open the door themselves and so are stuck with an impossible situation.
Aside from installing a doggie door, if necessary, you should also consider if your dog’s “need to go” has increased, causing these “accidents.” If so, their toilet trouble may be a sign of a larger medical issue and you’ll want to contact a veterinarian.
7. Mating Needs
Whether you have a Lady or a Tramp, your dog may be feeling a bit of that “Bella Notte” spirit. For example, if you have a male dog and a female dog in heat is nearby, your dog may pick up her scent and be pawing at the door in hopes of getting out so they can “get acquainted.”
Dogs are extremely loyal, and lying down in front of a door while waiting for you can be one way of showing it. Alternatively, they may be wanting a bit more attention from their best friend. Either way, there are plenty of ways you can reward their loyalty and love and give them enough attention to convince them to quit blocking the door.