I drive my family crazy talking about the front door. Constant reminders not to open the door for strangers came early for our children for safety reasons. They also had to endure my lectures about not just swinging the door open when the dogs are nearby, for fear of them escaping into the street. While I do train a stay at the front door, I am not always confident the dogs will listen to the kids. For this reason, I prefer to use a combination of training and management for the front door.
In the beginning of training a stay at the front door, it is helpful to use a mat or bed where the dog knows the settle or stay cue. You can place the mat where you want the dog to be when you open the door. It takes a lot of practice to have reliability with this skill because for many dogs, the prospect of someone else coming into the home is just too exciting.
Some dogs may be fearful or protective as well. For those dogs, it is best to have them in another room or crate while you work on building confidence before expecting them to comply in such a highly charged situation.
Even for the excited greeters, it can be helpful to have a baby gate set up by the front door or at a nearby hallway if you don’t have free hands to hold a leash while you are working on the stay. I use this extra tall mounted gate with a little door from Chewy, after tripping over the standard size baby gate too many times to count.
You can first practice the sit or down stay while you open and close the door. Having your dog on a leash for this exercise is imperative to keep your dog safe while they learn. This is also a good way to gauge if your dog is ready to listen when more excitement arrives in the form of a guest.
From there you want to practice with another family member that lives with the dog, if possible, as a dress rehearsal for guests coming over. This is increasing distraction in increments so that the dog is being set up for success. As they can reliably stay while family members knock on the door and enter the home, you can start to expect them to stay with people they may be even more excited to greet. If they are happy to say hi to guests, you can use this as a reward for a stay when everyone is inside.
As my kids get older, they often want to work on training at the door with me. I think it is important to be realistic in what I can expect at their age and interest in dog training. If my dog is trained to do a stay at the front door with me, I can not expect him to stay for one of the kids if they have not practiced. Most dogs listen most to the person that spends time training with them. As the difficulty level increases with a behavior, this can especially be true.
Realistic expectations combined with managing your environment can lead to the best outcomes for your dog at the front door in a house with younger children.