How Do You Train Your Dog to Get Out in a Fire?

So I'm sitting outside on the back porch working on some stuff for one of the graphic designers, a little project that goes on and on and on and.... The house's doors are closed, because it's warm and the AC is on. I hear a beeping noise. An insistent beeping noise.

The neighbor has a truck that beeps like that. Beep beep beep freaking BEEP. It takes awhile before I realize whatever the racket is, it's not the dude's accursed truck. So I get up to investigate and lo! The house is FULL OF SMOKE! The racket is coming from the fire alarm in the kitchen.

It's a pan of pork I left on the stove to cook.

Welp, it cooked, all right. And then some. We'll be using that stuff in the charcoal barbecue, as fuel. By the time I got inside and shut off the gas, it had not burst into flames. Yet. Fortunately, the pan has no plastic on it -- otherwise it certainly would have been afire and probably would have caught fire to the cabinetry. That's how hot it was.

But here's the deal: When I opened the door, Ruby the Corgi Pup backed away from the scary noise and when I hollered to her to get OUT she ran into the yard. But Cassie the Corgi, hevvin help us, entered the house ahead of me and would not come out.

She would not come to call -- and she normally does so, every time.

I ended up having to chase her into the kitchen, pick her up, and carry her out through the back door, all the while thinking how much the Fire Dept is gonna love that! Fortunately, there were two other doors just a few steps away, so I knew I could get out even if the pan did decide to burst into flames. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have entered the house.

It was, in a word, alarming.

Anna the German Shepherd was, by serendipity, trained to leave the house every time the smoke alarm went off. And that is exactly what she would do. At the first "beep," that dog was outta there. That was pretty frequently, since in that house the smoke alarm would shriek if you sneezed.

But in that house I had a dog door in the kitchen. This house does not have that -- and in fact, all the entrances have heavy exterior security doors with special ultra-hardened locks, a little decoration prompted by an interesting home invasion episode. (The guys on a SWAT team are surprisingly nice fellows, you know?) (Just don't annoy them.) (Or scare them.) (They scare easily. Be very calm around them.)

There is a special security dog door punched through the wall in a bedroom. However, because when unlocked that door is large enough for a hefty man to enter (the greyhound for which it was installed was so tall the German shepherd could walk underneath him as though he were a bridge), I don't use it for these little cream-puff corgis. In the absence of the GerShep (who really was...well, OK, she was dangerous as hell and yes, she was batsh!t crazy), I rely on a pistol and a LOT of locks, bars, and lights for self-protection.

The first time the hypersensitive kitchen smoke alarm went off during Anna's tenure, she was not a pup but a young dog, maybe 10 or 12 months old. As soon as it sounded, I hollered at her to GO OUTSIDE, and she did.

Ever after that, every time the alarm hiccuped, she headed directly outside, through the doggy door in the kitchen door if the thing was closed, or just out through the frame if, as usual, the door was hanging open.

So...because the present house has no dog door in the kitchen door, and because the dog door in the other room is sealed and deadbolted shut, teaching them to go outside in my absence is moot. BUT in this instance I was here, the kitchen door was open, and I was telling them to get the heck out of Dodge. And something was very obviously very wrong inside the house.

I'm kinda puzzled that Cassie went into the house at all. The smoke was thick as smog, and the stink defied belief.

Once she was in, though, I do NOT understand why she wouldn't come out.

I'll risk my life to save a dog under some circumstances. But under some, I will not. We were pushing the second "some."

Is there something I can do -- on purpose, not by raw luck -- to prompt her to behave in a certain way at a specific, rarely occurring cue such as a smoke alarm? Anybody got any strategies?

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Comment by Vicky Hay on May 26, 2014 at 9:53pm

I  like the sticker idea. I'll look for some!

Comment by Jane Christensen on May 24, 2014 at 10:24am

I had my sticker in a front window but animals would have been scattered all over the house...but at least they knew!

Comment by Linda on May 24, 2014 at 9:59am

Jane...we had a sticker for both windows in Becca's room but her room faced the back of the house and I always worried they wouldn't see them.

Comment by Jane Christensen on May 24, 2014 at 9:14am

I think I would have a problem too...maybe teaching as a pup would work but I think with my dogs...most of them would hide. Wynn might go by the door but we live about 10 miles from the fire station and by then...I used to have a sticker that said ___cats/dogs in the house. You can by them at pet store I believe...then at least the firefighters would know:)

Comment by Linda on May 24, 2014 at 8:40am

Very scary!  I have no idea how to do that.  I have gone over it again and again in my mind on how I would get 5 animals out of this house...3 of them being cats that would hide.  I remember teaching my toddler how to just lay on the floor and not hide under or in anything if she heard the smoke alarm.  That's the hardest thing for firefighters when they have to go in and try to find a child.  She learned it well, our smoke alarm went off..I was broiling something...when she was taking a nap.  After I got the stuff out of the broiler I went upstairs.  There she was laying on the floor next to her bed.  I praised her up and down and sideways.  But the animals...I have no idea.  Katie panics if the alarm goes off, Max barks at it.

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