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6 Doggie Door Dos & Don'ts

Our dogs are valued family members, and just like us, they have their wants and needs. Many dog owners will agree that having to go outside to run, jump, play, and potty are their pup’s top priorities. To make things easier as a pet parent, you might consider installing a doggie door. A bit of a splurge (but so worth it), a pet door allows your dog to go in and out of the house by themselves, giving them more freedom and you more flexibility. Let’s break down what to do—and what not to do—when getting your pup their little door.

DO buy a door that’s appropriately sized for your dog.

Buying a door that’s too big can be intimidating for your dog. Conversely, they can get stuck trying to go through a door that’s too small. Instead, buy one that’s the smallest size necessary to let your pet comfortably move in and out. Measure the dog’s height when standing and calculate the distance between the floor and the top of the dog’s shoulders. Your pet will automatically duck their head and lift their feet when using the doggie door. For the width, estimate how wide open a regular door needs to be to allow your pet to walk through without rubbing against its sides. Dog doors usually come in four sizes based on the amount of weight they can accommodate. When installing the door, allow a two-inch clearance between your dog’s height and the top of the opening for a comfortable fit.

DON’T skimp on security features.

Let’s face it: a doggie door can make your home vulnerable to break-ins. The bigger the door, the easier it is for humans to pass through. To protect your home and the people and pets within, spend a little time and money on security features, like locking mechanisms. Take a moment to think about what issues you might encounter with an unsecured pet door, then find a door that offers at least a locking system or access restriction. While most doors come with locking covers, you can also supplement them with something more secure, like an all-steel combination lock door cover or a sturdy charley bar for sliding glass dog doors. 

DO consider high-tech doors.

Nowadays, doggie doors are much more than the simple flap-open type. Technology has improved our lives, and the lives of dogs, too. Today’s dog doors are smart and can operate electronically or automatically. Some dog doors include sensors that can communicate with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) fob on your dog’s collar to open. Others may even be able to use your dog’s microchip for identification and access. And that’s not all. Electronic doors may be programmed to restrict and allow access during certain times and can be fitted with a contact or motion sensor that connects to your smart home system and alerts you when the door is in use.

DON’T install a door in a highly visible location.

It should probably go without saying, but letting everybody and your dog know that you have a doggie door can be a security risk. Discourage intruders by installing your dog door in a discreet location that’s not easily viewable by strangers. Most people install their dog door on a back door that leads to an enclosed yard. Get creative and install a wall-mounted dog door that’s surrounded by bushes or a garden to make it less noticeable. Or build a doghouse outside a wall-mounted door to keep the entry hidden.

DO use the locks.

It’s one thing to have locks on your doggie door, but it’s another to actually use them. So often, people forget or don’t know how to use the locks. Locks are there for security purposes but have added benefits, too. Small children may be tempted to use the door for fun, and other animals, like raccoons and squirrels, might also take an interest in the just-my-size feature. Learn how to use the locks and remember to take advantage of them —especially at night and when you’re away.

DON’T forget to train your pet how to use it.

Some dogs may understand how to use their special little door faster than others. All dog doors are designed differently, so it’s important to know the temperament of your dog and the functionality of the door. A skittish dog might be wary of an automatic door that moves up by itself, while a confident dog may barrel through a flap door with too much gusto. Train your dog to use the door, first by making sure it’s at ease near it, then by praising and rewarding them as they go in and out. Pack your patience and be prepared to work with your dog to get the hang of things.

Think Twice Before Installing a Door by Yourself

Think you can install your doggie door by yourself? You may want to think again. Read our article, “When to DIY vs. When to Hire a Pro,” to help you decide whether you should hire a pro for the job.