FREE dog training advice from a pro!

Solve your dog problems with a pet door

How to choose the right pet door and get your dog to use it.

I don't normally quote my mom in articles, but the other day she brought up an interesting topic. While discussing her energetic young Miniature Schnauzer, she mused, "I just don't understand how any dog owner can get by without a pet door!" Wise woman, my mom.


For some reason, when folks are looking to solve their dog problems, they rarely think about a pet door. That's a shame, because pet doors are a cheap and easy way to solve a variety of dog problems, including:

  • Potty accidents: Most dogs don't want to potty in the house. When a mature dog (over one year old) has an indoor soiling problem, it's usually because he hasn't learned an effective way to communicate that he needs to go outside. A pet door solves this problem by giving your dog immediate access to the outdoors.
  • Revolving door: While some dogs have a hard time communicating when they need to go outside, others learn the skill a little too well. A dog that incessantly barks or scratches to go outside — and then to be let back in — is almost as frustrating as a dog that eliminates indoors. With a pet door, your dog can let himself in and out... and in... and out...
  • Long workdays: A common complaint I hear from dog owners is how guilty they feel leaving their dog home alone for long stretches without access to the outdoors while they are at work. Work is stressful enough without adding guilt to it. Relieve your stress (and your dog's bladder) — install a pet door!
  • Owner vacations: When owners go on vacation, they are often reluctant to leave their pets at a boarding kennel, either because they are pricey or because they worry it will stress their pets. With a pet door, many pets can stay comfortably at home as long as a pet or house sitter checks on them a couple of times a day.


There are a LOT of different pet doors on the market. So, how do you know which is the ideal pet door for you? Consider these factors as you shop:

  • Where will I install my pet door? If you will install your pet door through an existing door in your home, you need one designed for that purpose, like the PetSafe Aluminum Freedom Pet Door. On the other hand, if you plan to install your pet door through a wall, you need a one that includes a tunnel designed specifically for that purpose, like the PetSafe Wall Entry Aluminum Pet Door. Likewise, if you intend to install your pet door in a sliding glass door, you should choose a PetSafe Deluxe Patio Panel Pet Door.
  • How large is my pet? It's important to choose a pet door that's appropriately sized for your dog. A pet door that's too small can be uncomfortable and discourage use. Also, remember that if your dog is still a puppy, you should purchase a door based on the size you think he will reach as an adult.
  • What is my pet's temperament? If your dog is active or large, you should probably consider an aluminum frame, like the PetSafe Aluminum Freedom Pet Door. Plastic-framed pet doors break more easily than metal and aren't designed to withstand heavy, long-term use.
  • Am I worried about animals other than my dog using the door? If you live in a rural area — or if you're just worried about animals other than your own using your pet door — you should consider an electronic pet door that opens only for your pet, like the PetSafe Electronic SmartDoor.
  • How important is security? If you're often out of town, or if you just want extra peace of mind, look for a pet door with keyed locks that are accessible only from inside your home. Some pet doors even include metal panels you can screw on when you are away for extended periods.


For many people, installation is what stops them from getting a pet door. In reality, pet door installation isn't much of an obstacle. If you don't have the skills, tools, or desire to install a pet door yourself, you can easily find a handyman or pet professional in almost any market to do it for you. Installation through an existing wood or metal door will probably cost somewhere in the range of $150 - $250 , depending on where you live (installation through a wall is pricier).

If you wish to avoid the issue of installation altogether and you have a sliding glass door, look into a Patio Pet Door like the one pictured to the right. Patio pet doors easily insert into an existing sliding glass door, and installation requires nothing more than a few well-placed screws.


Some dogs take to using a pet door like a fish takes to swimming in water — from the moment the door is available to them, they start running right through it. Most dogs aren't so confident, though. So, when you get your new pet door, you will likely need to teach your dog how to use it.

Many dogs think the pet door flap is scary, either because they can't see through it easily or because it makes a noise when it closes. So, to start training, remove this obstacle by rigging your pet door so that it is completely open — that means either taping the flap up or, if you have saloon-style doors, propping them open. If possible, leave the pet door propped open for at least a day, and allow your dog to wander freely in and out.

Also, use a treat you know your dog really likes to lure him in and out of the door. Stand outside of the pet door if your dog is inside — and vice versa — and hold the treat just outside of his reach.

REMEMBER: Try not to pressure your dog! Don't give in to the temptation to push your dog through the door, and don't overdo yourself trying to verbally coax him through. If your dog is reluctant, simply ignore him. Go outside and do your best to look like you're having a great time without him. Chances are he'll eventually work up the courage to join you.

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