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Step-by-Step Guide: Training Your Pup to Use a Dog Door

Dogs sitting outside


In the canine companion circle, nothing says freedom like a dog door. Your pup can come and go as they please, making potty time a breeze, right? But just because you install one doesn’t mean Fido knows how to use it. So how do you train your dog to use a doggie door?

Training Your Pup to Use a Dog Door: Step-by-Step Guide

Getting your dog to use a dog door isn’t the same as giving them a new dog bowl. The idea of a doggy door is pretty much a foreign concept to your pup. Therefore, expect there to be a bit of a learning curve.

Grab a handful of training treats and prepare to spend a few minutes teaching your pup how to use the dog door. Don’t attempt to tackle the whole process in one session. Take it a step at a time, observing how quickly your dog grasps each step.

As your dog succeeds at a particular task, you can move on to the next step. Be patient, don’t force your dog to use the door, and stay calm and positive.

1. Introduce Your Dog to Their New Doorway

After installing the dog door, don’t put the flap on at first. Leave the opening free and clear, so your dog can get used to going through it without any obstacle. Enlist the help of a friend or family member, with one of you inside and one outside of the door.

Crouch down so your dog can see you through the opening and show them the treat. As soon as your dog puts their head through the door, praise them and give them the treat. It’s about creating positive associations with this strange new opening your dog can now access.

After your dog consistently pokes their head through, back up a few steps and encourage them to step through the door to get the treat. Your dog might only put their front paws through at first, with half their body outside and half inside. This is progress, so reward it.

Next, back up further, so your dog needs to come through the door entirely to receive their tasty snack. When they do, reward and praise them again. Then, have your friend inside the house show your pup a treat to encourage them to go back through the door. Repeat about five to ten times until your dog goes back and forth through the door without hesitation.

2. Toss the Treats Through the Door

The whole point of a dog door is for your dog to go in and out as they please. Therefore, you won’t always be on the other side waving a treat around to motivate them.

To move through the process, stand by the door and toss the treat out, encouraging your pup to go through on their own. If they come back inside right after, reward them immediately. If not, call them back inside and reward them when they respond. If they don’t respond, you need to pay extra attention to step three.

3. Practice Calling Your Dog Back Inside

It’s essential that you teach your dog to come when called. This command helps keep your dog safe and out of trouble. If you haven’t already taught your dog how to come when called, take the time to work on this command before training them to use the doggy door.

Once your dog responds to the come command, you’ll be able to work on calling them back inside through the dog door. This is a critical step for many reasons. For example, imagine your dog stepping out of their dog door to explore the backyard, then it starts to rain. You can call your dog to return before they get muddy and wet.

4. Add the Flap to the Dog Door

When your dog understands that the doggie door is their free pass to outdoor fun and freedom, it’s time to add the flap. You might need to show your dog how the flap works a few times by pushing it, putting your hand through it, etc.

With the flap in place, repeat steps one through three. You may need to help your pup by holding the flap up a bit at first as they get used to the idea of pushing through the opening. Reward small victories, raising the bar each time until your dog uses the door independently.

5. Remove Treats from the Process

After your dog uses the door independently, keep the verbal praise but gradually remove the treat from the equation. The freedom the door provides your pup is likely motivation enough at this point.

Why Won’t My Dog Go Through the Dog Door?

If your dog seems overly hesitant about using a doggy door, it doesn’t mean they never will. All dogs are different, and your pup might be a bit more fearful of the idea. Perhaps they don’t like how the flap feels on their fur. Or maybe your dog gets anxious because they can’t see what’s on the other side as they go through it.

So what can you do? Start the process without the flap, as mentioned above, and prepare for it to take more attempts. If your dog is fearful, you might need to repeat the process 20 to 30 times before you move on to the next phase. Also, when you first begin, try handing a treat to your pup through the opening to spark interest and ease fears. (If your pup needs some help calming down in stressful situations, consider trying the Neat-Lik Mat.)

When it’s time to replace the flap, use something more forgiving first to get your dog used to pushing through an obstacle. You could try a simple hand towel. No matter what, stay calm and patient. If you get frustrated, your dog will sense your stress and respond to it.

How Long Does It Take a Dog to Get Used to a Dog Door?

How long it takes your dog to use a dog door depends on their fear level, your training, and their personality. Many dogs will figure out the concept after your first training session. But, for others, it may take a few attempts. Still, your dog should be using the doggie door independently within one week.

Sitting outside with dog

Things to Consider Before Installing a Dog Door

Before you decide to install a doggie door, make sure your backyard is secure. The last thing you want to worry about is looking for a lost dog. Check your fences for gaps or places your dog could squeeze through, and keep gates locked. Also, keep your dog’s microchip registration up to date.

When you have a small dog, keep in mind they’re easy prey for certain outdoor predators. Therefore, consider the area you live in, and if it’s not wise for your dog to be outside unattended, a dog door isn’t a good option. There’s also the possibility of unwanted critters gaining access to your house through the dog door (more likely if you live in a rural area).

If this is a concern, you could look into dog doors that remain locked except for your dog. These doors come with a smart key that goes on your dog’s collar. The electronic dog door responds to the key, unlocking only for your pup.

Another important consideration is to get the right size doggy door for your pet. Consult the guides for the specific door to measure your dog and determine the accurate size for them.

Opening the Dog Door to Opportunity

A doggie door can make things easier, giving your dog access to come and go as they need to. You don’t have to worry about any potty accidents because you didn’t realize your dog needed to go outside.

Your pup can explore and enjoy the fresh air when they desire to do so. If you get stuck at work longer than expected, you won’t have to stress about your poor pooch being stuck inside for over ten hours.

Check out the Neater Pets blog to find answers to all of your pet parent questions, including other training tips. Training your dog to use a dog door is simple as long as you stay patient and keep training positive. Take it a step at a time, don’t force your dog to use the door, and your dog will be using the door in no time.


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