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How to Train Your Dog to Use a Dog Door

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I decided to write a Post on this subject as only last week I was visiting my little sister and she asked me about it. She has a Westie called Poppy who is used to a Dog door, but as she is nearly 14 years old, She is now finding it difficult. Bless her.

How to train your dog to use a dog door
Little Sis and Poppy

A Dog door can be a useful tool and can be handy to have if you live in the appropriate building. For instance if you live in a block of flats then a Dog door is not going to be very appropriate. You Dog may love running up and down the corridors, but I’m pretty sure some neighbours would not be very happy. Alternatively, if you have a small garden, they can be useful but must NEVER let it be an excuse that you do not need to take your Dog for a walk. A Dog only sees a garden as an extension to its kennel. He still needs to go out and get his exercise and also to get his fix of different smells.

Size of Door

Before you can learn how to train a Dog to use a Dog door, you must choose the correct door. They come in many makes, shapes, sizes and styles, but you must choose the one that is best for your Dog.

Size – When you are choosing the size, DO NOT, choose the smallest that your Dog can get through. Make sure he has some extra room to get through. If it is too tight he may be scared to use the door. Also, as he gets older he may put on weight and struggle to get through it. A bit like us humans ha-ha.

This may seem like an obvious thing to say but ensure the Dog door is situated where your Dog can go out into a safe area. A back door into a garden is ideal. A front door onto a street is probably not a good idea.

Types of Door

There are lots of different makes and styles of door. They can be put into solid wooden doors, screen doors, plastic and metal doors and even outside walls. Despite the frame and where you choose to place the door, they all come with a choice of flaps.

  • Clear Flaps – These are the most common and are pretty fail-safe. They usually come with a locking device so you can stop your Dog going out whenever he wants. Also, you can have a switch that only ensures one way travel through the flap. This can be very handy if you want to stop your neighbours cats sneaking in and eating your Dogs food. You just have to make sure you know your Dog is outside and he cannot get back in.
  • Magnetised Flaps – These come in various designs with magnets placed on the bottom of the flap or on the sides. Sometimes they come with both. If the magnets are removable, then remove them to start with so that your Dog gets the hang of it. if not, give the flap some gentle persuasion initially so your Dog is not frightened to push it.
  • Electronic Flaps – These can be set to fully electronic or partially. This helps for when you are training your Dog to use the Dog door. It can be operated by a chip or collar key. They tend to make a clicking noise when in use which can take some time for your pet to get used to. A good idea is to give him lots of encouragement when he initially starts using the door.

Dog Door Training

You must remember that in every type of training you must remain consistent and never give up. Training your dog to use a Dog door should only take a couple of days and a big bag of treats.

  • Timings – Patience is a virtue or so they say. Some Dogs take longer than others to learn, so a bit of patience might be needed. The first time you start to teach your Dog make sure it is a bright day with plenty of light and not too many surrounding sounds if possible. If it is pouring with rain and dark the other side of the door, he will not want to go through. He will do the same as I would want to do and go and cuddle up somewhere nice warm and dry.
  • The Flap – If the flap can be removed then remove it to start with. If not then you can always tape it up out of the way. Start with your Dog inside and put a treat in your hand. Let him smell it and then toss it through the flap to the outside. With a bit of luck he will peer through the gap and step outside to retrieve his treat. This may take a couple of goes for him to get the hang of it. If he isn’t too keen to go through, then you can leave him where he is and go outside. You can then see him through the flap, whereupon, you can coax him through with a treat or just call him to come to you. If this still does not work, then wait until it is his feeding time. Instead of using a treat put his bowl the other side of the door. Hopefully this will work. If the bowl is outside he may not want to eat outside so try switching. Once you have succeeded in any way to get him through make sure you lay on him lots of praise. With just a little more practice it will become a normal event.
  • Replacing the Flap – When you get to the stage he is happy going back and forth it is time to replace the flap. He may be very wary to start with. Therefore, you can hold it up slightly for him to push onto to come through. Once again the use of treats will probably work very well. Keep giving him praise when he uses it and gradually let the flap come down on his back so he gets used to how it feels. You are aiming for him to gain confidence so he pushes it himself and is not scared of it on his back. This whole process could take a couple of days and for the more timid it could take up to a week.


So we have learnt that it is not a five-minute job teaching your Dog how to use a Dog door. You must never expect to fit a door and for your Dog to just look at it and start using it straight away. A little bit of patience and some of the tips above will ensure your best friend is using your house like a hotel ha-ha.

Please see below a selection of Dog doors available from amazon.

As always if you have any comments please feel free to drop me a line.

All the Best


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