How Long Does it Take to Teach a Dog to Use a Dog Door? (Solved & Explained!)

Most dogs will learn how to use the dog door after a few training sessions. You can begin training between 4 – 6 months of age and it should take no longer than 1 or 2 weeks, but this varies depending on the breed and age of the dog.

Most dogs take to the doggie door easily, so long as training is consistent and positive. Some dogs may experience a little anxiety at first, but this can be overcome with gentle and positive reinforcement.

How Do I Train My Dog To Use The Doggie Door?

Training your dog to use a dog door is simple, however, it must be approached slowly, and requires patience.

  1. Load yourself up with treats, the meatier the better. Only give very small amounts as you will be giving treats frequently throughout the training session.

  2. The first time your dog uses the door, detach the flap. The key in the first few sessions is to get your dog used to going through the opening.

  3. Stand on the other side of the door, when your dog comes through the gap, reward them with a treat.

  4. If your dog is reluctant to go through the door at first, reward them when they poke their head through and gradually encourage them to come further out by using treats.

After your dog has gotten used to coming through the gap and receiving the treat, move onto stage 2.

  1. Stand further back from the door and call your dog from the other side. Once they come through to meet you, give them a treat.

  2. Attach the flap

  3. Repeat step 1.

  4. If your dog is reluctant because of the flap, repeat stage 1 with the flap in place.

  5. Reward your dog with a treat every time they use the flap for the next few weeks to reinforce the behavior. Over time they will use the flap on their own.

Why Won’t My Dog Use The Doggie Door?

Dogs will not see a doggie door and immediately start to use it, canine accessories are not natural for them and you will have to spend some time training them before they use it with confidence.

However, if you have tried training, or your dog used to use the doggie door but has suddenly stopped, there may be some reasons why.

Training Techniques

The particular training technique you are using may not be working for your dog. Some dogs respond to toys and interactions rather than treats. They may also be used to a type of command, or learn better when training is turned into a game.

If you have only tried one technique so far, try something else, or use different rewards.

Trauma

If something came through the dog door, such as a raccoon or other wild animal, this may have given your dog anxiety about going through the door.

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If anything out of the ordinary or traumatic happened to your dog near the dog door, they could be associating that space with danger and be reluctant to approach. 

Routine

If your dogs’ routine has changed significantly, or you have moved house, it may have thrown their doggie door training out of place.

If you’re in a new house, repeat the original doggie door training you did at your first house, and your dog should start using it again. The same applies if you have moved the doggie door to a different door in the same house.

Also if you have been opening the door for your dog instead of letting them use the doggie door, they may now just expect the whole door to magically open for them and wait there in anticipation.

If this is the case, repeat your training, refrain from opening the door for your dog and let them use the doggie door as much as possible.

Can A Puppy Use a Doggie Door?

Puppies can use doggie doors, but training is not advised before 4 – 6 months of age. Before this age, puppies are not developed enough to understand human commands in full.

For puppies, training will need to be a little more obvious. The best way is to confine your pup to the space where the doggie door is. This does not mean to neglect the puppy, but set up their bed, food bowls, etc close to the doggie door and encourage them to use the door as part of their potty training.

Similarly, on the other side of the door, make sure the backyard is secure. You should be outside with your puppy at all times at this age, but extra security will give you peace of mind in case they try to make a quick escape.

Dogs, even puppies, can run much faster than humans after all!

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Is My Dog Too Old To Start using a Dog Door?

Whoever said that an old dog can’t learn new tricks just wasn’t persistent enough! Older dogs can certainly be trained to use the doggie door. They may be a little more stubborn, especially if they are set in their ways.

You can teach an older dog to use a doggie door the same way you teach an adult in their prime. With senior dogs, it’s about building trust around the door more than anything else, you may want to make a few adjustments to help your older dog get used to the door.

  • Choose a slightly larger doggie door than your need. This makes sure they have extra space.

  • Set your dogs’ food outside of the doggie door, so they have to go out for their daily meals. Food can be bought back inside once they are confident with the door.

  • Try throwing your dogs’ favorite toy outside through the doggie door. They will brave the doggie flap to retrieve a toy they truly love. This also turns training into a game.

The suggestions above should be done in addition to training, not in replacement of it. Basic training involves standing on the other side of the door and calling your dog through with treats. 

Formal training a few times a day will get your older dog used to the door within a few weeks.