How Do I Teach My Dog to Use a Dog Door? (Solved & Explained!)

A doggy door can definitely bring a ton of mental peace to a dog and its owner, but only with the proper door and some training. Knowing your dog well is key. The more anxious your dog is, the more steps you will have to break down the training process into. The aim is to use positive reinforcement to help your dog comfortably go through, what might seem, a wall to them. 

Essentials in training your dog to use the dog door

  1. The right dog door. The dog door you’re using not only has to be the right size, but should also have a flap your dog can push through.
  2. Patience. Some dogs are just slow at learning, while others can struggle with anxiety. Remember to be patient.
  3. Treats. Bust out those meaty treats because this is where the positive reinforcement comes from.
  4. Help. Some methods do require two people, so grab someone to help with the process.

When can puppies start using dog doors?

Training, in general, should begin when your puppies are a few months old. So depending on your dog you can start training them to use a dog door when they’re 4-6 months old.

An effective way to ease them into it is building an adjustable, confined space extending to the wall where the door is placed. Keep them in here until they’re eight months old, this will naturally lead them to the door.

Choosing the right door for your dog

This is one of the most essential steps. The first thing you need to make sure is that your dog can comfortably fit through the door. Measure you dog properly and keep at least an inch extra on all sides so that it’s not a tight squeeze.

The next step is to select your type of door. It can be electric, transparent or one with magnetic flaps.

Electric dog doors: worth it or nah?

Although electric dog doors are great, the noise made by these doors while operating is something you will have to train your dog to get used to and associate positively with.

Transparent doors

With transparent flaps you would have to work harder to help distinguish the flap from windows, by using tape or other accessories so that your dog can differentiate.

Picking the right flap

It’s important to pick your flap according to the size and build of your dogs. Heavy or magnetic flaps will be harder for smaller dogs to push through and the discomfort will make them hesitant to learn.

How to train anxious dogs

Training anxious dogs to use a dog door can take up to a week, by taking it step by step and making them fully comfortable around the door. This ensures that the process does not become a stressful experience for them.

1.      Pick a cue

This can be a simple “yes” or “woohoo”, anything that you’re dog associates with being praised. We will be using this cue again and again to indicate good behavior or an accomplishment.

2.      Getting comfy with the door

Summon your dog near the door. Every time it comes near the dog door, say the cue word and give them a treat. Make sure to practice this on both sides of the door until they voluntarily wait near the door for a treat.

3.      Getting comfy with the door: Part 2

This step requires that you remove the flap of your door, or tape it open. After doing so stand on the opposite side of the door, but make sure you are clearly visible to your dog.

Then call them near once again, and give them a treat along with a lot of praise every time they come close. Remember to use your cue word.

4.      Poking through

For this you will again stand on the opposite side of the door and call your dog. But this time hold the treat a little further away from the dog door, so that your dog has to poke its head through to get it.

As soon as they do, say the cue word and give them the treat.

5.      The big step

We’re so close to the finale now. Repeat the above step but this time slowly start increasing the distance between the treat and the door, until they finally step through.

Make sure to keep rewarding each accomplishment with treats, the cue word and a ton of praise. Repeat this until they finally step all the way through, and then only reward them when they manage to do so again.

6.      Put the flap back

After your dog is comfortable going through the door on its own, replace the flap. Repeat the above exercise but raise the flap a little so that they can see you. Let go of the flap as they cross over so that they can get used to the feel of it.

Reduce your help with the flap with each try until they can confidently use the door without you holding it up.

7.      Keep them in practice

After your dog has gotten used to the flap keep increasing your distance with the door until you’re a few feet away.  Reward them if they are able to cross without any hindrances to where you are.

While leaving the house do not let your dog come out the door with you. Instead close the door and encourage them to use the dog door.

Bringing in the cavalry

If your dog is not an anxious pup, you can also use the push method.  With you on one side of the door and your friend on the other, try calling your dog through the dog door.

If they refuse to go through, ask your friend to give them a slight push across. Reward the dog with praises and a treat. Then have your friend repeat the same procedure.

Increase your distance from the door slowly and try taking away the treats little by little.

Timing helps!

Practice all of the above exercises right before potty time. This will help send a clearer message to the dog.

Keep the sessions fun and short, they should last about fifteen minutes. And try repeating the exercises 15-20 times. Happy training and good luck!