Are Doggie Doors Really A Good Idea?

are doggie doors a good idea

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Doggie doors are a bit of a canine classic made popular but countless movies and of course real life too. They’re extremely convenient and with a quick installation, you’ve suddenly put your dog in charge of their own bathroom breaks.

But are doggie doors really a good idea for dogs?

Doggies doors can be good for dogs as long as the area they have access to is safe and your dog isn’t likely to cause problems while they’re on their own. Make sure smaller dogs are safe from predators and make sure dogs of any size won’t be able to easily escape once they’re outside. 

Doggies doors can also be a great option for older dogs that have a harder time holding their bladder for longer or dogs on medication that could be impacting how often they urinate.

That’s the quick answer but let’s take a closer look at what you need to consider before purchasing a doggie door and what to consider when it’s time to buy.

So, Are Dog Doors Good For Dogs?

Dog doors can be a great idea but they’re not for every situation or for every dog.

One of the first (and also one of the biggest) considerations is what’s on the other side of the door! Since dogs will have free rein over wherever the door goes, you need to make sure that the area is safe.

While your neighborhood may seem safe when you’re walking with your dog, things can change when your pup is out on their own. Dogs that are usually quiet might start barking once they’re outside and alone. Others dogs may try to escape and you’d be surprised just how high some breeds can jump.

Depending on where you live and the size of your dog, you’ll need to consider predators like coyotes and even birds of prey like hawks when it comes to smaller dogs and toy breeds. These animals will generally avoid humans but may be bold enough to go for your dog. This is one of many reasons why medium-sized breeds are usually a good fit for most families.

Then there are the more obvious considerations like fencing, access to water, temperature, and the overall safety of your backyard.

Dog Doors Can Be Amazing For The Right Dogs

With the best practices in place and a dog that can handle the freedom, doggy doors can be a great idea for many families.

They can allow dogs to use the bathroom at their leisure, which not only saves pet parents time but also makes for a more comfortable canine. This can be especially useful for dogs as they age and may need to take more bathroom breaks than they used to.

Doggy doors can also help keep dogs mentally stimatuled as it gives them a chance to go outside and play even when their owners are not available.

You can also find more of a middle ground here and keep the doggy door locked (which is a popular feature in modern doggy doors) when you’re not home but unlocked when you are.

This allows owners to pay closer attention and minimize some of the risks while still allowing their dog the chance to potty and play when they’d like.

Another in-between option is to create a smaller and dog-specific outdoor space. So instead of allowing access to the entire backyard, the doggy door leads to a smaller space where pets can still play and use the bathroom.

This is even easier with doggy doors that install into walls (instead of doors) and can be a better balance of security and freedom for some people and their pets.

What You Need To Know Before Purchasing A Doggie Door

Let’s cover a few more things you need to consider before trying out a doggie door with your pup.

Doggie Doors Aren’t A Substitute For Potty Training

Even with a doggie door, pups should learn how to hold it through the night and should be put on some kind of potty schedule. Even if a dog has 24-hour access to the outdoors they’ll still need to be trained to use the bathroom outside so don’t assume that a doggy door will fix indoor accidents immediately.

However, doggie doors can be amazing for older dogs or dogs on medication that could be having trouble avoiding accidents. For example, prednisone is a commonly prescribed steroid and can greatly increase thirst and urination frequency in dogs. A doggy door can give these dogs constant access to appropriate bathroom areas and help reduce the chance of an accident.

Doggie Doors Also Let Creatures In And Not Just Out

Doggy doors let your dog go in or out…along with whatever else they want to bring with them!

This is one of many reasons why it’s important to use doggy doors only with well-trained or at least well-behaved dogs. If your dog loves to steal your shoes and place them around the house before you add a doggy door then you can expect to find the occasional outdoor shoe once you add a doggy door!

This can also be a problem for dogs that like to dig, roll around in the dirt, or otherwise get messy.

Some Dogs Will Need Help Learning How To Use A Doggie Door

Don’t assume that dogs will just “get it” and many will need some extra training to understand how to use the doggy door. Be ready to gentlly teach your dog how to use their new door using positive reinforcement training.

This video does a great job explaining the basics:

What Features To Look For In A Doggie Door

Now that you know whether or not a doggie door is right for you, let’s look at a few feature to keep an eye on when picking one out.

Think About Where You’ll Install It

Doggy doors don’t just have to be on doors but you’ll need to keep ease of installation in mind. While the most common version of the doggy door attaches to a door, you can find options that are able to be placed on walls too. This can open up a whole new world of possibilities but it can also complicate the installation process.

There are also doggy doors that work well with sliding glass doors and these can also be some of the easiest doors to install.

In many cases, you can consider the best location for the doggy door and work backward from there.

Do You Need Additional Security Features?

Consider security features for people and pets like locking doors and microchip or collar-activated doors. Even with the most well-behaved dog, there are times when you may want to have your doggy door locked. Different doors will have different locking mechanisms so consider your options. Multiple latches are usually best but for smaller doors, a single latch can usually do the trick.

Additionally, if you have a multi-pet household, a home with small children, or just want the extra security, you can use a doggy door that only opens for specific microchips or collars.

Don’t Forget About Insulation

Insulation is an important but often overlooked feature. Insulation and a doggy door might seem like a lost cause but many doggy doors feature a double flap that can help reduce airflow. If you live in an especially cold or hot area, this can be well worth it.

How To Pick The Right Size Doggie Door

First, measure your dog from paw to shoulder while they’re standing to match the position they’ll use when they enter the door.

Then, add 3 inches to the number to find your ideal doggy door height. That’s pretty simple for smaller or medium dogs but with enough searching you can find doggie doors that are large enough for giant breeds like Great Danes too.

Remember that most doors aren’t flush with the floor so dogs will have to step up a bit to move through the door. Three inches should give them enough room to do this without a problem even if they’re moving quickly.

When it comes to width, you’ll want to measure your dog at the widest part of their body (usually the shoulders but sometimes the hips for some breeds) and add 2 to 3 inches to find the ideal width.

Because dogs don’t move side to side as much when using a doggy door, there’s usually more wiggle room here.

Lastly, make sure your dog can step over the bottom portion of the door (the section between the floor and the bottom of the door). Big dogs won’t have a problem with this but it can end up being a deal breaker for small pups!

Closing Thoughts

Even though they seem like simple enough devices, there’s still a lot to consider before you go out and install a doggie door. For the right dog in the right situation, they can be amazing. But for the wrong dog, they can be dangerous.

So make sure to take the time to consider everything before adding a doggie door!