How to Train Your Dog to Use a Doggie Door

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Whether you've installed a new doggie door, or recently brought home a pet who's excited to learn how to use an existing gateway to the outdoors, you'll want to spend a little time getting your pet acquainted with the door. Using these pet accessories isn't second nature to our canine friends, so even the most experienced pet parent can use some doggie door tips! Let's discover why a doggie door can be beneficial to your household and how to train your dog to use a doggie door comfortably.

Black and White dog with head poking out of a doggie door attached to a brick building.

The Perks of a Door for Your Dog

We love making life more convenient for our pets, and honestly, ourselves too. Enter the doggie door. This cutout in your home's exterior door leading to a secure (fenced, walled or enclosed) yard for your pet allows them to play, potty and get a breath of fresh air when desired.

You can train your pet to not only go to the door when they need to relieve themself, but to then exit the home on their own through the doggie door. This becomes a handy routine for pets who understand that they need to go out, do their business, then return promptly.

Keep in mind that for safety reasons, doggie doors should be locked when you're not home and overnight when the family is sleeping. This prevents intruders of all types, including nocturnal critters like raccoons, from exploring your home.

Common Reactions to a Doggie Door

If your pet has never used a doggie door, they will likely be hesitant to use it. It's new and you're not able to experience it with them the same way you may have done with other training tasks you've completed together, such as side-by-side leash walking and learning obedience commands.

To use a doggie door, your pet must push forward against a flap that appears to be part of a solid door. That's not a normal movement for them, which may create confusion, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). Be patient and work with a friend or family member to encourage your dog and show them the ropes.

Basset hound sticking head out of doggie door.

How to Train Your Dog to Use a Doggie Door

Pets love a game! Making this teaching moment fun is the key to getting your dog to use the opening in your door. You'll have the best success if you ask someone in the household to assist.

  • The first doggie door tip is to detach the door flap, or secure it in the up/open position. Have one person stay inside the house with the pet, while you go outside and sit just on the other side of the door, where the pet can see you through the opening.
  • Next, with a cheerful voice and visible treat in your hand, call for your dog. This will entice them to go through the doggie door opening to see you and get their reward. Once they come to you, give them a lot of praise and pet them to show that they did the right thing.
  • Finally, repeat this exercise several times until the pet doesn't show any signs of hesitation going through the opening. Eventually, you may notice your pup using the doggie door more regularly on their own.

After your pet gets comfortable with this game, repeat these steps with the doggie door in the closed, unlocked position. You may need to poke the flap with your hand to show the pet that they can do it too, and to show them their beloved yard on the other side. As they start to go through, take note of whether they're okay with the flap material grazing against their fur. You may need to hold the movable portion of the door up for them a few times until they realize it's safe to touch. You can even swap out the usual door for something less rigid, like a towel, to wean them slowly onto the idea of a door touching their back. Eventually, reinstall the doggie door flap.

It's also important to train them to come back on command or after doing their business outside. In times of inclement weather, you do not want your pup going outside and staying outside. You can use the same training methods as above to get them used to coming back inside, too.

Giving your pet the freedom to let themself outside for a potty break is empowering for both you as a pet parent and your pup. They get to relieve themself as needed without your help and you can take pride in knowing that your pet feels secure and content using the doggie door. This training task may take a few days to master, but it's well worth the independence it creates for your canine companion.

Contributor Bio

Angela Tague

Angela Tague

Angela Tague is a pet mom and writer living in the Midwest. When she's not making a mess in the kitchen, exploring nature trails with her dog, or attending a yoga workshop, she's writing full-time for multiple lifestyle and technology brands. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn @AngelaTague.