It’s 7 AM on a Saturday morning, the time you would normally get up on a workday. Your dog is awake and wants out to the bathroom, but you don’t have to be up for another 2 hours! Unfortunately, you don't have much choice, unless you want a puddle of puppy pee on your floor. Out of your warm comfy bed you crawl, stubbing your toe on a chair and shuffling to the door to let your pup out. You are a good pet parent, though a prematurely awake pet parent.
What if your dog could let himself out? That would be great, but short of him developing opposable thumbs, your best solution is to install a doggie door and train your dog to use it! No more getting up early when you don’t have to, no more getting up off the couch in the evening when you've curled up in front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn. Your dog can come and go as he pleases, even when you're not home! A great solution for all, that is, if your dog uses the doggie door. You would think your dog would be super happy about his new found independence, but most dogs need to be trained to use the door, as it can be confusing at first. Some dogs that are fearful of the door and the sensations it presents need extra training and encouragement to help them overcome their reticence.
Going in, and out, of a doggie door requires some behaviors your dog may not have experienced before, and that can be frightening or confusing for him. To use the door, your dog needs to approach what looks like a solid wall, which is strange to your dog, and push the door with his nose or head. As he pushes his body through, the door will run across your dog’s back and sides. This can present uncomfortable sensations for some dogs that are timid about having their bodies touched, and the process can be difficult for some dogs to grasp. If your dog is new to the dog door, or if your dog is confused or afraid, you will need to spend some time training him how to use the doggie door. It is important never to force a dog through a doggie door, as this will only cause fear and result in your dog avoiding the door in the future. Training your dog to use the doggie door should be a positive experience, you can make it a fun game, provide rewards, and help your dog overcome any fear or confusion so that using the dog will become a confident doggie door user!
If it is possible to expose your dog to the hole created for the dog door during installation and allow your dog to go in and out of the opening at this time, this can be very helpful in establishing the location as an exit and entrance between your dog's indoor and outdoor world. Also, using a light cloth or paper in place of the door flap temporarily during training may be useful. Good, strong duct tape to hold the door up during training is also useful to establish the area as a good entrance and exit. Additionally, having an assistant and lots of treats in hand, or a favorite toy, will help teach your dog to use a doggie door. Some people use a leash to help guide their dogs through the door the first few times. If you have a friend with a dog that knows how to use a doggie door already, you can have that dog model the behavior.
Make sure the doggie door s the appropriate size for your dog. If it is too large, your small dog may have trouble using the flap. If it is too small, your dog may be afraid of getting trapped or stuck. Also, the door should be the appropriate height on both sides for your dog to step through and land from. You can also use clicker training to capture using the doggie door and reinforcing the behavior, which is especially helpful if your dog is familiar with clicker training.