How to Train Your Small Dog to Use a Doggy Door

Easy
1-7 Days
General

Introduction

A doggy door can add a great deal of convenience to your life. It will save you from having to get up every time your pup needs to go outside to use the potty, as well as allow her to go in and out to stay warm, cool or dry during inclement weather.  

In addition, a doggy door will give your dog the luxury of being able to go out to the yard on her own. This can make leaving her home while you are at work much easier because you will have the peace of mind that she can enjoy some fresh air during the day.

This is especially true for small dogs since they tend to have smaller bladders and need to potty more often than their larger cousins. Read on to find out how easy it is to train your small dog to use a doggy door.

Defining Tasks

Most dogs will learn to use a doggy door on their own within a single training session. The exception are those who have fear or anxiety about either the doggy door itself or of being away from their people. In both cases, patience and consistency will give you the results you are looking for within a week. 

Of course, you will want to make sure that your yard is safe and secure before letting your small dog outside without supervision. Check the fence line regularly for signs of digging under or other potential weak spots that could result in an escape. 

Remember that small dogs can be vulnerable to predators such as hawks, alligators and foxes. If you live in a rural area where such predators may be common, it may not be a great idea for your little dog to spend time outside unsupervised. In addition, rural areas are fraught with the possibility that unwanted guests may decide to use the door to get in your house! Racoons are notorious for learning to use doggy doors to access the tasty goodies in your kitchen! 

Getting Started

Before you get started with training, make sure you have a few things ready to go:

Appropriate Door: You want to make sure you are using the right sized doggy door, especially when working with a small dog. The larger flaps of big doors can be difficult for your little guy to push open. If you have a multiple dog household with a larger dog, try removing the magnet clips from the flap for the first few weeks so that your smaller dog can get used to the flap. 

Identify Fear: If your dog seems to have some anxiety about the door, make sure that you do not use the 'Push' method since it could make his fear worse. Bring plenty of patience to your training sessions and use the 'Fearful Dog' method for best results. 

Make it Fun: Try to approach training time like it is a fun game that you and your dog are playing together. This will help keep them motivated, and remind you not to spoil the game with impatience. Keep sessions brief, and stop the game before your dog is bored or frustrated. 

The Lure Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Set up
Start by removing the flap of the doggy door. This will make it extra easy for your small dog to take those first steps through the opening.
Step
2
Lure her head through
With your dog outside, close the door and call her back inside through the doggy door. Use the tasty treat to encourage her to come through the door. When she puts her head through the door, say “Yes!” and give her the treat. Repeat 5-10 times.
Step
3
Lure through
Waiting patiently, use the lure to get her to step through the door. As soon as she steps through the door, say “Yes!” and giver her the treat. Repeat 5-10 times.
Step
4
Fade the lure
Hold your hand without the treat to lure her in or out of the doggy door, calling her through. Be patient and when she comes through the door, say “Yes!” and reach into your bag for a treat. Immediately start abbreviating your luring movements until you are standing on the other side of the door and she is coming through for her reward on her own. Repeat 5-10 times.
Step
5
Toss the treat
With your dog on the same side of the door as you, toss a treat through the door while she watches. As she goes through the door, say “Yes!” and let her get the treat. If she immediately comes back through to your side on her own, mark and reward again. Repeat 5-10 times.
Step
6
Replace the flap
Put the flap on the doggy door. At first you may need to partially or fully push the flap open to help her know it is okay to breech the flap. Continue to mark and reward each successful pass, slowly giving her less help until she can use the door on her own.
Recommend training method?

The Push Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Gentle push
This method will require 2 people to work best. Start with the flap off of the door. With one person on either side with some treats in hand, gently push your dog through the door. As soon as he is on the other side, say “Yes!” and give him a treat.
Step
2
Call through
The person on the other side can call the dog through to their side. If he does not go through on his own, a gentle push can be used again. Continue to say “Yes!” with each successful use of the doggy door, followed by a treat. Repeat 5-10 times.
Step
3
Help less
Start to help less and less until he is using the door on his own when called by the person on the other side.
Step
4
Replace the flap
Put the flap back on the door. At first you may need to push the flap open before he will go through, but help as little as necessary. Each time, help less and less until he is going through the door on his own. Repeat 5-10 times.
Step
5
Add distance
Each person should start adding some distance from the door with each repetition. Continue calling the dog through and marking and rewarding each successful enter or exit. Continue repeating until he is confidently using the door on his own.
Step
6
Doggy door only
Stop allowing your dog to use the regular door for a few weeks. This will encourage him to use the doggy door in order to go out to potty. In addition, you can put his dinner on the other side of the door to encourage him to use the door on his own.
Recommend training method?

The Fearful Dog Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Patience
If you have a dog that seems to be fearful of the doggy door, then it is important that you bring some patience to the training process. If you get frustrated, it will add to her stress about the doggy door, making the problem worse.
Step
2
Getting close
Start with the flap completely off of the door. Every time your dog gets close to the door, say “Yes!” followed by a reward. Practice on both sides of the door until she is voluntarily getting next to the door and waiting for her treat.
Step
3
Other side
Move to the opposite side of the door and call her close to the door. Say “Yes!” when she gets close, and pass a treat through the door to her. Repeat 5-10 times.
Step
4
Head through
With the treat in your hand, hold it a few inches on your side of the doggy door, encouraging her to put her head through to get it. When she does, say “Yes!” and let her have the treat. Be patient and just wait until she does it. Repeat 10-20 times, slowly extending the distance you are holding the treat from the door until she steps through.
Step
5
Step through
Once your small dog is stepping through the door for a treat, wait until she is all the way through before marking and rewarding the behavior. Continue repeating until she is confidently moving through the door on her own. Repeat 20-30 times to really get her confidence up.
Step
6
Replace the flap
Add the flap to the doggy door. Hold it partially to fully open, encouraging her to come through the door using the treat as a lure. If necessary, go back to taking her head alone through the door for a reward. Start to raise the criteria like you did with the open door while you slowly help less and less with the flap.
Step
7
Increase distance
Once your little dog has some experience using the doggy door on her own with you right on the other side, start to increase the distance you stand from the door until you are a few feet away and she continues to confidently use the door.
Step
8
Doggy door only
For a few weeks, stop your small dog from using the people door. Leave her on the other side and call her through the doggy door, continuing to reward her with food or praise when she uses the door. Soon she will be using it confidently on her own.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd