dog needs training to use a pet door

How to Train Your Dog to Use a Pet Door?

Pet doors are a great solution for allowing active pets to come and go from your home on their own terms. This provides more freedom for both you and your pet and reduces the chance of accidents in the home. 

While using a pet door comes easily for some pets, for others it can take some getting used to. For instance, timid dogs or elderly dogs may have a harder time learning how to use a pet door than young, eager dogs. 

A good option for timid pets is the Endura Flap Pet Door. Endura Flap Pet Doors have adjustable flap magnet strength, meaning you can reduce the magnet strength of the flap for timid pets or remove the magnets entirely during training.

This training guide walks you through how to teach your pet to comfortably use a new pet door. 

Step #1: Familiarize Your Pet with the Pet Door

familiariazing the pet door dog training
Photo by ATBO on Pexels

Once you install a new dog door or cat door, familiarize your pet with it. You can sit next to the pet door and encourage your pet to join you with a treat or their favorite toy. When they come over, show them that the pet door is a positive thing with lots of treats, toys, and pets. 

For cats, it can be helpful to rub a cloth on the cat and then rub that same cloth all over the pet door flap. This marks the flap with their scent and makes it more inviting to use. You can also use a calming pheromone spray on the flap if your cat is still a little nervous. 

Step #2: Have Your Pet Practice Using the Pet Door

pet not practicing to use the pet door
Photo by Mikorad on Pixabay

Once your pet is familiar with the pet door and comfortable hanging out near it, it’s time to have them practice using the door. Start by heading outside then stand near the pet door and call to your pet. Give them lots of attention and verbal praise if they come through. If calling your pet through the door simply doesn’t work, here are a few more options:

  • Hold a fragrant treat on the other side of the pet door and guide your pet through. 
  • Squeak your pet’s favorite toy a couple of times to coax them through the flap.
  • If you have multiple pets, bring one pet outside to encourage the other one to come join.

Step #3: Troubleshooting for Timid Pets

person calling a timid dog to use the pet door
Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels

For some pets, steps one and two will be enough to get them started with their new pet door. However, more timid pets may still be uncomfortable with the feeling of walking through the pet door. Here’s what you can do in this scenario:

  1. Prop the pet door flap open or have another person hold the flap open. 
  2. Go outside with your pet’s favorite treat or toy on hand and call them through. 
  3. Once they successfully come through the opening, start lowering the flap down bit by bit each time. This will help them get used to the feel of the flap on their back. 
  4. Lower the flap down a few inches after each successful time your pet comes through the opening until they can navigate the closed flap on their own.

Step #4: Use Positive Reinforcement

dog eating a treat as a reward for using the pet door
Photo by James Lacy on Unsplash

Positive reinforcement is key when training your pet to use a pet door. Repeat the steps above in short intervals until your pet can confidently use the pet door on their own. Clicker training your pet is a great idea for helping them learn to use the pet door. 

Each time your pet uses the pet door, click the clicker and give them a treat as a reward. They will associate the sound of the clicker with the exact moment they walk through the pet door, quickly recognizing that they will be rewarded for this behavior. 

Short training sessions a few times a day will be much more effective than longer training sessions. Two well-spaced, 10-minute training sessions per day should do the trick. Short training sessions keep your pet interested in the treats and rewards you’re providing and prevent frustration or fear of the pet door.

Choosing the correct pet door size is essential when purchasing a pet door. A pet door that fits your pet comfortably will make the training process a breeze. 

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