A Guide To Automatic Pet Doors

Your dog or cat’s personality and the layout and décor of your home are some of the factors to consider before installing an automatic pet door.

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Some automatic pet doors allow pet owners to program which pets can use the door and when. Via petsafebrand/YouTube

If you’re a busy pet owner like me, your schedule is probably jammed with work, running errands and spending hour upon hour outside of the home. That could prove to be problematic if you have a dog who needs to be walked or a cat who likes to go outside. Luckily, there have been great innovations in automatic pet doors in recent years, with safe and practical ways to let your dog and/or cat get in and out of the home on their own.

Automatic pet doors have the benefit of only permitting a dog or cat to enter or exit when certain circumstances are met. This way, only animals who are permitted to enter the household do so. Some doors have a latch that responds to a wearable magnet that fastens to your pet’s collar. Others have a mechanism that reads a radio frequency signal created by a wearable key fixed to the collar.

Is An Automatic Or Electronic Pet Door Right For Your Pet?

Dr. Patrick Mahaney, owner of California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, in Los Angeles, California, notes there’s a type of automatic pet door to fit nearly any household’s needs.

“Many factors can play into an owner’s decision to permit the coming or going of a pet through a door,” he says. “Generally, dogs and cats having pet-door access to an outdoor space have to be trusted to be in an outdoor area by themselves. Appropriately trained animals that will not be destructive nor try to escape the designated confined area outdoors are suitable candidates for pet doors.”

If an owner works many long hours and the pet is otherwise kept inside, a door controlled by magnet or radio frequency can give the pet the ability to freely move outdoors to urinate, defecate or just to enjoy a change of scenery or some fresh air.

Mahaney says before making a choice of door, owners should consider their pet’s personality. For example, for a dog who likes to chew, make sure that you have a bite-proof door installed to protect it.

“Pets having a reputation for being escape artists should not have free reign to roam in a backyard, even if the space is confined,” he says. “When permitted to freely be outside, territorial dogs prone to barking or aggressive tendencies could become overly stimulated by a passing neighbor or a neighboring dog.”

Choosing A Pet Door

Usually, there are not doors specifically made for dogs or for cats, but the size of the opening through which the pet moves determines the size and type of door an owner can install. Smaller doors work for cats and petite pooches. Larger doors are more geared toward medium, large and giant-sized dogs.

When it comes to dog doors, the major manufacturers offer those that range up to 13 inches by 23 inches for larger pets and 5 inches by 8 inches for smaller pets. Advice from the leading players is that dog doors should be sized according to the pet, being no larger than two inches above the dog’s shoulders. Meanwhile, the lower lip of the door may be high or low, again depending on what your pet would prefer.

A good tip for measuring if a door is right for your pet is to create a cardboard version of the size of door you plan to buy and check to make sure it works around your pet. If you have more than one pet and they are drastically different sizes, make sure the door fits the largest pet in the house and leave room for growth. You don’t want to have to replace the door a year or two down the line because your puppy has grown or your dog has gotten a little too large.

The beauty of an automatic pet door is that it can also be installed in any door — front, back, garage — and it doesn’t matter what material your door is made of. Pet doors can be installed in wood, glass and steel doors, as well as windows, brick, siding and stucco walls. In addition to the standard plastic flap construction, electronic dog doors are also available.

Automatic pet doors can keep out other pets or wildlife that you don't want to get into your home. Astrid Gast/iStock/Thinkstock

Automatic pet doors can keep out other pets or wildlife that you don’t want to get into your home. Astrid Gast/iStock/Thinkstock

Pet Door Style

There is pretty much a style of pet door available for any home décor, so a pet door does not have to be simply an opening in a wooden door.

“Sliding glass doors use a floor to ceiling insert with the bottom half being movable to permit the pet to freely go in and out,” Mahaney says. “Alternatively, a hole could be cut in a wall in which a pet door can be installed. The energy efficiency of a pet door could be a considering factor motivating an owner to install a door that seals completely or having a flap which may create a reliably solid seal.”

One of the newest automated pet doors to hit the market relies on infrared technology, where a door is controlled by a key encoded by the manufacturer, which is attached to the pet’s collar. The key acts as the transmitter, and the receiver is on the door itself so it knows when to open.

Tips For Success With Pet Doors

The one thing that pet owners may forget during the process is that dogs and cats won’t just see a door and instinctively use it without help or training. Veterinarians believe that it can take up to two weeks to train a pet to get used to using the door, so be prepared to spend some time working on this.

Also, don’t put the door in an area where water or debris can easily push into your home or you will have to install weatherproofing materials around the edge to keep the interior of your house safe.

An automated door is a great way to give your pets some freedom and let them enjoy the beautiful outdoors when you can’t be there with them.


Article Categories:
Dogs · Lifestyle

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