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Installing a Dog Door (And Everything You Need to Know)

Updated
Tired of having to open and close the door each time your pup wants to go out? Installing a dog door gives your pet all the freedom they need.

Installing a dog door allows your four-legged friend to come and go as they please. That means you get longer on the sofa, and they get more yard-time. Doggy door installation is easier than you think, and it gives your pet the freedom they need.

We show you how to install a dog door and offer hints and tips to make the task easier.

How to Install a Doggie Door

  1. Decide what type of dog door you want.
  2. Gather the correct tools for the job.
  3. Size up your dog to ensure you fit the right size door.
  4. Use the template to mark out the hole.
  5. Drill a hole in each corner and mark where the mounting screws will go.
  6. Grab the jigsaw and cut along the length and width, connecting all the holes.


Types of Dog Doors

With several types of pet doors available, knowing which one is the best for security and pet safety is a challenge. Gone are the days of a hole in the door with a simple flap and catch.

So, what are your options:

Energy-Efficient Pet Doors

Air escapes through the pet door, so having an energy-efficient one makes a world of difference. Models like this PetSafe Extreme Weather Pet Door use three flaps and magnets to increase thermal performance three-fold.

All homes with pets would benefit from this type of door because it minimizes heat loss.

Pet Doors for Sliding Glass Doors

This PetSafe One-Piece Sliding Pet Door is designed to be adjustable in height to fit your existing sliding door. It is designed for larger pets, and it works by creating an additional panel that the doors butt up to. And you can even remove it when you move.

Sometimes your only access to the yard is via a sliding glass door, so this pet door solves that problem.

Interior Pet Doors

Interior pet doors, like this Baboni Pet Door, are ideal for both indoor and outdoor access. It consists of a double flap with thermal insulating qualities. When you want your pet to access the rest of the house, it is an easy way to achieve it.

Electronic Pet Doors

Imagine your pet walking up to the door and the door opening automatically. Well, that’s what an electronic door does. Models like this SureFlap-Sure Automatic Pet Door work by reading the embedded chip inside your pet because it contains a unique ID code.

Electronic pet doors are ideal when you want your pet to come and go, even when you are not home.

Pet Doors That Fit Into an Open Window

This Ideal Pet Products Aluminum Sash Window Pet Door fits your existing sash window, making it possible for your pet to access the outdoors.

Pet Doors Installed In a Wall

While installing a pet door into a wall is more challenging, it can be done. This PetSafe Wall Entry Pet Door makes it possible for your pet to access the yard without you opening any doors.

Installing a pet door in a wall increases security because you don’t have to cut a hole in the door. You can even fit them in metal walls and aluminum walls.

How to Install a Dog Door

Close up of white wooden panelled door with small pet door at the bottom

The easiest way to install a dog door is into an existing exterior door. Your pet doesn’t mind how they get access to the yard, just that they have the freedom to move as they please.

Before you get started, gather the correct tools and materials.

What You’ll Need

Dog Door Installation Costs

The cost of DIY installing a dog door ranges from $100 to $600 plus, depending on where you locate the door and the type you have. The most expensive models are the security versions that use a sensor attached to the collar or a microchip.

These doors offer the best security because they only open when the scanner recognizes your pet’s unique ID number. At the other end of the scale, a plastic flap installed in a back door is the most basic option.

1. Measure Your Dog

Before we get started, if your dog is a St. Bernard, it might be cheaper just to give it the keys to the existing back door. For every other breed, you will need to accurately size your pet to ensure they fit through the opening.

Make sure the door’s width is at least two inches wider than the widest point of your pet’s shoulders. The height should be a minimum of two inches higher than your pet’s measurement from their chest to the top of their shoulders.

This allows your dog to stoop to get access. Crucially, it also ensures that the opening is not large enough for a human to fit through. The last thing you want is open access for intruders.

Take Note

Check with your local building codes to ensure installing a dog door doesn’t breach fire laws for exterior doors. Also, check it is in line with your insurance policy.

2. Use the Template

Most pet doors come with a handy template to make fitting them easier. Place it against your door, ensuring there is at least three inches clearance from the bottom edge of the door. If you don’t have a template, draw around the dog door frame as a guide.

Cut the template to size using the utility knife and tape it in place so you are ready for the next step. Some exterior storm doors come with a pet door included. It might be an easier option than cutting a hole in your existing one.

3. Remove the Door

From the inside, tap the hinge pins out using a hammer and the screwdriver. Repeat this for all the hinges, and lay the door onto the sawhorses. Make sure the interior side faces upwards.

Safety First

Don your face mask, goggles, and safety gloves. Sawdust and composite debris contain carcinogens that irritate your lungs, which could lead to more serious problems.

4. Time to Drill

Drill a 0.375-inch hole in all four corners of the template. If you have a metal door, use an appropriate drill bit. This is to help you cut out the hole using the jigsaw.

5. Cut the Hole

Insert the jigsaw into one of the holes (it doesn’t matter which one you start with) and cut along the template. When you have joined all the corners, remove the section of wood and sand it smooth with the sandpaper (180-grit is fine).

6. Size the Frame

Lay the pet frame into the hole and see how it fits. Make adjustments as necessary to get the best possible result.

7. Mark the Holes for the Hardware

Mark the holes to mount the hardware. To do this, lift the frame out of the hole and drill the holes using the manufacturer’s recommended drill bit size. Ensure the holes are perpendicular to the door so the hardware lines up.

8. Reinsert the Frame

Insert the frame back into the hole, taking care to align the holes. Do this for the underside of the door as well. Depending on the thickness of your door, you may need to use wire cutters to trim the core frame to size.

Now insert the fasteners and secure the frames. Trim off any excess fasteners so that they sit flush with the frame.

9. Seal the Frame

Once the frames are secured, grab the caulk and gun and seal around the edges to prevent water ingress. Use a waterproof caulk, especially for the exterior side of the door.

10. Rehang the Door

Once the caulk has cured and the pet door frame is watertight, you can rehang the door. It might be an idea to get some help with this as it involves reinserting the hinge pins. It can be a fiddly one-person task.

Most pet doors have a slider so that when your dog is inside, you can close it to keep other animals outside.

11. Training Your Dog

Don’t automatically assume your pet will take to using the door naturally. Many dogs are nervous about pet doors, so they may need coaxing.

You could always leave the flap open for the day to see if they come and go. Another technique is to open the flap and leave treats on the other side. This encourages your dog to take the tentative first steps.

When they go through the door, always offer them lots of praise and reward them with a treat. Some experts recommend repeating this process at least three times, becoming ingrained behavior.

Finally, be patient. It may not happen on day one or two, but with perseverance, your pet will get the hang of it.

Tips for Installing Pet Doors

We love making our lives easier, so now it’s time to share some tips to make installing your doggy door a success. Some of these hints are common sense, but others will have you nodding and muttering “of course.”

Only Install The Door on Flat Surfaces

Fitting a dog door in a panel door requires the hole to be cut on the flat section rather than the molding and contours. That’s why it is essential to ensure the dog door you choose matches the size of your door. Measure the panel and then get a pet door to match, allowing for the three-inch gap at the base.

Watch for Wires and Plumbing

This tip primarily applies to doors inserted into exterior and interior walls. Whenever you make a hole in a wall, you should check that the wires and pipes are not impeding your progress.

The last thing you would want is to turn a cheap and straightforward task into a significant repair costing thousands.

Watch for Load-Bearing Walls

Don’t cut the opening within eight inches from a corner or left and right of a window or door. These structures will be load-bearing, and cutting a hole for a pet door will seriously weaken the structural integrity of the building.

Install Twin Flap Doors

Double-flap doors have a door on the outside and one inside. They are better at maintaining the temperature within your home and reducing heat loss.

Use Microchip Technology

Microchipped pets have a unique ID number that identifies them via a scanner. You can buy top-of-the-range pet doors that use the microchip as a means of gaining access. As the pet approaches the door, it reads the chip, opening the door.

This is ideal if you have a dog home alone that needs to get into the yard while you are at work.

Doggy Door Alternatives

If you don’t fancy cutting a hole in your door or wall to let Fido out, try something different. We highlight a couple of alternatives to save you from doing permanent damage to the exterior of your home.

Door Latches

Instead of cutting holes in your doors and walls, why not try a door latch, like this Door Buddy Dog Latch. It works by securing your door ajar just enough to allow the dog access. You can adjust the size of the opening and then lock it in place.

Door latch costs a fraction of the price of some doggy doors, but they do allow open access to your home. So other animals might get into your home.

Sliding Doors and Windows

A really simple alternative to a dog door is to slide open your windows and doors just enough to give them access in and out of your home. While this might not be ideal, it is a cheaper way of providing access.

FAQs

Is It Easy to Install a Dog Door?

Installing a dog door is an easy process as long as you have the correct tools. It should only take a couple of hours to complete. Provided you follow the template included with the door kit, there shouldn’t be any dramas.

The simplest way to install a doggy door is in a wooden door rather than composite or metal doors.

Can You Install a Dog Door in a Glass Door?

You can install a dog door in glass doors. All you need to do is install a separate panel that shortens the door’s closing mechanism. This panel is easy to fit and has the opening for the pet door included.

Can You Buy a Door With a Doggy Door Already Installed?

You can buy composite doors with dog and cat flaps preinstalled to make life easier. If you want a dog flap without cutting the door, this is your best option. However, these doors are not cheap, so be sure to cost them correctly before rushing out and spending big bucks.

Can Rats Go Through Doggy Doors?

Rats can easily get in through your doggy door. However, they can also get access by climbing onto your roof and chewing through to the attic. Some rats have even been known to nibble through walls to get inside.

So, if a rat wants to get in, it will find a way regardless of whether you have a pet door or not.

Are Dog Doors a Security Risk?

It depends on the size of your dog and the door. Larger animals need wider access, and this could become a security risk. On the whole, most dog doors are no more a security risk than any other access into your home.

It’s crucial that where you place the opening increases the threat. If someone could reach in and open windows and doors, that would pose a threat.

How Do You Secure a Dog Door From an Intruder?

The easiest way to stop intruders from accessing your pet door is to install it in a location that is either inaccessible or concealed. The other alternative is to make it small enough that they cannot possibly gain entry.

Failing that, get an automatic door that only opens when it reads the microchip inserted under the skin of your pet.


And Finally

Dog doors are a neat idea, especially if you have a pooch that likes to go out a lot and you suffer from limited mobility. It gives them the freedom to roam safely and gives you the peace of mind they are safe.

The alternative to installing a pet door is to keep your windows and doors open, which presents a serious security risk.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.