How to Train a Dog to Walk Through a Pet Door

So you’ve installed the dog door and the only thing left to do for your dog is to walk through it. And you say, “Come on Max, let’s go out!”, “Out Max, go for a walk, look Max doggy door”, and your dog even if curious, remains undecided about this new invention and as a result refuses to pass under the plastic flap to walk out. At first it can be discouraging but here you will find some useful tips that can teach your dog how to use a pet door.

Step 1
Equip yourself with the “good” treats, the ones that make your dog drooling, the tasty meat or chicken treats that you can find at your local pet store. The trick is to get your dog to drive his effort on getting more treats and not on going through the pet door.

Step 2
You will need one or two persons. Although this exercise is best achieved with two people, you can do it by yourself. To begin, close all doors having an access to the outside. You can start either from the inside or from the outside; it doesn’t matter, as far as you do the opposite way next. Now raise the plastic flap and start to entice your pet to go through the door by attracting him with a treat placed right inside the opening to get him to come close to the door. When he eats the tasty treat, he wants more, so use more treats and praise to lead him though the door. The feeling of the plastic flap against their face or slapping their tail or back is where dogs usually show some hesitation and need some adjustment.

When you are two people to conduct this training, one on each side of the door will keep on persuading, rewarding and praising your dog for each step he makes.

Step 3
Encourage your dog with positive reinforcement for all his efforts and don’t be surprised if, at first, your dog rejects the idea of going through this dog door. There are dogs that can get right the very first time and others will require more patience and time. Just don’t let your disappointment prevail over the training procedure.

Step 4
Your dog might need some extra encouragement for him to understand that the door is not a threat or harmful. To do this you might have to introduce the door to him and bring your dog to the door with the help of treats and/or reinforcement and it might just be the gentle nudge he needed to be reassured.

An alternative would be to put some treats at the other side of the pet door and calmly guide your dog through the door just enough for him to see the treats. If his first contact with the door is accompanied by your support and praise, your dog may increase his self-confidence.

Some Tips & Warnings

  • If after following the above steps your dog still doesn’t cross that pet door, try to reiterate the steps but this time hold the flap open so that he can see the treat and the person calling him on the other side. Try to apply this technique in two parts for two days; the first day he walks through the door with the flap open and the second day when he steps through the door, leave slowly the flap to get into contact with his body.
  • You may have to consider a small step or ramp to offer your dog an easier access especially if there is an important height difference from the drop of the gap or if your dog is older and suffers from the hips.
  • Keep in mind to never force your dog to use the door, the only result would be a reverse effect and might even scare your dog. Remember, it takes time and patience.
  • Some dogs hate the feeling of plastic on their face or just feel it distasteful. If so you could tape or staple a pad made of paper or cloth or any material that your dog likes on both sides of the plastic flap.

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