How do I get the dogs to use the doggie door?
August 15, 2006 10:51 AM   Subscribe

How do I get my dogs to use the doggie door?

I have two dogs, a 1.5 yr Boston Terrier and a 9-month Terrier mix. The puppy destroyed the backyard screen door by repeatedly launching himself at the lower panel and screen, eventually necessitating the complete removal of the bottom panel. The dogs got used to running in and out if we left the door open.

I really hated this as bugs would get in, and it looked awful as well. I've replaced the door with a nice 1" storm door and installed an clear plastic insulated doggie door in the bottom. The dogs will happily walk through the doggie door if I hold it open for them, but refuse to operate it themselves. We've tried coaxing them through with treats, smearing peanut butter on both sides of the door, pressing their paws against it. It's been about a week, but neither dog has gone through the door of their own volition. They seem to enjoy standing in front of it looking out into the yard or inside, but if they actually want to go inside or out, they put their paws up on the screen.

Please help me figure it out before they wreck another screen.
posted by Roger Dodger to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
tie it open until dog gets comfortable going in and out. gradually lower the door over a few weeks so that at first they just duck under, then brush against it, then have to nose it out of the way, then push through entirely. when its all the way down they're trained!
posted by sergeant sandwich at 10:54 AM on August 15, 2006

I've been through this a few times. If there is a glass door in front of the screen keep that closed so they can't paw at the screen door. I have little dogs as well, they too were "afraid" to push it open. We held the flap open and coaxed through with treats as well. Ours were at least way more motivated to come into the house than go out. What ended up working is anytime we saw them act like the wanted to go through the dog door, we picked them up put them outside (through the dog door), and then didn't help them get back in. We would also coax them to come back in the house with food and calling them. It took the larger one (12 pounder) about a week, and the little one (5 pounder) 2-3 weeks to get really comfortable. Of course, we brought them in and out if they were stuck out there too long, etc, but for the most part locking them outside worked the best. Also, even if you do break down and help them back in, help them by "pushing" them through the dog door.
posted by ill3 at 11:00 AM on August 15, 2006

My cats pulled the same stunt this summer. We've had our door for a month, and they still whine, complain and wait for us to open it before they reluctantly paw/butt the door open with their delicate little heads, but they will use it. And we didn't have to use a single damn treat, either.

What seemed to work for us was their need for our company when they go outside. Your dogs probably want to be with you, too. Go out to the backyard with a drink and a book, keeping yourself in sight of the door, and relax in your lawn chair. If the dogs show up at the door and look pitiful, call out to them in a friendly manner every now and then, but otherwise ignore them and enjoy yourself. Odds are good that they'll figure out what they have to do.

If they seem really slow to catch on, or if they perseverate with the paws-on-the-door method that used to work, prop open the door before you go out with your book and drink. Get them used to going in and out of a hole during these 15-30 minute sessions that you hang out and enjoy yourself in the back yard. Once they show that they can use the opening, let the door fall shut again for the next set of sessions.

With any luck, they'll have the hang of things before Thanksgiving. Terriers like to dig and explore, so they should have some instincts on their side to make that Canadian Thanksgiving, not American. *g*
posted by maudlin at 11:04 AM on August 15, 2006

clear plastic

How clear is it? Like a little bit see-through, or totally see through? If not totally, consider perhaps a different material, like lucite, or even glass.
posted by poppo at 11:52 AM on August 15, 2006

I had the same problem with one of my cats. I just kept pushing him through the door (head first) until he got over it and did it on his own.

It didn't take more than a couple of days/attempts.
posted by oddman at 1:04 PM on August 15, 2006

My mum had the same problem with cats. She used the sergeant sandwich solution.
posted by deborah at 1:48 PM on August 15, 2006

The door is rather difficult to tie up. It's a three-piece sectional door with double panes of see-through plastic, and a magnetic strip along the bottom. It's supposed to insulate against weather. I'll try to tie it up, I'm sure I can rig something...
posted by Roger Dodger at 1:56 PM on August 15, 2006

The Sergeant Sandwich Solution would be an awesome band name.

Also, a friend of mine used the same method for his dog, and it worked.
posted by amarynth at 1:58 PM on August 15, 2006

Our Westies took a few days to get used to the door, but we used the pushing & coaxing technique to get them through. As ill3 said, it helps to coax them from the other side, and to stay on the other side and give them an incentive to come through.

At some point, the terrier instinct kicked in and our Westies decided that getting outside to bark at something or chase squirrels and birds trumped any fear of the doggie door.

Our cat, however, is another matter. After years of this, if she sees me she will wait for me to raise the door for her. If she does not see me then she is perfectly fine hopping through the door on her own. It's a sort of feline chivalry thing: She waits for the human to open the door.
posted by Robert Angelo at 1:58 PM on August 15, 2006

Maybe tie up one of the three panels, requiring them to put their bodies in partial contact with the material to get through but not requiring them to push with their heads as of yet?
posted by phearlez at 10:02 AM on August 16, 2006

I would just cram them through until they got the idea, being sure to reward them with lots of pats and praise when they do get through.

My dog wouldn't sit on her new mat at all, I had to force her onto it, command her to drop, and put up with her sad looks. Now she loves it. You're the pack leader, be forceful.
posted by tomble at 3:16 AM on August 17, 2006

I'm sure the coaxing and reward method would work over time, but was just too time intensive for me. I had to grab each of them many times and "help" them through, but they got the hang of it. The funny part was, they didn't realize it was a two-way door, so after they learned they could go out, they also had to learn to come in. This involved some more cramming through the door, just in the opposite direction. Roger still whines to come in a little bit, but he's getting the hang of it.
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:06 AM on August 18, 2006

« Older Ooo! The helmets are all shiny!   |   British Columbia Avarice Association Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.