How to Install a Dog Door: The Stress-Free Way

Evelyn Long

Apr 25, 2023


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Dog doors can look clean and integrate into your home seamlessly. If you’re worried about the project making your perfectionism flare, you’ll be glad to know that learning how to install a dog door is easier than you might think. Here is why you should add a dog door — and how to do it in just five quick steps.

Why Should You Have a Dog Door?

Dog doors allow your pup to have more independence. They can be a lifesaver when you work from home and don’t often have time to take your dog outside and wait for them to use the bathroom. Your pup can entertain themselves and go out when needed. They won’t have to wait for you to have permission to play outside. When you have a secured yard, knowing how to install a dog door can change your life — and your pup’s habits.

How to Install a Dog Door in 5 Easy Steps

Some dog doors are easy to install in your current entrances. For example, you can install a ready-made dog door in your sliding door by adding it to the track. However, these dog door expansions only work for some home layouts. You may have to DIY a dog door to fit in your space. Here’s a quick way to learn how to install a dog door — the stress-free way.

1. Measure Your Dog

Before you get started on a dog door, whether DIY or store-bought, you need to ensure your pup will fit. Measure your dog’s height and width. The door should be about two inches longer and wider than your dog so they can comfortably fit inside. You can find dog doors in any size, from small to extra large.

Some common breeds of dog that could fit in these sizes include:

  • Small: Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Yorkshire Terrier, etc.
  • Medium: Australian Shepherd, Poodle, Bulldog, etc.
  • Large: Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, etc.
  • Extra Large: Saint Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees, etc.

Not every dog will fit in the same size door as the rest of their breed. Once you know what size door you need, you’ll be ready to continue with your dog door installation. Around 65 million US households have at least one dog, but not as many get to come and go as they please. Your dog door will allow your pup to feel more independent and go when needed, so you should ensure it fits them.

2. Choose the Right Door

Mark the points on the outside-facing door you plan to convert into a dog door. One leading to a fenced-in backyard would be best to keep your pup from darting into the front yard and potentially chasing after traffic.

Once you’ve chosen your door, sketch how you want it to line up on the door. Then, you need to mark the essential screw holes and the inside corners — these spots indicate where the dog door will open and where you need to cut through your current door. An electric drill can help you make holes to secure the dog door.

3. Cut Through the Door Carefully

For this part, you need to put your dog in another room so they aren’t distracting you while trying to get that perfect cut. Use your hand saw cautiously and put on protective eyewear. Safety glasses are a lightweight option that can protect your eyes from debris that flies up while you’re sawing through the wooden or metal door.

Take your time when cutting through the outline you’ve drawn. It’s best to start in a corner and follow the design around. Try to keep a steady hand while cutting. Though the cut doesn’t have to be perfect, you may find it easier to install the dog door if your lines are even. If it feels more manageable, you can also take the door off its hinges to cut against a work table. .

4. Install the Dog Door

You’ll start on the outside of the house. The side with no flap goes on the outer frame. You want to press it against the door to ensure it lays flat against it. You may have to remove the levels of the dog door frame if it’s too deep for your door. Taking off those layers can help your dog door sit perfectly within your outside door.

Then, go back inside to put the interior frame in. Once again, you’ll want to ensure this side of the dog door is flush with the door. Screw it in, then test it out. The dog door should be able to withstand some back-and-forth pressure on the flap without screws coming out. Test it out a few times with the same energy level your dog shows. If everything stays in place, you’ll know you installed it correctly.

5. Clean Up Your Area

Before letting your dog out to try their new door, you must clean up the area. You should sweep or vacuum to remove any debris from the door that could hurt their paws as they run through. You also want to ensure your backyard is safe before your dog learns how to use their new door. For example, if your dog has been digging under your fence, you should fill holes and find countermeasures to prevent them from escaping before letting them have free reign over your backyard.

Once you’ve cleaned the mess on the floor, caulk around the dog door. Caulk will help seal the dog door in place, preventing any inside air from escaping and outside air from getting in. The few moments you it takes will pay off when you don’t see your energy bills skyrocketing.

How to Teach Your Dog About a Dog Door

Now that you understand how to install a dog door, you’re ready to watch your dog use it. Still, most dogs will be wary about using dog doors until you introduce them to the door properly.

One of the easiest ways to entice them through the door is to stand outside and call them. You may have to lift the flap to get them through the door. Once they know they’ll fit, it’s time to work on getting them through the flap.

If your dog is motivated by food, you can beckon them through the door with treats. Alternatively, you could toss a toy outside through the dog door. The key is to show your pup the flap won’t hurt them and can move at their will. Don’t force your dog through the door, especially if they seem afraid of it. They’ll approach it on their own when they’re ready. You may have to motivate them to try it out.

Learn How to Install a Dog Door for a Seamless Home

Dog doors don’t have to look clunky to fit your current decor. You can even paint your dog’s door if it would match your home’s aesthetic better. Over time, knowing how to install a dog door will pay off, and you may find yourself adding them to more of your backyard-facing doors to give your pup just as many options as you have. Just don’t forget to close the dog door at night, or you may wake up to a few unexpected guests thanks to wildlife sneaking in.

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