We recently installed a pet door so our cats can go in and out, and I was reminded of trying to teach Nimber to use a dog door to go out. Pet doors can be a blessing, as your pet can let themselves out and you don’t have to play doorperson 24 hours a day. Nimber’s door was actually installed in a kitchen door so he could go out into the garage when I wasn’t home, as my house didn’t have air conditioning.
I was lucky because Nimber picked it up right away. But what if you have a “nervous Nelly” that doesn’t want to go through the door, or is afraid of what might be on the other side? By using patience (and in some cases treats, such as the CANIDAE Snap-Bits®) they can be taught to use the door and help free up some of your time for other things. Another plus is that they can let themselves out if they have to go potty, and you can’t get to the door fast enough.
There are many types of pet doors available these days: patio door doggie doors, styles that go through screens, doors that seal with magnets, and even doors you can program to your own pet. Some are even available with an almost clear door panel, so your dog can see through to the other side of the door without stepping through it. Every door comes with a locking panel, so you can make the door solid to keep other animals from getting into your pet’s space or your house. Training time varies from dog to dog; I was able to train Nimber to use the door on his own in about a week or two.
After I installed the door I showed it to Nimber, first with the garage door open and then with the garage door closed. I went into the garage while Nimber was in the kitchen and pushed the flap of the door into the house so Nimber could see me through the door. I had a cookie in my hand and showed it to Nimber through the open flap in the dog door. I called his name repeatedly to coax him to the door and later, through it. As he got closer to the cookie, I withdrew my hand back into the garage. I got him right up to the door and as he was reluctant to put his head through the door, I gave him the cookie.
We kept training until Nimber would go through the door on his own. We trained for about 15 minutes every day, just enough time for Nimber to get the idea, but not long enough for him to get bored. We made a game out of it and sometimes there would be a toy on the other side of the door for him.
After he learned to go through the door on his own, we gave him lots of hugs, kisses and praise instead of the treats. These meant more to him than the cookies did anyway, I am happy to report. I haven’t installed a dog door yet for Skye, as we don’t have the right kind of house door. But that will probably be the next step, and I will let you know how we do.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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