Moving from an apartment to a house has been a big adjustment, especially for my two-year-old Vizsla, Finley, who has separation anxiety. We’ve essentially tripled our indoor square footage, allowing ourselves more room to spread out and give each other space. We’ve also gained something we’ve never had before: a fenced-in backyard. This of course means that Finley has been constantly pawing at the patio door, begging to be let out upwards of 30 times a day. (Yes, I counted once.)
After deciding that an electric fence around the property’s perimeter wasn’t the right kind of freedom for Finley in our new environment, I came to the conclusion that a dog door was a step in the right direction. This would allow my anxious and slightly needy pup to let herself out, and hopefully help her gain some confidence while spending more time by herself and less right by my side.
When I came across PetDoors.com, I found myself in type-A-pet-owner heaven. The site hosts about 14 different manufacturers and around 100 different product choices. I quickly learned that I should select one that would fit not only Finley’s physical silhouette but also our home and lifestyle as well.
I soon landed on the Patio Pacific Endura Flap Pet Door. It had everything I was looking for: It’s designed for use in a variety of doors (from solid to hollow core to metal storm doors); has a top-notch door flap, which insulates and seals with powerful magnets so it won’t ever pinch your pup, and a sturdy locking cover; and it comes in four different sizes. It also touts the ability of withstanding winds of up to 50 miles per hour. While I don’t think our suburban Westchester, New York, backyard will be testing those limits, it’s still nice to know.
Actually, for a moment I considered selecting an electronic pet door after reading stories about unwanted critters finding their way into homes through them. The last thing I want is to find a squirrel or snake watching TV on my couch. But after chatting with PetDoors.com customer service, I realized that the added sense of security also comes with some drawbacks. Most notably, the electronic components can fail, leaving your pet stranded. Also, this seems to be a necessary feature only for households that want to allow just one pet outside while keeping another in. Since we have no plans of acquiring any more four-legged friends in the near future, I figured the manual flap would work just fine.
After choosing the door, I had to measure Finley to ensure that I would choose the right flap size and order the most comfortable entryway. It’s a little more complex than just using the animal’s weight, so I watched this instructional video and followed it closely, leaving no room for error. Finley was a little confused by what I was doing, but I assured her it was in her best interest.
Once I had her dimensions down, I placed an order for a large single-flap door, figuring that the double was more suited for people living in areas that endure extreme weather and that Finley might have trouble pushing through a series of two bulky flaps. And after seeing just how sturdy the flap is once it arrived in the mail, I knew I had made the right choice.
Installing the frame in our metal storm door was a little intimidating, so I called upon the one person who I knew would be up to the task: my dad. I probably would have hired a handyman had my father not been available. And for anyone who doesn’t consider themselves comfortable with a jigsaw or reciprocating saw, I strongly recommend seeking help from someone who knows what they’re doing. You get only one chance to get it right! Plus, if you’re doing a wall installation, you need to avoid electrical wiring and pipes.
It took about an hour from start to finish to follow the handy template and installation instructions included in the package. Since our metal door was quite thin, we had to take the extra step of cutting down the trim frame.
As soon as the dog door was in place, Finley scratched at it to be let out. Of course, it wasn’t intuitive for her to push on through the flap the very first time she saw it, but you could see the wheels turning in her head as the flap swung back and forth under the weight of her paw. I quickly let myself out the human door, bringing a tasty treat with me, and coaxed Finley to come through while holding the flap open with my hand. We practiced her stepping through the opening many times before letting the flap back down so she would have to push it herself. In the end, it took about three days for her to become completely comfortable pushing head-first through that sturdy piece of insulated material. Now, she dashes through it time and time again as if she’s crossing the finish line of some race.
In the past week, I’ve caught myself watching Finley go in and out of the pet door, relieved that I don’t have to get up and open the door myself, and also a wee bit jealous at the joy she seems to derive from it. Without a doubt, the dog door has been the biggest game changer in our new home. I can work productively in my upstairs home office while Finley lets herself in and out of the house downstairs as she pleases. Instead of turning to me for her every need and wish, my dog can fulfill one on her own — which feels like a big step forward given her separation anxiety.
My advice for anyone looking at dog doors is to ask for help. You might be surprised to learn that you can install a dog door in almost any surface, including sliding glass doors with no cutting required. And if you don’t know what would work best in your house, reach out to customer service to be pointed in the right direction. As a new homeowner, I’ve learned the value of doing plenty of research before investing in any housewares. The dog door is no different.
Quality: A+. I’ve seen more than a few dog doors up close, and nothing has compared to how sturdy and strong this door and flap feel. I’m confident that this one won’t warp or wear down over time, especially if I follow the advice of PetDoors.com and keep it clean by washing it with mild soap and water.
Style: Installing a dog door isn’t going to get your home onto the pages of Architectural Digest, but for what it is, the Patio Pacific door isn’t a total eyesore.
Function: You’d think a dog door was as simple as cutting a rectangle and putting a piece of plastic over the opening. There’s actually lot more to it. The sealing magnets, rotating rod design, and flap flexibility help this patented dog door function beautifully. The flap was successfully engaged a whopping three million times in testing circumstances. I don’t think you can get more functional than that!
Creativity: I give extra points to the Endura for having a flap that’s energy efficient, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly. It’s also been treated with a UV blocker for added durability.
Value: I have to admit I was a little surprised at how pricey dog doors run. While you can find them as low as $40, it seems you get what you pay for and you may end up having to repurchase many times. Endura Flap starts at $199, but it has a 15-year warranty so it should last the dog’s lifetime.
I used to know Finley’s whereabouts every minute of the day as she stuck close to my side throughout the house. Now, she can be sunning herself outside while I meet work deadlines inside, and I never worry that the Endura design is going to fail given its superior construction. The newfound freedom has been a huge benefit, for both of us.
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About the author: Whitney C. Harris is a New York-based freelance writer for websites including StrollerTraffic, Birchbox and WhattoExpect.com. A former book and magazine editor, she enjoys running (with Finley), watching movies (also with Finley), and cooking meatless meals (usually with Finley watching close by).