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How to Train Your Dog to Use a Doggie Door: 6 Vet-Approved Tips

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

Puppy going through the pet door

How to Train Your Dog to Use a Doggie Door: 6 Vet-Approved Tips


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

A doggie door can save you considerable time every day because your pets can let themselves out when nature calls. You will no longer need to get up late at night or early in the morning to get dressed and take out the dog. However, many dogs don’t know how to use the door at first and will require training to get started. If you need help in this area, keep reading as we provide several tips and tricks that you can use to get your dog to use the door in no time.


Before You Begin

Fenced-In Yard

For a doggie door that will let your pet outside anytime they want, you will need to have a fenced-in yard, and you will need to remember to keep the gate closed, or else the dog will get out. They might even get in a fight with another animal or be stolen, so keeping them on the property is best.

Happy Dog Running Through Backyard with Ball
Image Credit: Emily on Time, Shutterstock

Dog Behavior

If your pet is a troublemaker and likes to find ways out of the yard, a doggie door might not be for you, as it will just make escape easier for your pet.

Door Size

Choosing the right-sized door is essential. For example, a door that is too small might scare the dog, and they can get stuck or injure themselves when trying to use it, which will likely stop your pet from using it again. A too-large door can pose an unnecessary security risk, as an intruder might be able to use it to access your home.

shy basset hound poking head out of its dog door
Image By: Dmussman, Shutterstock

Measuring Your Dog’s Door

  • Measure from the floor to the highest point on your largest dog’s back, and add 1 inch.
  • Measure your dog’s width at the shoulders.
  • Add a step-over between 3 inches and 1/3 of your dog’s height and width.


The 6 Tips to Train Your Dog to Use a Dog Door

1. Show Your Dog the Door

The first step in training your dog to use the door is to show it to them while giving them treats and praise. As you interact with your dog, play with the flap, open and close it, put your hand through it, etc. This will show your pet that the door is not scary, and they will instead associate it with fun and treats.

View of a doggie door from inside the house
Image Credit: The Image Party, Shutterstock

2. Encourage Them

After your dog sees you playing with the door, encourage them to do the same. When your dog starts to paw at it or push it with their nose, give them a treat to let them know that they are doing the right thing.

3. Coax the Dog Through

Once your dog is familiar with the door, hold or lock it open, and try to coax your pet through. Position yourself on the other side of the door, and show the dog that you have treats or toys that they can have if they move through. It may take several tries, with your dog only putting out their paws or head at first. Resist giving them too many treats when they do, or they might think that that’s the game. Wait until they climb through before giving them praise and treats.

dog at pet door
Image Credit: VictoriaG1988, Shutterstock

4. Repeat

Repeat step 3 several times until your pet passes through the door without hesitation. Then, start to close the door, or only hold it open partially, forcing your dog to use their snout to push it open to get through. This step will help your dog understand how the door opens, and after a few tries, you shouldn’t need to hold the door open. Calling your pet from the other side should have them coming through to receive treats. Continue to repeat this step until your pet has no trouble pushing open the door to get through.

5. Make the Door Part of the Routine

Once your dog is familiar with the door, it’s time to teach them when to use it. Every time your pet asks to go outside to use the bathroom, have them go out by passing through the doggie door. If necessary, you should go outside first and close the door so they must use the dog door. While your pet is doing their business, sneak back into the house, so they need to use the doggie door to get back in.

Dog going through dog door
Image Credit: AleSalM, Shutterstock

6. Let Them Go by Themselves

Once the doggie door is part of the bathroom routine, you can start using commands, like “out,” to get your dog to go out alone when needed. They might be hesitant at first, but the need to relieve themselves will get them going. Then, when they return, give them plenty of praise and treats, and they will catch on. Soon, they will only come to you when they return for treats.


Other Tips and Tricks

  • Secure your yard before using a doggie door, so your pet can’t escape. Doing so also reduces the risk of other animals using the door to gain access to your home.
  • If you are concerned about safety, consider getting an automatic doggie door that stays locked and only opens when your pet is nearby, via an electronic key in their collar.
  • Placing video cameras near your doggie door can help scare off would-be intruders (even if they don’t actually work).
  • Placing motion-activated lights around your property can help scare off wild animals that might consider using the door.
  • If your dog isn’t using the doggie door, lock it to prevent unwanted visitors. You can also purchase a third-party lock that will fit over your doggie doors for extra protection.



Training your dog to use a doggie door can be surprisingly easy. Ensuring that your door is the right size is crucial, or your dog might be afraid to go through. Otherwise, after a few tries, most dogs will be happy to go through the door to get a treat, and soon, they will go outside to relieve themselves without help. Plenty of patience, praise, and treats are essential, so don’t push your pet too hard, or they will be more difficult to train.

Featured Image Credit: AleSalM, Shutterstock

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