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DOG / training & behavior

How to Teach Your Dog to Use the Pet Door

Tips from a PetSmart trainer


Mastering the pet portal

“I wanna go out! No, in! No, out! No, in!” If this is something you’d rather not deal with a dozen times a day, then a pet door is the best option for you and your dog.

Pet doors are one of life’s greatest conveniences, allowing your pet to come and go as they please. They can even help speed up potty training.

Still, some dogs, especially puppies, can be a little wary of the doggie door at first. To get your pet into the swing of things, first be sure that the area the pet door leads to is fenced in securely, so your dog can’t escape the yard. Then:

  • Start by keeping the door flap open (pin it open or remove it if you have to) so your dog sees that through this hole, the great outdoors beckons!
  • Toss a treat or toy through the door.
  • If your dog seems timid, take the process in steps. Reward pups with a treat just for sticking their nose through. Then offer a treat when they stick their head through, and so on.
  • Practice doing this in both directions, going in and out, to demystify the process even more.
  • Now try it all again, but with the flap down. Some pups will figure this out in one try, but others will need practice. If that’s the case, again take it step by step.
  • The doggie door can help puppies who are still being housetrained. If they have an accident, put them in their crate facing the doggie door to send the message, “If you need to do your business, please go outside!”

Lisa Sutton is an accredited PetSmart Trainer.

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For information on PetSmart Accredited Training, please visit the PetSmart training page.