Install a Pet Door
Give man’s best friend a way to make a grand entrance.
By Rob Robillard
In a perfect world my two Labrador pups would let themselves in and out of the house as needed—and make their own dinner!
Although we don’t live in a perfect world that doesn’t mean we don’t strive for greater efficiency and better solutions. My search for this led me to install a pet door. In this article I offer you my thoughts and tips on how to choose, measure for and install a quality pet door.
The Value of a Pet Door
A pet door, also known as a cat door and dog door, is a small portal in a wall, window or door to allow pets to enter and exit a house on their own. These doors are great for allowing your pet free access to the outdoors. It provides emergency egress in case of a fire or other emergency, assists when potty training and also allows guard dogs access to the property.
It’s a great feature for pet owners who work long hours and want their pets to have free access to a fenced yard. A pet door eliminates the need to rely on neighbors or friends to let your pet out.
Types of Pet Doors
Today’s pet doors have spring-loaded, flexible flap doors with strong magnets to close and seal the door flap from the weather. Some pet doors are electronically controlled by a RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip on the animal’s collar. The RFID chip unlocks the pet door as the animal approaches and locks it after they pass through.
The most common pet door is the flap door which is also the most cost effective and easiest to install.
Most folks don’t opt for the more complicated electronic door unless they have security issues or are concerned with stray animals entering the home. Other issues with electronic doors include battery failure in the animal’s collar or, if the collar should be removed or lost, failure of the pet door to open.
Location Wall vs. Door
Pet doors can be installed in walls, in a door and as a special panel to allow placement in a sliding door unit.
Wall units have several advantages over door units. First, a wall unit allows for a double flap pet door to be installed. A double flap pet door creates an air space between flaps and provides a superior weather seal and less air leakage. Double door flaps are far superior in energy efficiency than single door flaps.
A pet door cut through a door typically ruins the door, and that door will need to be replaced if the owner decides to remove the pet door. A flap door cut into an existing door is typically more costly than a wall unit, which only requires repairing wallboard and some siding.
A pet door in a wall also gives the owner more options for placement. A wall entrance placed in low traffic areas (an alcove, closet or rarely used hallway) keeps it away from entrance doors that are usually highly visible.
Measure Dog & Door
To determine the proper width of the pet door for your animal, open a door just wide enough for your animal to comfortably walk through. That measurement is your pet door’s flap width.
The top of the door flap should be mounted an inch above the top of the pet’s shoulder. This way the pet does not have to crouch to use the door. (Note: For double-flap pet doors, install the door 2 inches above the pet’s shoulders.)
One common mistake is to measure the pet’s head height:
All pets duck their heads and pick up their paws when passing through a pet door.
The lower the pet door’s bottom, the better. Try to avoid installing the door too high, which can be awkward for your pet. A good rule of thumb is to avoid exceeding 1/3 the height of the animal’s shoulders. Make adjustments if your dog has a deep chest or is low slung.