Animal House - Ins and outs of dog doors
This Old House Magazine|Fall 2021
Entries right-sized for pets are easy for them to use—and convenient for their humans, too. Here’s how to install one that’s safe and secure
SAL VAGLICA

While most homeowners wouldn’t trade their dog for the world, having a furry family member means dealing with some inconveniences. A daily one: getting up to open the door every time your pup wants to go out. A dog door minimizes that hassle.

But people often hesitate to add one because they don’t want warmed or cooled air escaping, or they’ve heard stories about intruders getting in. TOH general contractor Tom Silva knows a little something about this. His then 90-year-old mother once wriggled through the family shar-pei’s dog door when she got locked out of his brother Dickie’s house. “She told us she just crawled in, no problem,” he recalls. The story might have been good for a laugh, but it also illustrates how a dog door can leave your home exposed.

TOH PRO TIP

TOM SILVA

General Contractor

“While they both require cutting a precise hole, putting a dog door in an exterior door is a lot easier than mounting one on a wall. With a door you don’t have to worry about pipes, wiring, structure, and how to flash the siding from the outside.”

Luckily, today’s dog doors have gotten better at keeping the outside out, with weather-resistant flaps and sensor controls. Here’s what to consider when choosing one for your own home.

GET THE RIGHT FIT

There are dog doors for glass, fiberglass, wood, metal, and screen doors, as well as patio sliders and French doors—and walls, too (see “Pick Your Type,” opposite). The flaps themselves range from flexible plastic—good for older, slow-paced dogs—to rigid panels; some have saloon-style double doors, and there are higher-priced models with motorized doors that retract up inside the door or wall. Dog doors typically come in four sizes, from small to extralarge, based on the weight of the pet they’ll accommodate. You’ll also want to measure from the floor to the top of your dog’s shoulders when he is standing. Then, when installing the dog door, allow for about a 2-inch clearance between your dog’s back and the top of the opening.

PICK YOUR TYPE There’s a wide range of dog door options to suit different climates, layouts, and budgets

Door indoor

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