What should I avoid in training a dog to use a dog door?

• Never yell or punish. Your dog may, at first, be frightened of the doggie door. Like any dog (or cat) training getting mad or yelling will not help, and possibly may hurt, the situation. She’ll also become tired, frustrated and non-responsive,

If your dog backs away from the pet door, this is the first sign that she wants nothing to do with this. Start by reassuring her, and gently inch her closer until you are both by the door.

• Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security over the safety of the area.

A dog door is only an option if you have a safe outdoor area that she can have access to without escaping or getting herself into any other kind of problem.

Whether it’s an enclosed dog run in your yard or an outdoor balcony or patio, please, if you have any doubt about whether she can escape, be sure to dog-proof your yard and fence before allowing her to go outside alone. She can probably fit through a smaller opening in your fence than you think, so you might consider adding additional boards or chicken wire to prevent her from making a break for it.

• Don’t assume the dog will automatically know to eliminate.
Just because your dog knows how to use the doggie door doesn’t mean she’ll know when to use it. She must understand that the house is the wrong place to eliminate, and that can be even more challenging for very young puppies, who do not yet have good muscle control, and who may give very few signs that they are about to “go.” Keep a close eye on her and, at the first sign of elimination, firmly lead her out of the house, through the doggie door. You can add a verbal command like “door.” Praise lavishly once she’s outside and goes.

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