Training your Pets to use a pet door.
Getting a Pet door can be life-changing – Trust me!
No more having to get up in the middle of the night to let the dog out or the cat in! You've done your research, the pet door has been delivered, and your dog's going back and forth like a ping pong ball.
Great... for most of us, that is.
However, sometimes our furry mates need a bit of a hand, especially cats, which leaves us scratching our heads and wondering how do I get them through this thing.
Well, cats and dogs are different, and we train them differently.
Training your Dog.
Although many of us have very little, we need time and a bit of patience now. The most effective option is to stand on the opposite side of your pet door and have a yummy treat in hand, be sure to give them one first to get their attention. – After all, nothing beats a bit of bribery; it works well for animals and small children ;).
Next call your dog through in your fun, sing-songy voice! Hold the treat close to the pet flap so they can smell its tempting aroma. Once they've braved it and succumb to temptation, give them the treat straight away and follow with enthusiastic praise. This part is essential as dogs respond to tone, and a simple good boy in a miserable voice will not suffice… Don't let the praise last too long as we need to keep their attention on the job at hand; we don't want them to forget why they're being rewarded.
Now, run around to the other side and do it all again as many times as you can until they lose focus. Once they've lost interest, don't pursue it any longer. Give it some time, and then come back for round 2. Remember that learning new things can be exhausting and can negatively impact training if dragged out for too long. So keep at it every day, and soon they won't need us anymore and will be enjoying the new freedom.
A really neat trick is to have a playdate. Invite a friend or family's pup over who has their very own pet door. Watching their mate go in and out of the flap should have them following suit in no time. Of course, don't try this with an untrained pet; it won't work!
Oh, and don't try this with Cats unless you want your eyes gouged out by an angry catfight. Cats usually don't appreciate another cat encroaching on their territory.
Training your Cat.
Cats will take more time to use a pet door. Mine still pretends she doesn't use it when I'm home and then will magically appear in the house when I have been out and not let her in.
They are naturally wary creatures and will probably always make walking through the pet door look like the flap is carrying the plague!
Just be persistent and give your cat some space. Removing the flap and leaving your cat to it is usually a better option than constant training. Just start with the food bribery method to get them interested. They will probably only perform once for you, then once they are outside, just leave a smelly treat on the inside. I find tuna works well because it has a strong smell. Just leave it there right next to the flap for a couple of hours. Cats have a fantastic sense of smell, and you will likely see their little head popping through the open flap sniffing the treat. Eventually, they will pluck up the courage to jump through, all be it reluctantly and devour the treat. Humans 1 – Felines 0. After a while, they will just get it, and you can put the flap back on.
The finer details - Flap types can raise a few issues in the training stage.
While great at staying in the same place, a hard flap is, well, exactly that a bit hard. It's noisy when it's swinging back and forth, and if your pet gets stage fright and tries to reverse halfway through, they can get a bit stuck. If this does become an issue with your hard flap, I'd recommend taking it off for a while whilst your pet gets used to going through the new hole in the wall. Then, gradually reintroduce the flap once they're more confident using it.
Soft flaps do have a slightly easier training method. The La Luna Patio Pet Doors have a sneaky little magnet at the top of the flap for training mode. This magnet holds the flap half-open, so your pet is more likely to use it when training. Soft flaps are also safer when they're more likely to back out of the flap in the training stage.