Installing a Dog Door: What You Should Know

Give Fido his own personal entrance by adding a doggie door.

Pet Flap Interior

Pet Flap Interior

An inside view of a regular black pet flap on a light wood door surrounded by walls walls and wood skirting

The convenience a dog door offers far outweighs any concerns or obstacles you may face when installing one; in fact, it can be relatively simple. Installing a dog door that leads to your backyard or a fenced-in area can give your pup the freedom to come and go as he or she pleases. 

Prepwork

First, you’ll want to know the approximate measurements of your furry friend. You’ll use these to determine what size door to purchase. Before you buy, be sure to check the packaging on the dog door for any special instructions regarding installation, sealing, maintenance or information about the types of doors in which the particular model can be installed. 

Which brings us to the next point to consider: what type of exterior door do you have? You should be able to install the dog door in a wood, metal or fiberglass exterior door. Knowing what kind of door you have may help you to determine what type of tools you’ll need for the project. 

Measurements and Placement

Once you’ve completed these initial steps, you’ll want to start by removing the exterior door from it’s hinges and laying it across a couple of sawhorses to create a workstation. Center the dog door on the exterior door and mark your measurements. Note that you’ll want to place the door at the appropriate height for your dog to enter and exit easily; this should be at least two inches above the height of your dog and at least three inches from the bottom edge of the door to keep the integrity of your door intact. Your dog door kit may include a template to help with measuring and marking the outline of the frame onto the exterior door. 

Use the template or the frame to mark the points where the screws will be placed to attach the doggie door to the regular door. Using the appropriate size and type bit (depending on your screw size and door material) and a drill, predrill these holes. Remember, if at any point you don’t feel comfortable, consider hiring a contractor for installation. 

Installation 

If you have a wood door, use a reciprocating saw to cut along the traced outline. For fiberglass, you can use a reciprocating saw as well, or if you prefer try a circular saw with a diamond blade. Note that you’ll want to wear a mask to prevent you from inhaling any fiberglass or dust while cutting. For metal doors, you may need a combination of saws: the circular saw with a diamond blade to start and the reciprocating saw to square up the corners neatly. 

Place the inner frame of the pet door into the cut opening, and then attach the other frame the other side of the door, pushing them together until they meet snugly. Next, you’ll need to secure the doggie door to the exterior door by attaching the screws into the predrilled holes. If any gaps remain, use caulk to seal around the newly installed doggie door. Once the caulk is dry, reattach the door — complete with your new dog door — to its frame.

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