Have you tried to teach a dog to use a pet door? I never have since our cats are indoors and we wouldn’t want them to get out. You would think that if you did something as nice as buy a pet door for your dog that he would appreciate it or even be excited by the autonomy it provides. But no, every so often you get a dog that is scared to use it.
I have seen some of the silliest videos of what people have done to try and lure their scared pets through a pet door. Sitting outside with bowls of different foods trying to bribe their dog to go through, to crawling through the flap themselves (or having their children do it) hoping the dog will follow – all the while reassuring their pet that “it’s totally safe” and “see how easy it is!” We all know that in the end the dog will get used to it and once they do, they will be going in and out and in and out and in….
Our cats are indoors except when they are out in their enclosure. We have a beautiful custom enclosure that is the length of the side of our house, approximately 40’ by 11’ wide (helps that this is my husband’s business - CDpets.com). We’ve had it for years and all four of our current cats have grown up with it. They had access through a pet door in a window and all were very comfortable using it. That is until last week when we made one of our dreams come true by replacing the window in that room with a sliding glass door. We had a pet door put into the wall of the house just to the side of the sliding door and it led into the exact same enclosure it always has. You wouldn’t know it from our cats’ reactions!
Surprisingly, I thought I knew which of my cats was the most confident and which was the scaredy-cat, but I was proved wrong. First one out was our 9-year-old Siamese named Mr. Purrington. We showed him the pet door once and he’s been going in and out like it’s nothing. Next out was our 10-year-old black kitty, Blackberry. We had to prop the flap open and carry her out the first time but that was all it really took, and she is going back and forth with ease now. Pashmina, our friendliest and oldest at 14-years, had to be carried a couple times but came in on her own. I haven’t seen her go out yet, but she didn’t seem uncomfortable out there.
Which leaves us our fourth and youngest cat. Cricket is 6 years old and as our biggest cat she is often the bully. You would think that her size and youthful exuberance would lead her to be the leader of the pack, but she refuses to go out into the enclosure. The weirdest part is that when she was carried out, she totally freaked! The actual enclosure is exactly the same this week as it was last week and yet she acts like she’s never seen it before and it’s all scary stuff out there! I sat out in the enclosure a lot over the weekend (we have a nice patio set of chairs/tables out there) trying to call and coax her and everyone else out and she is the only one that will not have anything to do with it.
Well ultimately the loss is hers. She has a lovely safe play-yard and the weather has been warm and inviting. I know she will come around, but I’m just not clear at this point what to do next to get her trust and confidence up. Patience and time will help, so I’m just enjoying the patio myself and trying to keep the pressure off of her. I’m sure soon she’ll be darting in and out at an annoying rate! Have you ever had to teach your pet how to go out a pet door? What tips can you share?
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.