I have just installed a dog door for our ten year old Jack Russell, Sam, and he is reluctant to go through the door. We have tried using treats to encourage him through but it is not working. How can we teach him to use it?
Thanks for your question Lawrie. Given your dogs’ reluctance, it may take a little time before he gets used to using the door, so learning will have to be broken up in to stages.
The stages below are to be moved through at Sam’s pace. He has to be confident at the previous level before attempting the next level.
The first step is to remove the flap, or anchor it, so it remains open. Sam has to gain confidence at being able to jump through a small opening. Next, cut out a light piece of fabric and stick this to the opening so that it creates a flap that Sam has to push though. The next step would then be to move on to cardboard, or something stiffer. The key is to start increasing the resistance that Sam has to push against.
Over time, Sam will learn that he has to actually nose the flap first before he can walk through it. After the cardboard, move on to the ‘real thing’, unhook or re-install the flap, and coax him through. Use some tasty treats like ham, salami, cheese, left over roast meat, or sausage- it will give you more leverage.
If Sam is still reluctant, leave him outside for a little while, get on with some of your indoor jobs and wait and see. Sometimes when we put too much pressure on our dogs they shut down. Just leave him to it for a while.
If this doesn’t work you may have rushed things a little. Go back a step and try the real door again in a few days time. You will find that eventually he will get used to it.
I know that this seems really laborious but if you rush things you run the risk of Sam developing a bad association with the door, then it will take even longer to fix.
There could also be the possibility that Sam is scared of the banging flap. Some dog doors make such a loud noise when the dogs go through them, it would be enough to put anyone off. For those of you thinking about purchasing a dog door, push it yourself, and see how noisy it is.
I always recommend the doors with the soft flexible flaps, easy for the dogs to push through, and quiet when closing. Staywell make a wonderful dog door like this, and their products can be found at many retail outlets.
Good luck Lawrie, and please let me know how Sam goes. Jack Russell’s have a lot of spunk and I’m sure with some time he will be fine.