Raccoons and toddlers are an issue.
german pointer looking outside through doggie door
Credit: Muriel de Seze

Doggie doors seem like a win/win for pet owners: Your pooch can simply let itself out to relieve itself or just get a little fresh air, and you get some flexibility if you need to stay later than usual at the office (or if you need to stay in bed a little longer on a Saturday morning). They can also be super-useful for owners whose limited mobility can make it difficult to exercise their pets via walks or runs.

But pet doors aren't right for every home or dog. Before opening a self-service portal to the outdoors, consider who you want to keep in the house -- and who or what you'd like to keep out.

Do you have small children at home?

Dog doors can be hazardous to babies and toddlers who are crawling or just learning to walk. "Depending on the size of the pet door and the child, there is a potential danger of a young child getting stuck in the pet door. Or, if they're small enough to fit through a larger pet door, a baby or toddler could potentially sneak out of the house through it," says Dr. Jason Nicholas, president and chief medical officer of PreventiveVet.com. "There's also a potential risk that a crawling baby could be crawling by the door when the family dog is walking in, only to startle the dog and potentially suffer a bite."

Is Your Cat A Wanderer?

Curious kids aren't the only critters who might find a dog door too tempting to pass up. Indoor cats that fancy an outside adventure are sometimes able to sneak out behind a dog. And don't forget that the door goes both ways: Wildlife like raccoons and coyotes have been able to access homes via pet doors -- and so have determined burglars. Well-built, sturdy doors that can be locked easily are common-sense considerations, but features like magnets and sensors provide an added layer of control over access to your house.

TIP: "There's no 100%-foolproof way to fully keep indoor-only animals from sneaking out when other household pets come and go," Nicholas says. "But there are some doors that can only be opened and/or closed by a magnet in a specific pet's collar, a RFID tag or even a particular pet's microchip."

A Pet Door Isn't a Substitute for Regularly Walking Your Dog

Nicholas notes that pet doors are great for attentive pet owners who sometimes need a little flexibility on time spent outside the home. But just because Fido is independent enough to use a dog door doesn't mean he can go completely unsupervised.

"You can miss an important opportunity to see any potentially concerning changes in their urinations and bowel movements that could indicate a brewing or established medical problem," Nicholas says. And If you become too reliant on using the dog door -- as in, just letting your dog come and go, but not taking him on regular walks -- you're encouraging antisocial behavior. "Not only could that decrease the amount of time and number of opportunities that a dog gets to spend with their owners and also meeting other people and dogs, but it could also decrease the exercise and socialization the people can get, too," he says.

LEARN: Three Easy Ways to Make Your Home Pet-Safe


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