Automatic Pet Doors vs Smart Pet Doors

Gone are the days when the basic manual doggy door was the only choice for pet owners. Now, there are all kinds of pet doors that vary in size, style, and function. One of the most popular new developments in the pet door world is the Electronic Pet Door—it only opens for your pet by scanning their vet-implanted microchip, magnetic key, or RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag worn on their collar.

However, not all electronic pet doors are the same. A common question we get is about the difference between Automatic Dog Doors and Smart Dog Doors. Both fall under the electronic pet door category, unlocking when they sense an RFID collar, magnetic key, or microchip, but vary in functionality. 

The decision between an Automatic and Smart dog door will depend on a few factors including:

  • The type of pet(s) you have: dog, cat, both?
  • Your pet's size
  • The functionality you’re looking for (comfortable use, keeping critters out, selective entry)

Here, we’re going to break down the key differences between Automatic and Smart Dog Doors so you can decide which is best for your home.

Automatic Pet Doors:

Just like most electronic pet doors, an automatic pet door senses a magnetic or another kind of collar key worn around your pet’s neck to unlock. They are different from smart pet doors in that they use a magnetic key to unlock (rather that RFID or microchip). Once unlocked, the motorized flap opens upwards to let your pet through.

Since automatic pet doors eliminate the need to push through a flap, they are ideal for timid or arthritic pets who struggle with standard pet doors. Here is our favorite automatic pet door:

High Tech Power Pet Automatic Door Mount

high tech automatic pet door for doors front view

The High Tech Power Pet is an automatic pet door that senses an Ultrasonic collar key worn around your pet’s neck to unlock and lift up, allowing your pet (and only your pet!) to come and go.

It is important to note that because the door raises more slowly for your pet than a traditional flap that they push through on their own, there is a bit more time for any pets you are trying to keep inside to slip out. If this is the case, a smart pet door would likely be a better option for you, size permitting.

The High Tech is also the only electronic pet door available for larger pets (whereas all other electronic pet doors will work only for cats and small dogs). Make sure to measure your pet!

Although this door does not feature some of the functions of other electronic pet doors such as a timer setting, you can add a timer to the High Tech Pet Door as a DIY project.

High Tech Power Pet Automatic Patio Pet Door

High Tech Automatic Pet Door front view

Same Great features but for simple installation in your sliding glass door.

Smart Pet Doors

The category of “smart pet doors” could range from an RFID-sensing electronic door to a microchip-sensing door that connects to your phone! However, smart pet doors all differ from automatic pet doors in that they have a rigid flap that the pet must push through once unlocked, rather than raising up for them.

In general, smart pet doors have more locking and control features than automatic pet doors and work best for cats and smaller dogs. Here are some “smart” options that we love:

PetSafe Electronic Smart Door

PetSafe Electronic Smart Door for Doors flap open

This door is another good option for limiting which pets have access to the door. It does not have microchip-scanning technology like the SureFlap, but instead only scans for RFID collar keys. The locking system keeps raccoons out and allows you to choose which pets can come and go.

SureFlap Microchip Pet Door Connect

black cat next to sureflap microchip pet door connect brown cat next to sureflap doc hub for connect pet door

Arguably the smartest pet door out there, the SureFlap connect pairs with the Connect Hub (purchased separately) enabling you to control the pet door right from your phone, tablet, or PC.

Final Thoughts

To recap, an automatic dog door is an electronic pet door that raises to open when it senses an ultrasonic collar key worn around your pet’s neck. Smart dog doors are electronic pet doors with a range of smart features such as microchip-scanning, customized selective-entry, or app-control straight from your phone.

Check Out Automatic Dog Doors if:

  1. You have an arthritic or timid pet who has trouble pushing through ordinary pet door flaps
  2. You have a large dog but want to keep critters out of your home

Check Out Smart Pet Doors if:

  1. You have a cat or small dog, and only want some of your pets to access the door
  2. You want more features such as microchip-sensing or app-control from your phone

We hope this clarified any confusion about automatic and smart pet doors! You can check out our full selection of Electronic, Automatic & Microchip Pet Doors here.

Not sure you want an electronic pet door? Manual pet doors might be right up your alley! Check out this article on the differences between manual and electronic pet doors to decide which is best for you. You can also check out our list of bestselling pet doors to see what other doors pet owners love. 

Elizabeth Muenzen

Written by

Elizabeth Muenzen

Content Specialist

Pets: My dog Benji is mixed Yorkie, Poodle, Chihuahua, and MaltiPom (YorkiPooChiMaltiPom?), yet he mysteriously bears no resemblance to any of these breeds.
Fun stuff: I love to cook!

Content Specialist

Pets: My dog Benji is mixed Yorkie, Poodle, Chihuahua, and MaltiPom (YorkiPooChiMaltiPom?), yet he mysteriously bears no resemblance to any of these breeds.
Fun stuff: I love to cook!

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