How to Install a Pet Door: A Comprehensive Guide
Time required: 30 m - 2 hr | Skill level: Intermediate
Installing a pet door by yourself can be a great way to save money and grant your dogs and cats the freedom they desire. While the tools and steps might vary slightly based on the design and brand of the dog or cat door, the procedure generally remains consistent.
If you are a DIY master, make sure you check out specific pet door installation guides for each product.
How To Install A Dog Door Into A Door
The following steps outline the general process of choosing and installing a dog door in your door:
Installing a cat door in a door follows almost the exact same process, with only a few minor differences.
The first step is to choose a pet door that meets your needs. It’s important to consider which style, size, and flap material will work best for your home and pet.
If you have a very active dog, a high-quality door will withstand heavy use, whereas an average-quality door might start to break down over time.
However, if you are looking for a temporary, quick-fix for letting your pet come and go, an average-quality door might be the perfect solution. You’ll also want to consider the type of door that you have to ensure it will work with the pet door you choose.
2. Measure For Your Width, Height & Step-Over
Once you've decided what kind of pet door you want to buy, you need to ensure you pick the correct size. A pet door that is too big or small can not only be uncomfortable for your pet to use, but it may lead to long term injuries.
To choose the correct flap size, you will need to measure your pet to find what pet door width, height, and step-over you will need.
How to Find Your Pet Door's Width
The width of the pet door should be about 2” wider than the widest part of your pet for comfortable use.
A simple way to find the width is to open your hinge or sliding door just wide enough for your pet to come through. You can motivate them to go through the test opening with their favorite toy or treat.
The smallest distance your door needs to be opened for your pet to go through is your pet door width. If your pet is still young and will grow more, we recommend adding 2".
How To Find Your Pet Door's Height
The top of the pet door flap should be at least 1” above the tallest point on your pet’s back. Depending on your pet's breed, this can be anywhere from their haunches to their butt.
To measure, have your pet stand and measure from the floor to the tallest point.
If your pet tends to duck through openings, add 2” to that height to give them extra space to raise their backs.
Make sure that the top edge of the pet door frame does not scrape your dog's back. This can cause long-term injury.
How to Find Your Pet Door's Step-Over
The “Step-Over” is the distance from the ground to the bottom of the pet door flap—the area that your pet needs to "step over" to use the door.
For maximum ease of use, the step-over height should never exceed ⅓ of your pet’s height.
Use Your Measurements To Pick Your Pet Door
Once you’ve measured for width, height, and step-over, you can combine the measurements together to find the best pet door for your pet:
Remember to leave at least 3” below the cutout to maintain the integrity of your door.
For homes with multiple pets, you’ll want to make sure that your largest dog can fit through the pet door. Keep in mind this might require a heavier flap, which can be difficult for a cat or very small dog to push through.
3. Choose the Installation Location
Before installing a pet door, it’s important to consider the optimal location for your home. Opt for a pet door that is accessible, easy to install, and matches the aesthetics of your home.
Your dog door should be installed in a door that is easily accessible by your pet—ideally, in a door near their main living area. This is true whether your are installing into an exterior or interior door.
As the most common installation location, an exterior door allows your pet outdoor access. Make sure your yard is completely fenced off before installing the door.
A less common but handy installation location, an interior dog door allows your pet access to different areas of the home. For instance, they can leave the bedroom at night without waking you up to open the door for them.
Many cat owners will use interior cat doors as a way to give their cats free access to their own room or litter box while keeping the dog out.
Ease of Installation
Every door is different, so it’s important to consider ease of installation when selecting which door you want to install the doggie door in.
A regular hollow core door is the easiest to install a pet door in, and the complexity increases with different designs and materials such as metal, solid, and panel doors. This is because a door with a very solid or uneven surface will require a little more handiwork than a flat-surface, hollow door. Keep in mind your skill-level when considering which door to install the doggie door in.
Installing a pet door impacts the dynamic of your home. You should expect your pet to spend plenty of time around the area where the door is installed. You might want to rearrange the furniture accordingly to account for higher traffic through this space.
Pet doors come in a variety of colors and materials, so you can select whichever you think will best match your door.
4. Install the Dog Door
Now that you’ve chosen the perfect pet door and decided where to install it, you’re ready to get to work. The manufacturer of the pet door you purchase will likely provide more detailed instructions specific to your pet door, so make sure to read them.
Once your new pet door arrives and you have decided where to install it, you'll need a few tools. In most cases, you will need the following:
- Painters Tape
- Tape Measure
- Drill & Drill Bits
- Safety Equipment (gloves & eye protection)
These are the general steps for installing a dog door in your door:
Step 1: Tape the Provided Template on the Door
Tape the template that came with your pet door kit where you want to make the rough cutout (remember to leave at least 3” at the bottom of the door).
Step 2: Mark the Drilling Points
To make drilling easy and accurate, consider making four X marks on the inner corners of the outline if not already drawn on.
Step 3: Drill the Holes
Take a 1/2-inch drill bit and drill holes in the center of the “X” marks at each corner. While doing so, make sure that the holes do not go past the outline.
If the pet door requires screws to fasten it to the house door, drill the screw holes you marked initially using a 3/8-inch drill bit or whatever bit size the manufacturer has recommended.
Step 4: Mark the Rough Cutout
Remove the pet door template from the door. Apply tape to connect the four holes you drilled. Use a pen to draw lines connecting the outsides of each hole.
Step 5: Cut the Opening
To cut the opening, consider using a jigsaw. Begin in one corner and insert the blade into the ½-inch drill hole. Carefully continue along the pencil line to cut the outline of the pet door
Step 6: Insert the Frames into the Rough Cutout
Place the interior and exterior frames on either side of the door. Make sure the frames are flushed with the surface of the door. Use a level to make sure the frames are even on both sides. Optional: You can use caulking to seal up any gaps on uneven doors. Use a level to make sure the frames are straight and aligned properly.
Step 7: Screw the Frame into the Door
Hold the pet door in place and tighten the screws. Make sure you tighten them until they are just fixed and not overly tightened.
You might also want to add caulk to the inner side of the outer frame to make sure no air leaks. This is especially important for installation in panel doors.
After you have successfully installed and sealed the pet door, it is time to introduce your furry friend to their new entrance. Check out our tips on Training Your Pet to Use a Pet Door for more info.
DIY Pet Door Installation FAQs
How much does it cost to install a doggy door?
Installing a doggy door yourself is free if you have the right tools. Although installation varies by brand, this process will generally require a drill, level, jigsaw, screwdriver, and some measuring tape. If you have the required tools on hand, a DIY installation will be the most cost-effective option (if you do it right).
How far up should I install the pet door?
Pet doors must be installed at least 1" above the tallest part of the dog's back and at least 3" from the floor. We recommend measuring your pets to find a comfortable step-over range so you can install it in the perfect place for them.
It’s important to also keep in mind that the step-over should be no more than a third of your pet’s height. This allows them to move easily through the door and accounts for decreased mobility with age.
See how to measure your pet for a pet door. Each manufacturer will also have specific recommendations included in the installation instructions.
How long does it take to install a dog door?
That depends on your level of comfort with the installation process, as well as the type of dog door you’re installing. A sliding pet door panel takes a few minutes, whereas a door or wall mount takes 1-2 hours. If you are a more handy person, the installation process will likely be easier and take less time. You can contact our customer service team for installation tips to help with this process.
How do you install a dog door in a panel door?
The process of installing a dog door in a panel door is largely the same as any other type of door. You will, however, need to caulk around the edges of the pet door frame to fill any gaps between the frame and the door. Installing the pet door towards the center of the door (rather than in one of the panels) is still the most effective method for maintaining the integrity of the door.