A Lesson on Dog Doors (and how to install them)

On November 3, 2013 by mattywater

You know what sucks? Waking up at 7AM to let a whining puppy go outside. You know what REALLY sucks? waking up at 3AM to let a whining puppy go outside. The latter only happens when he’s not feeling so good 🙁 poor guy. But the 7AM thing is every day. Not that waking up at 7 is the end of the world. But not getting to decide when you get out of bed is pretty much the worst. Especially when you let him out and crawl back into your warm bed, only to hear him barking and whining to be let back in 10 minutes later, and let back out half an hour later, and back in three minutes after that.  It is for this reason that some genius invented dog doors (aka portals for raccoons to come in and ransack your house – but we’re not worrying about that).

Raccoon coming through a cat door

This is my nightmare…

A little background on the modern dog door for you (cat door actually but who’s counting?). Apparently they’ve been around for quite some time. Google tried to tell me that Isaac Newton invented the concept but I feel like that guy just gets credit for any unattributed awesome idea so I dug a little deeper. Some painstaking investigation into the matter (I read the wikipedia page) led me to find that, in fact, an anonymous guy was trying to posthumously prank Newton by publishing a very embarrassing story about him inventing the pet door. The story went that Newton’s cat had a litter and so Newton cut two holes in his door, a big one for the mother cat and a smaller one for the kittens. The kittens showed Newton what a dummy he was by walking through the adult cat hole and snubbing his kitten-sized hole.

What a good joke, anonymous author! Outsmarted by kittens! And Newton never even had a cat! Sweet fabrication. You really showed that Newton jerk.

Isaac Newton, inventor of the dog door

Newton is not impressed by his future prankster

Further reading however led me to this passage in some dude’s diary from 1827 (this guy may have been overly obsessed with Newton, the evidence is inconclusive).

“Whether this [cat & kitten door story] be true or false, indisputably true is it that there are in the door to this day two plugged holes of the proper dimensions for the respective egresses of cat and kitten.”

This stalker’s testimony may have just been some kind of revenge for his unrequited love for the long-dead discoverer of gravity. Or maybe Newton did invent the idea but was SO embarrassed by the kittens outsmarting him that he denied ever having done such a thing and tried to hide the evidence by boarding up the holes. We may never know.

Depiction of a snobby kitty walking through a cat sized door

In case you needed a visual of this snobby possibly-fictional kitty.

Reputed historians note that, for centuries, farmers in rural areas have cut holes in the walls of their grain storage buildings to invite in feral cats to keep the rat population down. And we all know how much Egyptians loved their cats so I’m guessing they had diamond gilded cat doors made of gold in their pyramid shaped houses. People have probably been fed up with letting their pets in and out for thousands of years, and ever since there have been doors, there have been holes in them for animals to come and go freely. Even cavemen hated getting up from the couch to let the dog in.

Two mummified cats

Cat mummies….Egyptians were bonkers.

So that was a just a roundabout way of saying, we installed a dog door! After a very frustrating Friday I drove to Home Depot and bought the biggest dog door they sell (the size is SUPER Extra Large for dogs up 120lbs). I immediately ran into some problems when I got home. Basically the back door has panels in it. So the dog door can’t lie flush. This DYI article told me that was no big deal. We just had to buy some pieces of molding to shove in there and caulk it. So we set off!

The first thing we did was trace the dog door cover onto the door (that’s the size hole you should end up with) and measure the spaces we’d fill with molding later (where the panels are on the door). We went to Home Depot, spent like an hour sawing off the 10 pieces we needed and headed back home. We realized that we hadn’t measured how thick the wood should be so we eyeballed it at about 1/2 an inch. (It turned out 3/4 would have been better but we just caulked it all together.) Then we took the door off the hinges and got started!

Using a hammer and screwdriver to take a door of its hinges

Due to many makeshift beer pong tables in my past I’m pretty adept at this particular skill.

Me drilling holes at the corners of the hole where the dog door will fit

Then we drilled holes at the corners of the opening tracing.

We took an electric saw and cut the hole out of the door.

We took an electric saw (lent to us by our awesome neighbors!) and cut the hole out of the door, then lined up the filler pieces to make sure they fit.

Bender looks on as we do construction out on the deck that sunny afternoon

Bender was very helpful. And not afraid of the loud construction sounds!

Door with the hole cut into with glued on filler pieces

We used caulk to glue all of the filler pieces onto the door.

Door with the pieces all screwed together and dog door installed

Then screwed the inside and outside pieces of the dog door together and caulked all the holes to seal out any winter breezes!

Nate demonstrating how to use the dog door. He is halfway out with Bender looking on from the sunroom skeptically

Nate demonstrated proper dog door use to Bender.

Bender is not quite sure how to handle this development in his independence. He’s pretty good at going in and out when we encourage him. But making the decision on his own has been an adjustment. He does a lot of sticking his head through and whining. But I think he’ll get it sooner or later.

Bender peeking his head through the door. Not sure what to make of it.

You can do it!

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