With school back in session and cooler weather ahead, it seems like a good time to talk about doggie or kitty doors.
These doors are available at pet and feed stores and are generally installed in an existing door. But they also can be built into a wall. Most can be locked for security and are quite good at keeping out excess heat and cold. Most have a double door -- which serves as a bit of an air lock -- well not exactly, but it helps.
The first step is to study the pros and cons of a doggie or kitty door. There are lots of things to consider. Dogs, cats and even little puppies are quick to figure out a doggie door. So are raccoons and skunks and even snakes. Dogs and cats, particularly cats, are fond of carrying in their fresh catch to show it off. You would never be able to have an inside cat if you have a doggie door for the dog.
If you decide you want one, figure out where it would work the best. Then check around and study the various options and models before purchasing one. Wherever you decide to put the doggie door, make sure the area outside of it is secure. If you do not have a fence around your entire property, you might fence off an area outside of where you plan to have the doggie door. Some put doggie doors leading into the garage but it is best to secure an area inside the garage since otherwise the dog will be able to escape whenever you open the garage door.
With a doggie door leading into the house, it is helpful to have it open into an area that you can close off from the rest of the house. On rainy days, it is nice to confine muddy footprints. If you are gone during the day and do not want the dog to have the run of the house, a room with tile floor and adequate air circulation makes a good mudroom. When you are home, this area can be opened up to give the dog access to the whole house.
Doggie doors can take the place of an outdoor dog house or shelter. If the dog is alone all day, he can come and go and be comfortable. But the space inside must be always accessible and have water, bedding and wonderful toys.
Speaking about being alone, now that school has started once again, many of our dogs will be left alone for hours each day. After a wonderful summer of having fun and children to play with, the dogs will be lonely and bored. If the dog is alone a lot, it might be good to have a second dog. Dogs are pack animals and need company. They can become terribly depressed and possibly destructive if they are alone too much. It is not fair to them to leave them alone too long. Cats are much better about being alone and they will just settle in a sunny window for a nice long nap.
The recent issue of "Dog Fancy" magazine addressed the subject of easing the transition for dogs after school starts again and offered some good suggestions. Have everyone in the family spend just a minute each with the dog before leaving for the day. Throw the ball, take a quick walk, just walk around the yard or work on a special trick. Make the morning meal a big deal. Let him watch as you mix up his special breakfast. If he has access to the outside, you might feed him as you leave the house. A great idea is to make a trail of dog kibble. Start with an easy trail and gradually make it more complex. He will love the search.
Dogs love bones or those special toys that can be filled with treats. Mix a little peanut butter and some dog kibble or even raw carrot pieces and stuff them into that toy or bone. The dog will stay busy for hours. Good bones or toys for chewing help occupy those alone hours. If a dog has to be confined in a kennel in the house during the day, make sure it is large enough for him to stand up and spread out and that he has chewing and cuddling toys. It would be better if an indoor kennel for those long hours alone is a room where he can be safe and have space to move around. An outdoor kennel connected to a secure room in the house with a doggie door is ideal. The room, however, must have a window for light and air. If the dog is not a jumper, a baby gate works well to keep the pet confined and yet allows for air circulation and he will not feel closed in.
When the family comes home, make sure that the dog is taken out to play a bit, maybe a walk, and have some quality time with family. Lives are busy, but including the dog in the family's activities is easy to do and with the doggie door, it is even easier.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry AZ 85544.