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Latch key pups: Doggie doors are an easy way to give animals access to the Great Outdoors

By: JESSICA Allison
July 27, 2013
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The problem: It's the weekend and you finally get to sleep in. Then, at a way-too-early o'clock, the dog wants out.

The solution: Install a doggie door, which allows dogs to visit the great outdoors on his own. As with any home improvement project, however, the decision to get a doggie door takes some consideration.

The most obvious concern is cost. Doggie doors can be expensive. Prices depend on a number of factors, including where the doggie door is to be installed, who is installing it and how big it needs to be - the bigger the dog, the bigger the door, the bigger the price tag.

"The very least expensive is around $55 to $75," says Sherry Berger, general manager of Colorado Springs-based Premium Pet Doors, regarding the doors her company sells. "Most expensive is about $1,500."

When purchasing a pet door, keep in mind that you don't have to go to a specialist. Most big box pet stores, such as Petco or PetSmart, home stores and many online sources, such as Doctors Foster and Smith, keep them in stock. They range in price from $25 to more than $1,000. However, these companies do not offer the convenience of home installation.

The good news: Doggie doors can be installed virtually anywhere, including in wood, brick, glass - or even the side of your house.

In fact, Berger's company has installed a pet door near the ceiling for a family with cats. The family had installed a climbing apparatus around a ground-floor room and on the walls. The door opened to an area off the ground for the cats to sunbathe and play.

Rich Dow, manager of Colorado Springs-based Pikes Peak Pet Doors, says that all of his pet doors come with detailed instructions on how to properly install a doggie door on your own. But if you don't want to risk ruining a part of your house, specialty operations like Pikes Peak Doors will do it for you.

And that, of course, will cost you, depending on the circumstances. Still, for some scenarios, paying a professional to install a doggie door is encouraged.

"We recommend, if you're going to put it in glass or brick, to have one of our technicians do it," says Dow.

Seeing Fido stroll through your doggie door is one thing. But the neighborhood raccoon family or a burglar is quite another. Dow says his doors, which are made by Hale Pet Door, have flaps that seal perfectly to the door's frame, keeping the scent of food in, which is what mainly drives uninvited four-legged guests to use the door.

Well-sealing flaps also keep heat in, so the doggie door won't decrease your home's energy efficiency.

As for human visitors, Dow says there are security barriers that resemble dog houses. These tiny wooden structures hold angled pathways that are impossible for humans to squeeze through. He has offered a free doggie door to anyone who can successfully get through the security barrier. He said that even a 110-pound girl couldn't get in.

If you are willing to spend a pretty penny, Berger says another option is an electronic door. A remote attached to the collar automatically opens the door when the animal approaches. Prices for these locking doors can soar above $1,000.

Once a doggie door is installed, the owner's next challenge is training the dog or cat to use it.

The process usually takes 15 to 20 minutes. Most important: Don't push the pet through the door.

"Hold it (the door) open and have a treat or its favorite toy on the other side of the door," says Dow. "Once they learn, they just go straight through. They don't even think about it."

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