What is an Electronic Door for Dogs?
Electronic doors are the modern day equivalent of the old cat door.
Pet doors that make use of electronics provide multiple benefits, with the biggest being in the area of security and safety.
Here are the big benefits of electronic dog doors:
- Control which of your pets is allowed to come and go through the door – the door is only activated by the pet wearing an electronic collar tag or by their microchip
- Customize the door to lock and unlock at certain times, or set it up to only allow one way access
- Eliminate the risk of wild animals and stray animals using the door as it will not activate for any animal who isn’t authorized
- The best electronic doors are windproof, weatherproof and do not compromise the security of your home
Of course, the quality customization options and operation of the door is going to depend on which one you buy and install in your home.
The electronic doors at the lower end of the market generally are not built to the same very high standard as the top of the range brands and models, and often have less options.
But your own personal needs will determine which dog door is going to suit your home and budget the best – not to mention one that your dog(s) will be comfortable using!
They cost more than your standard old fashioned pet door. That’s because they’re engineered, not just designed as a basic hole for your dog to walk through.
An electronic door not only has the electronic components, but it also has security has a top priority – everything from the advanced materials used that need to be able to withstand intruders (the best products are made with bulletproof material), to how the door operates smartly: by only activating for the animal that you want it to.
This technology comes at a cost, but once you’ve installed and used a smart dog door, you’d be unlikely to ever want to go back to a regular old doggy door.
There are two main ways that these doors can function: when activated, some doors will simply unlock and require your dog to push through the door to open it.
More advanced designs however are fully automatic and have the door open on its own when they are activated.
Dogs who have never used a pet door before will clearly find it easier to figure out what they’re meant to do if the door does open automatically.
But if you’re on a lower budget, or just prefer a door that simply unlocks through electronic activation, with regular training there’s no reason why your dog won’t figure out how to use it.
Then there’s the method of identifying your dog, who is the only one who can activate your door (most products will make it possible to have multiple pets using it). This is done via one of two methods:
- With an ultrasonic or radio signal collar or tag that you either purchase separately or is supplied with the door
- By using the data in your dog’s microchip as identification
How Do They Work?
Electronic based doors for dogs and cats are like the old style pet doors on steroids. There’s nothing wrong with a simple dog door, but “smart doors” take things to another level.
This is the basic idea of how they work, but keep in mind each brand and model may have its own more specific method and modes of operation and this will all be detailed in the reviews of the best electronic dog doors further along in this guide.
1. Your dog wears a transmitter collar which is what activates the sensors on the door when your dog approaches it.
2. As the dog approaches the door from front on, it identifies your dog via the electronic tag or microchip (depending on the particular door)
3. The door opens for your dog to enter or exit – however, some models will require your dog to push the door, with the electronic mechanism restricted solely to locking and unlocking the door
4. The door closes once your dog has passed through – automatic doors will close on their own, while others will manually close then automatically lock once your dog has pushed through
Installation of Electronic Dog Doors
Most doors can be installed in either the wall, a door, or even in glass windows.
Door installations are considered the most simple, as pet doors are generally made to fit the width of a standard door.
A wall installation on the other hand will require a little more work, and you’ll usually need to add an additional item to make up the width of the wall – this is often called a wall tunnel
If you want to install your doggy door into glass, this will require the expertise of a glazier – so these added costs should be kept in mind when you’re deciding where you’ll be putting your electronic dog door.
Of course, it will need to be somewhere that’s convenient for your dog to use – if it’s placed in a spot that she doesn’t associate with entering and exiting the house then she’ll need to be trained to learn not only how to go through the door – but also how to find it.
Benefits of Electronic vs Normal Pet Doors
- Electronic can only be used by your pet. Stray animals or wildlife can not get in – only animals wearing the activation collar.
- If you have multiple pets and only want to allow specific ones to go outdoors, you can avoid having the others venture out by not giving them a collar – the door only activates by an animal wearing the collar.
What To Look For
When looking at these doors you’ll come up against a lot of specifications and features. Having a basic idea of what features are important to you will help narrow down your decision.
Size: this is obvious. but you’ll want to be 100% sure your dog(s) will comfortably fit through the door before you go and install it!
Method of operation: Is it fully automatic – opens and closes without your dog touching it – or does your dog have to push through the door after it has unlocked itself? Not all dogs are comfortable or trained to do this, and some will only use a doggy door that opens on its own. This is one of the most important points to consider when selecting a dog door. Yes, the fully automated electronic pet doors will generally cost more but for good reason: they are totally hands off (or in your dog’s case – head and tail off!)
Security: How tough is the door? How does it open and close? Can a human intruder easily gain access through the door?
Installation: How easy or hard will this door be to install? What’s involved?
Remember you are physically cutting a hole in your door, wall or glass sliding door so you want (need) to get this right.
It will take some skill with power tools to cut the required hole to size. If you’re not confident using such tools it is well worth hiring a handy person or other experienced DIY person to do the install for you: this is something you’ll want to get right the first time, and thankfully it’s a quick job for someone who is experienced with tools like a jigsaw and has basic carpentry skills.
The type of door or wall you plan to install the dog door in will really determine how long it takes and what’s involved – if you’re putting it in a wall, for example, you might have to deal with insulation and then figure out how to stabilize the framework of the doggy door properly. Installing into a solid wood door, on the other hand, is generally a simpler option and the one that most people choose.
Manufacturers make it as straightforward as they possibly can to get these pet doors installed, and the quality of their provided instructions can be important. So this is an area I wanted to cover in the individual product reviews further along in this guide.
Weatherproof Features – Installing a pet door is literally creating an opening into your home, so not only do you want it to be highly secure, but also resistant to weather – in particular the wind and sort of draft that could make its way through small spaces.
This is where the best quality doors earn their keep – they are made to be completely airtight and sealed, providing no way for outside air to enter your home when the door is closed. Cheaper doors may not be as solidly or as well designed and built, resulting in a non-air tight door that compromises the weatherproofing of your home.
Customizable Settings: e.g. Choosing between in only, out only, out and in, closed, locked. Customizable distance for activation of the door is another feature that some products have.
Power Source: Do the electronics run on mains power, battery only, or mains with battery backup so it still works if the power goes out?
Tag, collar or microchip identification? Some doors will let you choose between a tag that goes on the collar, or using your dog’s microchip for ID.
Most electronic pet doors make use of a specially coded tag, while more expensive doors offer the microchip option. When using a tag-based door system, check if the tag and/or collar comes with the door or if it can be purchased separately – if you have multiple dogs wanting to use the door they’ll all need their own individual electronic identification tag.
Size of the whole unit: when comparing different doors you might pay close attention to the actual opening size that your dog will walk through. But it’s also important to look at the size of the entire product, and to measure this up against your door or wall where you intend to install it.
Sensitivity: You don’t want the door opening if your dog decides to take a nap next to it, or if he’s just randomly walking past without any intention to go outside or come inside.
So how can this be avoided? Quality electronic smart dog doors will have inbuilt directional sensing, connected with the collar your dog is wearing and this ensure that the door is only activated when your dog is directly approaching it from front on – because this is clearly when he has the intention to walk through it. Otherwise the door would be opening and closing sporadically which is obviously not ideal.
In my detailed reviews and comparison table below I make it easy for you to see which doors have this smart directional feature (hint: most of them do, thankfully!).
Method of opening and closing: Does the door swing out, or does it open vertically?
Most electronic doors open and close like traditional doggie doors, in a swinged hinge fashion. The higher end electronic dog doors however, like the High Tech Pet Power door uses a powered motor to lift the door vertically up into the housing so your dog does not touch the door on their head or rear when entering and exiting.
Which Electronic Dog Door?
There are now quite a few options, and this can make it overwhelming to compare the features and quality of each product.
SureFlap Microchip Pet Door
SureFlap makes the most popular microchip activated doors for pets. They have a cat door, and a larger one that’s also suitable for most sized dogs – simply called the SureFlap Microchip Pet Door. And that’s the product that will be the focus of this review.
Pros and Cons of the SureFlap Microchip Pet Door
|Microchip activation ensures only your pets can use it
||Only suitable for small dogs (and large cats). Opening size 178mm (7″) x 170mm (6.7″)
|Can also use a collar tag with RFID instead of microchip
Who is SureFlap?
Sure Petcare is a UK based pet products company, established in 2007, with a specific focus on making “smart” pet products for use at home – things that make use of technology to make everyday tasks easier and more automated. The range of electronic pet doors is a main focus of the business
SureFlap recently added another product to its advanced pet door range: the SureFlap Microchip Pet Door Connect. This one has all the same benefits of the standard microchip door I’ve covered here, with the addition of being able to use it with the Sure Petcare App.
It does indeed cost quite a bit more than the standard Microchip door, as you also need to purchase an internet hub if you want to link to the app. The app essentially lets you control the door with your smartphone and track the usage of the door – get stats on how often it’s used and even how long your dog is outside for.
It also lets you remotely lock or unlock the door from anywhere and set a curfew on the go. This can be useful if you’re tied up at work later than usual and you want to lock up the dog door to stop your dog heading out into the backyard after dark.
The hub only works with the Connect range of products, and you can add up to 10 of them – ideal for very large houses with multiple pets! For most people, the standard Microchip Pet Door from SureFlap is likely to suffice.
If you have a dog that’s medium or large, this is obviously not going to be the door for you.
There are currently no microchip activated dog doors available for dogs larger than the small breeds, but collar or tag activated electronic doors (featured in this review) will accommodate larger dogs.