Special Dog Door Training for the Timid DogWhether you have an adult dog, or a new puppy, teaching him how to use a Gun Dog House Door (GDHD) will be done the same way.
When you install your dog door, make sure you measure the "rise" of your dog (the measurement from the floor to the lowest part of your dog's chest or stomach). This measurement tells you where to place the "bottom" of your dog door. The bottom of your dog door should be an inch lower than the "rise" of your dog. If you have a puppy you will need to install the dog door one inch from the ground; and you will need to re-install it at higher intervals as your puppy grows. Another option is to take an educated guess as to how tall your dog will eventually be, install the dog door at the appropriate height, and construct a "puppy-ramp" so your puppy can reach the dog door and go through it comfortably.
Once the frame of the GDHD door is installed in a wall or door, leave the GDHD off at first. Have someone stay inside with your dog while you go outside. Call your dog through the "hole" (door frame without the GDHD). When he goes through and comes to you, praise him lavishly and give him a treat. Now have the person inside the house call him through the "hole." When he gets to them, they should praise it and offer a treat as well. Do this at least 3 times and no more than a dozen. After this, your dog will know there is a hole in the wall or the door especially for him.
Leave the GDHD off the cut opening for one full day. Encourage him to use his opening by not letting him use the "real" doors. Instead, you use the real door and say to your dog, "Go to your door!" pointing in the direction of his dog door. You may need the help of someone inside to "help" the dog find his new door. After a half a dozen times, your dog should like this new game! If you have a very young puppy, do not expect them to learn "Go to your door" for many weeks or months; still give them the command in a happy voice, and have someone inside show them where their door is every time. It sometimes helps if you are outside (after going through a real door) and someone else helps your dog or puppy find the doggie door as you call him from outside.
On the second day, install the GDHD. Now, you will need to repeat the same exercise as when you first sent your dog through the "hole." But this time, the person on the same side of the door as the dog will need to "push" the GDHD open for him. Each time the dog goes through the door, push the GDHD less and less for him. It is important that the dog gets used to the feel of the GDHD on the back of his head so once your dog has begun going through the door, let go of the GDHD so he feels it on his head and body as he goes through the door. Eventually the dog will need to push the GDHD by himself and dogs are usually hesitant to do this at first. He will probably put his nose down by the bottom of the GDHD and wait for the GDHD to move (after all, it has up to now). At this point, push the GDHD slightly so that your dog can see it is a movable object, let the GDHD bounce back to the closed position. The best way I can explain it is that you are "poking" GDHD using short, quick pokes. This gives the dog a glimpse of an opening and encourages him to poke the door himself. At this stage, some dogs begin going through the door with ease, others become quite excited, but still haven't figured out that they can push the door open. If your dog will not push the door open by himself yet, remove the GDHD and install a piece of carpet onto the opening. You want the carpet to have a least a 1/4" to 1/2" opening on the sides and bottom. The dog should feel more comfortable pushing the carpet on its own. After 2-3 days, install the GDHD and with our enthusiastic encouragement and praise, your dog should be able to push the GDHD now with no problem.