The Ins and Outs of Pet Doors with Microchip Sensors

By Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

Care & Wellness, Pet Services

Woof! Let me in. Arf! Let me out. Ruff! Let me in again.

Tired of operating a revolving door for your pet?  Take a break from your doorman job by installing an electronic pet door with a microchip sensor.

What is an electronic pet door?

A traditional doggie door is a small covered opening in your home’s door or wall that allows a pet to enter and exit at will. The problem is that these doors may not seal well letting heat, cold, and unwanted guests to enter and exit, too.

"An electronic pet door is more energy efficient and locks to keep out intruders."

An electronic pet door is more energy efficient and locks to keep intruders out. The door automatically unlocks when it specifically identifies your pet allowing him in or out. Some electronic doors are triggered by sensors in the pet’s collar, but others recognize microchips.

When should you use an electronic door?

You should consider an electronic door for pets that need or want to go in and out at will. But since your dog or cat may be outside when you are not home to supervise, you’ll need to make sure he is safe in his own backyard.

Only use an electronic door if your yard is free of hazards and securely enclosed with a fence. Electric fences work well to keep your pet in your yard, but they will not prevent other animals from entering your pet’s personal space. Consider a secure outdoor physical barrier before opting for an electronic door.

What are the advantages of electronic pet doors with microchip sensors?

Getting up repeatedly to let your pet in and out can be tiresome. Sometimes pets need to go when it is not convenient, i.e., while you are fixing dinner, helping your child with homework, or on a conference call for work. And if you have multiple pets, your trips to the back door increase exponentially. An electronic door that identifies all your pets can provide relief from your at-home duties.

When you are not at home, your pet still has the freedom to eliminate or exercise outside. At-will potty breaks for your pet mean no more waiting anxiously for you to get home as she tries bravely to not soil the carpet! Free access to the backyard means less boredom while you are not there to play!

Traditional pet doors open when the flap is physically pushed aside by your pet or the neighbor’s pet, or a wild animal, or a toddler. Anything with the strength to push the door open can go in or out. An electronic door that opens only when triggered by a microchip provides more security for your pet, your family, and your home.

"An electronic door that opens only when triggered by a microchip provides more security for your pet, your family, and your home."

Older or infirm pets may not have the strength to open a regular pet door and appreciate an electronic door that opens automatically by reading a microchip. Plus, an electronic pet door triggered by a pet’s microchip provides more security than those utilizing collar sensors. If your pet loses his collar, he cannot get back in the house which puts him at risk. On the other hand, if the collar falls into the hands of the wrong person, he CAN get into your house which puts you at risk. Doors that work with microchips eliminate the collar issue.

What should you look for in an electronic pet door?

Freedom to go in and out sounds pretty good from your dog’s perspective, but there are some things to consider before you install an electronic pet door.

  • Size. The size of the opening should be compatible with the size of your dog. If you have multiple dogs, use the largest dog as a benchmark. Measure your dog across the shoulders to determine the width of the door. Measure from the ground to the top of his shoulders and add 2 or 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) to determine the height. Your dog will probably crouch down as he walks through the panel so it can be a little shorter than his overall height and still comfortably accommodate him. Most doors come with guidelines to help you choose the correct size.
  • Installation. Next, measure the proposed location of the door and use the manufacturer’s size specifications to ensure a good fit. Many companies include a template that can be taped to your exterior door or wall space to double check before you cut. Some dog doors are easy to install while others are best left to the experienced hands of a contractor. Look over your door’s directions before making that first cut and call for help if you need it! If you live in a rental unit, you can install a temporary pet door without defacing the property. Some are designed as spring-loaded sliding glass inserts with pet-sized openings that fit in an existing door frame.
  • Sensing system. Electronic doors are programmed to identify your pet(s) microchip(s) and open when they are near, but it can be annoying if the door opens every time your pet walks by. Purchase a door with a directional sensor that opens only when the pet walks toward it. If you have multiple pets, make sure you door has the memory capacity to identify several microchips.
  • Access control. Electronic doors primarily work with a microchip sensor, but some can also be operated with a remote control allowing you to open, close, or lock the door. Others are more sophisticated and have programmable settings that you can change remotely. These doors offer several options including continuous access (in and out), no access (locked mode), in only, or out only.  Want your dog to stay in during a thunder storm? Want her to get some fresh air on a pretty day? Want to keep her inside when the landscaping company is at your home? You can control the door with a smart phone app. Just make sure your dog is where you want him before you lock the door! To simplify things, you can program a schedule granting your dog at-will access during certain times of the day and locking the door at others.
  • Noise control. Noisy doors are annoying. Choose one with a liner that dampens the sound. You will especially appreciate a quiet door if you allow your dog to go out early in the morning while you are still asleep.
  • Quality construction. You want your door to last, especially if you carved away a portion of your home to accommodate it so choose one made of quality materials. A stainless steel door will outlast a plastic one. Also, consider the door’s appearance and pick a pleasing style that is not an eyesore. Find a door with an airtight seal (gasket seal) for energy efficiency. You do not want to heat or cool your backyard with a leaky door. Security is a must, so make sure your door has a reliable sensor that will not open the door to uninvited guests. The door should also lock securely at several points to prevent stray animals from pushing it open from the outside even when it is “locked”.
  • Monitoring feature. Some doors have the ability to track your pet’s comings and goings. This can be helpful if your veterinarian needs a record of your pet’s activity. Knowing when your pet goes in and out can also help you schedule when to lock the door if you want to grant him limited access.
  • Energy Source. Most doors run on batteries, replaceable, or rechargeable. Either way, you will need to keep the batteries up to date.

Electronic pet doors with microchip sensors can make your life as a pet owner easier. In fact, these smart devices can be a relief for you and your pet.

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