I have worked in the pet industry for over 15 years and thought I would put together some info about what I have learned about pet doors after dealing with 1000s of customers and pet door distributors. There is some relevant information here in relation to products designed for the US compared to products that are designed for Australia or New Zealand. Some of this info may be helpful to know because it is not obvious until after you buy! There has also been some big changes in the pet door industry in recent years due to the rapid increase in online merchants. Just have a look at pet beds for example on Ebay and over 17 000 (yes, seventeen thousand) hits come up! Crazy. Most pet shops I deal with are struggling against online sellers but this is our challenge to overcome. We aim to provide high quality face-to-face advice (like all the info I will give you below) and great service to provide value to our customers. Anyway, I hope you find the info useful and that it helps you and your pets. We may even cross paths if you come in to our shop on your search for a pet door!
Aldinga One Stop Pet Shop
Patio Pet Doors – an increasingly popular pet door solution
One of our distributors told me patio pet doors have been sold in the United States for many decades but have only recently become popular in Australia. Part of the reason for this increase I suspect is due to the lifestyle TV programs plugging them every so often because of the whole boom in home DIY renovations. Australians certainly like creating great outdoor entertaining spaces in their homes. We always see a surge in sales in the shop after they have been on TV. The other reason I think they are increasing in popularity is due to a marked decrease in price in the past few years which now makes them an affordable solution.
Pet door inserts – cheaper than replacing your sliding glass door pane
The thing I really like about pet door inserts is that you can show off your new outdoor living area without needing to spend up to $1000 getting a hole cut in your existing sliding glass door. Glaziers have told me the reason it is so expensive is because the entire glass pane needs to be replaced in order to cut a hole in it and fit a pet door directly on to the glass itself. The expense comes from the new glass + labour to cut a hole in the glass + toughening process (glass needs to be sent away to be heat treated to make it ‘safety’ glass for building standard compliance) + the cost of the specialised pet door to fit on to glass + the labour involved to fit and supply it all. It genuinely does sound like a lot of work, hence the price. It is worthwhile noting you can’t use your screen door with this option because the flap needs to swing in and out of the house, so the screen door needs to be left open. So, apart from the largely prohibitive expense, not being able to use your screen door is also a real disadvantage. I could count on one hand the number of customers who were not put off by the price alone…lucky ones!
Temporary Pet Doors solve the abovementioned expensive problem by being a panel that simply inserts in to your sliding door space. Essentially, you just open your patio door, slot it in over the bottom track, extend up the top panel and then close the sliding door against it. A simple and effective pet door solution for much less than half the price.
Patio pet doors – US doors are not really suited to the Australian market
Until a few years ago, most patio pet doors came from United States (US) (multinationals) and they did not make a door specifically for our market. Did you know they don’t have flyscreen doors in the US! So, the US doors (e.g., PetSafe, Pig in Mud) are typically made in Thailand and do not have the possibility of incorporating your screen door. This is a frequent concern raised by people coming through our shop. Most cities in Australia (even Melbourne) still have pretty warm climates that benefit from free cooling via letting fresh air in/out of the home without letting all the mosquitoes and flies in at the same time.
The second customer complaint was typically about colour choice. Historically, US doors were originally only available in white or silver (US don’t seem to do many colours for their sliding doors like we do in Australia). However, about 2 years ago, the distributors stopped selling (ie., importing) white doors for pet shops so you had a choice of either silver… or silver. As one customer said, ‘Silver will stand out like dogs …..!’ if you do not have a silver door frame. The silver finish is not as common in houses here compared to the US. From what I understand, silver is more common in commercial buildings in Australia- look at most shop front windows and they tend to be the silver colour. The insert we sell has a choice of three colours in addition to the Silver option: Primrose, Black or White.
Patio Pet Doors – locking the sliding door in to the pet door
By far the biggest concern raised by customers who enquire about patio pet doors is security. I wish I got paid a dollar for every time I was asked ‘but how does my sliding door lock to the pet door?’. The unfortunate answer for the US inserts was, ‘they don’t lock in to it’. None of the big-brand US inserts can integrate locking mechanisms with your sliding door because the sliding door will not interlock per se with the pet door. This means the door handle lock mechanism won’t work. You can still lock the sliding door against the pet door by using something very sophisticated like a piece of dowel (a cut mop handle works just as well) put in the track behind the sliding door to lock it against the pet door insert. We used to use this dowel method in windows before all the window locks became popular and cheap to buy in the DIY hard ware stores. The dowel method is effective but causes a significant problem for customers who have to access their house via the sliding door- you can’t open the sliding door from the outside with the dowel in place. The same goes for patiobolts. These are little key operated pins that screw on to the top rear of your sliding door. You will need to drill a hole up inside the sliding door frame for the pin to slide up/down in to. This is secure and a tidier option than dowel in the track but it is still not good for renters because you can not drill holes and fit hardware and you still can’t get in to the house from the outside.
Locking the sliding pet door to the sliding glass door
A few Australian manufacturers have cropped up in the past several years and have introduced a way of being able to lock your sliding door to the pet door and also be able to use your screen door at the same time. They refer to it as the “Screen Door Adapter’, which is a bit of a silly name in my view because it is does not capture the importance of offering security/locking. It is pretty common for our customers to say they don’t need the screen door adapter because they don’t have a screen door anymore because the dog or cat ripped it up years before. This is when I wold highlight the silly name and the locking feature offered by the adapter. Most customers would then understand what it does and end up buying it. The exception tended to be renters who were planning on using the pet door in a room that is never seen (e.g., laundry) or used much except on laundry day.
Overall, the Screen Door Adapter option is a great idea and works very well. None of the US pet doors have this option and neither do the cheap doors from some Hard Wares. Fitting the adapter piece does require some handy skills as it needs to be cut with a hack saw before it is fitted to the pet door. Then lock catchers need to be fitted to the adapter. It is pretty straightforward. I have fitted them for customers who are not very handy but any handyman service could fit them.
Sliding Pet Doors – prices are now very affordable
The price of Patio Pet Doors has come down by over 30% in past few years. The US brand doors did not sell well at all due to their high price. I forgot to mention they also shifted to a modular two-piece unit design which was not as strong as a one piece door. For pet shops that still stock the US doors, they tend to remain very expensive (up to $500 for a large flap size insert) and do not have many features. They were not good value in my view compared to the newer Australian designed models so we sold all our Pig In Mud doors off cheap a few years back after we decided to stock the insert made by Modern Pet Doors. I have installed these doors for our customers and they are an excellent door. The quality and service has been great. We also likes the fact they are not only local but an Australian company, which is rare these days in the pet industry.
Pet doors for Solid Timber Doors
Info to help you pick a pet door is coming soon