Buying a pet door for a sliding door that fits a giant breed of dog can be a tricky business. There are many issues to overcome, such as finding a door big enough, security, the physical size of the door itself can prevent people from using the door, etc. I'm going to show options, pros and cons, and other relevant info for the doggy doors and other products that we carry as of July 5, 2016.
Picking the Right Size Dog Door Flap for Your Giant Breed Dog
Let's start with the pet and flap sizes. When measuring a dog for height, you want to measure from the floor to the tallest part of their back, which is usually where the back and neck meet, right above the front shoulder. The breed standard for Great Danes says max height of 32", but we have heard from enough owners who say their dogs are 36 to 38 inches tall that we know that the standard is no longer followed very strictly. Same story holds true for other giant breeds like Irish Wolfhounds, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, etc. Seems like owners and breeders are on a mission to make the largest dogs ever bigger and taller. What you won't find is a flap that is 3 feet tall. So what to do? The way to make a 37" tall dog fit through a 27" tall flap is to lift it up 10" off the floor. A dog this large shouldn't have too much trouble lifting their feet over the 10" threshold height (called a rise in the pet door biz) and stepping through. The pet door doesn't need to be as tall as the dog's head, because they always bend their heads down to pick the flap up with their noses. What we're really trying to do is fit the dog's torso through the hole. Feet come up, head goes down, and fitting the torso is the important part.
When checking the necessary flap width, do not measure across the dog with a tape measure. This will inevitably lead you to buy a bigger door than you need. Open your slider just wide enough for your widest dog to get through, and that's your minimum flap width. I had a border collie mix who was 15" wide from tip of the fur to tip of the fur and she would fly through a 10" wide pet door at full speed.
These flaps are large enough that a pretty large man could easily fit through. A burglar would have to figure that behind a huge dog door is a huge dog, but if your dog is a sweetheart and can't be relied on for security, then any of these dog doors will pose a risk. All of them come with locking covers which you can use to close off and secure the pet door, some are better than others and I point that out for each case.
On to pet doors. With respect to sliding glass doors, we carry 3 different options for sliding glass pet door installations.
1. Panel Pet Doors
Panel pet doors are a tall skinny frame with a narrow window in the top and the pet door at the bottom. These take up space in the sliding door and they are fairly easy to install and remove. We have several options for sliding glass doggy doors that will fit giant breeds.
Hale Standard Panel
The largest is the Hale Standard Panel. It comes in a 15.5" wide x 27.5" tall flap dimension and has a rise of either 5 or 10 inches, you specify at the time of order and it is not adjustable after the fact. Thinner dogs like Great Danes can often use the Extra Tall Large size which is 11" wide and has the same 27.5" height and 5 and 10 inch rise options, saving precious room in the sliding doorway. A Giant size will be about 20" wide overall, where an Extra Tall Large is about 16" and those 4" can be very important, especially in a narrow slider. The Hale has double pane glass on top, double flaps on the bottom, and is a semi-permanent installation, meaning you cut the top to fit and then screw the pet door to the door frame. Your existing door lock won't function, but you can lock the sliding glass door to the pet door using the provided lock which installs higher than a normal door lock. These doors are expensive and take about 3 weeks to ship, but if you need the biggest, this is it. The Hale has a good locking cover with a little deadbolt on it so that it can't be slid out from the outside.
Thermo Panel 3e and Quick Panel 3
If you have a giant breed that is 34" or less, you can use the Thermo Panel 3e or Quick Panel 3 doors, which are identical, except that the Thermo Panel uses dual pane low e glass and the Quick Panel uses single pane glass. There used to be a pretty big price difference between the two, but it's down to $5 or $10 as of the time of this writing, so Thermo Panels are much more popular at present. These doors are temporary installations, which means they have a spring loaded top and are very easy to put in and take out, but is still relatively secure when locked. Despite this they perform great and should be every bit as weather tight as the Hale door. The Extra Large size has a 12" wide x 23" tall opening, and the rise is adjustable. On the XL size you can set it at 3, 5, 7, 9, or 11 inches off the floor. Most dogs that we're discussing in this article are going to need the 9 or 11 inch setting. With a 23" flap at 9" up, you get 32" to the top of the flap, 11" up gets 34" so it will fit a fairly tall dog. The downside is the width of the flap. We say it fits dogs to about 150 lbs. For Danes it might go larger than that because they're so lanky as compared to a Newfoundland or other thick bodied giant breed, for a really thick breed like a Rottweiler, might be less than 150; use the door test to make sure your pets fit. The Thermo Panel and Quick Panels have sturdy locking covers with spring loaded buttons so that they can't be lifted out from the outside.
Ideal Fast Fit
The Ideal Fast Fit comes in a Super Large size, but it is a bit short for really tall breeds. The flap is 15" x 20" with an 8" rise. 28" to the top of the flap is good for a large Rottweiler or similar sized dog, but the height really isn't sufficient for the Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds and bigger Mastiffs. It is much easier for big dogs to pick up their feet than it is to bend down under a flap that is too low. That move is like doggy limbo. It might work for a while when they're young and limber, but as they get older it may become more and more of a problem. The upside to the Fast Fit is that is about half the price of the Thermo Panel and a quarter of the Hale. The downside is that it isn't very weather tight so if you live in an area where it is really cold or hot, you will save money up front but pay it back to the electrical or gas companies in the long run. The Fast Fit installs just like the Thermo and Quick Panels, very easy to install and remove. The Fast Fit locking cover is the least secure of the panel pet door covers and can be easily removed from the outside.
2. In Glass Pet Doors
Next we have in glass pet doors. Door glass is tempered by law and has been for quite a while, since at least the 70s. Once it is tempered, you cannot cut a piece of glass. Tempering makes glass a lot more impact resistant, but it also makes it shatter when cracked which is why it was mandated in the first place; it prevents glass from breaking into large dangerous shards. For in glass pet door installations on a door, you will need to replace the glass. A new piece of glass can be cut and then tempered, or we can sell you a replacement window that has a T frame in it and there will be one large piece of glass on top, a smaller window on one side of the bottom of the T, and a pet door on the other. Options here are similar to the panels above.
Hale In-Glass Doggy Door
The Hale In-Glass door is a pet door sold for installation in a glass window. We have one to fit single pane 3/16" thick glass, and another for dual pane glass. With the single pane version you get a pet door frame with a 3/16" slot on the top and side, and a 3/16" edge on the other two sides where it plugs into the frame. On the double pane glass model, you get is the pet door, "compensating strips" which attach the female end of the pet door frame to the female end of the door frame, and a buildout. The buildout is a piece of framing that goes between the glass and the pet door frame, to build it out to the thickness of a regular door. We are using a pet door for a regular door in this case, so it was made to fit a normal 1 3/4" thick door. So if your glass is 1" thick, we would provide the door along with a 3/4" buildout so that the pet door would fit correctly. We can avoid the build out by cutting the pet door frame down to fit the glass. I prefer this option because it looks better and it fits a lot more flush against the window itself. The outside frame only sticks out about 3/16", so you can usually open the slider all the way with the pet door installed. With the buildout installed on the inside of the door the situation would be the same, but you are looking at the buildout. If you put the buildout on the outside of the door, it's less noticeable, but adds enough thickness that you probably won't be able to open the door all the way. The downside to having the pet door cut to fit the glass is that it is then considered a custom order and is non-refundable. The installation of this pet door will need to be done by a local glass company, and it is usually fairly expensive. For dual pane glass installations, it is usually north of $1000 for the glass work alone, and then factor in the price of the pet door itself. One problem with these doors for the taller dogs is the rise. You can't choose to put the pet door higher in this case, it goes in a notch in the glass in the bottom corner, so the pet door flap will be roughly 1.5" or 2" above the sliding door frame. This door uses the same secure locking cover as the Hale Panel.
Pet Door Guys
Next up is the Pet Door Guys in glass pet door. They are currently using Endura pet doors in these units, which are the same flaps and good quality locking covers used in the Thermo and Quick Panel doors, although they have done these with other pet doors in the past. These doors use the T frames previously described, so they have a window on top, one to the side of the pet door, and the pet door in the last remaining space. This product does have a rise, unlike the Hale door. The flap will already be about 2.5" above the top of the slider frame, but you can choose a 2 or 4 inch rise above and beyond that. In many cases this is going to be about 9" of rise, so you're back into the heights needed for the taller breeds, if not the tallest examples of the taller breeds. This door takes about 3 weeks, and installation can be DIY or you can hire a local glass company to help. The glass in the door needs to be removed twice. The first time it gets removed just to take measurements. When that is done you place the order, we have the unit built and shipped, and when it gets there you can remove the original glass and install the new one with the pet door already installed into it. It's usually a fairly simple procedure, the same thing a glass company would do if a window were broken by a baseball. Some doors are more obvious than others as to how they come apart, so if you are handy and feeling adventurous, you might want to give it a shot yourself. If you can't figure out how the glass comes out, hire a glass company.
3. Automatic Sliding Door Opener
Autoslide Automatic Sliding Door Opener
The Autoslide solves a lot of the problems with the others. It is an automatic door opener that you attach to the sliding glass door. The motor usually installs on the top of the door frame and there is a long rack gear that screws to the door itself. This is quite literally a rack and pinion gear set just like you find in many automobile steering systems. The motor turns one direction to open the door, then has a delay, then turns the other to shut the door. There are numerous benefits to this: it doesn't take up room like a panel. It doesn't have any rise at all, so if you have a Irish Wolfhound and a short breed like a Dachshund, both can use the same door without issue. The door uses it's original seals, and the Autoslide can be turned off and the door locked if you wish, so no security compromises. You can set the opening wherever you like, so for a wider dog you can have it open as wide as you want, all the way up to fully open, and for a skinny dog you can have it open as little as 7". If people need to use the door it will automatically open all the way with either a tug of the handle or a push of the wireless buttons that come with it. The buttons are peel and stick, so you can attach to the wall inside and outside the door if you wish. There is also an optional remote which is a key fob and it will open the door with the push of a button.
There are three options for the pets to trigger the Autoslide to open. The infrared motion sensor is the most popular; you set the sensors inside and outside at a height that works for your pets and it opens when it senses movement. They have a pressure pad setup where you have a pad inside and out, and when the dog steps on it it will open up. The pressure pads are wireless and can be used within 30 feet of the Autoslide unit, but they are not waterproof so we don't recommend this option if you don't have a weather tight covered patio where they won't get wet. The last option is a collar key setup which uses magnetic collar keys. When the sensors see the key, they open the door. This one works best if you have strays that might be in the yard and don't want the door opening for them if they happen to walk past the IR sensor or step on the mat. Unfortunately the key has to be within about 16" of the sensor, so if you have a long nosed giant breed like a Dane or Wolfhound the key may not get within range even with the dog's nose pressed against the glass.
If you use a standard Autoslide, there is no locking mechanism when the unit is on. As stated before, if you try to open the door, it will actively help you by opening the door all the way. Not the best for security purposes. They do have a new feature called the iLock which locks the motor. This unit functions with their collar key setup, so that when it senses the collar key it unlocks and opens the door. This is the most secure way to use the Autoslide, but again, those long nosed very big breeds may have trouble due to the distance from the key to the sensor.
That's it for now. Next time, wall installations for giant breeds.