Screen pet door for a giant breed dog? Is that even possible? Yes! There are only a few options, so I will explain the pros and cons and discuss installation tips. This info is current for the dog doors that we carry as of July 8, 2016.
How Large a Dog Door Do You Need, and Can You Put It Where You Need It?
Let's start with the pet and flap sizes. 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. I had a large border collie mix who was 15" wide from tip of the fur to tip of the fur and about 85 lbs at her heaviest, and she would fly through a 10" wide pet door at full speed. Open a door (sliding doors are easiest if you have one) just wide enough for your widest dog to get through, and that's your minimum flap width.
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 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.
The most important difference between a typical pet door installation in a door or wall and a screen installation is that you can't always decide where to install the pet door in a screen. When installing on a door, if you have a 36" tall dog and a 26" tall door, you simply install it so that the pet door is 10" up off the floor. The dog steps over the 10" at the bottom and it works out great. While there are dog doors that clip right to the screen mesh, and those can be installed anywhere on a section of screen, we don't sell these types of doors for anything bigger than cats or small dogs and we don't recommend them for larger pets. The screen mesh, even with "pet resistant" screen, is not strong enough to support a big dog door, and especially not a giant dog door. Since the clip to the mesh type are the only ones that can be installed anywhere in the screen area, in the cases of swinging and sliding screen doors, we are stuck with that bottom corner placement. Sometimes the available flaps are tall enough and the existing screen frame is high enough off the ground that everything fits fine and there are no problems. Other times, the screen frame is just too low for the off the shelf pet door sizes to work. In that case, we can have a custom size screen door built to order and we can solve the problem that way.
Screened in Porches, Lanais, and Pool Cages
For screened in porches, lanais, and pool cages are a little different, and we have some more options. These structures are usually built with 2" square aluminum framing making rectangular sections which are covered with screen. The screen attaches to the framing with rubber spline, just like you would find on a screen door, so they are compatible with the Hale screen pet door. Unfortunately the lanai framing used at the bottom of the wall is usually only 2" tall, so a pet door installed right down on the bottom will only be 3 1/2" or so off the floor. This is really low for those super tall breeds like Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes, even when you use the Giant size Hale door which has a 27 1/2" tall opening. The solution here is to have a screen company come out and add framing. If they add one horizontal bar set 8" up off the ground, then the flap of a screen pet door will be about 9 1/2" off the floor, so we are back in business. Another option is to have them add a couple more pieces and frame all 4 sides. If you do this then you can use a door mounted pet door, which is even sturdier than the Hale screen model.
Swinging Screen Doors
Swinging screen doors usually have a kick plate at the bottom. Unfortunately, they're usually too short to put even a small pet door in, and yet they are tall enough to make it difficult for most breeds to use a pet door installed in the screen above, but they can work with the giant breeds that we're concerned with in this blog post. If the kick plate is 10" tall for example, the flap might be 11 1/2" off the floor, which could work out nicely for an Irish Wolfhound, Afghan, or a Great Dane. Some doors have taller and some shorter kick plates, so it is a good idea to check it out and see how it fits with your dogs. An easy experiment is to take a piece of cardboard and cut it an inch and a half taller than the kick plate, open the screen door and set it in the doorway and have the dog step over to see how it will work out before you buy. We have had customers who have had a new door built specifically for their dog door installation with a kick plate that was the proper height to make the installation work, or with no kick plate at all. We have not yet found a national distributor of custom swinging screen doors, so you will have to find a company in your area to deal with if you have to go that route. Please drop us a line if you know of a door manufacturer that will do custom work and sell mail order!
Sliding Screen Doors
Sliding screens are the most limited because there is no kick plate height and the screen framing is rarely more than 4" tall, so if you have a very tall dog this would be where you are more likely to have to go with a custom size Hale Screen Door to make it work. Call for pricing for custom sizes.
Dog Door Options for Sliding and Swinging Doors
Hale has sold a dog door for aluminum sliding screen doors for decades. It fits sliding screen doors which are 1/2" thick or less. This doggy door has a channel in the bottom corner that slides over the corner of the screen door frame and then they get screwed together. This is much stronger than the pet doors that clip right to the screen mesh and in larger sizes they come with a Stabilizer Bar, which is a piece that fits horizontally across the screen above the doggie door and attaches a 3rd side of the pet door frame to metal. It may seem risky to use a dog door that isn't fully anchored on all 4 sides with giant breeds, but we've been selling these now for 13 years, and I can tell you they really are strong enough to take years of abuse from dogs hitting them at a run. Very strong and very easy to install.
The advent of vinyl sliding glass doors brought about a redesign in the screen framing as well. Most vinyl sliders have screens which will not fit the previously mentioned Hale door. Swinging doors almost always have thicker frames than sliding screens, so the 1/2" channel on the pet door won't fit over a swinging door. Hale released what they call the "universal screen model" in 2015. This one is kind of complicated to describe, but it uses metal clips which screw to the pet door framing to attach to the screen frame where the spline holds the screen in. Bill Hale has assured me that these will hold up just fine to extended use from very large breeds also, and he tested them with big dogs for years before releasing the universal door to the public.
One thing that might be expected but is NOT included with either version of the Hale screen door is a locking cover. The idea is that if you lock the pet door, the dog is easily big enough to just punch a hole through the screen next to it, so these don't include any cover at all.
I've made a video showing both the original and the universal styles and how they attach to the frame.
Doggie Doors for Lanais, Screened Porches, and Pool Cages
If your screen starts high enough you can use the Hale screen door. Typically though, the framing for these screen structures is only about 2" tall, which means that one of those pet doors will be too short to work with a really tall dog. We can custom order a taller flap (call for pricing) or you can add a horizontal piece of screen framing to attach the pet door higher off the floor.
The other option is to frame all four sides of the pet door opening. Now you have a 2" thick framed opening and can use a door mounted pet door in that space. Advantage to doing it this way is that it will be stronger, and you get an option for a locking cover. Since the Hale screen mounted door really is strong enough already, it's really about the locking cover. Here are the best doors to use in this situation:
The Hale pet door comes in a Giant 15 1/2" wide x 27 1/2" tall size which is a good bet for most of the readers of this blog. It comes in a single and double flap version, you'll want the single since this doesn't need to be weather tight. A single will keep out flies and mosquitoes just fine. If you need a taller or wider flap, we can have Hale build one custom to whatever size you want. This door comes in 4 colors and has a strong locking cover with a pin lock, so that dogs can't lift it out with their nose.
The Carlson door has a dual pane lexan flap, which is overkill for this situation, but it does come in a pretty big extra large size, 15 1/2" x 26". Has a knob which locks the flap in the shut position and a bolt on locking cover which probably isn't very useful in a screen application. Only comes in brushed aluminum.
Like the Hale, this can be had in double or single flap, but there really isn't any reason to do a double. These flaps are the smallest of the 3 options, the Extra Large Endura is 12" wide and 23" tall and mounted higher will fit tall, skinny dogs. Not the best choice for large wider breeds like Rottweilers, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, but can fit the tall skinny breeds. Has a tough locking cover that can't be lifted out, and only comes in white. The nice part about the Endura is the flap. They are extremely durable, holding up to amazing amounts of use and (although they can be chewed).
Alright that's 3 giant breed blog posts in a row. Next time will be something entirely different...