Buying a pet door for a door or wall that fits a giant breed of dog can be tough. You will need a door big enough to fit your pets, security may be a concern, and some very similarly sized pet doors can a lot easier or more difficult to install. I'm going to show options, pros and cons, and other relevant info for the doggy doors for walls and dog doors for doors that we carry as of July 6, 2016.
How Large a Dog Door Do You Need?
If you already read the last blog post on sliding glass dog doors for giant breeds, this first section about picking the right size pet door will be familiar ground so you may want to skip it and start at the Security section. 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 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. 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.
The flaps on a dog door that fits giant breeds are large enough that a man could easily fit through. I am 6' and 185 lbs, and I can tell you that I would fit easily through any extra large size pet door mentioned in this blog post. We have always maintained that a burglar would have to figure that behind a huge dog door is a huge dog, but if your dog is a lover and not a fighter and can't be relied on for security, then any of these dog doors will pose a risk to home security. 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. Size is a big consideration when it comes to giant dog door covers as well. If we use the example of a Hale Giant door mounted so that the flap is 10" off the floor, that puts the top of the pet door frame nearly 40" up. The locking cover typically slides down, so you actually need about 70" of free space on the wall in order to use the cover! In the pet door biz when dealing with "normal" sized dogs we typically see clearance issues with people installing pet doors under windows; the sill can stick out and prevent the cover from fitting. In the case of a giant doggy door, a shelf that is 6 feet off the ground can just barely clear!
There are several solutions to this issue. The Plexidor pet doors have covers that bolt straight onto the frame. These are without a doubt the most secure covers you can get, although they are a pain to install as they need to be screwed to the pet door frame to attach them. The Hale doors can be ordered with a sideways sliding locking cover, and you can specify whether the cover should slide in on the left or the right. For all others you will just need to make sure there is enough clearance to fit the cover in.
The Watchdog company makes a pet door security cover that will work with a lot of these larger doors. It doesn't work with the very largest Giant Hale, but it fits those just a hair smaller, like the Hale Extra Large Plus. There is a compatibility guide on the Watchdog page which covers most of the doors that we sell. The cover is made from 12 gauge steel and has a combination lock to secure it. Watchdog suggests installing on the outside of the door or wall where just seeing it will be a deterrent to thieves. It is installed using tamper resistant screws and has welded hinges. The swinging door can be removed from the frame, so you can set it aside when you don't need the pet door secured. This thing is very tough, and it's a great choice for snowbirds or people with vacation homes. Once locked, there will be far easier ways into your house than through a Watchdog cover.
Hide the Dog Door?
Another solution to the security issue is to hide the pet door. Sounds impossible with a gigantic dog door, and it is harder, but we have a pretty clever way to do it for wall installations. Get a dog house, cut a hole in the back wall, and back it up to your house wall so that the pets go through the dog door directly into the dog house. It may be that the dog house door is so big that the pet door is seen through it. If that is a problem you can get another pet door and mount it on the front wall of the dog house to obscure the view. This dog house idea also really protects the wall pet door from wind and rain, so it's a good idea from a weather perspective as well.
Most electronic pet doors are not even trying to be secure from intruders. They are meant to keep strays and wild critters out, not burglars. As of this time we are not aware of any electronic pet door large enough for truly giant breed dogs. We do carry the Plexidor Electronic dog door, which has a flap size of 13" wide x 20" tall. It should work for dogs to about 150 lbs and should fit a really big Rottweiler or a Bernese Mountain Dog, a large Akita, or similar, but won't work for the tallest or widest breeds. This door is high quality, expensive, and it is tamper resistant, unlike most (all?) of the others on the market. It uses an RFID collar tag to open the door, but will not work with your dog's implanted RFID chip. Our general recommendation is to avoid electronic dog doors if possible. They are much more complicated and have many more moving parts, so there is more hassle associated with them in the long term. One thing that people are looking for, yet no electronic pet door can do is to keep a cat in while letting the dog out. The door needs to close to lock, and for safety reasons they don't slam shut, so a determined cat will be able to sneak out through any electronic door.
Common Wall Installation Issues
The first step to installing a pet door in a wall is to cut the hole and step one introduces a problem with a lot of these giant size doors; they will not fit between studs which are 16" on center. On a load bearing wall, a necessary part of the installation will be to make a header, which transfers the vertical load from the stud that you cut to the adjacent studs on either side. This is not an uncommon thing in home construction and every window or doorway on a load bearing wall will have a header across the top of the opening, but it does add a little more work to the installation. The one exception to this is the Endura extra large. When they designed this dog door, they made the extra large size as big as it could be while still fitting between two studs at 16" on center. It makes the installation considerably easier, but also limits the size of the flap. Their extra large size is 12" wide and 23" high. As stated above, this door can be installed higher off the floor for taller dogs, but there is no avoiding the flap width limitation. We say it usually fits dogs to 150 lbs. It will fit heavier Great Danes, just due to the way that they are built, but might not fit a thicker built dog like a 150 lb Rottweiler.
On to pet doors. All of these doors come in a door and a wall version, so I'll discuss both versions from each manufacturer at the same time.
As I just mentioned, this dog door fits between studs that are 16" on center, which makes it top out around 150 lbs and probably more for taller skinny breeds like Great Danes. It can be had in single flap or double flap versions. Flaps are very weather tight and extremely durable to everything except chewing. The wall unit fits walls up to 7.5" thick, door versions fit 1 3/4" doors and up to 2" thick on the double flap version. The single flap has the flap on the inside, so in a wall without a lot of roof overhang, there could potentially be issues with rain or snow getting into the tunnel. The locking cover on this door is a good one, with spring loaded locks that prevent it being removed from the outside. This door only comes in white.
This door comes in 11 different sizes, including the Giant which is 15 1/2" wide and 27 1/2" tall, which will fit a 220 lb dog. We can custom order larger sizes if necessary (call 866-377-3667 for pricing) but those situations are few and far between. The flaps are vinyl with magnets around the sides and bottom and weather strips in between to seal flap to frame. Like the Endura, these flaps can be chewed. The flaps typically have a 5 year pro-rated warranty like a car battery, you get 100% replacement the first year, 50% the second, 40% the third, etc, but the downside of the custom oversize is that you lose the flap warranty. They do use a heavier flap material in the oversize doors, but just due to the weight of the flap the longevity will suffer, and most typically get 2-3 years out of the flaps on larger than Giant sizes. Fits walls to 10" deep, and there is an optional 16" deep tunnel for really thick walls. Door version fits 1 3/8" to 1 3/4" doors out of the box. Can be modified to fit thinner doors down to 5/8" free of charge, but if we have it cut down, it will be considered custom and non-returnable. Hale also has the sideways sliding locking covers mentioned previously, which is a really nice feature, and the locking covers have a deadbolt so they are very secure. We can order frame colors independently for the inside and outside, so you can have white inside and bronze exterior or whatever combo you want. Tunnels are carpeted, although giant breed dogs rarely step on it. They usually pick up their feet on the inside and set them down on the outside, avoiding stepping in the tunnel entirely.
Plexidors have springs that close the saloon style rigid flaps. Their extra large size is 16" wide and 23" tall, so it will have to be installed higher off the floor to work. The extra large Plexidor has solid panels where the smaller sizes have hollow insulating panels. Springs are a wear item and need replacing every 3 to 5 years. Wall version fits walls up to 12" deep, door fits up to 1 3/4", but will protrude on thinner doors. Has a keyed lock for day to day use and a bolt on cover which is the best available. As good looking as they come, this one comes in brushed aluminum, white and bronze (dark brown).
The Ruff Weather is an oddball. It has a thick plastic frame which protrudes off of the door or wall about 2 1/2" on each side. The idea here is to get more space between the flaps in a door installation, but it makes the tunnel 5" thicker on a wall installation, which can make it harder to manage. The flaps are vinyl and have magnets across the bottom and weather strips on the sides. The Super Large size is 15" wide x 23" tall, so not as tall as some of the others and will have to be mounted higher for the tallest breeds. For walls you will need the door plus a wall kit, as there is no separate wall version here. Fits walls to 8" thick and doors from 1 1/4" to 1 3/4". This is an inexpensive door, but it is a good performer for the money.
Door glass is tempered by law and has been for quite a while, since at least the 70s. You cannot cut a piece of glass after it is tempered. Tempering makes glass a lot more impact resistant, but it also makes it shatter when broken 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 existing glass. A new piece of glass can be cut and then tempered as in the case of the Hale pet door, 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 for the Pet Door Guys option.
One problem with installing a dog door in a French door is that they have kick plates at the bottom underneath the glass that can be very tall. For the Hale example below, you can take the kick plate and add about 2", and that is roughly where the bottom of the flap will start. For the Pet Door Guys, it will be closer to 3 or 3 1/2". If installed above a 12" kick plate, this can be such a large rise that it becomes difficult for the dogs to lift their rear paws up and over. If you have doubts, we suggest cutting a hole that is the size of the flap in a piece of cardboard, and leave the rise at the bottom. Stick this in a doorway and see how your pets manage it before you order.
The Hale In-Glass door is a pet door sold for installation in a glass window. Flap sizes are the same as the door and wall models, so they have the Giant 15 1/2" wide x 27 1/2" tall size and can do larger custom sizes if needed. We have one version 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 the same dog door that would be sold 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 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. This door uses the same secure locking cover as the regular Hale doggy doors.
Next up is the Pet Door Guys in glass pet door. They are currently using Endura pet doors in these units so flaps and locking covers are the same as the door and wall versions, although these have been put together with other pet doors in the past. Since Endura pet doors max out at the 12" x 23" flap dimension, again we run into the size limitation for the wider breeds. 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. The Pet Door Guys unit does have a rise option, which means you can lift the pet door up above the top of the kick plate. We expect that most customers won't want this on a French door as it will already have a kick plate below the pet door. With no rise the flap will already be about 3" above the top of the slider frame, but you can choose a 2 or 4 inch rise above and beyond that. 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.
Huge dogs and screen dog doors next. Yes, you can!!!