Brown lab poking his head out of an unlocked door

Can a Dog Open Doors? Be Prepared!

Just like people, dogs have a variety of talents and skills. Some dogs are great escape artists, and others, not so much. As a result, your dog may or may not be able to figure out how to open a door on his own. This may seem silly, but it is actually important to think about this possibility. A dog who can escape from a room or a house can get into a lot of trouble!

Surprisingly, a lot of dogs, especially highly intelligent, larger breeds with a strong work drive, can figure out how to open doors. Dogs who are good at working through complex problems may be able to figure out how to get out a door especially if highly motivated.

But another critical factor to consider is the door and the door opener. A round door knob is almost impossible for most dogs to turn. Whereas a door handle or lever can more easily be pulled down by a big paw and unlatched. Of course, a door locked with a key will ensure your dog cannot escape.

How to Know if Your Dog Will be able to Open a Door

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If your dog is tall enough to reach a door handle that is the first thing to think about. Secondly, if he is really good at figuring out complex commands such as moving through a maze or walking around agility training courses, he may figure out how to open a door.

White lab retriever service dog opening door for owner in wheelchair
Service dog opening door for his owner in a wheelchair.

This is especially true of breeds used as service dogs such as Labs, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds. See this great article about service dogs at K9ofmine.com for a full list of breeds commonly used as service dogs. Most of these dogs tend to be larger, have a need for a job, can pay attention, and are capable of learning challenging tasks. Of course, having a service dog open a door for a disabled owner is a great task for them to learn. But they usually need training using a cord tied to a lever-type handle they can pull down.

But if you don’t want your dog to open doors, you can find ways to monitor your dog while you are not around by using a security monitor like this Blink Mini Camera from Amazon. It has two-way audio and can work with Alexa. Point it at your front or back door and see if your dog tries to get out.

You can watch the video below of two friends who were surprised by their dog when he opened a door and joined their party. They placed their pooch in the garage and filmed him with a remote camera to see how he did it.

Smart dog figures out how to open the door from the garage to join the party!

How to Secure all of Your Doors

If you discover you have an escape artist on your hands, watch out! Try to anticipate all of the ways he may get out and take a few preventive measures. In most cases, dogs cannot turn a round knob with their paw or mouth. That usually takes some dexterity and a thumb to manage. However, if the knob is the old glass style with ridges, or if it has been outfitted with a rubber cover with short wing extensions, your dog may be able to turn it. Doors that have knobs with long handles or levers pose a higher risk since a dog can jump up and pull them down with his paws.

Outside Doors

Black dog looking out her front door of her new home.
Georgia looks through the latched storm door and child gate on the porch.

Most of my doors have round knobs that I even find hard to turn. So, I don’t worry that my dogs will be able to turn them any better than me. Although I do have a front storm door that has a lever-type handle which they could press down and release with their paws. Fortunately, my dogs, Georgia and Charlotte, do not seem smart enough to figure this out (they are smart in other ways, however.) Even so, I always keep the door locked with the small latch which would be almost impossible for them to turn and open.

And, as an added precaution, I have a child gate on the front porch to guard against them running out the door into the street. They were 6-year-old rescue dogs when I adopted them, and they were very skittish.

The easiest way to ensure that your dog can not open a door and run out of the house is to simply lock your outside doors with a key. Keep in mind that some dogs have learned how to turn the latch on inside locks including deadbolts. This is pretty unusual as these latches are much smaller. They are pretty hard for a dog to turn them with his paw. However, be sure to see this hilarious thread and video on dogforum.com about one person’s experience with a Houdini-type Weimaraner!

For sliding glass doors, just make sure you lock them. The latches on these types of doors are not usually possible to open even by the smartest dog due to their small size and position. However, just to be extra sure, you can also put a long stick on the bottom of the door track to help keep your dog in and burglars out!

Interior Doors, Refrigerator Doors, and Cabinets

You will probably want to make sure that your dogs cannot unlock certain interior doors and cabinets as well. Certain rooms may be forbidden as well as kitchen cabinets contain food, garbage, or cleaning supplies. You never know what a bored puppy or dog may decide to get into!

There are a wide variety of safety locks and latches for cabinets that you can see at Amazon, as well as door locks like this nice-looking rotating bolt lock (see below). I personally hate the interior plastic child locks as they seem like a hassle even though they are less visible. I like simplicity and prefer this new version child safety lock at Amazon. It is nice looking, simple, and easy to use. For refrigerators, I like the EUDEMON 1 Pack Updated Child Proof safety latch. It is nice looking, easy to use, and strong.

If you don’t want to put locks on your interior doors or cabinets, you can also consider crating your dog while you are away. Or, you can also use a child gate to keep him away from certain rooms. However, this may not work for larger dogs who can jump over the gates or may feel too confined in a crate.

Don’t Forget About Garbage Cans!

I have always had kitchen garbage cans with locking lids until I moved into my current home. The only good place for a garbage can is under the sink and there is not enough room for a 13-gallon can that also has a lid. So, I have to always remember to put the can in the bathroom and shut the door when I leave. My dogs could easily open the cabinet under the sink with their paws. So far they haven’t figured that out. Even so, I am cautious.

I worry because one evening, my dog Charlotte grabbed a corn cob as I was scrapping it into the garbage can. She ate part of it before I could pry it out of her mouth. She ended up being ok, but corn cobs can tear up a dog’s stomach and send them to the emergency room for surgery. So, I don’t take any chances and make sure garbage is out of their reach. My preference is a can with a locking lid, but the bathroom works too.

If your dog can open doors, he can probably open garbage cans as well! He will probably be able to easily get into the swing-type lids and maybe even the lids operated by a step pedal. Amazon carries a great stainless steel iSensor 13 Gallon trash can with a pet lock. It has a carbon filter that absorbs odors. I have tried many hands-free kitchen garbage cans and this is my favorite type.

Final Thoughts

When motivated enough, our furry friends go with their instincts to go after food or a little more freedom. So, be prepared and anticipate some of their more mischievous tactics. In addition to these safeguards, try to exercise your favorite pooch each day. With adequate stimulation, he will not be bored and will be less inclined to try to open doors and run off!