Dog doors & gates

There are many reasons to prevent a dog from traveling from Point A to Point B within the house. To that end, safety gates that keep dogs from going through an open doorway are a terrific choice.

The most common use is to block off stairways, so dogs don’t fall down steps or go up where they’re not supposed to be. Basements, bedrooms, and nurseries are also often off-limits. They keep dogs safe from tormenting toddlers. And if you’re housetraining your dog, you’ll want to cordon off parts of the house until he’s done with his training.

Gates also calm those dogs who don’t like being stuck alone in a room with the door shut, because they can see through gates and feel like they’re still part of the action.

The best gate is one that suits your needs

Before you invest in a gate, think about what you want it to do. Do you want the gate to be in place permanently, or do you want to move it from room to room as needed? Are you blocking a standard doorway, or half of a large living room? Figure out what you want, and look at all of the options.

What to look for in a gate

  • Mounting. Gates are either hardware-mounted or pressure-mounted. Hardware-mounted gates are permanently attached to the doorway, requiring a drill and hardware for installation. They are sturdier than pressure-mounted gates, and large dogs won’t be able to knock them over. Pressure-mounted gates don’t use any hardware, are easy to install, and can be moved whenever you like. You can even take one along with your dog on visits, say to block off Aunt Sally’s kitchen because Aunt Sally doesn’t allow dogs in her living room.
  • Features. Some walk-through gates have doors that are handy, but not very wide. Some gates block your dog but have tiny doors for your cat. Gates can be made of wood, metal, or plastic, and some are designed with home d├ęcor in mind. A new electronic gate is remote-controlled and opens via a wall-mounted button, like the garage door. Freestanding gates cover fireplaces. New gates designed for children have alarms.
  • Size. Gates vary in height. If you have a large, bouncy dog, like an Irish Setter, she can jump over a short gate without effort. (You may come to regret those agility classes.) A Yorkshire Terrier, on the other hand, is not likely to hop over a 29-inch-high gate.


Remember that a dog can knock over an incorrectly installed gate and get hurt or scared when it falls.

When a gate isn’t the best choice

Sophie is in heat, and Fido is out of his mind with desire and desperately wants a rendezvous. They can’t be in their crates 24/7 for the duration. This is a time when shutting dogs off in separate rooms with closed or locked doors is a better choice than using a gate. Under the influence of hormones, Fido may jump higher than usual or knock over gates, particularly pressure-mounted ones.

Products that complement your gate

Extensions are useful for those gates that are designed for large, open spaces but still aren’t quite wide enough. They may not score high points for style, and House Beautiful probably won’t come knocking for a photo, but you can get a long enough barrier.