Chatham Animal Rescue and Education, Inc.

Outside Dogs

Outside Dogs

by Michigan Humane Society

Many potential adopters ask "Is this an 'Outside' dog?" Our answer is, "Not anymore." We attempt to place dogs with people who understand the need of a dog to be a part of the family. Even thousands of years ago when man and all animals lived "outside", there was a cave or den for shelter, and man and dogs lived in small groups or "packs". The truth is, times have changed but we and the dogs haven't. Both humans and dogs are "pack" animals, we do not tend to be solitary. Domesticated, companion dogs no longer have packs of other dogs to live with, so dogs now need to be members of human families or packs. Furthermore, both people and dogs are "den" animals. This is the reason that dogs can be housebroken. Dogs want shelter in a safe, secure den - your home - and they want their den to be clean.

Obviously dogs can be forced to live outside, alone and away from their families. But to force this kind of life on a dog is one of the worst things you can do to him. Such a life goes against a dog's two most basic instincts: the pack and the den. If you have any doubts about these ideas, think of all the whining, barking, clawing dogs you have seen tied up alone outside. Dogs trying desperately to get their human families' attention, and then just giving up to become hyperactive, listless, fearful, or vicious when the stress of enforced solitude becomes too much to cope with.

The rationale given by people who permanently keep their dogs outside is that they will spend time with the pet outside. Even the most well-meaning pet owner does not spend significant time outside, particularly when it is raining or cold. Consequently, under the best of circumstances for the outside dog, a bowl of food and water hastily shoved before him, a quick pat given, and his owner, his WORLD is gone, leaving the animal to spend another 22 or 23 hours alone.

A dog brings you the gifts of steadfast devotion, abiding love, and joyful companionship. Unless you can responsibly accept a dog's offer of these great gifts, please do not get a dog. If you already have a dog, perhaps this article will help you to see things from his point of view, and possibly motivate you to change your relationship with him. A sad, lonely, bewildered dog, kept outside, wondering why he cannot be with his family, brings only sadness and unhappiness to the world.

"The Outside Dog"

by Brandy J. Oliver, MA

Many people ask me:
  • "How do I provide proper care for my outside dog?"
  • "When is it too cold for him to be outside?"
  • "How do I tell if he may have heat stroke in the dead of summer?
  • "How can I stop him from digging up my entire yard?"
  • "He barks non-stop sometimes.... what will make him shut-up?"
  • "He is covered with fleas even though I bathe him often, what am I supposed to do?"
  • "His coat is always dirty and he actually stinks! What can I do about this?"
Going back to the original question, "How do I provide care for my outside dog?" My very sincere answer is: Make him an inside dog, or better yet, an inside/outside dog. Dogs are "pack" animals. They are social by nature. Dogs are social animals. If the rest of the "pack" is outside, they will probably accompany you. If you are inside, they most likely will prefer to be with you inside as well. I have never met an "outside dog" that was living up to the best of his potential. Many are unhappy, neglected, poorly behaved, and downright dirty. If your dog has a clean place to spend his time (inside), he will stay clean.

"I don't want fleas in my house." Your dog doesn't want fleas either. Get rid of the fleas on your dog and in your yard, and this will no longer be a problem. Not to mention that you'll have a happier and healthier dog!

"I want my dog to guard the house and yard at night." If you want your dog to guard you at night, what better place to have him than in your bedroom! If you want your dog to have access to your yard, install a doggie door. I highly recommend doggie doors. Once you've lived with a doggie door, you will never want to do without one. And neither will your dog.

If at all possible, allow him to sleep in your bedroom. To your dog, this is your "den." Dogs and wolves in the wild all sleep together in the den. It bonds them together and lets every one of them know that they belong to the family. If you can't trust your dog not to be disruptive, then have him sleep in a dog crate, or block off an area so that he can see you but still be confined to a safe area. I have found that many obsessive behaviors disappear by themselves when dogs are allowed to sleep in the bedroom and feel like part of the family.

I live in a rural neighborhood where some dogs live on chains twenty-four hours a day. I have seen playful pups turn into aggressive dogs, I have heard (and helped) chained dogs barking because they couldn't reach their shade or water. I've helped dogs that I've heard crying because they've become "hung" on a fence with their chain. On one particular day, my neighbor's dog came over for a visit, but was not his happy usual self when he arrived. He had a worried look on his face; he paced and whined. I walked him home to make sure everything was all right. Upon reaching his house and his owner, his owner and I began a casual conversation. His owner casually mentioned that he just buried their new puppy in the backyard. The puppy had gotten tangled in her nylon tie-out and had strangled to death sometime that morning. Their other new puppy had witnessed the whole thing and, in fact was tangled but not strangled in the ordeal. Ironically, a week later they brought another puppy home and chained her as well.

I've talked with many people who state that their dog is "fine and well-adjusted on his chain." But, just what is their dog well-adjusted to... life on a chain? Dogs that become complacent on chains may be demonstrating what is known as "learned helplessness." Dogs that have realized that they are restricted to the length and entanglement of a chain usually become sedentary and listless while on their chain with intermittent bouts of barking out of frustration and boredom. Thus, these dogs pose little "problem" to their owners because they are "out of the way." Many times these dogs bark when their owners are not even home, so they are not even aware of a barking problem. However, in spite of the owner's claim that their dogs are well-adjusted, usually these same dogs are reported to be uncontrollable in normal family situations. Many of these dogs are too "hyper" to be brought indoors. Those that are brought inside may demonstrate aggression to other animals and even people that they are not familiar with. Others may be unruly and destructive, running circles around the house like the Tasmanian Devil! They may be viewed as "stupid" or "smart but stubborn" by their owners. Dogs that live on chains have a greater chance of becoming aggressive and unruly.

Chained dogs learn nothing except that they hate isolation and hate being restricted while the rest of the world (including other dogs, cats, and all animals and people) may come and go (on their territory) as they please.

Dogs are social animals. They choose to live in "packs" and rarely spend time alone. When dogs are chained, tethered, or tied-out they are essentially isolated from their "pack" (your family). I often wonder why a person chooses to have a dog when the dog lives his life isolated on the end of a chain. I've been told by some people that they want a "watchdog" so they chain their dog outside. What can a dog do to a would-be intruder while restricted to a chain? If you would like a family watchdog, a competent watchdog needs to be in the house (with you) or in a fenced yard. Ideally, a dog will have access to both the home and yard via a doggie door.

The ideal time for a dog to be chained or tethered is when you are at the other end. However, there are times when dogs may be tethered while you are busy but near by. Such situations include a picnic lunch. If your dog is not reliable at the "Down Stay" command, it is necessary to tether his leash to the picnic table so that you can enjoy your lunch without having to constantly stare at your dog and re-command him to "Down." Also, if you like to take your dog with you while you're doing yard work in your unfenced yard, tethering him in the shade nearby where you are working will allow your dog to be outside with you and keep you company at the same time. These tie-outs are short-lived and always under supervision. They can be advantageous to you and your dog because it allows you to take him more places, and it allows your dog the opportunity to accompany you and participate in your activities. This is the proper way to tether or chain your dog.

Do you know of someone who chains their dog outside? Why not give them a copy of this article! Many well-meaning dog owners are not aware of the detrimental effect that chains, tethers, and tie-outs have on dogs.