Dogs are social animals that crave human companionship. That's why they thrive and behave better when living indoors with their pack -- their human family members. This is substantiated by the experience of rescue volunteers and shelter workers as well as trainers, canine behaviorists, veterinarians and animal welfare associations nationwide.
Perhaps the biggest and most widely held misconception about dogs is the belief that they will be healthy and happy living only in the backyard. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Current studies in dog psychology show that dogs isolated in backyards are highly likely to develop serious behavioral problems that often result in euthanasia for the animal.
What You Should Know
- DOGS ARE PACK ANIMALS THAT THRIVE ON COMPANIONSHIP. Much
like their wolf ancestors, dogs are very social. In fact, dogs are more social
than humans and need to be part of human families. When you own a dog, you
become the dog's pack and he wants to be with his pack. Forcing a dog to live
outside with little or no human companionship is one of the most psychological
damaging things a pet owner can do to a dog.
- DOGS ARE ALSO DEN ANIMALS, meaning they like to have a safe,
quiet, and secure place to sleep, rest, and hang out, such as your house.
Your dog has a wonderful ability to learn and therefore to be housetrained.
A dog who resides more in your house than in the yard is a much happier, content
animal, because of the security of a den and your companionship.
- BACKYARD DOGS HAVE MORE BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS. Since all your
dog's instincts are telling him it is not good to be left alone or isolated
from his pack, your dog can become very stressed or anxious. A dog exhibits
stress by digging, barking, howling or whining, chewing, escaping, and exhibiting
hyperactivity. These problems can become so troublesome that your neighbors
may complain about the barking, howling, property destruction, or your dog
- BACKYARD DOGS ARE HARDER TO TRAIN. Considering a backyard
dog does not develop a strong bond toward your family, he is harder to train
than a dog allowed to be in the house with your family. This also makes him
less responsive to commands.
- BACKYARD DOGS MAKE LOUSY GUARD DOGS. As a dog becomes naturally
protective of where he lives (his territory or turf), he will only defend
the place he lives in. If he is never allowed in the house, then the house
will not become a place to protect. Most people keep their valuables inside
their houses, so why wouldn't you want your dog to protect the inside of your
house? Unless allowed to live inside, your dog will not develop that sense
of territory. He will not sound the alarm when someone tries to invade your
house. It is not uncommon to hear stories of families being robbed while their
backyard dog snoozed through the whole episode.
- BACKYARD DOGS HAVE HIGHER RATES OF EUTHANASIA. Backyard
dogs are more often given up than house dogs because they were never looked
upon as family by their human pack. Sadly, that means they are easier to dispose
of. Backyard dogs do not have the opportunity to become socialized to people
and other dogs, and may become so fearful or even vicious that they may have
to be euthanized.
What Can You Do
- KEEP YOUR DOG WITH YOU! At a minimum, your dog should have
access to your living space whenever you are home, including sleeping inside
your house at night. You do not have to spend every waking moment actively
playing and talking to your dog; just the fact that your dog can lay quietly
at your feet while you watch TV, work at your computer or sleep, is very important
to his mental well-being.
- NEVER TIE OR CHAIN YOUR DOG UP OUTSIDE. Dogs that are tied
up or chained outside suffer extreme frustration, which can result in hyperactivity
and/or aggression against you, your family or friends. Dogs that are tied
up cannot escape from other animals or people who mean to do them harm. They
can also easily become entangled and do bodily harm to themselves. It has
been a sad tale to hear of a dog tied outside because he was a fence jumper,
only to hang himself while trying to do so! If you must keep your dog outside,
provide a secure, high fence or an enclosed chain link dog run, with a top
for those fence jumpers or climbers. Panels of chain link (that can be easily
bolted together to provide a dog run) can be found at reasonable prices at
your larger home supply stores, such as Home Depot. Provide a top with shade,
a doghouse for rainy weather, items to chew on, and plenty of fresh water.
A dog should always be exercised before being left for the day in an enclosed
area, such as a dog run or even your backyard.
- THINK ABOUT HOW MUCH TIME YOU'LL DEVOTE TO YOUR DOG. People
who keep their dogs outside constantly rationalize it. They insist that they
do spend time with their dogs, they do feed them, and they do walk them. Spending
an hour a day with your dog is not enough for his mental welfare. Be realistic!
What about when it is rainy, windy, cold, or just plain too hot? Are you still
spending that hour daily with your dog no matter what? Making the backyard
your dog's only home does not make him a real part of the family.
- DO YOU FIT THE STATISTICS? Our lives have changed. It used
to be that most people did spend a lot of time in the yard; playing, working,
gardening, and socializing. Now with the age of computers, televisions, and
hectic schedules, we actually spend about 75% less time outdoors in our yards,
and therefore less time with our devoted friend, the dog.
- TRAIN YOUR DOG! If your dog is untrained, take him to training
class so you can develop better communication skills and teach him how to
act appropriately in the house. If you have a young puppy, get him into a
puppy training and socialization class as soon as he turns 12 weeks old. Don't
wait until he is six months old and has already acquired a taste for tipping
over the garbage can or chewing on your rug. If you acquire an older dog,
training him as soon as possible will help him adjust to his new household
and your family (his new pack).
- GIVE YOUR DOG A CHANCE TO BE YOUR BEST FRIEND! Don't kick
him out because you think he is untrainable, unruly, or because it is good
for him to be outside. Instead, take the time to make him a part of your family,
a part of your pack.