Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Outdoor Dogs, an Oxymoron

by User Not Found | Sep 12, 2013

There is no perfect pet owner and no perfect way to care for a dog because each situation and every dog is different.  It is your responsibility to ensure that you meet their needs and look after them, so when someone asked me about keeping their dog outside, I wanted to look past my personal opinion and make sure I was taking all situations into account.  I could think of about 25 reasons right off the top of my head why keeping your dog outside isn’t a good idea, but I went hunting for some differing opinions.   I found some examples….so let’s discuss. 

My dog likes being outside, he’s unhappy in the house.

Dogs are pack animals.  They are at their best when they are living with a pack, whether human or canine.  When you own a dog, you become part of their pack, physically and socially.  Just ask any of us that own more than one dog.  Outside dogs are more easily given up because they are never really considered part of the family. 

I got my dog for protection and he’s our guard dog.

Backyard dogs make lousy guard dogs.  Golden Retrievers are not the greatest  guard dogs, unless you want someone licked to death.  But other dogs that people get as a means of “protection” become naturally protective of where they live.  Outdoor dogs LIVE outside, so unless you want your yard kept free of intruders and the dog to lie there and ignore anyone that goes in the house, you might want to re-think your game plan.  On the flip side, what if you hurt yourself and the guard dog won’t let EMS in to the yard to help you?  And what about that kid who jumps the fence to get his ball and the dog bites him, guess whose fault that is?  Hint: Yours.

We put our dog outside because he has behavioral problems, for example he’s not housetrained.

Dogs are intelligent and therefore have the ability to learn.  When a dog doesn’t feel like part of your pack or is left outside alone, he/she does not develop a strong bond to your family and consequently makes them less responsive to commands.  Backyard dogs are harder to train.  They also have more behavioral problems.  Because dogs are pack animals, instinct tells them it’s bad to be separated from the pack, or left alone.  This causes stressful, anxious behavior that a dog deals with by digging, barking, howling, chewing, and escaping.  It’s bad for your dog and it’s bad for you because these things can become so troublesome that the neighbors may start to complain…..nobody wants that.

Backyard dogs have a higher rate of euthanasia.  Many of these dogs are left outside and never socialized to people or other dogs.  They are sometimes taunted or teased by neighborhood kids, or even squirrels while outside.  This can cause them to become fearful or aggressive and these serious behavior problems along with those caused by stress (digging, barking, etc) make them high risk for early euthanasia. 

Backyard dogs are at a higher risk of early death because of their living conditions.  They are more likely to be hit by a car, lost, stolen (yes, seriously), poisoned and face illness due to chronic health problems.  As if that’s not enough of a list, we haven’t even talked about the weather yet!  Heatstroke, sunburn, frostbite and other problems caused by hot, cold or wet conditions are a major problem.  One of the most common and probably most preventable is dehydration, either because people forget to check the water bowl or don’t take precautions to make sure it is sturdy and can’t be flipped.  Let’s not forget about tornados, hurricanes and thunder and lightning.  Dogs may exhibit self-mutilation from fear of thunder or even fireworks.  Seen a raccoon or skunk lately?  Wild animals, especially depending on where you live, are a real threat to your dog outside, especially if they are tied to a chain and can’t defend themselves or even run away.  Wounds from both self-mutilation and wild animals don’t heal properly because outdoor dogs tend to have less than desirable hygiene.  It may be several days or weeks before a wound is noticed by a human and attended to appropriately.

Bottom line here is simple and something everyone can understand.  Outdoor dogs are costly.  Health issues, court costs for neighbor complaints and bites, training because while being outside your dog developed bad behavior are just a few expensive examples.  But I’m not here to complain, I’m here to help!  Here’s what you can do if you want to take steps to bring your dog indoors.

  1. Keep your dog with you.  At a minimum, your dog should have access to your living space when you are at home, including sleeping in the house at night.  You don’t have to spend every minute playing and talking to your dog, just laying quietly at your feet while you watch TV, sleep or work is very important to his mental well-being.
  2. Never tie or chain your dog up outside.  In some places, it’s a crime, including our very own Durham, NC.  We’ve already talked about this, but dogs that are tied up cannot escape from other animals or people that mean to do them harm.  They can also get tangled and do bodily harm to themselves.  They should at least have a dog house large enough for them to stand up, sit down and stretch out without touching the sides.  It should be waterproof and up off the ground.  For winter months, there should be a door flap or windbreaker and dry bedding available.
  3. Train your dog.  If your dog is untrained, take him to class so you can socialize him and teach him to act appropriately.  The sooner the better!  Inappropriate behavior can be managed or modified and so can people’s perceptions. 
  4. Exercise!  A tired dog is a good dog and a happy, healthy dog.
  5. Until your dog is Mr. Manners, confine him in a dog-safe room, puppy pen or crate when you can’t supervise.  Make sure there is always access to fresh water.   Avoid leaving food or garbage where your dog can access it.
  6. If someone in the house has allergies, the best thing to do is work with a doctor and do things that reduce your chance of having an allergic reaction.  Vacuuming, keeping the dog off furniture, washing hands after touching the dog are all easy tips.   If you are medically intolerant of the dog, you won’t be able to take care of him in an emergency.

When you leave the house, you don’t leave your smartphone, laptop or kids outside, so don’t leave your dog out either.  Think about the number of times you have seen a dog save his family from a fire or from an intruder.  Dogs are companion animals, but that only happens when the dog has a home, inside with you and your family.

Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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P.O. Box 37156 Raleigh • NC 27627 • Phone: 919-676-7144