I believe the time has come to put an end to the outside dog.
Once upon a time, ours was a farming culture. We did not have fences, and dogs were working animals. Dog roamed their territory during the day, but stayed around their homes at night to provide an early warning system if any animal or person should approach.
It’s different now. We live on zero lots and in apartment buildings. We can’t let our dogs roam the neighborhood because there are a hundred ways they can cause damage or be hurt. So we keep them at home.
But many people still keep their dogs outside in the back yard. This mindset is a holdover whose time has passed.
People have a variety of reasons for keeping their dogs confined to the back yard. They have allergies. They don’t want dirt and dog hair on the carpet and furniture. They want the dog to provide protection. The dog pees in the house, so they keep it outside.
But let’s take a look at the dog’s needs for a moment. Dogs are pack animals. They need their pack, whether it be humans or other dogs. They’re social animals just like us. Dogs who are made to live in isolation in a yard are miserable. They bark, dig, run away and chew the deck down. Dogs need a social interaction. They need exercise. They need a change of scene, and mental stimulation, which is why walks are so good for them.
Making a dog stay outside is a costly waste, and — in my view — cruel. If you got a dog for protection, then bring the dog inside where it can protect your family and belongings. Dogs kept outside cause far more nuisance complaints from barking and escaping than any deterrent to intrusion. Dogs that annoy the neighbors are vulnerable to teasing, harm, theft and release. Locking a dog in a yard protects an intruder, not you. Most dogs will just run away if a gate is opened. Others are killed through the fence. Dogs who are tied are no threat to anyone who simply keeps out of their reach. They’ll bark, but outdoor dogs bark so much already that everyone ignores them.
Compare that to an indoor dog who barks like crazy or jumps up on the door or window that an intruder is attempting to get through and the effect is much different. A robber can’t hurt your indoor dog until the dog can hurt him. For most thieves, it’s not worth the risk. It’s easier to find a house where the dog is restrained outside or in the back yard, and out of the way. According to Dr. Dennis Fetko, Ph.D., yard dogs usually exhibit aggression, not protection. In this dog’s very small world, everyone who passes by or enters has already violated the territory that dog has marked dozens of times a day for years. That’s not protection, it’s not desirable and it overlooks the social contract. Property owners have an implied social contract with others in the community. Letter carriers, paper boys, delivery people, law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, meter readers and others are allowed near and at times on your property without your permission. Sure, that ten-year-old was not supposed to jump your fence after his ball, kite or Frisbee; but neither you nor your dog are allowed to cause him injury if he does.
If you have allergies to dogs, you need to find another home for the dog, or employ cleaning methods or flooring materials that allow you to live more comfortably with your dog. I’ve known couples who merge households only to discover that one of them is allergic to the other’s dog. But by replacing carpeting with hardwood or tile and replacing fabric sofas with leather, by teaching the dog not to enter certain rooms such as the bedroom, and teaching the dog not to get on the furniture, many of these allergies were reduced.
The truth is, the more you can control a dog’s environment, the more control you have over the dog itself. Indoor problems such as peeing and chewing are easier to solve than outdoor problems. When a dog is alone indoors, you are still an influence because your scent and personal areas are a reminder of you and your training.
If you keep your dog outside because it pees when it comes inside, then you need to learn how to train your dog not to pee and poop inside the house. Millions of homeowners do manage to teach dogs of all ages and breeds to go outside. There are lots of free resources on housebreaking and crate training that will have any dog housebroke in a couple of weeks. Likewise, there are plenty of low-cost ways to keep a dog occupied and busy so she won’t chew your sofa and cabinets to shreds. People who use behavior problems as an excuse for confining a dog in unnatural isolation in the yard are just abdicating their responsibility.
We’ve all heard countless stories about family dogs saving everyone during a fire. How many people would be dead today if those dogs were kept outside?
People who get dogs need companionship, protection and someone to care for. Our dogs need exercise, social interaction and something to do.
Bring your dogs in with the rest of the family, where they belong.
Special thanks to Dennis Fetko, Ph.D. (www.drdog.com)