Should a Dog Live Outside?


Dear Carol, “Do you know whether or not shelters will adopt to owners who want an “outdoor only” pet? I’m trying to get a dog for my boys, but my husband doesn’t want it in the house at all. Help!!”

Dear ‘Help!:’ “No most shelters won’t do that and they shouldn’t. Since dogs are such highly social family members, he or she would be so much happier and healthier in the house where they can interact. It’s also a danger to the dog’s physical and mental well being to keep them outside. I personally would never get a pet if they had to stay outside. Why doesn’t your husband want a dog in the house?? I’d be happy to share info about why dogs need and want to live inside with their loving family.”

The above is an actual message exchange that occurred on my Facebook page last week. The dog mom, rescuer, and advocate in me wanted to scream and say, “Please do not get a dog. Something along the lines of a fish would be more suitable for your family,” but I resisted. Knowledge is power. Besides, “Help’s” query touched a nerve in me. Growing up, our family dog, an innocent 15-pound Dachshund, lived her life outside on a rope and my memories of the entire situation are bleak and grim. She was lonely, empty, and like any living being, craved attention and companionship. In her isolation and solitude, I can’t imagine she received much. She was an outdoor dog, and it was wrong then and now.

Dogs are social beings to their inner core. They are pack animals, meaning they thrive, survive, and must be nurtured with other living beings (and not a second dog, left in isolation with them). Gone are the days of leaving Rover outside to fend for himself because, after all, he’s “just an animal.”girl with puppies

Dogs need human interaction and stimulation. A bored dog is an unhappy dog.  A dog that is left outside to his or her own thoughts is unfair and unhealthy to the dog. Imagine being wrapped up in your own mental isolation because you were born a dog and someone placed you outside.

I developed a 7-point quick quiz. Simply answer true or false to the following:

  • I don’t want a dog in the house because they might dirty up the furniture.
  • Dogs belong outside. I know/knew plenty of people who have a dog outside and they are fine.
  • Dogs like being outside on their own. They came from wolves and wolves live outside.
  • I don’t want my lawn or yard messed up so the dog will only have a certain area outside where he or she will stay often.
  • I don’t want dog hair or the risk of allergies with having a dog in the house.
  • The dog will still be allowed inside sometimes but has to stay outside a lot.
  • A dog carries germs or disease and I don’t want that risk to me or my family.

If you answered TRUE to any of the following, please do not get a dog. Seriously.  Dogs form bonds with their families; they thrive and grow with attention. An idle mind is an unhappy mind, and occasionally tossing a ball or a chew bone to a dog does not a busy mind make.

A dog who is allowed to be outside with supervision, in a dog run, or at something like a dog park: these are different circumstances and ones that are not only encouraged, but in which my dog and I engage. You bond with a dog when you spend time living together and playing together.

Yes, I am a dog lover but first and foremost, I respect life in general. So I pose the question to you, ‘Help,’ would you want to live outside and be treated like a family member when it’s convenient?

Neither does a dog.

You are also teaching your children how to treat animals. I know people who say “my grandma kept her dog outside” or “my uncle used to let his dog roam the streets.” Most often, those children grow up to be adults who think it is okay to keep a dog outside.

pitbullIt is in your best interest not to have a dog. I thought long and hard about what to say to you, but my inner core and nearly 20 years of being in the pet world keeps poking at me and poking at me to respond with fact and passion. I respect that you asked me and I thank you for that, too. If a shelter does allow you to adopt a dog knowing they will be kept outside, that shelter should not be operating. A good shelter or rescue group will not allow this.

Knowledge is power. Unless your husband suddenly sees the light, I’d not bring a dog into the darkness that will envelop him by living a life outside.


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  1. I would’ve asked her: “Do you have outdoor-only kids?” We leave our back door open during the day, so the dogs can come and go as they please–either sunning themselves in the yard or coming inside where it’s cool (or warm/dry in winter). They prefer being inside and will lie down beside me in my office all day, or follow me from room to room if I’m doing chores. It wouldn’t even cross my mind to lock them outside all the time. That would be a sad, lonely life for all of us.

    1. DOGS are our “companions” – can they bond with us being kept outside? NO
      Dogs left outside are not socialized – they bark – how to get your neighbors to
      hate you? Keep a dog outside.
      My two rescues are inside almost 24/7 – when they have to go out in the heat they just can’t wait to get back inside. And they know exactly where I am in the house and
      they CARE.
      Anyone considering a dog to be kept outside – stop and think – WHY do you want a dog in the first place? Hopefully all shelters say “no” to this – I know rescues do.
      I LOVE my DOGS !

  2. i have a dog and would NEVER leave him outside to spend his life. isolation is wrong for any social animal. if you can’t provide for a pet which includes socialization and treating him/her like your family, then don’t get one. it’s not fair to the pet.

  3. I must respectfully disagree on a number of points. Working farm dogs are outside dogs. They do not come in the house. They are trained to defend the flocks and herds, or as herding dogs. They are well-socialized with the farmer or rancher, but the family may not be their primary bond (they are often bonded with the herd or flock). Some are allowed in the house, but most are not. Many are trained to sleep with the herds. Most farms have more than one working dog. Breeds which are suitable for this are bred for this kind of work, and they do it very well. A well-run farm benefits from the presence of a Livestock Guardian dog, and it is the job of that dog to be outside protecting the farm when the owner cannot (for example, at night). I’ve interacted with Livestock Guardian Dogs, and they generally will come for petting and attention, they will sometimes go for walks with people, but usually they will break off at some point and simply go back to work. It is a good life for them, and they are in no way mistreated by being outside all the time.

    1. Interesting, Laura. Having been on a working farm a few times and seeing herding dogs in action, I know many sleep in the barn with the other animals near bales of hay, etc. I am sure they are not mistreated. But for me, personally, dogs are pack animals that thrive best indoors with their pack, even if that indoor area is to protect them from elements, to get attention they deserve, and to have a roof over their heads.

  4. Michele – I agree with you that an animal tied down with a rope or chain is not humane. However, I believe there is a difference between that and having a dog running around in a fenced back yard and playing with his owners. At night he knows he has his place to sleep outside and that place is also kept warm or airy. If someone or something comes around the home, the dog will be there to bark and frighten it away.
    I wish more people would acknowledge that there is a middle ground on how a pet is cared for.

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