Shelter on the Hill, A Humane Society
What compels people get a dog only to keep it isolated outside, away from the family? I have often wondered this as I walk my dogs down streets lined with fences behind which a lonely outdoor dog barks as we go by.
I may not know what he looks like behind that fence but I know what the lives of these dogs are too often like. They are animals born to be part of a social structure, a pack or a family, yet this is denied them. They spend their lives on the outside, looking in. My heart still hurts when I remember how profoundly desperate the one I adopted was to be with us, to belong inside, to be together with us.
And so I have always had difficulty understanding why people want to keep dogs outside. If keeping a beautiful house and yard are of the utmost importance to you, then don't get a dog. If you know someone in your family can't abide a dog in the house, for whatever reason, then don't get a dog. If you can't let a dog be part of your family, then don't get a dog.
You don't get the benefits of companionship from a dog you see so little. You don't even get much in the way of protection from the pet who has no access to the house. And don't count on outdoor dogs as an early warning system. These animals often become such indiscriminate barkers that you couldn't tell from their sound whether the dogs are barking at a prowler or at a toddler riding a tricycle down the street. Besides, people who keep outdoor dogs seem to become quite good at ignoring the noise they make, as any angry neighbor can vouch.
Bored and lonely, these animals develop any number of bad habits. They dig craters in the yard. They bark endlessly day and night. They become chewers of outdoor furniture, sprinkler heads and siding. And sometimes, without the socialization all dogs need, they become aggressive, ready to bite anyone who comes into their territory.
If you're considering getting a puppy or dog with the intent of keeping him exclusively outside, please reconsider -- for the animal's sake as well as your own and your neighbors'. For those who love pets, a pristine home is nothing compared to the pleasures of living with an animal who's really bonded to you.
When you have a dog you can welcome into your home and your heart, you'll reap the benefits of a relationship that's finally being realized to its fullest potential. And that's good news for you both.