Outdoor vs Indoor – Which is Better for your Dog?

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My grandfather and parents with a litter of his pups

My grandfather and parents with a litter of his pups

How we care for our dogs has certainly changed over the last few decades. I remember when I was growing up, my grandfather owned a kennel and he raised collies and boarded dogs. The barn (or the kennel) was a great place, each dog had it’s own indoor/outdoor run of maybe 10X20 for the boarders. His dogs had free run of the barn and the rest of our 50+ acre farm. It wasn’t fenced, there was no such thing as electric fences, so yes, they ran away sometimes. Our boxer, Heidi used to lay in the middle of the road, right at the peak of the hill so she could see cars coming! They roamed freely, did what they wanted all day and then slept where they wanted at night, which was usually outside unless it was winter.
Papa loved his dogs, but I don’t remember them being in the house very much, certainly not the way my dogs are now. Back then, dogs were treated differently, usually they stayed outside, but no one thought of it as abuse or neglect. Nowadays, the idea of a dog being left outside all day and night seems like neglect. But why? Is it because dogs have become such an integral part of our families, it’s no longer acceptable? Is it better for the dogs or are we coddling them? Is this more of a USA phenomena or worldwide?
There are certainly farm and working dogs who’s life is spent outside, guarding their owner’s property or livestock. But those working dogs are few and far between. Most dogs are pets and members of the family, of the pack. It’s important to remember that dogs are pack animals, they are very social and thrive on interaction with humans and other dogs. Isolation in the backyard with little or no interaction leads to boredom and anxiety.
Papa’s dogs were with him all day long. They followed him around tending to the farm and to the other animals. They were collies, and although we didn’t have any sheep for them to herd, they got plenty of mental stimulation and exercise by being farmhands. They probably spent more time with my grandfather each day then apart from him.
There are many reasons a dog might be kept outside. It might be that the dog sheds too much or hasn’t been potty trained properly or has behavioral problems. But these are not the dog’s fault, they are the human’s fault. Lack of care and training is no reason to punish the dog by banishing them from the home and their pack. That is likely to make the problem worse.
mans best friend
A dog kept outdoors with little or no interaction with their pack is bound to develop problems, excessive barking, digging and even aggression. In addition, a dog kept tethered or even loose in a fenced yard is susceptible to other problems including:

  • Theft or escape
  • Injury from chain or rope
  • Posioning
  • Teasing or taunting from local youths
  • Sunburn, heatstroke, fly strike

Another argument made for keeping dogs outside is “they need the fresh air”. Yes, of course they do, just as humans do, but regular exercise in the yard or neighborhood is sufficient, 24/7 is no more necessary for a dog than it is for a child.
We get concerned when we notice a dog left outside for significant lengths of time. We’ve had issues with neighbors who leave their dog out, go to work and don’t realize the dog just barks all.day.long. Time’s have changed and people are outside less each day, they are inside, glued to their screens, so their interaction with an outdoor dog is almost non-existent. That’s no life for a social animal like dogs.
What do you think? I found this interesting post just the other day that takes a look at this same issue: Experts discuss whether leaving Fido outdoors is natural or neglectful.

Additional Readings:
Why “Outdoor Dogs” Are Miserable
Backyard Dog, Outdoor Dog: Facts, Guidance, Solutions
Can I Leave My Dog Outside All of The Time?

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  1. I think like you said, it’s a very context dependent situation. But for us city dwellers, there’s really no such thing as an outdoor dog.

  2. Farm dogs may be the happiest dogs of all. They have jobs, variety and freedom. Dogs that are just outside and neglected are miserable because they have no pack they can count on.
    jan recently posted…Life is goodMy Profile

  3. It depends…but no dog should ever be left outside chained up and/or neglected in the yard. I let Blueberry choose via the dog door whether or not she wants to be inside or out. Animals we choose to have are living, breathing beings that need interaction and need to be a part of the family.
    Blueberry’s human recently posted…Music MondayMy Profile

  4. It makes me so sad when I see dogs chained up as I walk the dogs around my neighborhood. I guess everyone has their own set of circumstances, it’s just not something I would ever do.
    Golden Daily Scoop recently posted…Even Goldens Have a Dark SideMy Profile

  5. My family is an outdoor dog family. My grandparents have always had a dog or two, they live on 40 acres. The dogs spend all day with my grandpa outside and keep him company as he works around the property or in his shop. In the evenings they sleep in his workshop in super cozy dog beds with fluffy straw that he rotates and keeps clean, they are pest free he checks them constantly for ticks treats them for fleas etc.. in the winter when it gets cold he keeps his shop nice and cozy with a wood stove all winter and they seem to love it. The main field which runs around the house is all fenced in so the dogs have quite a bit of room to roam and they’ve never left the property, they aren’t chained, etc..
    I’m not personally a fan of the dogs living outside I like to keep mine indoors obviously, but what my family does I wouldn’t call abusive or even mistreatment, it’s just different. The dogs get tons of attention and have jobs.
    I’ve tried talking them into bringing the dogs in the house but the closest they have ever gotten is the garage. 🙂 I’ll keep working on them though!
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Unleash the Hound!!My Profile

    • Sounds like my grandfather – the dogs were definitely part of a social community and got lots of mental and physical exercise each day.
      mkob recently posted…Health Risks of an Overweight DogMy Profile

  6. It always hurts my heart when I see a dog chained up way in the back of a house and the people talking/playing up front. They are not being part of that family and I can only imagine their hurt. It’s not necessarily about being outside, like you said your dads dogs were with him all the time but when people only have a dog to have a dog it’s sad. My thinking is they want and need to be part of the family and have that love and attention.
    Julie recently posted…What is Cocoa thinkingMy Profile

  7. Cookie says, why not both? She loves spending as much time outside as possible and she also loves having a warm, dry house.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Can Peanut Butter Kill Your Dog?My Profile

  8. There is nothing right or wrong here, if the dog is kept in a perfectly hygiene and humane inside/outside wont matter. A right mix is very important, what you can do is, the dog should have access to your home at-least when you are at home and once a while sleep around you. 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 so provide a secure, high fence or an enclosed chain link dog run, with a top for those fence jumpers or climbers. A lot of dog owners ignore Shoes for Dogs Shoes for dogs are essential for the health and well being of your pet, as well as protect their paws when outside. Dogs are sensitive creature treat them well and the amount of love they will shower is unbelievable.

  9. Your Papa’s dogs were never alone. They had him during the day and each other at night. It sounds like they had a great life. They always had access to shelter and were not chained. Nothing wrong with working dogs living a different lifestyle than my (spoiled) suburban dogs, who are first and foremost my family members. I go outside with my dogs for elimination, recreation, training, and exercise. They would like to spend more time outside than we do on most days. I know this. But I have to balance things and I do not want them outside unattended for a host of reasons. IMO, chaining dogs and parking them outside is neglectful and shameful. Dogs are not accessories for one’s yard.

  10. A boarding kennel is sounds about right for me to start finding. With the Halloween season coming up some of my friends from New Mexico invited me to one of their parties. Since I live in a place where there hardly is any business I’m thinking about finding a boarding kennel somewhere near the city to place my dog.

  11. I think it is because too many have humanized dogs. There is no reason a working dog and certain other breeds cannot live outside with proper shelter and food and water. Unfortunately few value actual working dogs these days. I know many dogs that live outside, are well socialized, and thrive. They are also worked.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Heading HomeMy Profile

  12. I think farm dogs and working dogs that have a sense of purpose, are bonded to their family members and are well cared for can be fine outdoors, but a neglected dog in a neighborhood that’s been banished to the yard is really sad.
    Elaine recently posted…Haley’s Picks for the Best Treat Dispensing ToysMy Profile

  13. Times sure have changed and for the better! My husband as a kid had a outside chessie (I did also) because that is what our parents did and we thought it was the norm until we got together and got our first chessie when I said our dogs will be in the house with us and he will never put his dog outside again but to go to the bathroom then back in!
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  14. The only chain that should be keeping your dog in your yard is a chain-link fence. making a dog run with a tall fence is a really good way to allow your dog outside, and make sure your dog stays safe and secure. Plus, if the run is made of chain, the dog can still see the front yard, and bark to warn you of a visitor like they can chained up.

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