Are outdoor dogs less than happy? In various neighborhoods, you’ve probably heard the continuous barking of a dog ignored and left in the backyard. Does this dog want out? Do they want food? Could they just want be looking for attention and wanting to be a part of the family? Some dog owners think the best place for their dogs is outside all the time. So is leaving dogs outside for a long time good for them? The answer is it’s not.
Decades ago, it was common for dogs to live their entire lives outside in suburban and urban yards. But as our knowledge of canines has evolved, we’ve learned that leaving dogs outside 24-7 can be hazardous for their health.
Why Leaving Dogs Outside for Extended Periods Is Bad for Them
The reasons for some dog owners leaving dogs outside may vary, but none of them really benefit dogs. Some dog owners leave dogs outside because they shed and owners want to keep the house clean. Some lock dogs out because of destructive behavior or other bad behavior. And yet other dogs are left out in the cold because someone in the household is allergic to them.
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Often, dog owners leaving dogs outside are people that don’t really put enough effort into their pets, sadly. Whether they’re unwilling or unable to train and socialize their dogs or have unrealistic expectations of a dog’s behavior, some people just find leaving dogs outside easier.
What most of these people don’t know is that dogs left outside are less than happy and less behaved. Here’s why leaving dogs outside for a long time is bad.
Endless barking, destructive digging, chewing of furniture, hoses, sprinklers, and shrubs are some possibilities. Some dogs left outside extensively become aggressive or hostile. Canines cooped up in the yard often lack mental stimulation and physical exercise, which can leave dogs looking for ways to fill their time and expel energy. Dogs are natural scavengers and hunters, meaning they are designed to spend much of their waking hours in pursuit of food. They are also bred for specific purposes such as hunting, herding, and companionship. Dogs left outside for extended periods will use the energy they would naturally use for food pursuit or breed-specific tasks in a manner that may not be pleasing to their human companions, such as incessant barking.
Perhaps the biggest danger of all is the weather. Dogs can freeze to death or suffer from heat stoke just like people can, says veterinarian Dean Vicksman of Evans East Animal Hospital in Denver, Colorado.
Any dog will suffer if left outside in extremely low temperatures, but short-haired breeds like Labrador retrievers, Weimaraners, beagles, and greyhounds, as well as young, old, or ill dogs are most susceptible to hypothermia. Signs include shivering, lethargy, and lack of coordination. As the condition progresses, dogs may fall into a coma and die.
Warm climates present different challenges for canines, especially for short-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds like shih tzus, bulldogs, boxers, and pugs. They are more susceptible to heat stroke because of their inability to effectively eliminate excess heat by panting.
As anyone who lives in the humid southeastern states can verify, summers can be unbearably hot. Deaths occur in both people and pets who don’t have access to air conditioning. Also, there are individual sensitivities, so some dogs—regardless of breed—are more affected by the heat and cold than others.
The list of potential dangers is long and varied: poisonous plants, puddles of toxic antifreeze, sharp gardening tools, deadly pesticides, cruel teenagers, thieves, robbers, and revengeful neighbors, just to name a few. Even when confined to a fenced-in yard, dogs still aren’t safe from other wildlife that can still easily enter. Think yellow jackets, venomous snakes, and hungry coyotes.
As a general rule, leaving your dog unattended for brief periods is OK, as long as they are not showing stress, illnesses, or behavioral issues, such as digging under the fence.
Dogs are pack animals, and once they are welcomed into a family, humans become their pack.
Dog parents should choose a dog that’s right for their lifestyle and can fit into their “pack.” If you want your house to be entirely spotless all the time, it’s probably best not to get a breed that sheds heavily. If you don’t have time to train and exercise a big energetic dog, choose a small mellow breed. Most importantly, if you’re not willing to welcome a dog into your family with open arms and open doors, it’s probably best to consider another pet. It’s not fair to the dog, and it’s also not fair for you.
Always remember, the happiest dogs are dogs that are a part of the family.