I was up working on a Dog Guard Out of Sight Dog Fence in Palm Beach Gardens last week. The homeowner had excavated a rather large Oak tree and, in the process, had broken the perimeter wire. It wasn’t too hard to discover the problem and I had everything up and running within an hour or two. My client had a friend over who also owned dogs. As I was wrapping up, she came outside and asked me a question about her two Collies, Timmie and Ruth. It appeared that they were “outside dogs” and rarely came in the house. She had heard conflicting opinions regarding this from many of her friends and wanted to get my opinion about keeping dogs outside all the time.
(I have to give a disclaimer that we have five dogs and they are all mostly inside dogs. Our older German Shepherd spends a great deal of time outside, but that is mostly on the sofa on the back porch.)
I would like to review the idea of “outside dogs” by looking at multiple factors and how they impact our family and our dogs. First, we live in South Florida; a semi-tropical environment. It is normally rather hot and humid. When it isn’t hot and humid, there are normally thunder storms or high winds. None of these weather conditions are conducive for happy dogs. Since dogs cool off by panting through their mouths, their “cooling system” is not designed for extreme heat. They can easily become overheated if left outside for too long and could easily die. The loud noises from thunderstorms is very frightful for dogs because of their sensitive hearing. This could easily cause harmful trauma, spiked adrenaline, and complete disorientation.
Next, dogs are social animals; just like us. When we leave them outside all the time while we are right there, but inside, it simulates “pack abandonment”. One of the most important thing that all dogs must have to exist is a safe and protected environment. They accomplish this by being part of a strong and social pack. When they are “thrown out” in the back yard, they feel abandoned and unsafe. Many times they will howl and scratch at the doors to try and regain their place in the pack and ultimate safety. If this doesn’t work, they will become destructful in order to refocus their pent up adrenaline. They will start to bark at everything walking past because of their need to take their safety into their own hands.
Finally, they will jump the fence or dig under it to get away. If the current pack isn’t providing them with the safety and socialization they need, their natural instinct is to search out a new pack that can provide these basic essentials.
Safety and socialization between “human and dog” is important for everyone’s safety. When dogs are left outside on their own, their normal interaction with humans is in the form of adrenalized play. Outside dogs will many times only see humans as the animals they can “play and go nuts with”. This can create a potentially dangerous situation when the dogs come into contact with people who just “don’t want to be nuts”. The dogs will become viewed as aggressive and could be dealt with harshly.
So, as you can see, I am not a big fan of “outside-only dogs”. If you want to have your dogs outside a large portion of the day, make sure that you balance the situation so that they can maintain their natural socialization with the rest of the family as well as keeping them safe and secure. Some of my suggestions are:
- Limit their “outside time” to a particular length. I wouldn’t want to keep them outside longer than about eight hours a day.
- Try and break up their outside time by bringing them inside for meals or to simply watch TV with you in the afternoon. If there are times where there is going to be a lot of activity by your back fence (school gets out, neighbor party, trash day, etc.), make sure they are inside. Never have them outside all night long.
- Create a “den” for them outside. This could be a bed on the back porch or a dog house under the big oak tree. Make sure that it is in a cool and shaded location. Always have water for them. Replace the water regularly with fresh, cool water.
- Have a doggie door that they can use when they may feel too hot or there are too many inappropriate distractions outside. I have one client who has a doggie door from the back yard to a room that he can close off from the rest of the house. This provides the best of both worlds. His dogs can be outside or inside and they still aren’t “left to their own devises” in the rest of the house.
- Make sure that the dogs are chipped and have their up-do-date dog tags on at all times. If they do get out of the yard, this will easily identify them and will allow them to be safely returned as quickly as possible.
- Place “Dog in Yard” signs on your back gates so that the gates aren’t inadvertently left open. (If you had installed a Dog Guard Out of Sight Dog Fence, you wouldn’t have this problem!)
- Go outside and play with them from time to time. This helps break up the boredom and provides proper socialization. Work on obedience commands so that they understand that you aren’t simply a playmate.
- Make sure they have toys and treats outside to keep them engaged and inwardly focused. If they “like to dig”, create a “digging pit” for them and focus their actions there.
- Finally, even though they are outside and you are inside, keep an eye on them so that you can always step in, if needed.
Robin and I encourage you to ask us about anything you may need to know about Dog Training or any information you may require about Dog Guard Out of Sight Fences. Please go to The Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers in Palm Beach Gardens and South Florida. Please read our South Florida Dog Training Blog on our Home Dog Training of South Florida Web Location.