Adopters‎ > ‎

Why NOT to leave your dog outside

Leave your dog in the yard? Why not? 

Submitted by Ted Terroux, Owner & Trainer, Ted Terroux’s Canine College
We see many customers in our training classes and private instruction that proudly state: “We have a big back yard where we let the dog run free whenever we leave the house!” Some dog owners seem to think that dogs quietly run laps all day when no one’s around. Most dogs will lie around bored while waiting for something exciting to happen, and in some cases, waiting for anything to happen. The largest single contributor to “bad” behaviors that dogs display as they are growing up is the time they spend outdoors unsupervised. Dogs are born with a number of undesirable instincts that can develop into permanent problems when they are left unattended for long period of time in a yard or outdoor dog run. When young, alert, energetic dogs are left for hours by themselves outside, these wild instincts can build up and contribute to a dog’s exhibition of numerous destructive, territorial, predatorial, aggressive, adventurous, escapist or fearful behaviors. Repeated exposure to events that your dog finds stimulating or fearful will establish behavior patterns that preprogram how your dog will react to everything it comes in contact with, even when your dog is in your house, in your car or on a leash with you. A dog door that gives free access to the outdoors when you’re not closely monitoring your dog can yield the same results. Even allowing your dog to have unsupervised access to the windows in your home can have a profoundly negative influence on his behavior.

Some behaviors that can develop include:
  • Digging in the yard or garden or digging out of the yard. 
  • Chewing or scratching on doors, decks, fencing, lawn furniture and vegetation. 
  • Excessive barking or whining from boredom or at activities in the neighborhood. 
  • Dog aggression or fence-fighting with the neighbors’ dogs. 
  • Over-stimulation in chasing cats, birds, squirrels and other wildlife. 
  • Aggression towards, fear of, or over-stimulation by, children, delivery people, house guests or neighbors. 
  • Fireworks or thunder-fear ~ General over-stimulation ~ doorway bolting 
  • Marking ~ Stool-eating ~ Fence jumping ~ Housetraining problems 
  • (Your dog can also develop injury or illness as a result of being left outside.) 

On top of all of this, when you let your dog back in the house after a long period outdoors, he may exhibit uncontrollable excitement, which might lead you to leave your dog outside even more. Contrary to popular belief, dog behavior does not benefit from “running free” in the yard when you’re away from home. A controlled indoor environment away from any windows that might provide visual stimulation is much more beneficial for your dog’s behavior. With a suitable atmosphere, sufficient exercise when you are home, a reasonable schedule and a few weeks of proper training, dogs can adjust to being content and non-destructive inside a small room or even a crate. Monitor your dog when he is outside so that you can coach him as to whether his behavior is bad or good. Socialize and obedience train your dog. Teach your dog boundary manners and watch your dog become calmer, more controllable, less distracted and more content. As an added benefit, spending more time in the house helps pets feel like the house is their home and they’re a part of the family. However, if a dog is going to be spending over 10 hours a day by itself on a regular basis, perhaps more thought should go into the reasons for getting a dog to begin with. If you’re just looking for a watchdog, a security system is much cheaper and easier to care for!