Growing up many of us had backyard dogs. Although the dogs slept outdoors, their days were spent in our company while gardening, hanging laundry, camping and playing with the children. However, times have changed. We spend much less time doing outdoor activities than we once did. Now it is common for both parents to work outside of the home. Children play video games and surf the internet rather than run for hours outside. The result is thousands of dogs that simply aren’t getting the "people time" they need.



Pack Animals

Like wolves, dogs are social animals. From birth, dogs are part of a pack and are never left alone. When you adopt a dog, you and your family members become their new "pack" and separation from this pack is viewed by them as the worst form of punishment. Regular interaction with people is one of their basic needs just like food and water. When those needs aren’t met, it can have a negative psychological effect on that animal. Dogs forced to live outside often develop behavior problems due to stress and boredom.


Dogs need mental stimulation. While barking, digging and chewing are normal dog behaviors to a small degree, the boredom an outdoor dog experiences often makes these behaviors more extreme. In the absence of stimulation, they will create their own games. This can include destroying your garden with excessive digging, constant barking throughout the day and night or aggressively chasing away anyone or thing that wanders too close to your fence. While these are acceptable games for your dog, they are seldom acceptable to you.


Dogs that live outdoors on a farm get their mental stimulation and exercise in a variety of ways. They have wildlife to chase, scents to track and other animals to herd/protect. The average dog today has little of these things to stimulate him. They spend their time in a small, confined yard. Everything exciting is happening on the other side of the fence. It is a myth that dogs with yards get exercise. Outdoor dogs spend the majority of their time at the backdoor waiting for the owners to pay attention to them. No matter where a dog spends it’s time, a happy dog is one that gets daily exercise whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or a fun game of fetch.


Some people get dogs for protection. A dog that spends time indoors with his family bonds with them and is more likely to be protective. If your dog is never allowed to come indoors, it may not know the difference between a burglar and Aunt Susana who drops by to say hello. Also, outdoor dogs tend to bark excessively whether someone is in their backyard or not. Like a car alarm, your dog barking isn’t going to alert anyone that something is wrong because you and your neighbors have learned to ignore it. Once the burglar is inside your home, there is nothing your outdoor dog can do about it, nor does he really want to. Dogs are protective of the areas they are kept in. As long as they aren’t stealing his lawn furniture, pool or grass, he’s fine with what happens inside your house. However, if the dog is allowed to spend time in the house, your things become his things. He will not tolerate a stranger coming inside and stealing your stuff. Installing a dog door is a simple way to allow your dog to spend his time where he chooses. 


Although California has a mild climate, we still experience our share of inclement weather. The average dog feels the heat and cold as we do, but some breeds are even more susceptible to climate change. Small dogs and short-coated breeds such as Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls don’t tolerate cold weather very well even with an insulated shelter. Dogs with thick coats such as Akitas, Huskies, Malamutes and Chows as well as short-nosed breeds such as pugs and bulldogs can easily overheat even in mild temperatures. It is imperative that they have shade and cold, fresh water in the summer if they are going to be outdoors for even a short length of time. Some people feel that the garage provides adequate shelter. A garage becomes very hot during the summer and extremely cold during the winter. Pets can suffer and die from both heat exhaustion and exposure to the cold after being left in the garage. Garages often harbor other dangers as well. Sharp tools and poisonous chemicals are stored in the garage. A bored dog looking to fill his time may get injured investigating these things. Your dog could get loose when you open the garage door or you might accidentally run over him while parking your car.


You should never chain a dog in your backyard. It is against the law in the state of California to tether a dog for more than 3 hours in a 24 hour period. If you do so, you could end up with a hefty fine. The law also requires you to provide food, water and adequate shelter for your pet at all times. Chaining your dog creates insecurity and severely increases the likelihood of stress and boredom. It can also increase aggression. If the dog can’t retreat from what it perceives to be a threatening situation, it becomes fearful and is more likely to bite to protect itself.

Most dogs do enjoy spending some time outdoors. It is essential that time alone outdoors be balanced with time indoors with their "pack." They are happier, healthier and safer when they are indoor pets. The more time a dog spends outdoors, the less control you have over his behavior. It only takes a little time and training to teach your dog how to behave in the house. Then you will be able to enjoy your new companion and treat him as a member of the family.