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Should Dogs Live Inside or Outside?

“I am looking for an outside dog!” This is a statement heard over and over again by adoption staff at Animal Welfare Organisations. Is this a new breed or a special breed or yet another misconception on dog’s behaviour by humans?

Dogs are pack animals and as such they not only need but also want to be in a social group. Dogs in the wild do not live outside in isolation; they form a pack, dig an underground den and live with the pack inside this den. (Heaven help them if they try digging their own den in our well manicured gardens) To deprive a dog of their pack is seen by the dog as a punishment. If a member of the pack needs to be disciplined the pack leaders as a punishment chase them out of the den.

Now transfer this to a domestic dog. By making the dog live outside, separated from the family which is his pack, is seen by the dog as a punishment. This can lead to behavioural problems such as excessive barking (calling for the pack), boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviour, or separation anxiety. A dog that lives permanently in the backyard will get to know every square centimetre of that yard and soon become bored. In fact, banishing him from the house for a short while can be used as a good training method, but not as a permanent way to live.

Many people believe that large dogs should live outside while small dogs live inside. (Where does this leave midsize dogs?) This is again a misconception, because small dogs think or behave the same as large dogs. Does a man who is 6ft 4ins think differently to a man who is only 5ft 7ins?

Many people believe that a dog outside is the best protection against burglars. Wrong again! If they are not allowed inside they do not recognise the house as part of their defended territory. Since dogs have no concept of property, they do not guard it, but they will protect packs and territory. But why should a dog protect a pack it is separated from? How many times have you read in the paper, “I don’t understand why we were burgled? My dogs were in the yard and did nothing!” Also a barking dog can be a burglar’s best friend. If a dog living outside barks excessively, the owners inside soon become oblivious to the barking. The constant barking will irritate the neighbours but it can also mask any noise being made by the burglar. Poisoned meat or a knife can easily silence a barking dog! A dogs hearing is vastly superior to that of a human. If allowed to sleep inside, they will hear any noise long before we do. They will start to bark or growl, hence sounding the alarm. The barking is a warning “I am here and if you enter I will protect my pack”. If it is in the middle of the night a barking dog awakes the wners and the alarm is given. No burglar will risk entering a house with a dog barking inside as firstly the alarm has been raised and their presence is known, secondly they do not know how big or vicious that dog is and fear being attacked and possibly badly bitten. If a dog is made to live outside they can be hesitant to protect their owners as the fear of punishment for crossing the threshold can be greater than the instinct to protect the pack leaders!

People often ask “But what about me being at work all day and leaving the dog outside?” This is quite different. The dog believes that the pack leaders are off hunting. This belief is reinforced when the owners return, as that is when they usually feed the dogs. If he is allowed inside the house when the owners return home, he recognises it as part of his territory and will guard it.

Then there are shorthaired dogs like Boxers, Rottweilers or Staffies who, due to non-existing insulation, suffer badly in our cold and wet winters when left outside at night, even with a wooden kennel. One consequence of this would be the early onset of arthritis and rheumatism. To get the best from your dog as a companion and protector he should be treated as a member of the pack and allowed to share the den.