Originally Published: August 19, 2015 6 a.m.
Most of us consider our dogs as members of the family; they share our homes, our lives and even our beds. However, some dogs are not so lucky - they're not even allowed indoors.
Sadly, the mythos of the "outdoor dog" persists in the minds of too many dog owners. Despite the urgings of the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) to train dogs to live indoors with their families, thousands of dogs live their entire lives in backyards - sometimes on chains. Forcing a dog to live outdoors year-round is unhealthy and unkind, and condemns them to a life of loneliness and frustration.
Dogs are social animals whose wolf cousins live in packs; they hunt, sleep and play together. Dogs don't have packs. They only have us. Depriving dogs of human companionship is cruel.
Of course, many dogs love to be outside and some prefer to be outside much of the time. However, it's important to know when they need to be with the family and when they need shelter. Dogs can overheat quickly in warm weather and can get hypothermia in cold, wet conditions.
No dog breed is able to live outdoors full-time. Dogs are domesticated animals who depend on humans for comfort and safety.
YHS often sees the harm that living outdoors can do to a dog. Outdoor dogs are at greater risk of:
Escaping: which can lead to getting hit by a car, lost in the woods or hurt by people. It's during these times that dogs will bite out of fear and confusion.
Taunting and cruelty from passersby's
Neighbor complaints, threats and visits from animal control
Accidental release by a passerby, meter-reader or service technician - which often results in someone being bitten
Developing barrier aggression, a prelude to biting people or attacking other animals
Illness and chronic health problems from being out in hot, cold or wet weather
Sunburn or heatstroke
Fly-strikes on ears and other body parts, which can lead to open wounds and maggot infestation
Electrocution from digging or chewing on outside wiring
Developing obsessive/compulsive behavior such as tail chasing, fly snapping and self-mutilation
If you keep a dog outside, this is what you can do to correct the situation:
Help your dog learn good behavior and house manners by spending time each day training him; reward him for appropriate behaviors. Remember dogs look to you for cues, so quickly reward positive behaviors and discourage negative ones. For example: many owners unintentionally reward dogs for jumping up by pushing them off. This actually encourages repeated jumping since the dog is just looking for attention.
Enroll in a training class that focuses on praise and positive reinforcement.
Provide exercise each day. A tired dog is a well-behaved
dog; throw a ball, go for walks.
Until the dog learns good house manners, crate him when you're not there to supervise. Provide safe, interactive dog toys and access to water; teach the dog that good things happen in the crate by rewarding him when he displays calm behavior. Never use crate for punishment.
Avoid leaving food, garbage and debris that your dog can access. Clear off counters and put trash and garbage cans in
closets or use tight-fitting lids.
As necessary, apply easy-to-use topical flea control treatments.
If a family member is allergic to animals, consult an allergy specialist and follow practices that reduce allergic reactions, like vacuuming, keeping dogs off furniture, washing hands after touching dog, etc.
When looking to add a furry member to your family, visit YHS, the Pet Adoption Center of choice with the largest selection of adoptable dogs and cats in Yavapai County.
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 928-445-2666, ext. 101.