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Dug Up at Dogster: Why I Am Against Tethering a Dog When You’re Not Around

Would you ever tether a dog when you're not around? Executive Editor Melissa L. Kauffman weighs in on why she's against tethering a dog in most situations.

Melissa L. Kauffman  |  Dec 12th 2017


I was visiting my home state of Pennsylvania recently, which was experiencing a bit of a warm spell for this time of year. The temperature was about to change, however, and that sparked conversations from my dog-loving friends about PA’s new law. Act 10 of 2017 places limitations on chaining or tethering a dog outside. You can’t tether a dog if the dog’s basic needs aren’t met. This includes not tethering a dog for longer than 30 minutes when the temperature drops under 32 degrees Fahrenheit or goes over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

I grew up in PA. Having dogs chained in the backyard was common when I was a child. Our own hunting dogs were kept in pens with a run, not kept inside the house. My childhood “best-friend-next-door” Shelby and I talked about those days and how we would never even consider doing that to a dog now. Although she and her husband don’t currently have a dog now, she proudly showed me photos of her new “grandchild,” a Lab mix, who she expected to be pup sitting. Today, my mother’s coddled Yorkshire Terrier Dickens wouldn’t even know what a dog pen looks like.

Reasons Not to Tether a Dog in Most Situations

A dog tethered to a dog house.

A dog tethered to a dog house. Photography by Shutterstock.

There are many reasons why I am personally against tethering a dog in most situations, except where he’s tethered to a table for a short period of time when you are at a restaurant and are right there with him. Here are my reasons:

  1. Liability: A tethered dog, except in the situation above, is a liability. The dog has nowhere to go, so in a fight or flight situation, you are forcing him to fight. When a scary stranger approaches him — whether that’s a 5-year-old girl, adult or other animal, bad things will happen. Your dog is always the loser in that situation. If he wins the “fight, you may have to put him down and you’ve got a lawsuit. If he loses, he may lose his life or you’ve got big vet bills.
  2. Health: When a dog is tethered outside, it’s very difficult to make sure his basic needs are met and he’s not being neglected.
    1. He has to pee and poop in the same area over and over, which is not sanitary.
    2. The dog is outside the house, so it’s easy to forget about him. He’s not getting exercise or checks for health issues on a daily basis. He may not even have fresh food and water daily.
    3. He is exposed to all sorts of weather, especially dangerous extreme temperatures. Giving him a doghouse doesn’t always rectify this situation.
    4. Tethered dogs may damage their necks from all the straining and yanking or an ill-fitting collar. Dog’s throats weren’t meant for constant yanking, or heavy chains or ropes hanging from them. As we have quoted from vets previously, dog necks are no tougher than our own. Also, the collar probably isn’t checked frequently for a proper fit. An ill-fitting collar can cause the dog’s neck to become sore and raw and get infected.
    5. He’s exposed to ticks and fleas and mosquitoes, which carry nasty diseases.
  3. Socialization: Many animal welfare organizations have said over and over that a dog continually tethered outside is not getting properly socialized or trained. Studies support this. Dogs will stop trusting people, and become aggressive and anxious. Dogs are pack animals and isolating them leads to negative behaviors. Chaining your dog does not create protectiveness, just aggressiveness, so having a chained dog outside for protection doesn’t work.

Tethering Dogs is Bad for Humans, Too

What I find so surprising about people who tether their dogs and then walk away is that if they don’t care about the welfare of their dogs, what about the welfare of their pocketbooks? Dogs — and humans — are all nervous about strangers, no matter how socialized we and our dogs are.

You can’t predict how your dog will react to strangers while tethered. You can’t stop strangers from coming into your yard or walking up to a dog tethered outside while you run into a store. Insurance companies certainly are clear-eyed about it. I’m sure they’ll drop you quickly after you put in the claim for your dog biting someone, whether that person was trespassing or not.

While in PA, I spoke to my sister-in-law who works for an insurance company. Her company won’t give home insurance policies to homeowners who have certain large dog breeds because they’ve had experience with those kinds of claims.

I suggested to my sister-in-law, that instead of just banning these breeds, perhaps they should consider allowing homeowner’s insurance policies to large breed dog owners who do the following:

  1. They don’t tether their dogs under any circumstances.
  2. They have a fenced-in yard that presents a complete barrier to anyone or anything from the outside (wooden fence without holes). The gates are padlocked so no one can enter through the backyard.
  3. The dog passes the 10-step Canine Good Citizen test
  4. The dog goes through a refresher-training course every couple of years.

Obviously, I think we should all do this. (I have done 1, 2 and 4. I really need to work on 3.)

Does Your State Have a Law Against Tethering Dogs?

I’m not alone in my concerns about tethering your dog outside instead of allowing him to live inside with you. (IMHO, why else get a dog?) According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website, there are 32 states and DC that have restrictions on tethering (since its last update). I’m sure more cases, such as the rescued sick and emaciated Boston Terrier that prompted PA’s Libre’s Law on tethering, will come to light and states will one day outlaw tethering a dog altogether.

No surprise, but there is an even an organization specifically created to get people to stop long-term tethering their dogs called Unchain Your Dog . I personally hope that with all the information we have now that people become educated and stop tethering their dogs. It’s not good for the dog and not good for the dog parents. There is no win to this situation.

Thumbnail: Photography by Sanit Fuangnakhon / Shutterstock.

Stay tuned for more from Executive Editor Melissa L. Kauffman on Dogster.com’s Dug Up at Dogster column and on social media with #DogUpatDogster. 

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