Is It Ever Okay for a Dog to Live Outside? (Clue: No!)

I believe there's never a reason for this -- in fact, I think it's horrific. What about you?

Last Updated on May 13, 2015 by Dogster Team

This appeared on my Facebook wall a few months ago:

Dear Carol,

Do you know whether or not shelters will adopt a dog to owners who want an ‘outdoor only’ pet? I’m trying to get a dog for my boys, but my husband doesn’t want it in the house at all. Help!

I am a dog writer and blogger and work in pet product PR and travel, but at my core I am a dog mom and advocate. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end when I read this, but the common-sense reminder pest in me reminded me that education, not retaliation, is the way to go.

This woman took the time to ask me for advice and was not seeking a scolding or judgment. I realized there is a huge contingent of people in this country — wait, in this world — who believe a dog belongs outside. In my many years of writing for and about dogs, I’ve heard reason after reason to justify a dog’s existence outside the safe and warm comforts of a loving home.

In an attempt to help my Facebook friend, who is a well-educated, smart woman, I posed the question to my dog-loving friends from around the world for some feedback to coincide with my response. Now I ask you, Dogster readers, should there ever be a situation when a dog should live outdoors?

In order to keep the dialogue flowing, this is the reply I sent to my Facebook friend:

Dear Help,

No, most shelters won’t do that and they shouldn’t. Since dogs are such highly social family members, he or she would be so much happier and healthier in the house where they can interact. It’s also a danger to the dog’s physical and mental well-being to keep them outside. I personally would never get a pet if they had to stay outside. Why doesn’t your husband want a dog in the house? I’d be happy to share info about why dogs need and want to live inside with their loving family.

This query touched a nerve in me. As a child, our family dog, an innocent 15-pound Dachshund, lived her life outside on a rope and my memories of the entire situation are bleak and grim. She was lonely, empty, and like any dog, craved attention and companionship. In her isolation and solitude, I can’t imagine she received much. She was an outdoor dog. I cry when I think of her. I was wrong then. It is wrong now.

Dogs need human interaction and stimulation. A bored dog is an unhappy dog. Being left outside is unfair and unhealthy to the dog. Imagine being wrapped up in your own mental isolation because you were born a dog and someone placed you outside.

I developed a seven-point quiz. I asked folks to answer “true” or “false” to each of these seven statements.

  • I don’t want a dog in the house because they might dirty up the furniture.
  • Dogs belong outside. I know/knew plenty of people who have a dog outside and they are fine.
  • Dogs like being outside on their own. They came from wolves and wolves live outside.
  • I don’t want my lawn or yard messed up so the dog will only have a certain area outside where he or she will stay often.
  • I don’t want dog hair or the risk of allergies with having a dog in the house.
  • The dog will still be allowed inside sometimes but has to stay outside a lot.
  • A dog carries germs or disease and I don’t want that risk to me or my family.

If you answered “true” to any of the following, please do not get a dog. Humans bond with dogs when we spend time living together and playing together. An isolated mind and a solitary existence for a pack animal is cruel. This is cruel, unfair, and not how dogs are meant to live.

There are some who would say, “But my dog loves the outdoors, he is a cattle dog” or “He was raised to live on a farm.” Would you want to live outside and be treated like a family member when it’s convenient? Neither does a dog. They live by the standards and the methods we create. If all a dog knows is the unsafe, isolated life of outdoors, then a dog will succumb to that world and his potential will die in that world.

I did reply to my Facebook friend and shared much of this with her. I also noted that she would be teaching her children how to treat animals. I know people who say, “My grandma kept her dog outside” or “My uncle used to let his dog roam the streets.” Most often, those children grow up to be adults who think it is okay to keep a dog outside.

I also shared, “It is in your best interest not to have a dog. I thought long and hard about what to say to you, but my inner core and nearly 20 years of being in the pet world keeps poking at me and poking at me to respond with fact and passion. I respect that you asked me and I thank you for that, too. If a shelter does allow you to adopt a dog knowing they will be kept outside, that shelter should not be operating. A good shelter or rescue group will not allow this. Knowledge is power. Unless your husband suddenly sees the light, I’d not bring a dog into the darkness that will envelop him by living a life outside.”

She never got a dog. I recently read she is considering a bird.

So what do you think, Dogster readers? Do you ever think it’s okay for a dog to live outside? How would you have replied? Let me know in the comments!

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