As a world escapader and well-pampered dog, I am disheartened to find “backyard” dogs worldwide, even in the most dog-friendly areas. Millions of dogs live miserable lives outside with little or no shelter and care from their humans. If they’re so-called “lucky,” they may have a “dog house” with a dirty blanket and a bowl of water (may or may not be fresh). The harsh reality is that many backyard dogs are tethered, which not only disturbingly creates incredible loneliness but also develops aggressive behavior as a natural response to protecting their territory.
Earlier this year, I accompanied my human to a bakery in the ravishing Dubrovnik, Croatia and was greeted warmly by a 20-something bubbly curly blonde with smiles. As she petted my head, she told us that she loved dogs and had a pit bull back home in Bosnia. My human happily responded that pit bulls are amazing dogs and that I actually grew up with one before my adoption. With excitement, she pulled out her phone to share some photos. Her dog was, indeed, a pit bull – a stunning brown and white beauty with floppy ears and the softest eyes. However, we couldn’t ignore the alarming obvious in the picture – the innocent dog was tethered with a heavy chained leash outside the backyard with nothing but leaves and dirt to lay on. After answering our polite probing questions about her dog’s deplorable living condition, she said that her family decided to “tie her up” because she once snatched a piece of chicken from the hands of her brother. And, no surprise, her dog doesn’t get walks or opportunities to enter the house (primarily because her mom is “scared of even the smallest dog”). Sensing our concern, she assured that there is a small dog house in the backyard for shelter.
Although I was a “garage” dog and not necessarily a “backyard” dog, I can empathize with my furry pals who endure lonely lives outside with little human love. As we all know, dogs are descendants of the wolves who have been domesticated for tens and thousands of years. Over these thousands of years, dogs have formed a deep bond with humans and become loyal companions. In many developed societies, dogs have seemingly come a long way, from being tethered in the cold to being pampered like celebrity babies; nonetheless, millions of dogs are still found suffering outside practically everywhere, even in the most “dog-friendly” cities in the Western world. In addition to finding lonely backyard dogs throughout my escapades, I regretfully know of dogs back in California (even in San Francisco and Los Angeles – major metropolitan areas that are more progressive with animal rights) who are neglected outside so much that they suffer from emotional damage, physical injuries, and even death. As a dog advocate, I am barking out 6 reasons why dogs should always be allowed indoors and simply don’t belong in “backyard”:
#1 We are family
The humans who truly see their dogs as family treat us as equal members of the family. We should NOT be second to any human. A family member should never sleep outside PERIOD (regardless of how pleasant the weather conditions are) while the rest of the family is comfortable, safe, and protected indoors. Dogs offer so much love to their humans and should live safely and happily as integral, irreplaceable members of the family.
#2 We get lonely
Dogs are social beings and crave interaction with both other dogs and humans. Again, dogs have been domesticated for THOUSANDS OF YEARS and evolved to become co-dependent on humans for love, care, and food. Dogs who spend most of their lives outside are extremely lonely and yearn for attention and companionship. Such loneliness inevitably leads to behavioral problems, including aggression towards humans and other animals who step into their territory.
#3 We face danger
Even with a dog house, backyard dogs encounter unpredictable dangers, including but not limited to threats from other dogs, wild animals (I’ve personally encountered coyotes during a walk in the heart of urban Los Angeles), extreme weather conditions, and even burglars. When they’re left outside to fend for themselves, there’s an undeniable risk of being attacked, stolen, abused, or simply lost. Such dangers only escalate when dogs are tethered and unable to flee.
I know of a beautiful maltese (yep, a small dog like me) in Sacramento who was tethered outside the backyard because her human’s husband “doesn’t like dogs.” She was tied up without any attention or care while her human went on a girls weekend getaway to LA. As her human spent the weekend shopping lavishly in Santa Monica and pampering herself at a spa in Beverly Hills, the 8-lb. Maltese was attacked and tragically killed by the neighbor’s two big dogs. Her human returned on Sunday to a broken leash and chewed up bloody parts of the body dispersed on a 1-acre backyard. To ease her guilt, her human demanded that the neighbor put his dogs to sleep, in which he ceded. However, she never took accountability for the fact that her neglect put her innocent dog in a dangerous condition in the first place.
Even if tethered dogs aren’t physically attacked, they may risk choking injuries on their own. My humans and I met a woman in New Orleans who shared a tragic story of how her yorkie “hung himself”; as he was chained outside, he ran off the back porch and subsequently killed himself.
Unfortunately, such appalling events happen all the time. And yet, most go unreported.
*Even though tethering a dog is illegal in many states in the U.S., we can do so much more to prevent such cruelty from happening. AWARENESS IS KEY!
#4 We have to battle insects
In addition to all the imminent dangers described, dogs who are left outdoors are likely to suffer from insect bites. Fleas, ticks, mites, mosquitoes, bees, ants, and flies among other insects pose a health risk to dogs. I know of a friendly and well-behaved Bouvier des Flandres who is kept primarily in a backyard dog house in the Los Angeles area. While he isn’t tethered, he lives a pretty isolated and inactive life outside as his humans acknowledged neglecting him after they started having children. As their humans are now onto their third child, they just “don’t have time” for him. Over the past summer, he was bitten up by flies, causing his nose to suffer from some sort of pigmentation damage. Again, it’s another reason to please keep us safe and protected indoors.
#5 We are the best cuddlers
Humans who sleep with their dogs know that we are the BEST cuddlers around. We will give you body warmth and security like no other sleeping buddy. Even as a small dog, I warm up the sheets as I latch onto my human’s leg throughout the night. Sleeping with your dog not only deepens the bond between the two of you but also brightens your mood every morning as you wake up smiling to a tail-wagging dog. There’s honestly no better way to start your day!
#6 We deserve MORE
As the most loyal companions, we will do anything for our human counterpart; hence, I urge all dog owners to please treat their dogs with love, kindness, and care. We are not “practice babies” for young couples (who tend to neglect us after they start a “real” family) nor are we “toys” or “gifts” for children (who often don’t know to treat us with gentle care and respect, and may get tired of us quickly after realizing how much responsibility is involved). We are living, breathing innocent beings with feelings (and the ability to suffer) who need A LOT of attention, exercise, and playtime. And, yes – we do LOVE the outdoors. We love to sniff, investigate, and socialize (WOOF, I love to mark!), but we shouldn’t be spending the majority of the time outdoors. We deserve better lives so we should only live indoors with humans. Outdoor time should come in the form of walks, exercise, and playtime.
Because we deserve to be more than just “backyard” dogs, please do the right thing and don’t get a dog if any of the following circumstances apply:
- You don’t have “time” to take care of a dog, which includes routine exercise and grooming
- You see dogs as “practice babies”
- You think dogs are replaceable
- You’re worried about dirtying your house
- You believe that dogs should only live outside
- Someone you live with (or close to) doesn’t like dogs
- You don’t see dogs as family
- You don’t believe in teaching your kids to treat dogs with gentle care, kindness, and respect
- You’re on a tight budget
*NOT a comprehensive list
And, as always – please adopt, NEVER shop! 🙂
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Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob
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