We find them everywhere, in the city, in the suburbs, in rural areas. Dogs living their lives alone in the backyard, behind a fence, or worse, chained to a doghouse. They receive food and water if they are lucky, but little, if any, social contact. Is this a life for a dog?
A life of loneliness, boredom and frustration. No, this is neglect, a form of animal abuse that often goes unnoticed.
Dogs are social creatures just like we are. Their ancestors and cousins, the wolves, live in packs. Pack members depend on each other for survival. They hunt together, play together, and sleep together. The domestic dog also depends on its pack for survival, but WE are their pack. A dog is a social animal that needs to be with its social group to remain psychologically healthy. Food and water are not enough.
Dogs are banished to the backyard for many reasons. Maybe that cute little puppy turned into a 100-pound dog and is too big to live in the house. Maybe he was never housetrained, or is destructive when left alone. Or perhaps, some believe, that dogs belong outdoors so they can run and play whenever they want. It is a rare dog that enjoys living a life without companionship.
The loneliness and frustration that outdoor dogs experience leads to many behavior problems. Some dogs bark all day, others dig holes, and still others develop stereotypic behaviors like pacing or circling. These behaviors are attempts to get attention, to relieve boredom, or simply the result of trying to cope with a lonely existence.
Many backyard dogs exhibit signs of aggression. This aggression stems from a lack of socialization, barrier frustration, and often times, self defense. They also become very protective of their territory, creating a dangerous situation should an unknowing child or meter reader approach too closely.
Dogs are companion animals that need our companionship. They offer us unconditional love and friendship, all for a simple pat on the head. They deserve a better life than to be banished to the back yard. They deserve love and respect, attention and training, and to sleep among their pack. With a little patience and persistence, any dog can learn to be well behaved in the house.
A life alone in the back yard is no life for a dog!