The Outside-Only Dog - Things to Consider
A lonely life for a social animal
Dogs, by instinct, are very social animals. When in the wild, dogs run together with other dogs as members of a pack. Over many years, dogs were gradually domesticated and came to rely on people for care and companionship. You could say people became the dogs' "pack members". When a dog is kept alone outside and never allowed inside with the rest of the pack members, behavioral problems will develop and the dog's safety and health will be jeopardized.
Most of the behavioral problems incurred by dogs stem from boredom and lack of human companionship. Chronic barking, digging, licking of feet, legs and underside, running away, and eating foreign debris are all examples of common problems which occur when a dog is kept entirely outside. Every day, animal shelters like ours receive countless numbers of stray dogs who have wandered away from their homes. They also receive dogs relinquished by their owners because of behavioral problems caused by neglect. A good number of these dogs must be euthanized because we can not place animals with such severe behavioral problems, or simply because people are not as likely to adopt a dog that has not been properly socialized with humans.
Generally, an owner that keeps their dog inside is more observant of that dog, therefore, being more in tune with their dog's health, temperament, and whereabouts. A dog kept strictly outside is more prone to medical problems. These dogs are at a much greater risk for parasitic infection such as fleas, tapeworm, hookworm, whipworm, and roundworm. There is also the potential to pick up such diseases as rabies, parvo, and distemper because they come into contact with unvaccinated, stray, or wild animals. Digging in soil exposes the dog to fungal infections. Outside-only dogs are also more prone to ear problems such as fly bites, ear mites and infection.
Extreme temperatures also affect the dog's health. Dogs that are kept outside in the extreme cold can experience hypothermia which can lead to frost bite, upper respiratory infection, dehydration (if water is unavailable or frozen), stress (which causes the dog's organs to work harder), and even death. Exposure to extreme heat can cause hypothermia which can lead to dehydration, weight loss (due to loss of appetite), stress and death. Dogs kept outside are also exposed to the wind and rain which leads to upper respiratory infections such as kennel cough and pneumonia. In addition, moist environments can cause skin infections, hair loss and fungal infections.
Dogs that are kept outside all the time may cause harm to themselves when trying to escape the yard. Broken bones, abrasions, hanging, mouth injuries, intestinal problems and infection can all occur when trying to break a chain or jump over, chew through, or dig under a fence. If the dog does make it out of the fence, they can face other dangers, such as being hit by a vehicle, poisoned, or harmed by another animal or human. They may also be stolen or picked up and taken to a local animal control facility. Or they may just disappear.
So, you see how the controlled environment of an inside dog helps improve the dog's health, well-being, and life span. Face it, we as humans domesticated the canine to work alongside us to provide for them, protect them, and be a friend to them. Keep your dog inside where she can be a part of your family "pack".
From the Virginia Beach SPCA.