They are just about everywhere, in almost every neighborhood: a dog left alone in a backyard tethered to a tree, to the ground, sometimes to a doghouse. Water and food bowls may be empty, absent or just beyond the dog’s reach. Isolated and captive, a backyard dog suffers from lack of companionship. Dogs, like humans, did not evolve as solitary creatures; they are essentially pack animals and thrive in the company of others. As domesticated companion animals they need the bonding that comes from the pack: you and your family.

img-9One way for bonding to take place is to be able to share the den (your home) with you. Unfortunately, too many dogs are made to live outside the den, separated from the rest of their pack. Alone and abandoned outside, they often become stressed, anxious, bored and frustrated. It is these factors that lead to aggressive, destructive behaviors in dogs, and destroys two of thier strongest instincts: sociability and denning.

They are the barking, whining, destructive dogs living in someone’s yard, trying their hardest to attract attention of any kind. Even getting someone to come outside and yell at them offers the reward of contact. People that consistently keep their dogs outside rationalize, saying they spend time with the dog when working in the yard, taking a walk or throwing a ball for a few minutes. Providing food, water and some engagement is not enough if once you’re back in the house, the dog is again isolated from the pack. As in humans, a constantly stressed and anxious dog is more likely to develop serious health and/or behavior issues.

All this is not to say that one must spend every minute catering to and entertaining the animal. Training will allow bringing them indoors to join the pack, even if it is just lying nearby as you read or watch TV. Many times the dog may just curl up under your feet and sleep; otherwise, providing a fun, appropriate chew toy keeps them happy! The important thing to remember is that being incorporated into the family pack is both comforting and necessary for your dog’s mental and physical well being.