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?


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!

24 thoughts on “Is It Ever Okay for a Dog to Live Outside? (Clue: No!)”

  1. I live in an urban neighborhood where I have an exceptionally large yard. I have neighbors who have a much smaller yard that backs up to my yard. I have a 65 lb boxer mix and my neighbors have a small 10 lb dog that the keep in the yard most of the time. There is a dog house and the neighbors believe a dog should live outside. Over Thanksgiving week their dog barked endlessly and I went to the yard to check on her to make sure everything was okay. She had no water and the yard had not been cleaned in awhile. I saw no lights on in the house and gave the dog some water and food that she very happily ate. She is very friendly and very smart but not house trained. It’s getting colder and I have approached our neighbors several times but to no avail. They have a cat that lives inside. The dog was a gift. Any suggestions?

  2. There is no justification to forcing a dog to live outside.
    What bothers me now, is that she wants a bird! A beautiful flying creature that people admire in the sky. When you ask people if they could have any power what would it be, you will get the answer “to fly” over and over again. Yet they would be willing to take that away from a poor bird, to forever isolate him/her in a small cage, usually alone.
    Now she wants to take another animal and have it live a sad life. Maybe the better question to her is, why do you feel the need to emotionally damage an animal? Is it you crave to control any being?

  3. I am shocked that I have seen no one mention the fact that thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every day simply because there are not enough homes for them. In order for every homeless pet to have a home each person would have to care for 7 ANIMALS ( that is 28 pets for a family of four ) It amazes me that you think a shelter should not adopt to someone who may keep them outside. I wholeheartedly agree that they should not be tethered to anything or not provided food and shelter from the elements. Nor should they be put in a yard and forgotten about. I also agree that kenneling a dog inside for hours on end while their people are away is just as cruel but I guess you would say “well, at least their inside!”
    I feel that as long as a dog is well cared for and given the attention they need(especially if they have a doggy pal) that it is okay for a dog to be outside especially considering that the other option could be death!

  4. Firstly its actually unnatural to have a dog the house. Dogs like to run around chasd critters, dig, bury their bone and find it again. They like to roll around stuff they find in the yard. My dog stays outside. She guards the property, we have interraction with her everyday. We play with her everyday, feed her well, i have a small farm, she follows me everywhere outside, running around chasing things, barking and having the time of her life. If she was inside, she’d propbably just sit in a corner bored as ever. She amuses herself outside. This article is stupid. And the person who wrote it is acting as if she is better than people who choose to keep their dogs outside. I have a big working dog who wants to run around and exercise, yet its better to havd it cooped up in my house?

    1. You're not reading the article at all – you're interacting with your dog all the time but the sound of it. I recently had a neighbour who would leave their dog alone in their small yard all day and in to the night, the dog was never allowed in the house. This is totally wrong

      1. This article is stupid. It is completely against dogs living outside, which was the main point of this article. It sounds like you are against dogs being neglected while outside, but this can also happen inside when they're left in kennels for majority of the day.

    2. The article was clearly written by a city person who thinks that dogs are human children. The article is also ignorant to the vast differences between dog breeds. I would agree that a Boston Terrier should not be an outdoor dog. Other breeds are different. In 20 years a similar person will write an article that it's inhumane to deny a dog its own electric scooter.

  5. My husband and I had outside dogs for many years. We had a large, fenced yard, nice dog houses, and shade trees. The dogs were huskys, and very adapted to cold weather. We spent lots of time with them and they were some of the happiest dogs on the planet! Much happier and healthier than many house dogs that we have come in contact with over the years. Such a shame that two Samoyed were not allowed to be adopted by us because we refuse to keep these dogs that were bred to work outdoors indoors. Just sayin’….

  6. There is a HUGE difference between a dog tied up outside, or kept in a small yard and a dog that spends time outside. I have two working dogs a border collie and an Spanish Mastín, both dogs are out side the majority of the day. They guard and protect livestock . Equally they spend all day with us, they do t have to be caged, they have fre range over 6 acres, they get walked EVERY day. They don’t have to wait to be told when to go to the loo, they’re NEVER left alone. They sleep up with our animals in a warm and heated barn.

    I spend more time, quality time, actually doing things with my dogs than the average dog owner. I’m a little fed up of so called “ dog lovers” who crate puppies because it’s easier to train them, go to work and leave dogs At home, fail to exercise dogs properly tell me an experienced dog owner that I’m cruel for having my dogs outside. The whole article was stupid. The problem was not that the dog was potential going to live outside the issue was her partner didn’t want the dog. The article should have been about should working families have dogs, should dogs be allowed to people who don’t have the time and facilities

    1. The article isn't stupid. What you're describing is totally different to owners who leave a dog ON ITS OWN in a yard all day and all night – this is totally wrong

  7. Interesting post. Reading the comments I feel much better about having my dogs outside during the day. We have 2 dogs to keep eachother companionship and let them have free roam of the yard, with a dog house and shed to keep out of the sun and rain. They are only outside when we are at work and we bring them inside when we are home with full reign of the house. We live in California and it never really gets super cold, but does rain sometimes those are the days that I worry about them when I’m at work. I’m still trying to figure out a better situation for them on rainy days. What do other people do ?? I’ve thought about setting up the garage as a indoor play space for them while were at work on rainy days.

  8. i am currently looking out my window at my neighbours dog who has been left outside all day today it is currently -26 degrees in the middle of winter. they leave the dog ouside anywhere from 12 to 20 hours a day rain or shine , soaking wet, extreme heat or freeezing cold. the only time they open the back door is to tell the dog to shut up whenever it barks i have called the SPCA twice now once today and once in the past summer hoping they take the dog away from these monsters i am aware that it depends on the breed of dog and the size regarding how often and how long it is made to be outside and also if it is a working dog who can bare the weather conditions of certain areas of the world but this situation is unbearable to see i really want to marchbover there and do something about it personally but i know i will end up involved in this more than i care to be by punching the owner straight in the face so i figured i would call a professional who can enforce the local laws properly on this person, i hope they fine these people and never allow them to have another pet, EVER!!! if anyone has any more advice that may help please let me know thanks to the dog lovers …not the haters and the people who neglect and treat their dogs like tools and not sentient beings with emotions. peace

    1. Thanks for your concern, Dion! We suggest following up with your local SPCA and also researching any local laws that might help you make a case against this. Best of luck to you and thank you for caring!

  9. I disagree with most thoughts in this post about people not having dogs that are outside and that only dogs should be adopted if the person will let them inside. There are still many dogs who are bred for work and staying outside (livestock protectors, sled dogs, certain type of hunting dogs.) Many of these dogs may have fellow dog companions while livestock guardians are not very social animals and are more aloof. Then there are the dogs that are more for pets who do enjoy the social interaction. Dogs don’t need to be inside all the time to enjoy social interaction. We’ve always had 2 dogs (fixed opposite sexes) to be companions when no one is home. If owners get outside, play with the dog and are active outside much of the time when they are home, then the dogs don’t always have to be inside with them and I think they’d be perfectly happy. Currently our lab and GSP (both active dogs) do get full run of the house and full run of the yard, but much of the time they just want to be outside except in the evening. Growing up, because of the amount of shedding, our German Shepherd got to be in the kitchen/dining room only. He loved his dog bed in the corner, but also would want out because it would get to hot for him. People tend to over generalize situations placing their beliefs/rules on every situation without thinking about the individual needs. What we don’t want is dogs left alone and no one to pay attention to them except for feeding them.

  10. The problem is you are thinking the dog thinks like a human and they don’t. Dogs nature is to be outside. Our dogs are with us when we are home until we go to bed. What is the difference in them being alone in a house during the day and outside one large fenced in area wih shade and a dog house. At least outside they are getting fresh air and have nature to look at. I am really shocked you think a dog would be better left in a shelter than with a loving family that is going to keep the dog outside. That being said I don’t believe a dog should ever be chained or kept on a run.

  11. Why is the only life for an outside dog described as being chained up and painfully understimulated? What about 2+ dogs that can freely roam a fenced in area? Or outdoor working dogs like the Great Pyrenees? Not every breed has been reduced to quivering, perpetual neonates that can’t navigate the outdoors.

    I agree, that neglecting a dog’s social needs is never okay, but indoor dogs are not immune to this. And there is no real reason why a different species should rely on us for all of their social needs. Most households are going to be empty for around 8 hours a day, meaning it’s unfair to have only one pet no matter where you keep it.

  12. I grew up outside the U.S , and culturally having pets is a whole different experience . I grew up with a great memories having multiple pets all were outside and rarely they will come in the house . Weather was warm all year round and our yard had plenty of shade. We would give them water and food on daily basis, they were happy animals . We loved them as the animals they are , not humans . People loose the distinction between the two . Every species needs to be in their own environment . Now I know a lot of dog owners nautirize dogs for the convenience of it but not for the best benefit of the dog , culturally this practice is common and acceptable but I see no one judge it. I was stunned and brought to tears when I learned that they do this here in U.S.A. I would rather keep my dog in my yard , run around fetch around and be a normal animal rather than doing this horrible thing to it. It’s all relative . It’s culturally acceptable to nautirize an animal but not acceptable to let it be outside .

  13. I think it’s pretty cruel to leave dogs outside 24/7. They need so much love and companionship, but that being said, if you essentially create a space as weather proofed as a house and have multiple dogs, AND give them a ton of people time, it could be argued that it’s more or less the same as any dog that spends their night in another room. I still think 80% of people that leave their dog outside 24/7 don’t do those things and don’t regard the dog as a sentient companion and think of it more like an accessory or object. Those people should be arrested.

  14. What about the dog given free run of their yard with a doghouse that keeps them warm and dry in poor weather with a covered porch for summer shade? What about fresh air and critters to chase after? I have had dogs that hated to come indoors and would whine to be released back to their yard even in extreme weather.
    Incidentally I agree that dogs should come in during storms and extreme weather. My complaint is people who treat their dogs like brooms, relegated to the corner until it suits the person to take them out. It’s okay to have a mostly outdoor dog, unless there is something wrong with you, you should instead try being more of an outside human

    1. What about the dogs abandoned out there alone! People work, sleep, go out….my neighbors dog is alone 24/7 except when fed…

      1. Swagields working dogs

        Do gooders like you shouldn’t even have a dog let alone advise! Ever heard the saying No good having a dog and barking yourself? My 9 week old is staying outside and thats that, she has a warm place to sleep and freedom. No way did i get a puppy to have it chewing, pooping and making my house dirty. I got a guard and working dog so outside she stays. The yapping eventually stops. Do you honest thinking every farmer has his working dog in his house??? Me and thousands of others will keep our pups outside where they were born incidentally, and thats that..

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