February seventh to the fourteenth has been declared Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Weeek by the Dogs Deserve Better organization in the United States. I can’t help but applaud their efforts to raise awareness around the plight of dogs who spend most of their lives at the end of a chain. It’s a heart-breaking image and unfortunately it is also reality for countless animals across the continent.
Before the brief research I conducted for this post, I knew very little about the facts behind dog tethering. I still don’t feel very knowledgeable, and I was hoping to inspire a conversation.
For what it’s worth, we have never tied Shiva up outside. The only time I would ever consider doing so is if we were going to be with her the entire time, such as when camping. I know tethering creates frustration, something she already doesn’t handle very well. With all the fantastic gains we have made with her reactivity, I’d never risk backstepping. However, even if we had a fenced yard, I’d still never leave her outside alone. Chain-link in front of her would be just as bad as a chain behind her. When we do eventually move and get the yard of our dreams, I don’t intend on ever putting her out there alone. After three years of taking her out on a leash every time she needs a bathroom break, I’m not sure how she’d handle being out there by herself. She’s an indoor dog, through and through. Why give her a chance to learn (more) bad habits?
I don’t think all forms of tethering are necessarily bad or cruel. Not everyone can afford to put up a fence, after all. Like myself, not everyone is permitted to do so even if it is one’s preference. One could make the argument that those without a fence should not own a dog, but I think many other bloggers have blown that theory to smithereens. The ideal obviously is for a dog to never be out alone, but that’s not always possible. Besides, I’d rather a dog be tied up every once in a while than remain in a shelter to be euthanized because potential adopters couldn’t afford construction costs.
In my opinion – when used appropriately – a tether isn’t really all that different from a fence. Truly, I don’t believe any dog should be left alone outdoors for that length of time, no matter how he is restrained. Twenty minutes to a half an hour is probably the maximum, depending on the dog. My childhood dog was often outside in our fenced yard all day while we were at work or school. It’s one of my largest regrets. She quickly became very good at escaping, either by jumping over or chewing through the wooden slats. She didn’t always get away without injuring herself either. Dogs that are tethered can get tangled quite easily. They are also more vulnerable to attack by other animals or abusive humans. But if only out for brief periods at a time, all of these problems are avoided.
I guess my primary concern relates to legislation. Dogs Deserve Better advocates for laws that prohibit chaining, in all its forms. While I don’t disagree this would be the best situation, I don’t know if it’s exactly practical. Legal pieces like these make me cautious as I worry they only serve to punish people who are doing the best they can, people who may just need a little more education, or some financial help. There are many extreme cases of tethering in which I do believe the dog’s owners should be charged. But the context surrounding those cases isn’t usually a simple chaining problem. There is a whole lot of neglect and abuse going on, the chaining itself is just a more obvious symptom.
No dog should be left outside all alone twenty-four hours a day, every day of her life. Chain or no chain, that is obviously cruel.
But are all chains created equal? I guess that’s what I am trying to figure out. Have you ever tied your dog up outside?