Most of us have seen dogs tethered or chained to poles at some point in our lives.  Be it from a movie, while on vacation, or even in our own neighborhoods, it’s a familiar sight.    Many humane societies and animal welfare groups are against it, and often have position statements in opposition to the act of chaining or tethering dogs as it neglects the dog’s basic needs and five freedoms.

But why is chaining or tethering a negative thing?  How comes it was allowed for so long and now is being discouraged?  There’s a lot behind chaining that many people don’t even know about.  Take a look and see for yourself!

Chaining/Tethering vs. Leashing

First thing first, let’s take a look at understanding the difference between chaining or tethering and leashing.  These are very different behaviors that each have different impacts on our dogs.

  • Chaining and tethering: This is when a dog owner chains or tethers their dog to a stake in the ground or a stake on the side of their home and leaves the food and water out in the yard within their leash’s reach.  A tethered dog may not even have shelter from the elements.

    These dogs are left fastened to a stationary object or stake for prolonged periods of time, and may be outside all day and all night.  Some are entirely outdoor dogs and never even know the inside of a house from the moment that they’re brought home.

  • Leashing: This is when a dog owner uses a leash to restrain their dog while going for a walk, riding in a car, or going to the vet, a store, etc.  This is a normal activity that responsible pet owners use to restrain their dogs and still take them with them around their daily lives.

    These dogs spend a varying amount of time on their leashes, but they live inside the home with food and water in the house.  These dogs may still sometimes roam around outside in a fenced backyard.  They may even spend time on a chain or tether in the backyard if there is no fence, but they are house pets that will spend the majority of their time in the home.

As you can guess, consistent tethering or chaining is commonly considered animal cruelty, but leashing is not. 

Why do dog owners chain or tether their dogs?

There are a lot of reasons why dog owners tether their dogs.  The first one is just that they don’t know the difference.  Many grow up with old perspectives and outdated information that tells them dogs are intended as outdoor-only animals and don’t need to be in the home.  Dogs are still seen as animals, even workers, rather than family members.  However, there are other reasons why someone in the modern day may feel they have to chain their dog, including the following:

  • Their dog is an escape artist (from the house and the yard)
  • The fence is damaged
  • The dog is high-energy and can’t be in the house
  • The owner has no time to take care of the dog

These issues are all ones that can be fixed other than through chaining or tethering, of course, but these are the most common reasons for this kind of behavior.

What dangers does tethering or chaining pose?

There are a lot of risks in this kind of behavior, even if the dog owner may not intend for any of them to happen.  It’s important to remember here that not all those who chain their dogs are bad people — they just don’t know what risks tethering can cause!  Some of the most common dangers are:

  • Lack of socialization: Dogs are pack animals, and consistent tethering is essentially solitary confinement.  This means that a tethered dog most likely won’t have a chance to learn how to get along with other animals or humans.  This can lead to depression, loneliness, and mental health issues.

  • Territorial behavior: Chained dogs only have a (hopefully) full bowl of food and water to call their own.  As they see it, any human or animal encroaching on their territory could potentially take those resources away from them.  This often means chained dogs may become aggressive over time. They mayattack and become territorial even when someone they know, such as their owner or a neighbor, comes too close.

  • Physical injury: A chain or tether can give them raw skin anywhere that it touches and cause trips, spilling water dishes, and more.  This can mean a poor quality of life, poor health, and a lot of physical injuries.

  • Muscle atrophy: A chained dog cannot wander, run, stretch, and generally exercise.  This can lead to emaciation and muscle atrophy which can weaken a dog’s immune system, and so on.

  • Neuroses: A dog who isn’t able to move, find comfort, eat or drink enough, or find an escape from the elements, can easily and quickly become depressed or neurotic.  A dog may act out in dangerous ways even though they’re still “there.”  They can essentially become mentally ill.

  • Weather-related risks: Chained or tethered dogs aren’t just left out when it’s nice out — they’re typically on those chains 24/7.  The weather can injure and even kill dogs if it’s extreme enough.  It also means their food and water are at risk of contamination, which can make your dog ill.

What is a better alternative to tethering?

Luckily, there are many safe alternatives to tethering that can help educate unknowing dog owners and help their dogs enjoy happy and healthy lives.

The best choice is to enroll a high-energy dog in doggy daycare.  This allows them to work off their excess energy and get some socialization with other dogs and humans.  This wears them out, so they don’t require the same amount of interaction with their owner.  A dog park visit is another great alternative, and usually free.

Another idea is to tether a dog only when its owner is present or for short time periods.  After all, the tether isn’t the issue — it’s the amount of time that the dog is left on their own outside with no one present.

Finally, help educate tethering-prone dog owners to explain its dangers and risks.  Many don’t realize that they are putting their dogs at risk and can be happy to change with the right support and suggestions.


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