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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 17 November 2006 Issue

OUTSIDE DOGS

I'm familiar with hundreds of dog breeds, but what's an "outside dog?" Unless you're medically intolerant of it (and therefore can't take care of it in a medical emergency, so you shouldn't have it), making a dog stay outside is a costly waste. If it's for protection, what do you think I want to steal, your lawn? When you leave, do you put your valuables and your kids out in your yard? Just what is the dog "protecting" out there? Most dogs kept out cause far more nuisance complaints from barking and escaping than any deterrent to intrusion. Such complaints cause teasing, antagonism, release and poisoning. I lost count of the number of times I've heard: "NOW  I know why I find so many rocks, sticks and cans in my yard! They're throwing them at my dog!" Or: "So that's why I've had to replace the padlock on the fence 17 times in the past year!" With your dog a helpless victim, it's no laughing matter.

If I'm a crook and your dog is out, your fence protects ME, not your possessions or dog. If I just open the gate 9 out of 10 dogs will run off! I can safely shoot, stab, spear, poison, snare, strangle or dart it through the fence. You just lost your dog AND everything I steal! If it's tied and I keep out of its reach, it's useless. It'll bark, but outside dogs bark so much they're usually ignored. But let a dog hit the other side of a door or window I'm breaking into and I'm GONE! I can't hurt it until it can hurt me, and nothing you own is worth my arm. Deterrence is effective protection.

Protection and aggression are not the same. Protection is defensive, reactive and often passive and threatens or injures no one. Aggression is active, harmful and offensive, threatens all and benefits none. Yard dogs often develop far more aggression than protection because everyone who passes by or enters has already violated the territory that dog has marked dozens of times a day for years. That's not protection, it's not desirable and it overlooks two facts of life today:

1) Property owners have implied social contracts with others in the community. Letter carriers, paper boys, delivery people, law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, meter readers and others are allowed near and at times on your property without your specific permission. Sure that ten-year-old was not supposed to jump your fence after his ball, kite or Frisbee; but neither you nor your dog are allowed to cause him injury if he does. Imagine this: A neighbor looks into your yard or window and sees you, your wife or your child laying on the floor in a pool of blood. They call 9-1-1 and your dog prevents paramedics from assisting! Should they shoot your dog or just let you die? Great choice.

2) Even if the intruder is a felon, few places allow you or your dog to cause physical injury to prevent property loss. Convicted felons have sued the dog's owner from jail and won more in the suit than they could have stolen! Appalling but true. Don't believe your homeowners insurance will cover the loss. Now you see why many feel that an "outside dog" is a no-brainer.

The more a dog is outdoors, the less behavioral control you have. It's easier to solve four or five indoor problems than just one outdoors. The reason is simple: The more you control the stimuli that reach the dog, the more you control its responses. You've got a lot more control over your living room than you do over your county! When it's bored but teased by every dog, cat, bird, squirrel, motorcycle, paperboy, airplane, firecracker, backfiring truck and rabbit in the county, OF COURSE it'll dig, chew and bark. Would you sit still all day every day? Do you want unnecessary medical and parasite fees, especially as the dog ages?

When a dog is alone indoors you're still 30% there because your scent and things it associates with you constantly remind it of you and your training. When it's out, it's alone whether you're home or not. Do you expect it to keep YOU in mind while the entire world teases, distracts and stimulates it?

The media are full of stories about family dogs saving everyone during a fire. How many people, including children, would be dead today if those dogs were kept out? SURE you always get up to investigate every time your yard dog barks. And I've got this bridge.....

An outdoor dog has an address, not a home. Does your dog get so much mail that it needs its own address? A real value dogs offer is as companion animals. Do you live out in your yard? Whose company does your yard dog keep and protect? Stop behavior problems and start enjoying real protection and companionship.

Bring your dogs in.

Copyright 1993 Dennis Fetko, Ph.D. (858-485-7433, Fax 858-485-0651). The author authorizes this article to be copied, quoted or used however it will do the most good as long as proper credit is given.

Go on to THANKSGIVING SAFETY TIP: BREAD DOUGH'S A NO-NO FOR DOGS AND CATS
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