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Keeping Dogs on Chains is Cruel for Many Reasons

This article was written as a response to the question: Is It Cruel to Keep a Dog Tied to a Chain?
Dogs are pack animals their lives should not be kept in the end of a chain. An explanation of some of the problems that occur when dogs are chained. Why dogs should not be kept on chains. Is keeping a dog on a chain considered cruel? Why are so many people against keeping a pet dog on a chain in the backyard?

Dogs are pack animals, they view humans as their pack. Keeping a dog on a chain is not only cruel, it may even result in behavioral problems, such as aggression, for the dog involved.

When we talk about dogs kept on chains we are not referring to the ones who are chained for a brief time to go out in the yard to urinate, or when their owner is on a walk with them and ties them up briefly, but rather those who spend the majority of the time on a chain. Keeping dogs outside on chains for the majority of the time is cruel, and unfair. 

release me

photo source Entitled Release Me, by Shane Gorski

The fact that chaining dogs in yards leads to problem behaviors is so well known some cities, and some states, have bylaws against it, and many shelters will not adopt dogs out to potential owners who do not have fenced yards or a dog run.

Dogs become protective of the area where they are chained, a behavior that is not seen as much in dogs that are kept loose in a yard. Chained dogs are more apt to bite. They may even show aggression towards their owners when their owners approach them while they are chained. This problem does not start all at once, but it grows over time and spirals, as the more a dog is left chained up, the more anxious and defensive it becomes, then the more anxious and defensive a dog is, the less the owner interacts with it, and we see a cycle where by the dog looses.

Increased aggression and negative behaviors are not the only reasons dogs should not be kept on chains.

Indeed when a dog is put outside on a chain it always runs a risk of strangulation. Even the safest of systems have room for error, and many dogs have been found dead at the end of their chain as a result. Another risk is that the dogs limb becomes encircled in the chain, and it loses circulation.

When a dog is kept on a chain its owner may check it less frequently, the chain may become wrapped around a tree, and may restrict the dog from reaching its food, water, or shelter.

Dogs kept on chains, where no fence is present, are at risk from feral dogs, coyotes, and even people. Theft of dogs is not unheard of. In areas where dog fighting is common a chained dog might represent easy pickings for somebody who is already living outside the law, and wanting a dog to use as bait. While this may seem extreme, theft for this purpose does happen.

A dog who has been kept on a chain may run away when taken off the chain and given a bit of freedom. Their owners, having become too dependent, on the chain to restrict the dog, often fail to train them correctly, and many chained dogs lack any type of “recall”.

Chained dogs are frequently neglected dogs.  In some cases dogs on chains are so neglected their collar is too tight for their neck.  The United States Humane Society has found many cases of dogs left on chains that were parasite ridden, underfed, and in generally poor condition. Many of these dogs are restricted from access to their owners home – remember again, that dogs are pack animals, they see humans as their pack, a life outside on a chain is not proper pack lifestyle.

dog on a chain

photo source This poor dog is a perfect example of what happens to chained dogs, not only has it obviously been neglected for some time (note the ribs and the chain for a collar) but the owners moved out a day before this picture was taken and left the dog behind. 

Dogs should not spend their lives on chains. They are companion animals, who need to be part of the pack. People who want a dog should find a way to include the dog in their everyday routine, take it to obedience lessons.  If they do not have time for a dog, they should not get one. Keeping dogs on chains for the majority of its life is cruel. If people want an outdoor only pet, perhaps they would be better off with a llama, or horse.

Related Links

Eleven Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting a New Dog or Puppy

How to Socialize a New Dog or Pup

USA Today, Changing Laws on Chained Dogs

Please note that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs kept on chains kill more children than do falls from trees and playground equipment and accidents involving fireworks combined.  PETA, and many other animal welfare groups, are very much against keepign dogs on chains.

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Comments (9)

In my country, especially the poor areas, pet dogs are almost tied every time. (just like in the photo) Great awareness on pet dogs.

How can one undo the aggressive behavior associated with a chained dog? Adopted a one year old that shows these aggressions.

Ranked #1 in Dogs

To Irene You can start by socializing the dog - taking it to Obedience lessons. Getting a professional to help you with the dog when they can see the triggers is much better than me guessing and telling you things over the Internet. The dog should be neutered (as this is also a contributing fact of aggression) and if it is allowed to no longer feel like it MUST protect its area.. it wont.. that is to say, keep it with the family, its pack, and make sure its mind has something to focus on other than protection.. here is a link with stories showing it can be done

Ranked #14 in Dogs

Great article. It's a sad fact that so many dogs are neglected physically and emotionally. They don't think of dogs as living beings with feelings. It's sad.

I truly believe that anyone that treats animals in this nature should get locked up, just as they would if chaining up a human being. It's quite disturbing, indeed. Great awareness article and definitely a great write and read. Great work here, Brenda.

Ranked #63 in Dogs

Sorry, but I disagree. Sometimes a chain is the best option. Our dog is on a chain for most of the day but he has never shown any signs of aggression. We walk him, take him to parks when we can and bring him inside every night. He loves to jump over it and he loves to run but he has no sense of danger. Recall has always been impossible (and yes we have seen a trainer). Even we could have a fence it wouldn't hold him back. I have personally witnessed him jumping over a 6 ft. fence with ease. He stared at me, ran off for awhile and jumped back in later. If you have a better suggestion, then I'm open to it..

Ranked #63 in Dogs

For the record, neither the shock collar or an invisible fence work for long.

Ranked #1 in Dogs

Gayle, my solution would be a covered dog run. 

Not all dogs kept on chains turn agressive, but many do. 

Dogs need mental sitmulation to be happy as well.

We walk our dogs on leash for atleast 3-6 hours a day (we enjoy the walk as much as they do) thats okay, right?