Bringing your outdoor dog inside
What is an outdoor dog?
Dogs living outside in a backyard, pen, on a balcony, loose on property or tethered on a chain or rope.
What is the issue with keeping a dog outside?
Dogs who are left outdoors for the majority of their lives - in a backyard, pen, on a balcony, loose on property or tethered on a chain or rope – are at risk for physical harm, neglect, behavioural issues and health problems.
Common questions and training tips
What are the risks when keeping your dog outdoors?
Health risks: Leaving your dog unprotected without proper housing in hot or cold weather can lead to heatstroke or hypothermia. Outdoor dogs are at risk for worms, fleas, ticks and disease. Illness and injuries not found early can lead to suffering, expensive vet bills or death of your dog.
Physical harm: Dogs kept unmonitored on chains and ropes often get tangled, which can lead to strangling and other injuries. Dogs left outside are vulnerable to attacks from other animals or mistreatment by neighbours who feel they’re a nuisance. Escaping a yard may result in a dog being hit by a car.
Neglect: Dogs housed outside are easily forgotten by guardians with busy lives. Not having time or forgetting may result in you neglecting your dog’s basic needs like fresh water, food or ensuring a dry place to sleep. Daily exercise and human companionship are essential to a dog’s well-being; being left in a yard or on a chain isolated all day will not meet their needs.
Behaviour problems: When isolated with limited human companionship, even friendly dogs may become bored and frustrated, leading to excessive barking, running away, aggression or depression. Anxious and fearful dogs who have no way to escape from approaching people or animals may resort to lunging, snapping or biting to protect themselves.
Liability: You can be held legally liable if your dog causes physical injury to a person whether or not it occurs on your property.
Where do I start? She hasn’t been indoors for a long time.
Your dog needs to get used to being indoors so start slowly. Put a leash on her and bring her inside for short periods, even for just a few minutes to give her a tasty treat. Toss treats in the doorway to encourage her to enter if she is too nervous and never force her. Gradually have her spend more time inside with you. Once she is relaxed, give her time off leash in the house.
Feeding is a great way to help a dog get comfortable with being indoors.
Start by providing your dog with a mat when you feed her outside.
Feed your dog each meal on the mat; she can be standing, sitting or lying on the mat.
Remove the mat once she is finished eating. Bring it out again with the next meal.
Once she is comfortable eating on the mat, bring it and your dog on a leash indoors at feeding time.
Feed her on the mat in the house.
If she doesn’t want to come inside, continue feeding on the mat but move it closer to the door.
Toss treats in the doorway for her to eat, while allowing her to go back outside if she’s too nervous.
Your goal is to have your dog eating on her mat in the house and relaxing.
How can my dog guard the house if he is kept indoors?
Myth: If I leave my dog in the yard she will protect my home.
Fact: She may bark and deter people from coming into your yard but not your house. If you bring your dog inside and include her in home activities as part of the household, she will learn to bark if anyone is trying to break into your house or if she hears unfamiliar noises.
What does the law say?
The B.C. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act states that a “person responsible for an animal must not cause or permit an animal to be, or continue to be, in distress.”
What is distress?
Dogs are considered to be in distress who are: deprived of adequate food, water, shelter, ventilation, light, space, exercise, care or veterinary treatment, kept in conditions that are unsanitary, not protected from excessive heat or cold, injured, sick, in pain or suffering, or abused or neglected.
Your municipality’s bylaw may also restrict keeping dogs on a chain or rope outside.
When your dog is learning to live indoors you will need to teach her when and where to urinate and defecate (eliminate) outdoors.
Decide on an area where you would like your dog to eliminate outdoors.
Start a routine visiting this area so your dog learns where she can eliminate. Visit this area in the morning, after meals, and before bedtime.
Go with her to the area, reward her when she eliminates in desired area and say “yes”.
In the house, prevent any opportunities for her to have an accident by keeping her with you on a leash, don’t leave her unsupervised and continue to manage her in the house for at least three weeks.
With no accidents for three weeks you can then loosen up your management in the house.
If your dog starts to have accidents following housetraining:
Have a veterinary check-up to rule out any medical concerns.
If there are no health concerns, go back to your housetraining plan and seek help from a professional dog trainer who uses humane techniques.
7. Never punish your dog, even immediately after the accident. This is ineffective and abusive; your dog will learn to be afraid of you instead of learning to eliminate outside.
8. Visit your local BC SPCA Branch for more information on housetraining.
Barking: Dogs who bark excessively may need more exercise or mental stimulation or they may suffer from separation anxiety. Have your dog examined by a veterinarian and speak with a professional dog trainer who uses humane training techniques to learn why your dog is barking and how you can help decrease this behaviour.
Aggression: If your dog is showing any signs of aggression such as: growling, snapping, biting, lunging towards people or other animals, take her in for a veterinary exam and seek help from a professional dog trainer who uses humane training techniques. Find more information on handling aggression towards people or guidance about handling aggression towards other dogs.
Jumping on people: When your dog jumps on you, back up or turn away. Don’t say anything or push her off. Do this every time. Reward your dog with positive attention once all four feet are on the ground.
Chewing: Dogs need to chew and for some it even helps relieve anxiety. If your dog is chewing furniture or other things, talk to your veterinarian to determine if it is destructive chewing due to boredom or to separation anxiety. Exercise, play and feeding toys can help with boredom.
Training: Only use humane training techniques. Never use harsh physical or verbal corrections with any animal.
For more dog care and behaviour information, including guidance on fear, anxiety, medical care and grooming, visit our main dog care and behaviour page.