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— July 22, 2014 —

The dangers of tethering your dog.
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

Tethering is the practice of tying your dog out on a long leash. It can be short-term, like when you run in for coffee or long-term, like dogs who live outside most of the time. We think that there are serious dangers with the practice.

I’m on the board of a local dog rescue, K9 4 KEEPS. Our adoption contract specifies that we don’t allow our dogs to be tethered out in the yard when not being supervised by the owner or at any public place like a store. Now, we know that not everyone has a fenced yard and not every dog is trained to recall reliably. If someone is working in the yard and wants their dog close by, a tether is not a bad idea. If you need to keep an eye on a young dog a a family cookout, then by all means, tether the dog to the nearest tree. What we specifically prohibit tethering for, however, is for when the owner is not in the immediate area and supervising their dog. We object to this even more in public, like at a coffee shop.

There are many reasons (excuses) that people use for tethering their dogs. Sometimes dogs are destructive or lack house training, leading owners to tether them outside. Some owners think that the dog will get more exercise if they are tethered. Some folks just want to go for that cup of coffee before they walk their dog. Unfortunately, the risks strongly outweigh the benefits of tying your dog up outside of Starbucks.

There are two main problems that can occur when a dog is tethered without supervision. The first is theft. Dogs are stolen every day for a couple of reasons. Dogs are often stolen for the reward money that desperate owners will pay to get their dog back. They are also stolen to sell to dog fighters and testing labs. (Google “Class B dog dealers.”) Either way, a dog that is tethered and not supervised is an inviting target to dog-thieves.

You may be tempted to think that you are keeping an eye on your dog, and could intervene if you saw this happening. What you may not realize is that dog thieves are sometimes pretty well organized groups. They are not just people who happen to see a dog and take it, sometimes they are organized and out intentionally looking for dog. One person drives the vehicle and one person cuts the leash and steals the dog. It takes only a split second and they are gone. You could even watch the whole thing and not even realize what was happening until it was too late.

The other reason not to tether your dog is behavioral. While it is somewhat complicated to explain, a tethered dog can become constantly overstimulated. Tethered dogs can also be teased by neighborhood children and this can have a very bad outcome. A tethered dog, especially dogs that are teased, are regularly agitated and may begin to associate all children with the ones that tease him. This can have very negative consequences and can cause kids to get injured.

The mechanism at play is the dog’s general tendency to live in the mindset that we put them. If we work and train our dogs to be calm, then they will tend to live in a more calm manner. If we constantly amp them up, then they will tend to live in a more stimulated way. Now, add the potential for aggression from a frustrated dog and you get the potential for real tragedy. This is the behavioral component to the tethered dog.

Lastly, quality of life matters also. A constantly tethered dog is often ignored and lonely. I personally enjoy having my dogs in the house. They are my constant companions and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If your dog is destructive, exercise him. If he is not house trained, train him. If you want to get a cup of coffee for the walk, pick him up after or make your coffee at home before you walk out the door. Whatever you do, please don’t leave him tied out for the short or long-term. The results can be disastrous.

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