Is It Okay To Leave Your New Dog Tethered Outside?

Written by: Deanna deBara

April 25, 2019

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In a perfect world, you’d be able to let your new dog wander freely wherever they go. But there are going to be times—especially when they’re outside—that you want to keep your dog in one place. And as you’re trying to figure out the best way to keep your dog in one place, you’re inevitably going to stumble onto tethering.

But what’s the deal with tethering? Is it safe? Is it legal? And, most importantly, what kind of impact does it have on your pup?

What Is Tethering?

Little white dog on a chain

So, first things first—before we jump into whether it’s okay to leave your new dog tethered outside, let’s quickly talk about what, exactly, tethering is.

Tethering is defined as “the action of tying an animal with a rope or chain so as to restrict its movement.” So, in a nutshell, tethering is the act of hooking your dog’s collar onto a short rope or chain in order to keep them from wandering too far from their designated area (or, worst-case scenario, escaping completely).

Why Do People Tether Dogs?

Husky on a chain

Alright, so now that you know what tethering is, let’s talk about why people might tether their pups.

People tether their dogs for a number of reasons. Some people tether out of genuine concern for their dog; so, for example, maybe they don’t have a fenced-in yard and don’t want their dog to escape and run into the street.

But there are also some people who tether out of convenience; they just want to stick their dog outside and not have to worry about them. Or maybe their pup is acting up and they want to put them outside as a punishment.

The point is, there are a variety of different reasons people might tether their dogs—some good, some not-so-good. But ultimately, the reason doesn’t matter—because most of the time, tethering your dog is a bad idea.

Why Tethering Your Dog Is A Bad Idea

ASPCA Dogfighting Pit Bull Puppy on a Chain

Tethering might be convenient. But generally speaking, it’s just not a good idea for your dog.

But why, exactly, is tethering such a bad idea? Here are a few key reasons why tethering isn’t the right option for your new pup:

Tethering Can Harm Your Dog’s Well-Being

Dogs are extremely social creatures. They need plenty of interaction with humans, other animals, and their environment in order to feel happy, safe, and healthy.

Tethering your dog and leaving them outside eliminates that social interaction. It’s just the dog, alone, stuck on a rope or chain. The lack of social interaction—combined with the confinement to a small area—can cause your dog’s well-being to quickly deteriorate. Too much tether time can cause your pup to feel anxious, depressed, or cause a variety of behavioral problems.

Not exactly a recipe for a happy, healthy dog.

Tethering Can Be Very Unhealthy For Your Dog

dog chained to yard

Tethering can do some serious damage to your dog’s psychological health. But it can also do some serious damage to your pup’s physical health.

There is a whole host of physical issues that come along with tethering, starting with the tether itself. Most dogs will pull on their tether in an attempt to escape, some for hours on end. This can cause friction between their neck and collar, which can lead to chafing, sores, and other painful skin issues. A tether can also pose serious choking or strangulation hazards.

Tethering also exposes your dog to the elements, which can lead to overheating or freezing in extreme temperatures. Tethered dogs also have to deal with insects, which could lead to insect or tick-borne illnesses, like Lyme Disease.

Another way tethering puts your dog’s health in danger? It makes them vulnerable. Because your pup can’t flee, it makes them an easy target for humans or other animals that want to tease, taunt, or harm them.

Tethering Can Cause Reactive Behavior

Yellow lab baring teeth

Tethering isn’t safe for dogs—but it’s also not safe for humans.

Putting a dog on a tether, especially when it’s for a very long period of time, result in some seriously reactive behaviors. Think of it in terms of the “fight or flight” response. Tethered dogs are stuck in one place; “flight” isn’t an option. So, when faced with a threat, they default to “fight”—and could attack a strange person or animal they feel gets too close.

Tethering can cause an otherwise sweet dog to become aggressive—which is just another reason why you shouldn’t tether your dog.

In Many Places, Tethering Is Illegal

Dog Giving Paw Shake

On top of the fact that tethering causes serious psychological and physical harm to your dog (not to mention aggressive behavior!), depending on where you live, it might also be illegal.

Currently, there are 23 states with dog tether laws:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

The actual laws vary from state to state, but almost all prohibit tethering your dog for unreasonably long periods of time.

Is It Ever Okay To Tether Your Dog?

Obviously, leaving your dog tethered outside for long periods of time is a no-go for loving, responsible pet parents. But is it ever appropriate to tether your dog?

And the answer is yes—for short periods of time and if you don’t plan to leave the dog alone.

So, for example, let’s say you wanted to work in your backyard garden—but your dog has a habit of digging up flowers faster than you can plant them. Or you want to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine with your pup—but you don’t have a fenced-in yard. In cases like that, it would be okay to tether your dog for a short period of time. Just make sure you stay where they can see you and you give them plenty of slack on the rope or chain so they don’t confined to too small of a space. Also, make sure they have access to water!

Don’t Tether Your Dog—Take Them For A Walk Instead!

Dachshund Wiener Dog In Grass With Human

Tethering your dog for long periods of time is a bad idea—and can put both your dog and other people and animals in danger. Do yourself and your dog a favor—and if you want to put them outside, put them on a leash and take them for a walk.

Featured image via Ben Nguyen/Flickr

Source: Humane Society

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Written by: Deanna deBara

April 25, 2019

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