Backyard Dogs - Michigan Humane Society

Backyard Dogs

No Way to Treat Man's Best Friend

There is one in every community… a dog tied day after day to a back porch or fence, lying lonely on a pad of bare, packed dirt. The water bowl, if there is one, is usually empty or just out of reach. In the summer his ears are usually raw from untreated fly bites; he is infected with fleas and often skinny. Abandoned, but chained backyard dogs cannot move to comfort, shelter, or companionship. In winter they shiver; in summer they languish. Year round they suffer.

Dogs are pack animals who, by nature, require the companionship they would receive as members of a pack in the wild. A human friend or family is a good and necessary replacement for a dog's "pack family," but when a dog is exiled to the lonely life of the backyard, with human contact only on rare occasions other than feeding time, if he does get fed, the exile becomes an act of cruelty. With no real companionship, the outside dog can become so lonely and bored that he will often develop bad habits such as excessive barking, digging or aggressiveness.

The Michigan Humane Society's Cruelty Investigation Department finds that most outside dogs suffer from one or more forms of physical cruelty or neglect in addition to the emotional deprivation they may experience. Fleas and other parasites are not discovered. Fly-bitten ears are ignored, worsen, and become more uncomfortable for the dog. Symptoms of disease also often go unnoticed in an outside dog.

"Out of sight, out of mind" neglect is probably the most common abuse suffered by outside dogs. Some owners of outside dogs forget to feed and water their pets as often as they should since the dog is never directly underfoot, whining by his bowl. Many owners also fail to provide adequate shelter for their outside dogs. In winter, an outside dog's water can freeze in the dish within an hour. In summer, more water is consumed, and the supply needs to be replenished several times a day. Frequent checking on an outside dog in periods of extreme hot and cold is a great responsibility, and though most people would not neglect their pets intentionally, they are often just too busy with work or other activities to attend to the animals' needs. Often children are given the responsibilities of caring for their dogs. Young children do not understand what can happen to their pet if they neglect or forget him. Even if the animal is a child's pet, and the child's responsibility, adults must pay attention to the care the dog is receiving, or not receiving, and provide for the dog.

Dogs were domesticated by humans for many different reasons, but, from a modern, truly humane viewpoint, the only reason for owning a dog is for love and companionship. Dogs can offer people gifts of steadfast devotion, abiding love and joyful companionship. Unless people are willing to accept these offerings and take the time to return them in kind, it would be best not to own a dog. A sad, lonely, bewildered dog tied out back only suffers. Man's best friend deserves better!

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