Chained Dogs

*information courtesy and copyright of

Guard Dog, from Patrick McDonnell’s comic strip, Mutts

Life for a Chained Dog
Dogs can survive on just food and water. But to be happy, dogs need exercise and daily love and attention from their guardian. There is no worse punishment for a dog than keeping him permanently chained for hours, day after day. Dogs are highly social, and are pack animals. Dogs chained for long periods of time tend to become anxious, aggressive, neurotic, territorial, and dangerous.

Imagine being chained to a tree year after year, day after day, hour after hour. You watch the back door hoping someone will come out to play with you. No one ever does. You long to run and stretch your legs, but all you can do is pace back and forth over your small patch of packed dirt. Sometimes you get tangled up in your chain. You shiver in the winter cold and pant in the hot summer sun. Fleas biting your skin are a constant torture. Eventually, you stop barking for attention.

You have given up hope

Humans have many of ways to entertain themselves: movies, video games, shopping, television…Your dog only has YOU. Your dog is depending on you to make his life either a good one or a terrible one. His fate is in your hands. If you cannot give your dog a happy life, should you even have a dog?

Are you concerned about a chained dog in someone else’s yard? There are many things you can do to improve that dog’s life!

The first thing to do is get acquainted with the dog’s owners.
Bring a friend with you for safety reasons, and knock on the door. It is very important to be nice, friendly, and respectful to the dog’s owners. Offer a sack of dog treats as an ice-breaker.

Remember to stress that anything you offer is free. People love free stuff! Start out by politely introducing yourself.

Things to say:

  • I am a volunteer with the humane society and I came by to offer you some free resources for your dog (even if you are not a member of a specific humane society, most people recognize the term “humane society volunteer” as someone who cares about animals.)
  • I live in the area and saw your dog in the backyard. I have an extra doghouse I’d be happy to bring over. Is that OK?
  • I noticed your dog lives on a chain. I’m sure he would love the chance to exercise. Could I come by a few times a week to walk your dog?
  • I love shepherds. My shepherd died and I really miss him. Can I go back and meet your dog? What’s his name?
  • I have a friend who owns a fencing company, and I can probably get some fencing materials donated if you would like a fence for your dog.

If the owner seems receptive, ask if you can go with the owner to meet the dog. Ask the dog’s name. This will give you an opportunity to get to know the dog and the owner, and to learn why the dog is on a chain. Sometimes you can help solve the problem. For instance, if the dog is chained so it won’t breed with another dog, investigate low-cost sterilization for the dog (people in Little Rock can contact CARE to find about about free and low-cost sterilization.)

If the dog is chained because he is a fence-jumper, offer to put up fence extensions, put the dog on a trolley or tie-out, or to put up an electric fence or hotwire. If the dog is chained because the owners never really wanted the animal in the first place, offer to find the dog another home.

Bring along materials for the owners to read, too.

Be Constructive, Not Critical
If the dog is too thin, infested with parasites, matted, etc–DON’T be critical of the dog’s owner. You don’t want to make him mad! Just say, “I’ve got some extra flea treatment at home I can bring over to put on Boss” or “I think Boss would look better with a few more pounds on him. How about if I bring over a free case of dog food for you?” or “I like grooming dogs. Could I come over sometime and get these mats out of Boss’s hair?”

Once you have met the owner, try to keep up a good relationship. Leave dog treats and toys on their porch. Stop by to check on the dog. Offer to take the dog on walks and to the vet.

Eventually, the owner may let you have the dog. Although some chained dogs are aggressive, others make perfectly good pets with some love and training. If the dog is relinquished to you, you can now place the dog into a good home. Sometimes a dog owner will sell the chained dog to you. Offer to buy the dog only if you think the owner won’t go right out and get another one.

Some people steal chained dogs to provide a better life for them. The problem with that is that the owners might put an new puppy right back on the chain. And, since dogs are legally considered property, stealing a dog is a felony.

Guard-Dog Issue
Some people chain their dogs as guard dogs. Explain that chained dogs do not make the best guard dogs. Chained dogs become aggressive, not protective. An aggressive dog will attack anyone: the child next door, the meter reader, the mailman. The way to raise a protective dog, who knows how to distinguish friend from foe, is to socialize the dog and bring him inside with the family.

Besides, what can a chained dog do to stop an intruder except bark?

Two Main Goals You should keep two goals in mind when talking to the owner of a chained dog:
1. Educate the owner so that he will think of the dog in a new light; as a living creature who needs love and attention and care. Hopefully, he will learn how to treat dogs better in the future.

2. Helping the dog a little is better than doing nothing at all. You may not be able to convince the owner to relinquish the dog. You may not be able to convince the owner to put up a fence. Even if all you can do is get a decent doghouse, a well-fitting collar, and some toys for the dog, that is a success and the dog’s life has been improved.

Patrick McDonnell’s comic strip, Mutts
Things you can do to help improve the life of a chained dog:
1. Tell the owner to bring the dog inside every now and then!
2. Get to know the dog’s guardian
3. Call your local animal control office
4. Offer to buy the chained dog from the owner and place it into a good home. “$50 bux sound good?”
5. Put up a fence instead of chaining for long periods of time; gives the dog freedom to the backyard
6. Change the law in your community to punish irresponsible owners who abuse chaining priveledges!
7. Educate people about chaining
8. Talk to the owner and offer to take the dogs on walks if he is not able to
9. Talk to your local shelter and advise them to do screening and adopt out to responsible people
10. Be an ambassador for responsible dog ownership

Remember, chaining a dog responsibly for short periods of time is not the issue, but chaining a dog constantly without any attention, exercise, mental stimulation, or social interaction is abusive and neglectful. Chaining does not have to be ‘wrong,’…it is when dog owners take advantage of chaining that it becomes a big problem. Banning chaining may not be the answer, but changing legislation in your state/province/country to target animal cruelty, neglect, exploitation, and irresponsible ownership is.