By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
Dog chaining, as defined by the Humane Society of the United States, is “fastening a dog to a stationary object or stake, usually in the owner's backyard, as a means of keeping the animal under control.” This is an all-too overused method of dog containment in the United States. It is unhealthy, unsafe, inhumane, and outlawed in many states.
It is important to note that the purpose of this article is to discuss dog chaining as a means of long-term or permanent containment. Attaching your dog to a lead in the yard with a well fitting collar so he can run out and go potty, or clipping him to a trolley or pulley so he can get a little exercise under supervision (for those who cannot exercise their dogs themselves) are other matters all together. The following are some reasons to rethink dog chaining and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.
Dogs are social animals, intended to live in packs. As people have domesticated dogs, human families have taken the place of the dog pack, but provide the same social stimulation. Dogs left to their own devices grow frustrated and lonely. This is exhibited in excessive barking, destructive behavior, and self mutilation. Often, chained dogs are found with all or much of the fur missing from anyplace they can reach with their mouths due to excessive licking as a result of anxiety. Chained dogs develop behavior consistent with that of unhappy, neurotic, anxious, and aggressive animals.
Dogs who are chained for long periods of time pull and pull at their chains in an attempt to escape. This straining leads to rubs, sores, and other neck injuries. In extreme cases, dogs are found who have been chained for so long that their collar has become imbedded in their neck. Also, these chains are often attached to dog houses or other fixtures around which they can become wrapped, further restricting the dog’s movement and sometimes leading to choking or strangling.
USDA Warns Against Chaining
"We don't believe putting a dog on a tether provides adequate housing under any circumstances," said Michael Dunn, the USDA assistant secretary for marketing and regulatory programs in 1997. As of changes made to the Animal Welfare act in 1997, “persons now using tethers as 'housing' will be in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.”
Leads to Aggression
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs should never be chained or tethered because it can “contribute to aggressive behavior.” Dogs, like most other animals, exhibit a fight or flight response to stressful situations. Many animals would rather run away from a threatening situation than stand their ground fight. Chained dogs, however, do not have the choice to run so if they feel threatened they will fight. Since these dogs are almost never properly socialized, they often see approaching humans as a threat. According to the CDC, chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite.
In many situations, dog chaining and neglect go hand in hand. Many chained dogs suffer from inconsistent feedings, lack of exercise, and no affection from their “families.” These dogs often go for long periods of time without sufficient water. Even well-meaning owners who do properly feed and water their chained dogs before leaving for the day cannot keep the dog from tipping over his water and thus being left without water until the owner returns home.
Chained dogs are left without any defense against would-be attackers. Whether it is a wild or rabid animal or a cruel human, these dogs are forced to stay put and therefore suffer whatever abuse is brought upon them. This leads to a greater fear response from the animal and thus more intense aggression.