About six million dogs live their lives chained up in yards across the country. That’s about 10% of the total dog population. According to animal experts, tethering not only puts the dog’s health in danger, but the owners too. Victoria Stillwell is the host of the popular Animal Planet show, “It’s Me or the Dog.” In a recent article in USA Today, she said tethering can lead to destructive behavior, fear, and aggression in animals, and the numbers back her up. According to the Centers for Disease Control a chained dog is almost three times more likely to attack than one that isn’t. So why do chained dogs attack more often? Well, there are several reasons.

  • First, dogs are very social animals. So when they’re forced to stay away from other dogs and people, they build up an immense amount of frustration and anger.
  • They also become very territorial about the small space they’re forced to live in. If anyone wanders in to that space, the dog can attack. This is especially true for young children, who often don’t notice clues like snarling. According to the CDC chained dogs kill more children every year than firearms.
  • Many people feel like they have to chain their dog because their property isn’t fenced. This is one of the biggest danger zones. When a dog is chained in an unfenced yard it’s easily accessible to people and other dogs who may want to approach it. This could terrify a dog that’s spent most of its life on a chain. So, its fight or flight instinct kicks in. Since flight isn’t an option, all the dog can do is turn and fight.
  • Also, tethered dogs get very little exercise. Many owners believe that being outside is stimulation enough for their dog. Not true. Stillwell says dogs need a walk to satisfy their natural roaming instinct and to keep their brains occupied. Most dog breeds need a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise a day. Some active breeds, like border collies, may need as much as two hours.

If you want to find out more about the effects of chaining dogs, the Humane Society has put together a fact sheet. You can find it at HSUS.org.