There was a time when the majority of dogs lived at least partly outdoors rather than inside the house like members of the family.
The widely-held opinion of the day was, "Hey, they're dogs -- not people." A different species. Not only furry and grubby, but downright unsanitary, disease-riddled critters.
And perhaps because dogs did spend so much time isolated from their humans -- on the outside looking in -- people and dogs didn't bond in the same close way we commonly see today.
To a dog, life spent mostly alone in the backyard or fenced run is no life at all. Canines are naturally social creatures. It's as hard for a dog to live without companionship as it is for a human.
Fortunately, in the last few decades more dog owners have become enlightened about the basic need of canine companions to feel close to their human "pack."
And the more time people spend with their dogs, the stronger the bond between them grows -- a bond that provides tremendous benefits for everyone involved.
Why Many Dogs Are Exiled to the Backyard... or Worse
Sadly, not everyone has awakened to the fact that dogs should not be relegated to the backyard or garage.
I always try to discourage people from acquiring a pet on impulse, as a gift, or before they are certain their child or other family members are prepared to make a commitment to the animal for its lifetime.
The simple fact is when a dog is brought home without proper planning and preparation, very often that dog is soon living outdoors by himself. When the puppy cuteness wears off, or the family realizes the amount of work involved in dog ownership, out he goes.
When an animal designed by nature to be part of a pack is isolated for long periods, common sense tells us there will be consequences. Banishing your dog to the backyard sets the stage for other problems to develop -- constant barking, digging, destructiveness, aggression, escape attempts.
Now the dog who was a problem for the family indoors is a problem for the entire neighborhood.
As neighbors complain, noise grievances are filed, or animal control retrieves your escaped dog several blocks away, frustration grows. This further sets the stage for abusive behavior toward the pet, severe neglect and/or abandoning the dog on a roadside or at the local animal shelter.
All this... because the family simply wasn't prepared for the responsibility of dog ownership.
Things to Consider Before Getting a Dog
If the following suggestions seem more discouraging than encouraging, that's pretty much my intent. Not everyone is cut out for dog ownership. I think it's important to take an honest inventory of your personality and lifestyle before deciding to bring a living, breathing, feeling, and wholly dependent creature into the mix.
My concern is for both families and their prospective pets. The needs of each should be respected and honored.
• As I mentioned earlier, dogs are social beings. They require companionship and interaction with their "pack" -- your family. Outside dogs live lonely existences. If you think your family would enjoy having a dog, but the dog must live outside, please... don't get a dog.
• Dogs can be messy. They get into things. They dig and chew. Most of them shed. They don't bathe or brush their teeth -- that's your job. They can't be toilet trained. They have accidents on the floor. If keeping a pristine, beautiful home or yard is your number one priority, please... don't get a dog.
• If your husband, wife, roommate, parent, sibling, grandma or other occupant of your household doesn't believe dogs belong inside, please... don't get a dog.
• If you're short on patience or the time and energy required to interact with your dog on a daily basis, insure she's well-exercised, and provide for her socialization and training, please... don't get a dog.
• If you're gone more than you're home, and there's no one else around your house on a regular basis, please... don't get a dog.
• If you're barely making ends meet in a tough economy or you believe dogs don't cost much to care for, please... don't get a dog.
The average dog is in many ways like a child in the toddler stage. If you're familiar with the time, attention and energy a child between the ages of 12 and 30 months requires, that's about what you should expect to provide for your dog, for all the years of his life.
As any devoted dog parent can tell you, the rewards of dog ownership are tremendous for those who enter the relationship for the right reasons, and fully prepared to make a 10- to 20-year commitment to their canine companion.
Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com.
Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.
By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.