The Pros and Cons for Dogs Living Primarily Outdoors
As a dog trainer and pet care provider living in a rural community, I have met some incredible farmers and farm dogs. I have had the pleasure of meeting fantastic people and their animals, some of which are dogs who mostly live outdoors. Some animal lovers may have concerns about family dogs living primarily outdoors, especially people who are from the city and are not used to seeing dogs kept outside, especially in the winter time. Some of their concerns are absolutely valid. For example, only certain dog breeds (and breed mixes) can be outside all year round, they must have the proper coat to be comfortable in extremely cold temperatures.
Even so, it is extremely important that they are outdoors a lot in the Fall when the weather gradually begins to get colder, as this signals their body to produce thicker, coarser fur. A dog who is used to being inside most of the time cannot suddenly live outdoors in the middle of winter and be comfortable. Even dogs who have thick winter coats should still always have access to some form of shelter from the elements so that they can get out of the wind, snow, rain, sun, and other weather conditions. They should also have some kind of bedding to give them isolation from the cold ground. The body is less able to regulate temperature when we are sleeping. Dogs who live outdoors also need to eat more in the winter time because the body expends more energy working to keep warm.
They also need to have access to water that won't freeze, whether that be in a heated barn, a heated dog house, or in an electric bowl that keeps the water from freezing.
With that said, the life of a farm dog, or a dog who mostly lives outdoors, can bet incredibly full and enriching! We have put together a list of pros and cons to consider.
The Pros and Cons for Dogs Living Primarily Outdoors
Living outdoors can be very enriching for dogs
Dogs are more exposed to the elements and extreme weather
Ensure the dog has adequate shelter from wind, rain, snow, and sun
Outdoor dogs usually get more exercise, fresh air, and stimulation
Outdoor dogs can run the risk of becoming lonely and under-socialized
Ensure the dog has daily positive interactions with people and other dogs, make time to play with and walk your dog
Outdoor dogs have freedom and are usually not home alone for a significant portion of the day
Outdoor dogs are at greater risk for getting lost or getting hit by a vehicle
Ensure your dog has a solid recall, practice it regularly, and create boundaries for your dog
Dogs with jobs can live very fulfilling and enriched lives
Dogs left to their own devices will not develop desirable behaviours as family pets and/or may develop bad habits
Make positive training with your dog a priority, including leash training
Outdoor dogs may be in better health from the amount of exercise and fresh air they get every day
Outdoor dogs may be at greater risk for health issues, or for their health issues to take longer to notice
Regardless, please ensure your dog receives regular veterinary care and check your dog daily to ensure they are in good health (i.e. eating, playing, moving normally, with no obvious signs of illness or injury).
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but these are important points to consider when evaluating whether the outdoor lifestyle is suitable for a particular dog and for a family.
It is also important to consider the dog's history, especially if they've had a previous home before yours. Did the dog grow up on a farm? Is the dog used to being outside a lot, and do they enjoy being outdoors? Does the dog seem restless inside, and/or become destructive or anxious when indoors? Is the family active, does the family spend a lot of time outside, and will the dog have frequent company and socialization with people and other dogs?
Some dogs in the city are alone for 9 hours a day while their family is at work and/or school, some are alone even longer if the family members work long hours, or have other extra-curricular activities. Granted, most pet owners make a signifiant effort to ensure their dogs get a lot of exercise, play time, socialization, and go for regular walks.
Each lifestyle has its pros and cons, and what is best for the dog will depend on the family and the dog's personality, temperament, breed, history, energy levels, age, health, among other factors.
If your dog does live outdoors (well, even if they don't!), please ensure they continue to receive regular veterinary care. Outdoor dogs may be at higher risk for certain illnesses or injuries, so it is important they are up to date on appropriate vaccinations according to their vet's expertise.
And, of course, always ensure they have access to adequate food, water, shelter, and company. Please never leave your dog on a tie-out unsupervised. Not only can this increase undesirable behaviours, this is unsafe, and is not the way to provide an enriching and fulfilling outdoor experience for your beloved furry family member.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.
About The Author
Jillian is a fear-free certified and CPDT-KA certified animal behaviour specialist and has been working in the animal care and behaviour field since 2009.