Dogs: Part of the Family

Children Hugging DogDogs Need to Be Social Too!

Middlesex County Animal Control believes that dogs of all sizes are happier, healthier and safer when they can be indoors near you the majority of the time. Most dogs enjoy spending time outdoors, but the time dogs spend alone outdoors must be balanced with quality time with their owners.

With a little time and training, dogs can learn to be well-behaved around people and can come to respect the house rules. They can then be left inside alone without cause for worry and be trusted companions and members of the family.


A dog left in the backyard will get plenty of exercise when left alone, right? In fact, most dogs don't exercise when they're in the yard alone, and spend most of the time lying by the back door waiting for your return.

Dogs need regular exercise, with your help. To keep your dog happy and healthy, take him on a daily walk or treat him to a regular game of fetch.


Dogs that spend most of their time alone or only in the company of other dogs may demonstrate fearful, aggressive or overactive behavior toward family members or strangers. Your dog should be around your family to learn "people skills" and to learn your rules.

Outdoor Provisions & Safety

Dogs that spend most of their time outdoors are at risk of the following:

  • Escape: if a dog escapes from the yard in search of interesting things to do, not only is he at risk of being hit by a car but you may be liable for any damage or harm that he might do
  • Poisoning: people have been known to throw poison into the yard, or spray mace or pepper spray
  • Theft: your dog could be taken from the yard

If you must leave your dog outdoors and unsupervised for extended periods of time, we suggest you provide the following:

  • An insulated shelter with a wind-proof opening; some very short-coated breeds like greyhounds, beagles and labradors may not be able to tolerate extreme cold, even with a shelter
  • Shade in the summertime; all dogs need shade, but remember that heavy-coated dogs, such as huskies and chows, are more susceptible to the heat
  • Fresh food and water every day
    • In winter, you'll need a heated water bowl to keep the water from freezing
    • In summer, you'll need a tip-proof bowl so your dog won't tip the bowl over in an effort to get cool

Other Suggestions

To keep your canine pal safe and stress-free, you can provide:

  • "Busy toys"
  • A fence with a locked gate
  • Play time daily
  • Walks


An otherwise friendly dog can become unhappy, anxious and often aggressive when continually chained. In many cases, the dog's neck will become raw from continuously yanking and straining to escape. Chains restrict the dog's movement, and the dog can become entangled around objects in the area, causing injury, or preventing him from reaching water or shelter.

A chained dog is caught in a vicious cycle: frustrated by the long periods of social isolation, he may become neurotic or unapproachable, further isolating himself from human contact. In the end, the dog can only suffer the frustration of watching the world go by; a cruel fate for what is, by nature, a highly social animal.

Behavioral Issues

Dogs that are left alone in the yard for long periods of time may bark excessively, dig or escape and become lost. Middlesex County Animal Control receives many complaints about barking dogs, which sometimes escalate into full-blown neighbor disputes, and sometimes result in a fine for the dog owner.

Outdoor yard dogs that are left to themselves most of the time may be friendly to any stranger, and also may become overly territorial, feeling the need to protect their territory even from family and friends. If a dog spends little time indoors, it will be difficult for him to distinguish between family, friends and uninvited guests.

What About the Garage?

While you may think that your dog is safer in the garage than in the yard, they still may suffer from isolation and as a result develop behavioral problems if you do not spend time with them.

Garages can be very hot during the summer months and cold in the winter. Garages are also often storage places for tools and dangerous chemicals that could cause injury or death to a curious dog. If the garage has an automatic door opener, the dog could run out into the street when the door is opened.