By Janet McAfee

Last week’s column discussed how hot pavement can burn your dog’s feet, touching on the dangers posed by extreme weather.  Please keep your dog inside your home as the Coachella Valley weather reaches record highs during June.  There are many compelling reasons for including him as an inside member of the family throughout the year.  If it is so important that your immaculate home never have a muddy paw print or a stray dog hair, consider getting another type of pet such a bird or tropical fish.  While it’s great exercise for dogs to also enjoy the run of a fenced in secure back yard, most outdoor-only dogs suffer physically and psychologically when deprived of social contact.

Most Coachella Valley residents are wonderful pet owners, and their dogs are kept indoors and treated like part of the family.  Dogs are social pack animals, and want nothing more than to be by your side and involved in as many of your activities as they can.  They are highly social creatures, born to be part of a pack or a human family.

It is a sad sight to see a neighbor’s dog tied to a post day after day, forlorn and bereft of human companionship.  Some of these animals become a neighborhood nuisance, barking at all hours of the night.  Under California penal code section 597, it is illegal to tether or chain a dog to a doghouse, post or other structure for longer than 3 hours in a 24 hour time period.  You can report such treatment to animal control.  If you decide to approach offending friends and neighbors, do so in a nonjudgmental way, trying to educate them about the hazards of keeping their dog outdoors.  Ask them, “Why do you leave your dog outside all the time?”

Some people were raised by parents whose admonition, “Dogs belong outside!” still rings in their subconscious.  Some people grew up on farms and rural areas where dogs mingled with other local animals outside and appeared to be quite content.  However, we live in a geographical area of extreme weather where keeping a dog outdoors can jeopardize his health and even his life.  Leash laws now forbid dogs from roaming neighborhoods.

The desert heat is reason enough not to leave your dog outside during the summer season.  Dogs do not sweat the way humans do.  Rising temperaments can cause a multitude of medical problems and even premature death.  Think about a dog having to drink hot water out of his bowl in the sizzling summer weather, and worse yet having the water dry up and evaporate.  Out of sight, out of mind, it’s easy to forget to supply food and fresh water when you’re busy and don’t even see your dog.  Heat stroke can prove fatal, particularly to older dogs and young puppies.

Ironically, keeping an outdoor dog for home security doesn’t do much good when the burglars break into the dwelling where the valuables are kept.  Outdoor dogs are such indiscriminate barkers, and no one can tell if they are barking at a prowler or a child riding a bicycle down the street.  An inside dog is a true deterrent to thieves. Outdoor dogs may be stolen by thieves with a variety of sinister motives.

Small and medium sized dogs are subject to prey.  Coyotes kill many Coachella Valley pets every year.  Tiny dogs may be seized by bird of prey such as hawks and owls.  A friend of mine experienced the horror of hearing her Yorkshire Terrier cry out amidst the flutter of wings, and the dog disappeared in a matter of seconds.

Bored and lonely, outdoor-only dogs develop many bad habits.  They dig holes in the yard.  They often chew on various objects out of boredom, including patio furniture.  This destructive chewing can result in property damage, expensive vet bills, and even the death.  Lonely dogs bark day and night, disturbing the neighborhood.  They lack socialization, and fail to bond with their families.

Washable puppy pads are one of the tools to help with house training, and most dogs quickly learn not to potty inside.  The internet has a wealth of dog training assistance so you don’t need to resort to dumping Benji in the back yard due to behavior issues.

Here is the best reason for keeping your dog in the house with you.  He will become your loving companion, amaze you with his unique personality, comfort you when you are sick, and communicate without speaking in ways you could never imagine.