By Janet McAfee
Two weeks ago this column focused on the safety and health reasons for keeping a domestic cat indoors. There are also compelling reasons for including your pet dog as an inside “member” of the family. 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 enjoy the run of a fenced in secure back yard, most outdoor dogs suffer physically and psychologically when deprived of social contact.
Most Coachella Valley residents are wonderful pet owners, and their dogs are treated like part of the family. Dogs are 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 when you 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.
Some people were raised by parents whose admonition, “Dogs belong outside!” still rings in their subconscious. Some of you grew up on farms and rural areas where the 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.
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 numerous bad habits. They dig holes in the yard. They can become destructive and chew on all kind of objects, including the patio furniture. They bark day and night, disrupting the neighborhood. They usually lack socialization, and fail to bond with their families. 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 of all for keeping your dog in the house with you. He will become your loving companion, amazing you with his unique personality, comfort you when you are sick, and communicate with you without speaking in ways you could never imagine.