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Outdoor Dogs Behavior Problems

Updated on June 19, 2013
Invite your outdoor dog inside for a better relationship!
Invite your outdoor dog inside for a better relationship! | Source

Food for thought

Many people keep their dogs outside as a deterrent, but where do you keep your valuables? If you want to protect your valuables, keeping your dog inside is the answer to your question, unless you're worried a burglar may steal your precious lawn or pot of tomatoes!

Outdoor Dogs Pros and Cons

So you are blessed with an enormous yard and you are sure your dog will love the great outdoors. Yet, after several months of spending time there, you start noticing your dog has developed several behavior problems. What gives? Shouldn't Rover be the happiest dog on earth to have the luxury of 5 acres to romp around as much as he likes?Aren't dogs supposed to be as happy as they can be with a large yard? After all, you always thought others would envy the fact you have so much space to offer your dog!

Don't worry, you are not alone. As a trainer, I see this cliche' often. Rover is kept in the yard all day, and when the owners come home, they are left to deal with what looks like a Tasmanian devil. The dog doesn't listen, does as he pleases, and the worst part is that he seems totally immersed in his world and doesn't seem to respond well to training. Actually, often the dog was kept in the home initially, but then the owners grew tired, and instead of dealing with the issues, they found the easy way out, why not just put him out to get rid of that pent-up energy?

. After all, I am the first to claim that I was guilty of this as well. When I first got my two puppies, I must confess I felt often tempted to just park them in the yard so I could stop cleaning up messes for a bit until they were better potty trained. I really felt I deserved a break. I am happy though that I couldn't give in to this temptation. Indeed, every time I sent my puppies out, they would just stay right behind the door and bark to come back inside. They cared less about sniffing, exploring and enjoying the great outdoors. I felt awful as I discovered that these puppies just wanted to stay with us! Never again did I send them out alone, if they were out it was only when we were out too. Now, I must say, I am blessed with the two most loving, loyal and well-behaved dogs I could wish for, and I really think a great part of it is because I didn't give in to the temptation of keeping them out on their own.

So are there any particular benefits in keeping dogs outdoors to fend for themselves for a good part of the day? Well, there are some benefits. Of course, the dog will enjoy fresh air. He may find little hobbies to keep himself engaged such as digging, barking at people and dogs and pacing around. He can also choose to just snooze in the sun, chase a few birds and play with leaves blown by the wind. Yet, this freedom comes with a price; some behavioral problems you may encounter when you decide to keep him indoors with you. As the saying goes "you can't have cake and eat it too!".

Outdoor or indoor dog?
Outdoor or indoor dog? | Source

Outdoor Dog Behavioral Problems

So your dog is kept outdoors for a good part of the day. This is not bad per se' if you do not have big expectations. Many dogs live outdoors for a good part of their lives and the owners are happy with this setting. The dog lives well, doesn't have major issues and the owners think this is the best life for their dogs. This is fine, as long as the dog is happy and of course has always access to water, food, shelter and gets the level of attention he craves. And of course, the dog isn't chained.

Yet, there are many dogs who are left outdoors to their devices and then the owners expect them to behave well when they welcome them inside for an hour or two each day. Of course, that's often also when the owners are most tired and don't want to deal with a hyper dog who is looking for attention. What often happens is that the dog is put out again and again and again. So what are the issues with dogs kept outdoors, and why do some do well, while others seem to develop major behavior issues. The answer is that it depends...and we will look at these dynamics as well in the next paragraph. So what behavior issues are outdoor dogs likely to encounter and why? Let's take a look.

A Yard is not a Miracle Cure

So your dog is kept outdoors. You expect him to enjoy the 4 acres you just finished fencing just for him. Instead, he is bored and unhappy, what gives? It's surprising the quantity of people who think a yard is a substitute for walks, attention and training. The harsh reality is that it is not. Your dog still needs walks, so he gets to meet other people and other dogs and keeps up his social skills. Your dog still craves your attention and he will want to be part of your social group. Your dog still needs guidance to learn what is right from what is wrong. He needs to learn how to be in the house, how to develop self control and how to be polite. Dogs lacking constant human contact have more behavior problems. And they won't learn how to behave better if they're always outside!

Common Behavior Problems

Dogs who live outdoors are more likely to engage in problem behaviors such as barking, digging and chewing. Why? Because the dogs are bored, anxious and frustrated outside, they aren't supervised, and therefore, they get to rehearse problem behaviors over and over again. Outdoor dogs are more likely to bark at outdoor stimuli, they are more likely to dig holes, more likely to mark, act territorial and more likely to chew stuff. Then once in the house, the dog will want to continue engaging in these problem behaviors, and it's difficult for them to learn why they can perform these behaviors outside,but then inside they cannot. This lack of consistency leads to troublesome indoor behavior problems that many owners complain about, and that further convinces them that the dog must stay out.

Dogs Enjoy Social Lives

Unless you got yourself some independent dog breed such as a livestock guardian dog who was raised to be independent and guard flocks of sheep for most of the day or some northern breed dog who craves to play in the snow all day, most likely your dog will want to stay for a good part of the day with you. After all, dogs were domesticated and mostly used to work alongside with humans in exchange of food and shelter. For many years, dogs across the world were kept in homes, regardless if the home was a cave, an igloo or a fortress. So it makes sense for Rover to want to be with his family.

Debunking some common myths

It's astounding the number of dog owners who still believe that large dogs should be outdoor only. On the contrary, many large dogs are those who instead do best raised indoors. The German Shepherd, for instance, is a breed that thrives on companionship and suffers when left alone for too long. Rottweilers, as well, are very loyal dogs who want to be part of the family.

Another big myth is that outdoor dogs get more exercise than an indoor dog. Recording your dog's behavior when you are out or asking your neighbors may provide a better picture. Truth is, many dogs left in the yard all day, get depressed, and often, will just lie down near the entry in hopes of their owners coming back. This explains why when their owners come home, they are so full of energy!

Making Your Dog an Indoor Dog

If your dog was an outdoor dog and now you want to reap the benefits of having an indoor dog, you must arm yourself with loads of patience. This means you will have to resist the temptation of taking him outdoors the moment you get tired. Instead, you must persist on working on the problem behaviors until your dog learns the rules of the house. These tips will help you in achieving your goal of making your outdoors dog a well-behaved insider dog that will help you relationship bloom.

The secret is to dedicate a lot of time in giving your dog feedback on what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Keep in mind, that behaviors changes take time, and that when you see a behavior worsen, it's most likely an extinction burst. It may take a week, it may take a month, but if you are persistent and all your family is on the same page, you will see results. Following are some tips:

  • Make it a rule to be very consistent. If you don't want your dog on the couch, this means he should never go on the couch, no exclusions.
  • Set your dog up for success. If your dog is not allowed on the couch, make sure every time you get up, that you place something bulky there so your dog can't get there, especially at first.
  • If your dog chews, place the items he chews out of reach when you are not around, or spray them with a taste deterrent.
  • Train the leave it and drop it command.
  • Don't be tempted to raising your puppy outdoors to bypass potty training. It is crucial for puppies to be part of the family and socialize with as many people as possible during the brief puppy socialization period.
  • If your dog was reactive to the mailman when outside, he may still be when inside. However, inside you have the advantage to work on this issue. Here are tips on how to deal with dogs who hate the mailman.
  • Praise, praise, praise and reward, reward, reward good behaviors, they'll increase in frequency.
  • Keep the trash can well out of reach and food off of counters until you have mastered a good leave it command; but keep them out of reach when you must head outside.
  • Once in the home, your dog will be exposed more to friends, family and guests. If your dog is territorial, you will need to take a few steps in helping accept there people in the home. If your dog is aggressive in any way, consult with a professional.

As seen, there are many advantages in opening your heart and home to your dog. And the benefits aren't only psychological. Outdoor dogs are also more prone to health issues such as exposure to toxins, overheating, frost bite and chances for being poisoned by the occasional neighbor tired of the relentless barking (it has sadly happened many times). If you really want to keep your dog outdoors, make sure at least that his outdoor time is well balanced with some quality time with “his favorite people.” Your bond with your dog is truly worth the investment.

Alexadry © All rights reserved, do not copy

We give them the love we can spare, the time we can spare. In return dogs have given us their absolute all.It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.
-Roger Caras

Which dogs are happier?

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    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      6 years ago

      Same with mine, they like the outdoors if we are out with them. This was since they were puppies. The outdoors is distracting indeed, so many smells, noises and sights!

    • Monis Mas profile image


      6 years ago

      My dog is an indoor dog, but he loves playing outside as well. He doesn't like to stay there by himself though. And he gets distracted outdoors way more, sometimes it is hard to control!

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      6 years ago

      Your dogs sound very happy ocfireflies! Yes, walks are very important and no yard is a substitute for walks.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      6 years ago

      My dogs are both insiders and outsiders, but they don't like to stay outside without us. I am sure many feel for their dogs but don't always realize the difference it would make if their dogs were kept inside with them. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • ocfireflies profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Excellent Hub! My dogs are indoor/outdoor dogs. They are walked 1.2 miles early each day which I think is so important. Voted UP!

      Best Always,


    • wetnosedogs profile image


      6 years ago from Alabama

      Some people just believe in keeping their dogs outside. My neighbor has three german shepherds that are outside dogs, but I see them go to the porch and stare at the door. They are beautiful dogs. Too bad the owner thinks they are happiest outside and ignored. Then he yells at them when they bark at me when I cut the grass. I murmur sweet nothings to them and he yells.

      I love my wetnoses. If I am working outside and one of them wants to go in cause it is too hot or here comes the rain, I let them go in while I stay outside to work.

      I'm sure the neighbor has some sort of feeling for his dogs.


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