It wasn't all that long ago that dogs were purely outdoor animals. Their kennel was their home and the backyard was their domain, and if Fido ever picked up the nerve to cross the threshold into the family home, he was quickly sent packing.
But for many dog lovers all around the world, times have changed. We now understand so much more about the physical and emotional needs of our canine companions, and our dogs are crucial members of the family. Rather than being stuck in the backyard and forgotten about, our four-legged friends are now deeply involved in everything that goes on around the home.
From a practical point of view, as long as they have adequate shelter to escape the elements, dogs can live in outdoor kennels. However, rather than whether dogs can live in kennels, perhaps the question we need to ask is, should they?
Signs Your Dog Wants to Be Inside with You
Is your dog at their happiest when left to their own devices? Do they love having a whole yard all to themselves where they can sniff what they want, explore wherever they like and even go to the toilet in whatever area they desire? If so, then maybe they might not feel at home when invited indoors with you.
On the flipside, a dog that wants in will give plenty of not-so-subtle signs that they're not the outdoor type. If you notice a cute, furry face peeking in the window, paws frantically scratching at the door, or your canine companion is constantly barking for attention, there's a pretty good chance that they'd rather be snuggled up on the couch next to you.
Other dogs will show their displeasure at being locked outside by acting out. They might dig up your gardens, rummage through the trash, or make daring (and often dangerous) attempts to escape. Whining, whimpering, and even howling are all signs of a dog that's unhappy with life in a kennel, while some will even make a point of sleeping anywhere other than their kennel just to spell things out for you.
And if living outside is a health risk for your dog, this can also manifest itself in physical signs. A dog left outside in freezing temperatures may shiver, become lethargic, and be at risk of developing hypothermia. Conversely, a dog left outside in searing heat may start to show signs of heat stroke, such as panting, excessive drooling, and a high body temperature. If this is the case, urgent action needs to be taken to protect your pet.
The History of Dogs Living in Kennels
Humans and dogs have a long history together which dates back some 15,000 years. In the early days, our relationship with wolves, the ancestors of modern domestic dogs, was a symbiotic one. Wolves were excellent hunting companions, could warn of approaching danger, and even provided companionship. In return, they got access to the food scraps of their two-legged companions, not to mention the chance to sleep near a warm fire.
Despite our extensive shared history, however, it's not all that long ago that dogs were seen as outdoor animals. They were working animals, hunting companions and the like, and even canines that were mostly companion animals spent their entire lives in suburban and urban yards around the nation.
But in the past few decades, things have started to change. We now understand just how social dogs are, and how important human interaction is to their wellbeing. We've also developed much stronger bonds with our furry friends — we feed them the best food, cater to their every need, and generally treat them like four-legged children.
And somewhere along the way, dogs have moved out of our yards and into our homes.
The Science of Dogs Living in Kennels
Ask an animal behaviorist, dog trainer, veterinarian, or any other expert in dog health and wellbeing whether it's better for a dog to live inside or out, and they'll tell you dogs do better inside. Dogs need human interaction and mental stimulation. They need to play with you, exercise with you, cuddle up with you, and spend lots of quality time with you.
When dogs are left outside, they're exposed to an unhealthy level of mental isolation. It's unfair and frustrating for the dog, and their lives can be downright miserable as a result. Without enough human interaction, dogs become bored and destructive, so if you can't manage your dog's behavioral and physical needs then getting a dog may be the wrong choice for you.
There are plenty of reasons given by owners as to why their dog isn't allowed inside. "My husband doesn't want a pet in the house." "I don't want a dog to mess up my furniture." "Dogs shed hair everywhere." If any of these statements are true for you, perhaps you should think about getting a goldfish, or some other type of pet, instead.
It's cruel to force a pack animal to lead a solitary existence. So while there may be some instances where it's possible for a dog to live outside in a kennel, it's your responsibility to make sure they receive plenty of mental stimulation and interaction.
However, the best thing you can do for your dog's mental wellbeing is to welcome them into your heart and into your home.
Training a Dog to Live Inside
If you're worried about bringing a dog inside, don't be. By following a few, simple tips, you'll be able to make your dog's transition from life in a kennel to life indoors so much easier:
- Choose a dog that suits your home. If you're worried about your pet leaving hair everywhere, choose a breed that doesn't shed. If you're concerned about the amount of space a dog will take up, choose a smaller breed.
- Set boundaries. Establish clear rules as to where in the house your pet can and cannot go. For example, will they be allowed in the kitchen, in your bedroom, or on your bed?
- Start slowly. If your dog is still learning how to act when inside, you may want to confine them to a smaller safe-zone while you're not around to supervise. You can then spend time training them how you want them to behave.
- Toilet training. Whether your dog heads outside to go to the bathroom or uses a special indoor toilet training mat, use rewards, praise, and a consistent approach to minimize any messy accidents.
- Don't forget to take your pet outside. Give them the freedom to explore their own yard whenever they want, and give them plenty of exercise and fresh air.
Written by a Labrador Retriever lover Tim Falk
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 06/08/2018, edited: 04/06/2020