Concerned about a dog being kept outside?

Adult Lurcher outside © Andrew Forsyth / RSPCA Photolibrary

The legalities

While we don't necessarily agree with dogs being kept outside, it's not illegal to do so. However, the outdoors environment does need to be suitable for a dog to live in, and in line with the English and Welsh codes of practice for the welfare of dogs. There are many elements to consider when providing a dog with a suitable place to live, but failure to provide one or several of these does not necessarily mean that the law has been broken.

When we can act

Where there are concerns about a dog's living conditions, our animal rescuers aim to work with the person responsible for the dog to make improvements. As all situations are different, our response will often vary. Usually, we'll offer advice and encourage the owner to bring their dog indoors. But when this isn't possible, we'll often advise that the dog is provided with a source of heat.

We're often restricted by the law

As a charity with no legal powers, we don't have the authority to seize animals, as much as we may disagree on a personal level with how they may be kept. We know this is frustrating for members of the public. It's very frustrating for our hard-working animal rescuers too. But whilst we may sometimes wish that we could do more, we must always operate within the confines of the law.

If you're worried about a dog being kept outdoors, we would always urge you to report your concern to our national cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.

Suggestions when keeping a dog outside

A dog's physical, social and behavioural needs are very complex and meeting these needs can be very hard, if not impossible, for dogs living outside.

We understand that often, owners consider keeping their dog outdoors because of behavioural problems that may seemingly prevent them from staying indoors. For example, a dog may be destructive or difficult to toilet train. In such cases, we would advise that owners talk to their vet to rule out any potential health issues. In some cases, owners may be referred to a behavioural expert.

We suggest considering these options first in resolving any issues you may be having with your dog. However, if you do choose to keep a dog outside there are some things you need to consider:

Providing a suitable outdoor dog kennel

A dog kept outside needs a kennel with a large enough space to allows separate sleeping and activity areas. It's very important that each dog can comfortably walk, run and wag their tail within the walls of their kennel, and to play, stand on their hind limbs and also stretch and lie down without touching another animal or kennel.

Shelter and protection

Shelter and protection from the rain, wind and direct sunlight is also an essential element to your outdoor dog kennel. Dogs should always be able to move where they feel more comfortable, away from direct sunlight and into the shade. This and many other reasons contribute to why dog crates are never a suitable permanent environment for your pet.

Temperature and ventilation

Heating and/or automatic cooling and ventilation may also be necessary so that temperatures remain above 10°C and below 26°C. Heating or cooling systems used should always be safe and not pose a risk, to ensure that your dog stays safe, for example, no trailing cables. We also advise monitoring the temperature daily.

Tethering or restraining dogs

We believe that dogs should not be tethered or chained, except for very short periods, as restraining a dog in this way can lead to injuries and also restrict normal behaviour, which can be very damaging to the dog's wellbeing.

Health and wellbeing needs

Providing constant access to clean drinking water and a well-balanced diet will keep your dog happy and healthy. We advise using a sturdy water bowl and checking regularly for refills.

We also advise that you check your dog daily for any signs of injury or illness. Ensuring that your dog is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease where possible will keep them healthy and happy.

Social needs

By ensuring that your dog is always able to behave normally and is provided with the opportunity for daily exercise, play and interaction with animals and people, your dog's wellbeing and happiness should be sky high.

Ensuring that your dog has appropriate company is an important consideration for outdoor dogs. Avoid letting your dog become lonely or bored, and never leave them alone long enough to become distressed. Signs of a distressed dog included barking, howling or whining excessively, as well as panting, hiding and/or showing aggression.

Always take sensible safety precautions, and be alert to risks that may affect your dog outside.

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