Keeping dogs outside

Adult Lurcher outside © Andrew Forsyth / RSPCA Photolibrary

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 keeping 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.

Concerned about a dog being kept outside?

While we will always respond to complaints that are made to us, if no laws are being broken our ability to act on a report is limited. Currently, if a dog kept outside is provided with a kennel, the law is not necessarily broken.

This, of course, can be very frustrating for us and for members of the public in certain situations, but we, of course, must always act within the confines of the law. However, if you are worried that a dog may be suffering neglect or abuse, please don't hesitate to get in touch via our national cruelty line.

Stay in touch

Sign up to receive our emails today. Get more pet care advice, hints and tips on helping wildlife, our latest news, rehoming success stories and more directly to your inbox.

Sign up to emails today