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Keeping dogs outside

While we don't necessarily agree with dogs being kept outside, it's not illegal to do so. If a dog is kept outside, however, the outdoor environment needs to be suitable and in line with the English and Welsh dog welfare guidelines.

On this page, we'll discuss what you need to do to make sure your dog has a suitable place to live outside and explain what to do if you're concerned about a dog being kept outside.

Crossbreed dog lying down in grass outside

If you're 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 dogs 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, you should talk to your vet to rule out any potential health issues. They may refer your dog to a behavioural expert.

We suggest considering these options first to resolve any issues you may be having with your dog. However, if you do choose to keep a dog outside, always take sensible safety precautions, and be alert to risks that may affect your dog outside.

Here are some things you need to consider:

  • A suitable outdoor dog kennel - this should be large enough to allow separate sleeping and activity areas. It's very important that your dog can comfortably walk, run and wag their tail within the walls of their kennel, and can play, stand on their hind legs, stretch and lie down without touching another animal or kennel.
  • Shelter and protection from rain, wind and sunlight - dogs should always be able to move where they feel more comfortable, away from direct sunlight and into the shade. 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 to keep temperatures above 10°C and below 26°C. Heating or cooling systems need to be safe - no trailing cables, for example. 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 - provide constant access to clean drinking water and a well-balanced diet. Use a sturdy water bowl and check regularly for refills. We also advise that you check your dog daily for any signs of injury or illness.
  • Social needs - always make sure your dog is able to behave normally and is provided with the opportunity for daily exercise, play and interaction with animals and people. Making sure your dog has appropriate company is an important consideration for outdoor dogs.

Don't let 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.

Worries about a dog being kept outside

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 responses 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

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.

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, and it's very frustrating for our hard-working animal rescuers, too. But while 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 urge you to report your concern to our national cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.

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