People frequently ask me why I tie out my dogs rather than use a kennel. To many the worn down grass and heavy chain appear to be unsightly and they feel as though the dog may not be happy. These well meaning people, however, always fail to actually look at the dog. They are fit, alert, happy, and of sound mind. So what are the reasons that I use a tie out instead of a kennel?
First, let me clarify what I mean by kennel. This is an outdoor fenced in cage usually 10 feet X 10 feet or so with exact dimensions varying quite a bit based on space and funding. Usually they have some form of shaded area and often have cover in the event of rain. They also usually have concrete floors and sometimes have a dog house in them.
Second, let me clarify what a tie out consists of. This is also outdoors, and consists of a chain about 8-10 feet in length. The chain is retained by a piece of rebar or other type of metal pipe driven 24-36 inches into the ground and usually supported on the top side by the pallet that the dog house sits on. There is also the house, with a pallet underneath it to ensure that water runoff does not get into the dog house, and to allow for straw to be placed under the house for extra insulation in the winter. Straw is also placed in the house during the winter for bedding material to keep the dogs warm.
Next, let’s consider the reasons that I prefer tie outs to kennels.
1. Cost – the cost of a tie out is significantly less than the cost of a kennel. You are looking at upwards of $1000.00 for a kennel and under $75 for a tie out set up. Consider that with a kennel you have to lay a concrete slab, buy fencing, add shading materials. This can be a very expensive proposition. With a tie out, I need 6 feet of rebar and a chain. The other expenses of a house would be included in the kennel project as well, but only costs me the price of a sheet of plywood. There are several very good single sheet of plywood dog house designs online for free.
2. Activity – It has been my experience that dogs on a tie out are much more active than those in a kennel. This is not to say that some dogs are not very active in a kennel, but taking the same dog and putting them on a tie out and comparing their actions to being in a kennel, they tend to be much more active on the tie out. This is good for several reason, first the activity does not lead to the prison mentality of the dog. Many dogs act negatively when locked in a kennel, but every dog I have put on a tie out has acted positively to the experience.
3. Health – I use a heavy chain even for puppies, but not so heavy they can’t move freely. This extra weight is like getting a good workout the entire time they are tied out. In no time at all the dogs are muscular and strong. They are also lean in body mass and every vet visit I take my dogs to tells me that they have the heart beat of marathon runners. The best thing you can do for your dogs fitness level it to tie them out on a fairly heavy chain.
4. Interaction – When setting up my dog tie outs and houses, I lay the chains out on the ground before pounding the rebar or pole in that secures them. I allow the chains to get within about 18 inches of each other. I have discovered that this allows the dogs to interact with one another while avoiding issues of entanglement. I will not say that there are not occasional scuffles, but this tie out methodology allows either dog to immediately remove themselves from the situation. I have observed that this interaction between the dogs improves their attitude toward each other and also keeps them from developing poor habits that are traits of dogs kept in isolation.
5. Perception – While I do not claim to know what a dog is thinking, and anyone who does want to tell you what a dog is thinking should be avoided, I do notice a significant distinction between dog behavior when they are tied out and when they are kenneled. Kenneled dogs seem to have a defeated mentality when in their kennel and/or occupy their time being destructive toward themselves or their environment. These dogs also seem to go somewhat insane for a time when being released from their kennels. In contrast, tied out dogs with the ability to interact, appear to be lively, preferring to be near their fellow dog than alone, and are also more stable and secure when taken off tie out and joined with their handler.
6. Natural Environment –Dogs in nature would be able to move freely and would almost never come upon an obstacle like a fence that would keep them from continuing to roam. While a tie out does still restrain the dog and keep them in a specific location, the dog does not have a visible barrier preventing them from moving in a direction they choose. This is more in line with a natural environment and appears to make a difference in the dogs health, mental attitude, and working stability.
7. Tactical Application – For those people wishing to have a dog for protection, military or law enforcement use, there is a final issue with kenneling a dog. I have, on several occasions had to pursue people who have climbed over fences. Whether they were lost and this was a SAR search or a hostile search/chase. I train my dogs to climb or leap fences up to 12 feet in height. This precludes putting them in a kennel (unless I am going to put a top enclosure on it) and even if I did kennel them, that would serve to condition them not to jump fences. Overcoming obstacles can be and often is very important for your dog when taking care of you or your family.
I encourage everyone to carefully consider how they will keep their dogs. Some keep them inside all the time, but this does not allow the dog to acclimate to the local weather. Some kennel and some tie out, while other allow their dogs to roam loose in the yard. The only problem with a loose dog is that you have dog feces randomly all over your yard. I believe that tying a dog out is the best option for both the dog and the handler. Remember, you want to integrate the dog into your lifestyle. If this doesn’t work for you, do what best matches your life.
Until next time, this is Joel Ryals reminding you to watch your six.