Break the chains
Constant chaining behind many preventable bites
Dogs who are chained for life are lonely animals who often become biters out of fear, lack of socialization or learned aggression.
Every time I drive the 16 miles from our ranch to my hometown in northern Idaho, I pass dogs who are chained to a tree, a doghouse or just to a stake driven into the ground.
Make no mistake: These aren’t the pets of loving, responsible owners who want to make sure they’re safe when unsupervised, so they secure them temporarily. These dogs are imprisoned within the chain’s radius for their entire lives.
In fact, in the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen these chained-up dogs run free. Sadly, millions of other pets across this country share their fate.
I seldom catch their gaze — they tend to seem resigned to their sad fate — but I always feel sadness for the dogs and frustration at their owners. If these folks knew that chaining a dog all the time can have serious consequences, would they change how they confine their animals? I like to think so.
Experts agree that chaining increases aggression in some dogs. It can also be the primary cause of severe or lethal dog attacks on people.
“Rather than protecting the owner or property, a chained dog is often fearful for itself, particularly poorly socialized dogs, or those with a previous negative experience,” says Dr. Rolan Tripp, a PetConnection contribut- ing editor and owner of AnimalBehavior.net. “When tethered and exposed to a potentially threatening stimulus, one thing the dog definitely knows is ‘I can’t get away.’ In that circumstance, a reasonable response might be, ‘Therefore I’m going to try to scare you away by growling,’ or worse yet, biting.”
“I specifically see increased aggression when a dog feels responsible for protecting the owner and that person’s belongings,” agrees Dr. Myrna Milani, author of several books on animal behavior. “Under those circumstances, restraint of any kind makes it impossible for the dog to freely explore any perceived threat to determine whether it poses any danger or get away from it if it does.”
Finally adding to this chorus is Dr. Elizabeth Shull, a board-certified veterinary neurologist.
“In addition to frustration, the constant physical restraint promotes excessive territoriality, which may be manifested as aggression,” she says. “These attacks are unnecessary as they are easily preventable by using a secure fence for containment.”
The person on the other end of the teeth is often a young child who wandered into the dog’s territory, or a delivery person who didn’t notice a chained dog until it was too late. A bite is always a tragedy for the victim, but it’s often a death sentence for the dog. An avoidable catastrophe for all, in so many cases.
Dogs are social animals. They need to have company to live normal, healthy lives. Most dogs live in a human family, which fills their biological need for companionship.
The worst punishment for people in prison is solitary confinement, while the military uses the silent treatment as a nonviolent but highly effective means of reprimand. But these are only temporary measures, while a dog may be committed to the same punishment for most of its life.
These punishments are only evoked on humans for terrible crimes, but what crimes did these poor dogs commit to deserve such a fate? Think about what happens to a dog’s physical being and spirit if he never knows freedom, companionship, play, joy?
If you need to secure your dog, get a big fence. If you need a security system, then install an electronic one. If you want a dog, but aren’t willing to love it and consider its needs, get a stuffed one.
Chaining a dog up all the time is no way to treat a thinking, breathing, trusting, loving creature.