Tethering is The Most Natural and Humane Containment Option

Posted on 05/28/2009

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Animals C.L.U.B.- Freedom Evidence for Proper ‘Tethering’ of Dogs Being OK!

It seems that the conventional wisdom among conscientious dog pet owners is that keeping dogs on chains is cruel and abusive. This attitude probably stems in a large sense from the tendency to humanize dogs. People are not chained; therefore, dogs should not be chained. We will make a case here that generally keeping dogs on chains, given that they get proper daily exercise off the chain, is not only reasonable but actually better for at least working dogs.

As appealing as the idea of equating humans and dogs is, we need to recognize the undisputable scientific fact that we are two different species with different needs, perspectives and patterns of behavior. Dogs are basically a product of instincts, developed from the days when the dog was a wild predator, and patterns of behavior, installed mostly in their youth by environment through repetition; not greatly different from humans except that humans have greater ability to change in later life. Dogs as adults are happiest if their life involves consistency, regularity and as little change as possible, not to mention the obvious requirement of fulfillment of their basic needs (food, exercise, companionship and sex). Therefore, to be kept on a chain along with consistency and satisfaction of their basic needs is as acceptable to a dog’s psychic as living freely in a small enclosure.

Furthermore, there are a number of advantages to both humans and dogs in a kennel with tethering as opposed to runs. These include the following:

(1) Dogs on tethers get more and better exercise. A 6-foot tether offers a dog about 113 square feet of living space; a 7-foot tether offers 154 square feet. Contrast this to a 5 x 20-foot run offering 100 square feet, or if two dogs are in it, only 50 square feet per dog. More importantly, dogs on a tether can move (run) continuously forever, albeit in a circle. Dogs in a run are limited to the length of the run, usually not long enough to even allow the dog to break into a lope. The end result of a tethered dog is a dog where the body is physically developed uniformly; muscles in both the front and rear get exercised. A dog in a run develops strong rear leg jumping muscles from jumping against the fence at the ends of the run, and his front end essentially withers away from lack of use.

(2) Dogs on tethers get more and better people socialization. People are more likely to move among and touch dogs in a tethered set-up simply because it is easy to do. They can easily move in and out of each dog’s area, smother some dogs with attention, and make just a peripheral contact with others. People are discouraged from entering runs with free dogs because gates have to be manipulated and special attention has to be paid to keep dogs from escaping, and this has to be done repeatedly with every dog or two. Thus, a kenneled dog’s extra human contact often just consists of a lot of finger tips sticking through chain link squares, compared to the tethered dogs getting a complete person.

(3) Kennel clean-up is easier when gates and escaping dogs aren’t present.

(4) Dogs socialize better with each other and their environment in general when there are not partitions (fences) between them.

(5) Dogs get better rest when they learn that no other dog can get into their space. In a run with a companion, or even without a companion but with a dog in an adjacent run, a dog instinctually never lets the thought of the other dog out of his brain. In a tethered set-up dogs seem to quickly recognize that no other dog can get into their circle and that there they are totally safe. Furthermore, dogs learn over a period of time to respect their companions’ areas. When dogs are released to the exercise area, they are quite careful about moving only between or on the fringe of the remaining dogs’ areas. Should a dog accidentally get loose, immediately everyone else roars their disapproval, so all dogs, sleeping or otherwise, are forewarned of a possible intruder which increases their feelings of security over time.

(6) Dogs on a tether develop dexterity and agility regarding moving around a line. This is very helpful for sled dogs, whose work involves just such abilities.

Although a tethering kennel set-up is good in itself, I strongly believe that it should be accompanied with a regular free running exercise routine. Compatible groups of dogs should be turned loose at least once a day to run free in a pen of enough size to allow the dogs to really stretch out at a full gallop without fear of crashing into a fence. I recommend at least 1 acre, and a release time of anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Of course, free exercise can be reduced or even eliminated on days when a dog is worked. It is interesting that tethered dogs released to exercise, really do exercise. Kenneled dogs so-released often tend to not do much running, but just lay-around like they are still in a run.

The tethered kennel set-up that I have described here has a lot in common with the life of a predator in the wild, presumably the basis for a dog’s basic instincts. First, there is the stalking, then the wild chase and kill, followed by food gorging. Finally, there is a long (20 hours) rest. Then the process is repeated. Liken this to the tethered set-up with a daily free exercise period.