Almost every dog owner runs across the thought at least once near the start of their man-canine relationship: is leaving a dog in the backyard while at work a good or bad thing? What might be the pros and cons? Is it safe?
Leaving a dog in a fenced-in yard while you’re at work is not among the best practices for raising dogs. However, if canines must be left outside for extended periods each day, it does not have to be seriously detrimental to the dog’s health or well-being. It really depends on each individual dog’s size, temperament, and personality; and how you prepare the outdoor environment for dogs living there on a daily basis.
It’s difficult to consider any pros to having to leave your dog in the backyard while you work, since the most preferred thing to do is avoid it. Still, if it must be done, here are potential positives:
- More freedom for the dog to roam; most fenced-in outdoor territory is larger and more diverse than indoor living (but not always)
- Communication with other dogs, or animals, by barking, or sniffing at fences as they pass
- Possible potential for the dog to have more exercise options, like circling the yard, or even swimming if there’s a pool
- And, of course, you don’t have to bring your dog to work!
There are more cons to keeping dogs in the backyard all day than positives. These impacts can be straight-up, like the potential for injury while no one is around; or subtle, like impacts to the canine’s social or mental health. There also can be dangers involved, which are included here:
- Escape. Loose pet dogs can cause major problems. If you leave a pooch in the backyard all day, be completely sure that all possible escape routes are closed.
- Could cause behavioral problems (often, masters are unaware why the canine is acting up); see below for details
- Safety: trapped inside if another, dangerous animal accesses the yard; or prone to chewing or digesting foreign objects tossed over the fence (including poisons by neighbors who might not like your dog, sadly enough).
- Environmental. If the backyard is not equipped properly, e.g. a doghouse or shed, your dog could suffer if the weather suddenly gets very hot, extremely cold, or miserably wet.
- Neighborhood troubles. If your dog somehow escapes the yard, do your neighbors know to contact you? Would any of them file complaints with your municipality or homeowners association for a consistently loose dog?
- Theft. Dog stealing is more common than you may think.
As noted above, leaving dogs outside hemmed in by fences all day can mess with a dog’s mind and cause behavior issues. Here are some of the most common signs to watch for:
- Evidence of boredom or frustration. Destructive actions like digging holes, chewing on wood fences, excessive barking, even running away can be signs for concern. Aggression or hints of doggy depression also could surface.
- Anxiety. Some dogs just get more worried than others that their masters will not return. This can be a serious issue for a dog if it becomes prolonged, or worsens.
- New nipping or biting incidents
- Reinforcing bad behaviors. Your dog could start bad habits, which it then repeats daily, making them stronger in his or her mind ~ and more difficult for you to fix.
If there’s no way around leaving your dog in the backyard while you work, there are ways to plan and prepare to lessen the impact:
- Pre-notify neighbors. Make sure each dog has a tag with your contact information, and let as many neighbors as possible know which dogs are yours, in case of escapes.
- Ensure necessities are there: food in the food dish, plenty of water, and shade, and shelter from wind and rain are essential.
- Exercise more. Too many dog owners think just because they leave the dog outside all day, that it runs around and gets exercise on its own. This is not always true; and besides, tired dogs behave better. Taking your pooch on morning walks before you leave for work can do wonders.
- Provide things to do, like hiding toys or treats often around the yard; or filling a portable kids’ pool with sand and bury the toys.
- Hide treats around the yard now and then; mix up the locations.
- Ask your veterinarian for tips.
Probably the most-used alternative is making it possible for your pet to do both: be outside, but also come inside if desired (or even needed, like when the weather turns bad). This means installing a dog door, which could be easy or hard depending on the size of the pooch.
Dog doors also pose problems, such as a dog dragging what he or she stepped in into the home. Such doors also could allow access into your home by neighborhood cats or critters, something no one wants.
Also think about dangers inside the home, from choking, or electricity if they chew power cords. Then of course there is the potential for your pet to break things accidentally (or chew things purposely due to anxiety from your absence).
A doghouse is nice, but might not be large enough for added comfort, nor be ventilated enough to remain cool. Converting a shed into a modern home-design element, indoor/outdoor space, can provide a canine bed, ventilation, water, and maybe even radio noise if it helps.
The larger space and bedding would provide more protection from heat or rain or even snow, than a little doghouse.
Most dog owners today are aware of the availability of doggy daycare or dog-sitting businesses. While maybe not affordable for everyone, or maybe even unavailable in rural or less populated areas, these operations are probably more healthy for your pooch long-term than just leaving the pet out back all day.
At these centers, dogs get human attention all day long; opportunity to socialize with other dogs; exercise; and supervision during work hours.
Okay, few of us have the option of taking our pooch with us to work. Wouldn’t it be nice, though?
As with much about canine care, the answer to the question of whether it’s good to leave a dog in the backyard while at work is, it depends. Each canine and yard are different, as is each master’s relationship with their pets. Some pets can get quite depressed when the masters are not around.
Some dogs might handle it okay, if you prepare their outdoor environment properly in advance, and keep them plenty active when you’re around. But others could suffer mental issues, behavioral changes that turn into problems, even face situations that can prove dangerous.
Like us, our dogs need mental stimulation, and exercise of the body. Without one or both, our canine friends tend to seek other ways to spend energy, like scavenging around, which can lead to troublesome digging, chewing, barking, or worse. Think about this if you plan to leave your pooch outside while you’re at work.
Question: Is there a best age for a dog to be left outside daily?
Answer: Not really, but clearly puppies 1 year old and younger should not be left outside for long unattended. Others say 2 years old is the cutoff. Much depends on what we mentioned above: the particular dog, and environment.
Q.: Are dogs really stolen from backyards?
A.: Yes. Especially if they are rare or valuable full breeds. If you have one of those types, it’s probably wise to keep it to yourself.
Family Dog Expert Author
Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.